God’s Sanctuary: The Pleading Priest – Part 4
The ancient Biblical Sanctuary is about being near God and dwelling with Him (Exodus 25:8). In the last post, I shared how sacrifice is about coming into God’s Presence. We need not only sacrifice but a priest to apply it. In regard to the beautiful act of drawing near through the sacrifice of Jesus, what does priestly mediation mean for us?
I find that the priestly ministry of Jesus in the heavenly places is a neglected subject because many have removed themselves from the historical background of what occurred in the ancient pattern. They lack a basic understanding of what God provided in His Sanctuary long ago. God spent a great deal of time with His friend Moses, discussing in detail the requirements for meeting with Him in the Sanctuary and how it was all meant to work. The earthly priests did something that should contribute to our understanding of what Jesus does best. We can’t see Jesus interceding for us if we don’t understand what that intercession looks like. What does being a high priest mean to us?
Through the Sanctuary, we learn more about what Jesus did on the cross and what He is doing for us in the heavenly realms as our High Priest. Seeing the significance of the cross within this framework enhances our understanding of Jesus’ atoning work. The idea of priesthood plays a role in how people draw near to God through sacrifice. Neglecting mediation and sacrifice will cause us to miss the significance of what God is doing for our world. The cross cannot be fully appreciated without understanding why “we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God” (Hebrews 4:14). It takes both Jesus’ atoning sacrifice and mediation to bring us all the way back into direct union with Him.
If we examine the Sanctuary, we find that priestly mediation is directly related to sacrifice. God expressed His longing desire to come close to His people and showed what was required to draw near to His Presence. Sacrifice enabled a worshiper to approach the altar, but to go farther, one needed someone to carry their sacrifice into the Presence of God. God’s plan and purpose for His people did not end with sacrifice. More than just a Sanctuary was available—as there were sacrifices, there were also priests. I have learned that I need someone like me, who is present with God, to stand in my place so that I can follow in through Him (Hebrews 9:11,12; John 14:19; 1 John. 3:2).
God’s desire for greater union reaches directly through His act of sacrifice yet fully depends upon His intercessions (Romans 8:33). Merely asserting that Jesus died to make individuals ready for heaven is not enough. God is making a new people and a renewed creation. The life giving principle of the cross must be poured into the lives of many others. It’s through such priestly mediation that we come to experience the greatest part of what God will accomplish. In this light, “intercession is an intense reality, a work that is absolutely necessary, and without which the continued application of redemption cannot take place” (Andrew Murray, Teach Me to Pray, Bethany House Publishers, 2002, p. 179).
Priestly intercession is necessary first because of our sins and failures (1 John 1:9). It is also necessary because the enemy of our souls is described as the “accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night” (Revelation 12:10). That’s what Satan does; he accuses. Day and night, he points out every sin we have committed—every fault, every shortcoming, every defect.
I like passages like Zachariah chapter 3, which gives a vivid description of the intercession taking place behind the scenes (3:1–2). It focuses on Zachariah’s discouraged friend, Joshua, a high priest clothed in dirty garments. He wasn’t just discouraged about being filthy; he was under attack by Satan. Satan accused Joshua, but the Lord stepped in to rebuke Satan. It’s so important for us to understand that God is not our accuser. He’s the opposite—our defender! The raging howl of the accuser’s voice is nothing compared to the powerful expanse of God’s love for us. The marvelous revelation that flows from the mediation of Jesus is that we have been embraced by a marvelous God and that nothing can ever separate us from His love (Romans 8:35).
On the night of Jesus’ arrest, Satan demanded to have Peter, but Jesus prayed for him (Luke 22:31, 32). What a prayer that must have been! It was only because of Jesus’ intercession that Peter’s faith did not fail (John 21:15). The same Savior who prayed for Peter prays for us! Jesus wants the world to see what His love looks like in you and me. Our faithful Priest is before us now, pleading on our behalf: “Don’t listen to the accuser’s voice. I’ll help you. Let nothing separate you from my love. I died for you so that My life of love and grace could reign supreme!”
I think there is another reason why God’s intercession makes our lives more worthwhile and meaningful today. It provides assurance that we have an understanding and compassionate High Priest who really gets us (Hebrews 4:15–16; Galatians 3:13). We can fully rely on Jesus when He represents us, not only because He leverages all power and authority but also because He shares His human life with us. We have more than the King’s ear and access to His glorious throne. We have a Priest who really cares for us.
When my eyes can see beyond the veil, I know with certainty that I have infinite worth and value! I know that I am always held in the arms of the one priesting for me. Nothing can separate me from that kind of love. Grasping the beautiful reality that my High Priest cherishes and loves me will change me like nothing else can because Jesus is a caring and passionate High Priest to whom I am profoundly important. When we know for certain that we are loved like this, we will respond to that amazing reality by giving everything we’ve got over to His love.
There is a final element included in God’s intercession. Interposed within this work of mediation is a final work of purgation and judgment. Someday, your name will be called, and Jesus will confess your name before the precipice on which the Ancient of Days sits (Revelation 3:5). According to Jewish tradition, on the Day of Atonement, Satan will be unable to find a reason to accuse God’s people. I find this fascinating. If we live close to God in the light of His atonement, the adversary can have no authority over us (Babylonian Talmud, Yoma20a).
In the next post, we will look at a final element, which is strongly implied in the Sanctuary as being required for the Presence of God to remain among us. The ultimate end of mediation is the complete elimination of evil and death.
Craig Ashton Jr.
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