The Person of Christ - 30 - Intercession in Hebrews

 

Chapter 30 - The Present Ministry of Christ

Intercession in Hebrews

Sydney Maxwell

 

It should be a great source of encouragement to the pilgrim people of God that we can be occupied with the theme of our Lord?s intercession. The realization that Calvary?s Victim now adorns the throne of God, stirs the heart to worship. That He is there on our behalf, to sustain us in the wilderness, is a cause for further appreciation. He came to Calvary to save us by His death; this is the substance of our song now and will be the theme of it in the Glory (Rev. 1:5). To comprehend that we are being saved and supported by His heavenly ministry is worthy of reverent investigation.

 

We should be clear regarding the distinction in the offices of our Lord Jesus. As the Mediator, He has to do with my need as a sinner (I Tim. 2:4); as the Advocate His ministry is directed toward me as a child (I John 2:1,2); but as Intercessor, I am the object of His gracious ministry as a pilgrim (Heb. 5:15, 16). At a guilty distance in Adam, I needed the Mediator (Job 9:32,33); in the family of God I now appreciate the Advocate with the Father; but I am also in the wilderness and as a pilgrim I thank God for priestly support (I Pet. 2:11; Heb. 13:14), until the language of the Song of Solomon is realized and we are seen, ?Coming up from the wilderness, leaning upon our Beloved? (8:5).

 

We will consider the Lord?s present ministry of intercession as viewed in Hebrews under the following headings and look to the Divine Spirit for spiritual enlightenment and instruction.

 

1.            PICTURED TYPICALLY.

 

The typical teaching of the Levitical system is replete with spiritual instruction. While these indicate the shadows (Heb. 10:1), we see the substance unfolding in the New Testament, whether in sacrifice or priesthood. It is of interest to notice that in the divine directions given for the tabernacle (Ex. 25-27; 35-40), we have no mention of the golden altar of incense until we have the priests and their consecration described (Ex. 28-29). It is not until we reach chapter thirty (vs. 1-10) that the directions are given for the building of the altar, where it is to be placed in the tabernacle, and the burning of the morning and evening incense upon it. The lesson is, that greater emphasis is placed upon the priest than upon the altar.

 

It is suggestive to the careful reader that atonement was made upon the horns of the altar once a year, with the blood of the sin offering (ch.30: 10). The acceptance before God, of the ministry of the priest at the golden altar, was on the grounds of the sacrifice accomplished at the brazen altar in the court. The blood upon the horns is typical of the power of that ministry which our Great High Priest exercises within the veil on high. There was blood placed on all the four horns of the altar, telling us of the universal value of His work.

 

The high priest stood before the altar of incense in his garments of glory and beauty. The description of the stones upon his shoulders and upon his breast reveal clearly that he stood before that altar on behalf of the people. The fact that all the stones were set in gold reminds us typically of the glory of our acceptance in the Person of our Great High Priest. The onyx stones on the shoulders suggest the people of God collectively; the stones on the breastplate, God?s people individually (Ex. 28:9-12; vs. 17-21). Their colours are all different, showing us their beauty in the light of the candlestick. We shall see that this is developed for us in the Hebrew letter as typical of the intercession of our Great High Priest.

 

2. PROCLAIMED DOCTRINALLY

 

It is in the Hebrew epistle, in a special way, that we have unfolded for us the typical teaching of the tabernacle, the offerings and the priesthood. All three lines of teaching find their answer in the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the tabernacle we see the Shekinah residing in the holiest of all. In the Lord Jesus, that One who was here tabernacle among men (John 1:14), we see the effulgence of the divine glory (Heb. 1:3). The sacrifices find their fulfillment and finality in God?s Lamb (John 1:29; Heb. 9:28). We are introduced to a priesthood of supreme value, far surpassing that of Aaron. It was foreshadowed in the man of a bygone day, who met Abraham coming from the conflict with the kings (Gen. 14:18-24). This priesthood finds its completeness in One that is greater than all, our ascended Lord (Heb.7:23).

 

We shall consider His present ministry of intercession, as He is now engaged in it, from His place of exaltation on the throne (Heb. 1:3), and from the Sanctuary of the true tabernacle (8:2). The writer moves from an unfolding of His Deity (1:8) to the unveiling of His Manhood (2:14). Seeing that the priesthood of the Lord Jesus is the major theme of this wonderful epistle, we can understand why the writer first establishes the fact that Deity and Manhood are linked with the Son. As we move through some of the chapters of this Christ exalting epistle we will be able to see His intercessory work in its various contexts.

 

(A)            INTERCESSION RELATED TO PROPITIATION

 

In Hebrews 2:17, the writer emphasizes the character of the priesthood of the Lord Jesus. He is faithful and merciful - faithful in relation to God and merciful in relation to His people. As a result of His death at Calvary, He has given full satisfaction to the throne of God. To make propitiation was truly a priestly work. We can say, with deep gratitude to our Lord Jesus Christ, that just as surely as the blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat (Lev. 16:14) and on the horns of the incense altar (Ex.30:l0), by virtue of His own blood He effectively pleads our cause in the divine Presence.

 

It should be noted that His intercession is not dependent on what He says but it is sufficient because of where He sits (Heb. 1:3; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2). It is His acceptance before God that assures us of a perfect standing in Him. It should be understood that His intercession is not related to sin but rather to our infirmity. It is a ministry of succour to those who are tempted, to preserve us from falling (Jude 24).

 

In Hebrews 2:18 we are taken back in our meditation to a suffering that Christ endured prior to the cross. He suffered as a result of Satan?s temptations (Matt. 4:1-11). These offended His holy character but found no possibility of response in our impeccable Lord. He is able then, from such experience, to succour us, who are so prone to sin and fall, when we are tempted. His intercession is a ministry of help, which is the meaning of the word succour. It is used of the woman of Canaan, who in her desperation cried, ?Lord help me!? (Matt. 15:25). It is the word of a father regarding his son, ?Help us!? (Mark 9:22) and also of the earth ?helping? the woman in Revelation 12:16. These uses of the word give us light regarding its use in Hebrews 2:18, ?He is able to help (succour) them that are tempted.? He has helped us often in temptation?s hour and has preserved us from falling.

 

(B) INTERCESSION RELATED TO HIS PRESENCE IN HEAVEN

 

In the great fact that He has passed through the Heavens (4:14), we are reminded that He is a real Man, indicated in the lovely name, Jesus, and that He is the Son. Israel?s high priest, once a year, moved within the veil and touched the mercy seat with the blood of the victim (Lev. 16:14). Thus grace and mercy were vouchsafed to the people for another year. In contrast the permanency of our Lord?s position is highlighted in Hebrews 1:3. We thank God He can be touched with the feelings of our infirmities. He can feel with us seeing that He was tempted in all points as we are, apart from the matter of sin. We receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need, as we come boldly to the Throne of Grace (Heb. 4:16). In this passage we draw near as pilgrims while in chapter 10 we have boldness as priests.

 

(C)            INTERCESSION RELATED TO HIS PERSONAL SALUTATION.

 

In chapter 5 of our epistle, we note that the ministry of Israel?s priest was to bear gently with the ignorant and erring (5:2 R.V.). It is also emphasized that the priest himself was compassed with infirmity (v.2) and because of this it was necessary that, as for the people so also for himself, he had to offer for sins (5:3 R.V.). How different when we contemplate our wondrous Lord, who was holy, harmless and undefiled! (Heb.7:26).

 

Aaron was called of God (5:4). Our Lord Jesus glorified not Himself to be made a High Priest but the Father said to Him, ?Thou art My Son... Thou art a Priest forever? (5:6; Psa. 110:4). His Sonship and salutation are linked with His perfect Manhood and His submission. Son though He was, yet He learned obedience (experimentally) ?by the things which He suffered? (v.8). This was something that was impossible if He had remained with the Father upon the throne. Through suffering, death and resurrection He has been made officially complete and thus is a competent Intercessor.

 

(D)            INTERCESSION RELATED TO THE PERPETUITY OF HIS LIFE.

 

The Levitical priests could not continue because they were subject to death (7:23). How encouraging when we consider our heavenly Intercessor! Never to be replaced by another! ?But this Man, because He continueth ever hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost, that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them? (7:24,25)

 

(E)       THE PERMANENCY OF HIS SACRIFICE.

 

In Hebrews 9:24-28 the ministry of our Great High Priest is linked with the eternal value of His sacrifice. He is now in the Presence of God for us. We rejoice in the effectiveness of His intercession in Heaven. The very fact that He is there, in all the acceptability of His Person and His work, is the assurance of an unfailing service. The wilderness journey will soon be over; He will come for us and salvation will be consummated. Glorious prospect! (9:28).

In conclusion, we can look at our theme and see that there is moral value in the truth of intercession. We will use the final heading:

 

(3) PRESENTED PRACTICALLY.

 

We recall the statement of Exodus 28:38. ?Aaron shall bear the iniquity of the holy things, which the children of Israel shall hallow in all their gifts.? The mitre, with its golden plate engraved with ?holiness unto the Lord? (Ex.28:36) was to be on Aaron?s forehead. ?It shall be always upon his forehead, that they may be accepted before the Lord? (Ex. 28:38). Only on the ground of absolute holiness can God accept His people, or their gifts. Iniquity was seen by God in their most holy sacrifices and their high priest was to intercede for them that their gifts might be accepted. The people were represented on his shoulders (the place of strength) and on the breast (the place of affection).

 

This is most solemn truth as it relates to us and should be on our hearts continually. It teaches us that in our holiest exercises, whether in worship or work, there is weakness and failure. Because of our limitations we are often ignorant of it. How blessed to know that the judgment even in holy things has been borne by that One who is now appearing for us in the heavenly sanctuary! Our feeblest praise and our often imperfect worship is made acceptable and fragrant to God through the priestly presentation of our Lord Jesus. In the recognition of all this we are to judge ourselves before entering into the service of holy things. This is indicated for us in many New Testament passages such as I Corinthians 4:4 and 11:28.

The priests of old washed at the layer before entering the holy place. May the exercise of self judgment be as real with us as with the Psalmist ?O Lord Thou has searched me, and known me? (Psa. 139:1 and 23). We are assured that in our risen Lord we have perfect fitness to enter into the Holiest (Heb. 10:19-22). May our state be in keeping with such privilege and standing!

 

The veil is rent: Lo! Jesus stands

Before the throne of Grace;

And clouds of incense from His hands

Fill all that glorious place.

 

Within the holiest of all,

Cleansed by His precious blood,

Before Thy throne Thy children fall,

And worship Thee, our God.