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High Priest, Where the Heck Did You Go?

February 15, 2011

I was recently doing some research on the succession of High Priests in the Old Testament (I know who does that, right).  Anyway, I stumbled across a quote on a Jewish website that I found fascinating. The Jewish-Samaritan author of the website was lamenting that there is no heir to the Levitical priesthood of the line of Aaron alive today.  In the book of Exodus God placed Aaron as the High Priest over the nation of Israel.  Upon his death, this title and duty passed to his son Eleazar, and then to his son Phinehas.

In the book of Numbers, Phinehas  “turns back God’s wrath” by killing the man who had committed the sin with the foreign woman.

“Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, has turned back my wrath from the people of Israel, in that he was jealous with my jealousy among them, so that I did not consume the people of Israel in my jealousy. Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give to him my covenant of peace, and it shall be to him and to his descendants after him the covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the people of Israel.'” ~ Numbers 25:11-13

His zeal for God saved the people of Israel from a terrible plague, because he took aggressive action and didn’t tollerate the one who was braking the law.  This passion for God’s law was exactly what God desired in a High Priest.  Consequently, God commended Phinehas and promised that his descendants would be priests of God forever.  The Jewish faith recognizes that the line of Levitical High priests belongs to the descendants of Phinehas.  Knowing this, the quote from the Jewish website is fascinating. . .

Today, no known sons of Phinehas are known to exist. This has always been the dilemma that the Samaritan-Israelites are faced with, as well as all descendants of Israel. Should a descendant of Phinehas be discovered, it would change many views and religious beliefs of many of the lost Israelites today. As it is written, ‘For a nation has destroyed their counsel and there is no understanding in them. They were not wise to learn it and in the latter days they will understand’ (Deut. 32:28-9).’ (The Samaritan Update from the-samaratians.com)

I don’t know about you, but I find that statement unbelievably ironic.  They realize there is no living heir to this priesthood.  They realize that this doesn’t make sense.  The admit that “their council is destroyed and their is no understanding in them”.  They apply the prophecy of understanding leaving the nation of Israel to themselves.  And yet, they refuse to see (or cannot see) the reason for all of this: that Jesus Christ has come to fulfill the office of priesthood for all eternity.

Where has the High Priest gone?  Has God’s promise failed?  This cannot be.  What then?  Did God fail to appoint a successor to the priesthood?  What are the Jews to do without a God-appointed High Priest?  I’ll tell you what they did, they appointed their own.  They determined that God was either incapable or unwilling to fulfill His promise and decided to do it for Him.  They picked the oldest member of the family of Levi to be the priest.  Nowhere is all of scripture is there precedence for this.  In fact, the Scriptures are clear that God alone appoints His priests.

They have missed the change in the priesthood.  This change was prophesied in advance.  Psalms prophecies about a priest that would come (not of the line of Levi) who would be a priest forever.  In the book of Genesis, Abraham meets a man who is called a “Priest of the Most High God” (Gen 14:18).  His name was Melchizedek.  He was a priest before the line of Levi had been established.  He was not a priest by blood relation or descending from a priestly tribe, but because He was appointed one by God.  The Psalmist compares this coming, forever-priest to this ancient priest named Melchizedek.

The Lord has taken an oath and will not break his vow: “You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.” ~ Psalm 105:4

So, the the Jewish nation knew a priest was coming who would be established forever and would be like Melchizedek, in that he would be designated a priest by God and not by family line.  The book of Hebrews says. . .

“And no one can become a high priest simply because he wants such an honor. He must be called by God for this work, just as Aaron was. That is why Christ did not honor himself by assuming he could become High Priest. No, he was chosen by God, who said to him, “You are my Son. Today I have become your Father.” And in another passage God said to him, “You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.” ~ Hebrews 5:4-6

God has made a change.  The Levitical line of priests has been replaced but something else.  The line of Phinehas is passed to another.

“And if the priesthood is changed, the law must also be changed to permit it. For the priest we are talking about belongs to a different tribe, whose members have never served at the altar as priests. What I mean is, our Lord came from the tribe of Judah, and Moses never mentioned priests coming from that tribe. . . Jesus became a priest, not by meeting the physical requirement of belonging to the tribe of Levi, but by the power of a life that cannot be destroyed. And the psalmist pointed this out when he prophesied,    “You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.” ~ Hebrews 7:13-14, 16-17

But why would God do this?  Why was it necessary to change the law and appoint a new Priest.  Here is the response form Hebrews. . .

“Yes, the old requirement about the priesthood was set aside because it was weak and useless.  For the law never made anything perfect. But now we have confidence in a better hope, through which we draw near to God. . . There were many priests under the old system, for death prevented them from remaining in office.  But because Jesus lives forever, his priesthood lasts forever. Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf. ~ Hebrews 7:18-19, 23-25

God drives this point home by making sure than can be NO reasonable misunderstanding by eliminating the family line of Phinehas.  It’s like He said, “to make it perfectly clear I am doing something different here, go ahead and TRY to find the old High Priest!”  You can’t . . . he’s gone.

God did the same thing to the temple. The Bible tells us that when Jesus died on the cross the veil that separates the “Holy of Holies” was torn from top to bottom (Matt 27:51).  This was a physical sign to the Jews that God had done something huge.  He had ended the line of human priests and given us direct access to the Father (because of the “Great High Priest”, Jesus).  To further drive this point home, He even had the temple destroyed by the Romans a little over 30 years later!

Let’s put this in perspective.  Today there is no legitimate, God-appointed, human High Priest.  And, even if there was, he would have no temple to minister in.  There are no prophets.  There is no King.  There is no temple, no place for sacrifices to be made, and on place earth for God’s presence to reside with His people!  Essentially, there is no way to BE Jewish toady.  God has intentionally made it this way to show that Jesus was and is the Messiah.  And yet, most Jews today STILL reject Jesus.  They are left marveling and wondering where their God has gone and what has happened to the priesthood.  Like the quote from the website honestly confesses, “they are not wise and they have no understanding”.  But, even this was prophesied. . .

“See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you. . . See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? . . . You have heard my predictions and seen them fulfilled, but you refuse to admit it. Now I will tell you new things, secrets you have not yet heard. They are brand new, not things from the past. So you cannot say, ‘We knew that all the time!’  “Yes, I will tell you of things that are entirely new, things you never heard of before. For I know so well what traitors you are. You have been rebels from birth. ~ Isaiah 49:9, 43:19, 48:6-8

“But to Israel and Judah he will be a stone that makes people stumble, a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare. ~ Isaiah 8:14

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Connie Abbott permalink
    February 15, 2011 6:35 pm

    Thank you, Jake! Great post!

  2. Linda permalink
    March 5, 2015 2:31 pm

    wow, i REALLY enjoyed this article. THANKS

  3. Shelly permalink
    February 4, 2017 8:55 am

    Thanks for the post. It is very enlightening.

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