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Lord’s Day 52, 2011—Christmas Day


I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”

Hymn 12. (c. m.)
Christ is the substance of the Levitical priesthood.
Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

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The true Messiah now appears,
The types are all withdrawn;
So fly the shadows and the stars
Before the rising dawn.

No smoking sweets, nor bleeding lambs,
Nor kid nor bullock slain;
Incense and spice of costly names
Would all be burnt in vain.

Aaron must lay his robes away,
His mitre and his vest,
When God himself comes down to be
The off’ring and the priest.

He took our mortal flesh, to show
The wonders of his love;
For us he paid his life below,
And prays for us above.

“Father,” he cries, “forgive their sins,
For I myself have died;”
And then he shows his open’d veins,
And pleads his wounded side.

—from The Psalms & Hymns of Isaac Watts. Hymns and Spiritual Songs. Book II: Composed on Divine Subjects (Soli Deo Gloria, 1997).

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11Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; 12but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, 13waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet.

style="margin: 0 0 1em 0; text-align: right;">—Hebrews 10

The Imperfect And The Perfect Priesthood.

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It is to the contrast between Christ and the ancient priesthood that I ask your attention; between the priesthood of the earthly and of the heavenly temple. It is this contrast that brings out the true nature and character both of Christ and of His work.

I. The many priests and the one.—‘Every priest,’—‘this man,’ or ‘this priest.’ The Old Testament priests were many. Not one of them fully accomplished the priestly work. A continual succession was needed; and even by these many the work was not done. It remained at the last just where it was at the first. For these many were, after all, not doers of the work, but symbols or prophetical representatives of the great Doer of it all who was to come. They said, ‘The work shall yet be done; it shall be done completely; God shall be approached; the conscience shall be purged; but not by us; the Doer shall come; He will accomplish what we can only foreshadow.’ These many passed away, and in their stead there came the one—one to do the work which hundreds and thousands of priests and Levites could not do. Yes, one Doer; one work; one sacrifice; one blood shedding; one atonement. Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many. What a contrast! The whole tribe of Levi for ages; the tens of thousands of sacrifices; the rivers of bloodshed, and all incomplete! And, on the other, the one single Man, taking up the incomplete work of these thousands, and doing it all at once! This Man! This Priest! But what a Man! What a Priest! The High Priest of the good things to come! The others might do their symbolic work well; but the real priestly final work was beyond their power. That consummation was reserved for the greater than Aaron or Moses, the Son of God Himself. O finished work, how sufficient! O perfect High Priest, how glorious and complete!

II. The many sacrifices and the one sacrifice.—In two senses were the sacrifices many. They were many (1) as to number, almost innumerable;

(2) as to kind, burnt offering, trespass offering, sin offering, meat offering, drink offering, peace offering. Christ’s sacrifice was one, in both of these aspects. Only one sacrifice, once offered; and all the various kinds of sacrifice gathered, in Him, into the one sacrifice, which by its fullness satisfies the utmost need of the worshipper in every case. One full, complete, perfect sacrifice! ‘It is finished;’ ‘by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.’ His one sacrifice did the whole work. ‘By Himself He purged our sins;’ by His blood He purged our consciences. Let that one sacrifice do its work for us. We need no more.

III. The many ministries and the one ministry.—Besides the offering of sacrifice, there were many duties connected with priestly ministry, some smaller, some more important. Each day and hour had their ministries or services. In a hundred different ways they ministered. Priest and Levite ministered in the various parts of the manifold temple worship. But now Christ has taken up all their various ministries into Himself. All the little or great things which we need as the sinful or the helpless, are ministered by the one priestly servant. Through His hands alone come to us the numerous blessings which we need every hour. Let us deal with Him about these. He is exalted a Prince and Saviour to bestow these. We have not to deal with many priests, nor are we perplexed with many ministers. All the channels and instruments through which blessings come to a sinner are now found in Jesus only. His one ministry has superseded all the rest. It is with His one priesthood that we have to do.

IV. The daily and the everlasting work.—It is the daily many, and the everlasting one that are contrasted. Oh, what a routine of endless sacrifice and service for ages,—daily, daily,—yes, almost every hour! Always doing, never done! Each hour a repetition of past hours, without prospect of end! But the daily ceased, and the ‘for ever’ came at length. Everlasting salvation; eternal redemption! Once and for ever! Once for all! No second sacrifice; no daily repetition. How unsatisfactory that daily work; how satisfying, how pacifying, how perfecting that one everlasting atonement! Yes, it is for evermore! He has offered it once for all! What a gospel is brought out to us in the contrast between the daily and the forever! A pardon that lasts for ever! A peace that lasts for ever! A salvation that lasts forever! A reconciliation that lasts forever!

V. The effectual work and the ineffectual.—What was daily offered up could never take away sin; it could not purge the conscience, nor give us confidence in drawing near to God. But the one true work was ‘for sin;’

i.e. it was meant to take away sin. The other sacrifices could not. This could and did. It was truly and fully sin bearing. Nothing else can avail but this. Guilt but half borne, half exhausted, will avail nothing. Sin laid on any one save the appointed priest and sacrifice, will not be taken away. It must remain. The one Sin bearer is He ‘who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree.’ He is the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. He has finished transgression and made an end of sin.

VI. The standing and the sitting down.—The priests and Levites all stood. From morn to night they stood. There was no time for sitting down, for at any time they might be called on to offer a sacrifice; so that their work was never done. There was no place for sitting in any part of the temple where the service was going on, and. the sacrifices were offered. There were rooms at the side for sitting, but not in the courts of the altar and laver. There the priests must stand or move about. Theirs was perpetual and unfinished work, as their posture indicated. The king might sit when ruling and judging. The prophet might sit when giving his message. But the priest must stand. What a symbol was the priestly posture! What a truth was embodied in it!

The one Priest sat down. As soon as He had finished His sacrifice He sat down. And this said, in language beyond mistake, both to heaven and earth, ‘It is finished!’ He sat down’

(1.) On the throne of grace.—The mercy seat was His throne. He sat down to dispense the free love of God to sinners. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace.

(2.) On the seat of honour.—The throne of grace is the throne of heaven. It is the seat before which the ‘many angels’ as well as the ‘elders’ and ‘living creatures’ bow, singing, ‘Blessing, and honour, and glory’ (Revelations 5:11, 12).

(3.) On the place of power.’The Father’s right hand is the place of power. Seated there, He is, in every sense, ‘able to save to the uttermost.’

(4.) On the height of expectation.—His throne is a ‘glorious high throne.’ From it He looks down on earth, sees its iniquity and rebellion, and calmly waits for the time, when His enemies shall be made His footstool, and earth become His glorious kingdom. Are we, too, looking for this?

“Sit Thou at my right hand,’ is the Father’s word to the Son. In answer to that He sat down, and He is now sitting. That throne He occupies for us. From that throne He dispenses the gifts which, as the glorified Christ, He has received for the rebellious. All that belongs to Him of excellence and fullness is there; it is there for us. The glory of His person, the riches of His varied offices, the suitableness of His great propitiation, and the love of His gracious heart, are all there,—available for sinners, and that to the uttermost. Such is their value, and such their efficacy, that no amount of evil in us, of whatever kind, can in the least obstruct that availableness. It may be the evil of long and dark transgression, or of obduracy and stout-heartedness, or of backsliding and inconsistency and worldliness, or of imperfect faith and feeble repentance; it may be evil committed before our connection with this High Priest, or evil after our connection with Him, or evil in our deficient way of apprehending His work, or evil in our want of love and confidence, evil in our defective sense of sin and guilt, the evil of a hard and stony heart,—it matters not. None of these evils in us can exceed the boundless value of the expiation or the Expiator; nor surpass the divine perfection of the finished work either as bearing upon God or man; nor neutralize the preciousness of the blood of the Lamb; nor prevent the great burnt offering from sheltering the sinner beneath its wide shadowing and impenetrable canopy; nor repel the free love that comes out from the cross to the unworthiest of the sons of Adam; nor render less potent the fragrance of the sweet incense that is continually going up from the golden altar of ‘the more perfect tabernacle not made with hands.’ The fullness of the finished work covers all deficiencies, were they a thousand timed greater than they are or can be. Nothing but our rejection of that fullness, and our preference for something else, can prevent our being saved by it. Its sufficiency is infinite; its suitableness is perfect; its freeness unconditional; its nearness like Him in whom we live, and move, and have our being.

Such is the provision made for the taking away of our sin, and for our drawing near to God. Such is the great love of God. There is nothing like it for greatness, either in heaven above or in the earth beneath. Truly He has no pleasure in the sinner’s death. He is not seeking occasion to destroy him; He is not trying to find out reasons for rejecting him or for disregarding his cries; He is not waiting for further amendment and repentance, or greater earnestness or bitterer remorse. He is stretching out His hands to him, just as he is. He is most sincerely desirous to bless even the worst. His compassions are infinite; His bowels yearn over His prodigals; He wants them to come back to His house. He knows what hell is, and He wants to save them from it; He knows what heaven is, and He wants to win them to it.

His grace and pity are beyond all measure; and he who, on the credit of the divine testimony to them, given in the word of the truth of the gospel, goes to Him for pardon and life, shall be welcomed and blest, receiving not only what he goes for, but exceeding abundantly, above all he asks or thinks.

—Horatius Bonar, Light & Truth: Bible Thoughts & Themes

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.



Posted 2011·12·25 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Christmas · Christology · Hebrews · Horatius Bonar · Isaac Watts · Light & Truth · Lord’s Day · Psalms and Hymns of Isaac Watts

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