Christ is a better priest than ever existed under the law of Moses. His office is better (Hebrews 4:14-7:28). His work is better (Hebrews 8:1-10:31).
Let’s continue the comparison of office. This time, we will consider Hebrews chapter five.
“And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was” (Hebrews 5:4).
There had been usurpers in Israelite history. The list includes: Korah (Numbers 16-17); Saul (1 Samuel 13); Jeroboam’s priests (1 Kings 12:31); and Uzzah (2 Chronicles 26:16-ff). None of these were accepted by God as priest.
However, legitimate priests were appointed by God. Aaron was appointed to this office (Exodus 28-29; 39-40; Leviticus 8; Numbers 16:5; 17:5; 18:1-ff), as were those who followed in this office (Numbers 20:23-ff; 25:10-ff).
“So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest” (Hebrews 5:5).
It is affirmed that Jesus was appointed to this role by God. The writer references the prophetic word as evidence (v. 5 cf. Psalm 2:7; v. 6 cf. Psalm 110:4).
“…but it was He who said to Him: ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You’” (Hebrews 5:5 cf. Psalm 2:7).
This passage has been quoted earlier in this book (Hebrews 1:5). The reference has to do with Jesus’ coronation as King (Psalm 2:6-12), following His resurrection and ascension (Acts 13:33 cf. Daniel 7:13-14). He did not usurp this role. He was appointed to this role by God.
But, what does this have to do with Him being High Priest? Let’s read on to the next verse.
“As He also says in another place: ‘You are a priest according to the order of Melchizedek’” (Hebrews 5:6 cf. Psalm 110:4).
This Psalm is quoted or referenced in several other places in this book (Hebrews 1:13; 5:10; 6:20; 7:17; 7:21; 10:12-13). It concerns Jesus’ role as both King and Priest (Psalm 110; see also Zechariah 6:12-13). He occupies both roles (Hebrews 5:5-6), as did Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18; Hebrews 7:1).
No Levitical priest ever did so. The priests were from the tribe of Levi (Hebrews 7:11-14; Exodus 28:1-4 cf. 4:14 cf. 2:1-10). The kings, descending from David, were from the tribe of Judah (1 Chronicles 2:1-16 cf. 2 Samuel 7:12-17; book of 2 Chronicles; Matthew 1:1-17). The Old Testament lists 41 kings of Israel and Judah (3 under united kingdom; 19 under Israel, northern kingdom; 19 under Judah, southern kingdom). Not one served as priest with God’s approval. Robert Milligan suggests that there were 81 High Priests who had served before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. (Robert Milligan, The Epistle to the Hebrews, p. 268). Not one served as king with God’s approval. He did not entrust both positions to one person.
However, Jesus is different. He functions as both King and Priest. God entrusted both positions to Jesus.