There’s a canvas hanging in my bedroom, one given to me by a friend. She allowed me to pick a verse, and I chose this passage: “But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins he sat down at the right hand of God…for by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Hebrews 10:12-14). It never fails to amaze me when I consider the contrast of two types of priests.
Old Testament Priesthood
Old Testament priests had many duties including representing the people before God and offering the various sacrifices prescribed in the law. If you’ve ever done a study in Leviticus, you know that these sacrifices were many. They were also unending; the priests had to repeat them day after day. You and I can relate to unending jobs: unending laundry, unending meal prep and clean up, unending vacuuming. Priests also stood to indicate that their job was never finished. That’s because the people continued to sin, requiring repeated sacrifices.
These sacrifices were earthly and temporal, and therefore not effective. The blood of bulls and goats could not satisfy the wrath of God; it could not fully pay the debt for sin. God used this sacrificial system to burn into his people’s hearts the reality of their fallenness, to show them that they needed not just a temporary sacrifice, but a perfect and forever sacrifice. They needed their sin covered once and for all.
The book of Hebrews looks at the Old Testament sacrificial system and unpacks its limitations and flaws. It shows us how it was temporary—how it pointed to something greater.
The Greater Sacrifice
As a wife and mother of three, sitting down is a gift. When my kids were little, the demands of raising them were physically taxing. I remember the treat of sitting down for a few minutes at the YMCA after a workout while they were in childcare. When I was teaching elementary school, sitting down in the evening indicated for me that my long day was over.
While we may relish and look forward to sitting down after a long day, for many of us, we find it difficult to sit down and rest in our spiritual life. We work hard to please God. We rely on our own strength and wisdom to fix our problems. We live as though our life of faith depends upon us.
Yet the picture of the priest “sitting down” is one of rest and completion. It’s one of finality. It’s one we need to dwell on for it tells us that Jesus finished it all.
Christ came as the ultimate Priest. The unique offering of His own perfect life met all the requirements of the Old Testament sacrifices. When Christ’s work was done, He sat down, demonstrating that the priestly work was finished. He is the greater and better Priest who offered a complete sacrifice that paid every debt for our sins in the past, the present, and the future— for all time (v.14).
“For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” Hebrews 10:14
When Christ died, He bore the sins for His people. Not only that, He gave us His perfect record. His sacrifice was complete; when God looks at us, He sees the work Christ did on our behalf. We get Christ’s righteousness instead of having to rely on our own good works, for our righteous efforts will always come up short.
Pause and consider that: In the sight of God, you are perfect!
When we get stuck, focusing on our own failed efforts, the hymn, Before the Throne of God Above, reminds us to look to Christ’s work for us:
When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me
Christ sat down. He completed the work. Because of His perfect life and sacrifice for us, we too, can sit down and find spiritual rest in our Savior. May this gospel truth infuse us with hope and energize us to walk in the calling He has for our lives, work, and ministry.
Christ sat down.
About the Author:
Robin, Travis, and their three children live in Metro Atlanta. Robin’s key ministry areas are assessment and coaching women. She has served in ministry for over 26 years and loves to come alongside women in leadership to help them identify and walk effectively in their calling, encouraging a pursuit of Christ as the answer to every problem that we face as followers of Jesus. Robin enjoys hiking, kayaking, and being outdoors with friends. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.