One of the great wonders of scripture is that our God has made each and every one of us a kingdom of priests unto Himself in order that we might worship, and magnify His great and glorious name. Like so many of the themes in scripture, the subject of the priesthood, especially that of the Great High Priest, is inexhaustible. The more we look at this subject, and in particular the robes that the High Priest wore, the more we see of the beauty and grandeur of our Great High Priest.
There are three terms that occur throughout the scriptures relative to the priesthood: priests; High Priest, and Great High Priest. We can learn simple lessons from these.
They were all members of the tribe of Levi, and their only claim to the priesthood was that they were ‘sons’. Consequently, there was no limit on the number of priests; it was based entirely on the size of the family, and their function was to minister in holy things. The spiritual application is that we are a ‘royal priesthood’, because we are sons! ‘And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father’, Gal. 4. 6. Tremendous to think that we also belong to an ‘unlimited’ host, as every truly bornagain believer is a holy priest. Therefore, it is our privilege and responsibility to do service in holy things for our Great High Priest.
Aaron was the first to be appointed to this office. He was then succeeded by his son, and so it continued down through the generations. History would indicate that from Aaron to the times of Christ there were approximately eighty who held this position. Each and every one would be different in nature, and in character. The only reason for change was death, Heb. 7. 23. Consequently, a changing priesthood meant an imperfect priesthood, and an inconsistent priesthood. Hence the great need for:
There is One and only One great High Priest, the man Christ Jesus! We know that He did not come out of the Aaronic order, nor was He from the priestly tribe of Levi. He was from the kingly tribe of Judah. The scriptures tell us that our Great High Priest received His commission direct from the Father, ‘The Lord hath sworn and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek’, Ps. 110. 4.
Melchizedek, that mysterious man who came to Abram after his battle with ungodly kings, was titled King of Salem. This God-appointed priest was a man of whom the scriptures record no trace of His birth, no earthly record of his parents, and no record of his death. Hence, God uses Melchizedek to illustrate the point of a never ending priesthood, to which He appointed our Saviour who is without ‘beginning of days, nor end of life’. So it is that our Saviour did not inherit His priesthood by earthly succession; He continues forever, praise God! Consequently, He supersedes all others, because of His endless life, and His changeless ministry. Yesterday, today and forever, He is the same; He changes not.
A question which has puzzled many is ‘how and when was Melchizedek appointed to be a priest of the most High God?’ Careful study of the scriptures will reveal that God always had His priests, long before the inauguration of the Aaronic priesthood. God is a God of order, and we will see that this function is a God-given, and God-directed, progressive service which develops in accordance with His mind and will. We note that, in the beginning, every man was his own priest, e.g., Adam, Noah, Abram, etc. However, in Exodus chapter 12, at the time of the great deliverance from Egypt, we see the head of each house officiating as a priest on behalf of all these who were in the house. The head of the house offered an acceptable sacrifice unto God in order that God could bless them. Then, in a further development, God, in the wilderness, selects the tribe of Levi in preference to the other tribes, and appoints them to act in priestly service unto Him. Out from the tribe of Levi one man is chosen to be the High Priest, and so succession of the human line begins, passing from father to son down through the ages, until we come to the days of Caiaphas when the earthly priesthood is ended by the work and worth of Christ on the cross. After His atoning death on the cross, He passed through the veil, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on High, and took upon Himself the ministry of intercession on behalf of His people.