Bible Readings for August 21st
Saul’s sacrifice in 1 Samuel 13 was a serious sin—so serious, in fact, that Yahweh tore the kingdom away from Saul for it (1 Sam. 13:13–14). In essence, Saul had usurped the priesthood, since Yahweh had appointed only the offspring of Aaron to serve him as priests and Saul was descended from Benjamin. Saul did not qualify as a priest, and to highjack priestly ministry was blasphemous. There is an irony to this story, however. Samuel, who was supposed to offer the sacrifice, did not actually himself qualify to be a priest—at least, not according to the normal qualifications. We learn from the genealogy in 1 Chronicles 6:33–38 that Samuel was a Levite and a Kohathite but that he was not descended from Aaron. In fact, Samuel was descended from Korah (1 Chron. 6:37), the Kohathite who had rebelled against Moses by insisting that “all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them” (Num. 16:3). Korah had demanded the priesthood, and in doing so he provoked Yahweh’s wrath so that the ground opened up and swallowed him whole (Num. 16:32).
The underlying principle of the priesthood, then, is this: Yahweh appoints his priests. The author of Hebrews puts it this way: “And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was” (Heb. 5:4). In other words, there can be other priests outside of the line of Aaron (like Samuel), but only if Yahweh himself appoints those priests.
This principle is critical for understanding the priesthood of Jesus, since Jesus is from the tribe of Judah, not Levi (Heb. 7:14). The legitimacy of Jesus’ priesthood is based upon the priesthood of Melchizedek, who preceded Aaron in the story of the Bible, since we met Melchizedek back in Genesis 14. The author of Hebrews writes this, “So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’; as he says also in another place, ‘You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek’” (Heb. 5:5–6).
The legitimacy of Christ’s priesthood is the foundation on which the entire gospel rests: “And being made perfect, [Jesus] became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek” (Heb. 5:9–10). And because he is our priest, it is nothing short of blasphemy to usurp Christ’s priesthood—like Saul—by attempting to atone for our sins through anything other than faith in his finished work on the cross. Today, are you trusting in your own sacrifices to mediate for you before God, or does your faith rest in the perfect, finished, priestly work of Jesus Christ?
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.