Tuesday, April 26, 2011

“The Priestly Garments of Grace”

Second Quarter 2011 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“The Priestly Garments of Grace”
For the week of April 24-30, 2011
“Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man” (Hebrews 8:1, 2).  These verses express present truth.  We now have “such a High Priest,” one of whom the Father said, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 7:17).  Jesus will forever be our High Priest. Yes, there will come a time when the sanctuary service, which is now proceeding in the heavenly sanctuary, will end. But there will never be a time when Christ ceases to be the mediator between God and man. 
“We have such a High Priest.”  A High Priest who was made perfect through suffering (see Hebrews 2:10).  We have a High Priest who “is not ashamed to call [us] brethren” (Hebrews 2:12).  We have a High Priest who has “partaken of flesh and blood” (Hebrew 2:14).  We have a High Priest who has died to “release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrew 2:15).   We have a High Priest who in all things “had to be made like His brethren” (Hebrews 2:17).  And why did He have to be made so?  That “He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17).
“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16).
We have a great High Priest who is seated on the throne of grace.  His ministry was represented by the ministry of Aaron.  During his typical priesthood, Aaron wore garments which represented the elements of the ministry of Christ.  He wore the garments of grace.  Figuratively, his garments represented the children of Israel, the judgment of God and God’s concern for his children.
The central element of Aaron’s high priestly garment was the breastplate.  A beautiful gold piece set with twelve precious stones representing the twelve tribes of Israel. This was typified the fact that our great High Priest would carry his people on his heart.  Precious stones were chosen to represent each tribe.  Sardius, topaz and emerald were the stones used in the first row.  Turquoise, sapphire and diamond made up the second row.  Jacinth, agate and amethyst composed the third row.   And beryl, onyx and jasper were the stones of the fourth row of the breastplate.  No common rocks were set in the breastplate of gold.  Twelve precious stones announced the fact that God’s children are exceedingly valuable in his sight.  We are still very precious to Jesus.
The fact that we are called upon to endure trial shows that the Lord Jesus sees in us something precious which He desires to develop.  If He saw in us nothing whereby He might glorify His name, He would not spend time in refining us.  He does not cast worthless stones into His furnace.  It is valuable ore that He refines. –Ellen White, The Faith I Live By, page 64
The Urim and Thummim represented judgment.  Thus Aaron carried the judgment of God and the people of God close to this heart.  We know that the final outcome of the judgment will be the vindication of God’s people (see Daniel 7:22).  This is an issue which is close to the heart of our great High Priest in the anti-typical sanctuary.  The completion of this judgment process is the central issue of the great controversy at this time.  Our High Priest must carry His people upon His heart in the hour of judgment.
Our memory text for this week brings to view another Biblical symbol concerning the priesthood.  The believers in Christ are referred to as “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people” (1 Peter 2:9).  This text alerts us to the fact that the commission given to Israel has now been transferred to the Christian church.
Jesus said to the Jews, “Did ye never read in the scriptures, the stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof…And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them” (Matthew 21:41-45).
The Jews as a nation rejected Jesus as the Messiah. He was the One represented by “the stone which the builders rejected.”  When the Jews handed Jesus over to Pilot they said, “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15).  Thus they resigned from the theocracy and the kingdom of God was taken from them.  But Jesus had said it would be given to another “nation.”  The Christian church is that “nation.”  Today the popular position of the majority of the Christian church tends to reject the present ministry of Jesus as our great High Priest.
If we are believers in Christ we are to be that holy nation and peculiar people.  This does not suggest that the priesthood of Christ is now fulfilled or no longer relevant.  We may serve the purposes of the common priests of Aarons day, but the vital High Priestly ministry belongs to Christ.  We may reject Jesus today as truly as the Jews did long ago by denying the validity of the sanctuary doctrine.
Our current task is to point people to Jesus.  We are to be a united identifiable people representing a holy nation.  We are to be the generation chosen to see the purposes of God finally fulfilled.  We are to show forth the praises of him who hath called us.  We should never get the idea, this side of eternity, that the ministry of our great High Priest is over. We are never to get the idea that we have somehow replaced the ministry of Christ.  The sanctuary doctrine and the heavenly ministry of Christ are to remain present truth until He shall appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
--Mark Duncan