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Bible Commentaries

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary
Hebrews 5

 

 


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Verse 1

CONTENTS

The same most precious Subject, as in the former Chapter, is carried on in this. Melchizedek is spoken of. Precious Views of Christ.


Verses 1-5

(1) For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins: (2) Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity. (3) And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins. (4) And no man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron. (5) So also Christ glorified not himself to be made a high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, today have I begotten thee.

This is a very blessed Chapter. Every verse, more or less, is big with importance. It opens with shewing the nature and office of an High Priest. The very name implies somewhat of mediation. And, when considered with an eye to solemn transactions between God and Man, it is eminently so. The first feature described of his Person, who is an High Priest, is, that he must be taken from among men. He, that hath to mediate between God and men, must himself be a man, and not an angel; for an angel could not enter into the feelings of men; and therefore, could not be properly interested for those, in whose name he acted. Secondly, Not only must he be a man, who can, from his own feelings, judge how to act for man, and one of a nature like himself, but he must be able to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. Gifts, if needful, to obtain favor; and sacrifices, to do away the guilt of sin, in the way of God's appointment. I need not tell the Reader, that in all this, there is an allusion to the law. Indeed, all this is beautifully represented, as what the law required, and which was typical of Christ; in order to shew, how God the Holy Ghost, under the gifts and sacrifices under the law, shadowed forth Christ; and how Christ, in the Gospel, hath fully become himself the whole substance of the law. If the Reader will turn to the law concerning gifts and sacrifices, he will discover how graciously the Lord the Holy Ghost appointed those things in his Church, by way of preaching Christ in figure; until He, to whom the whole referred, came in Person, to do away sin, by the sacrifice of himself, Hebrews 11:26

The priest, that was anointed to minister in holy things, was to form his judgment concerning sins done through ignorance by any of the people, and appoint a suitable sacrifice accordingly. The Reader will find a large account of this, Le 4 throughout, for both priest and people. And again, Numbers 15:24-29. And, in like manner, concerning presumptuous sins, Le 6 and Numbers 15:30. Now, upon all those occasions, the High Priest was supposed to enter into the feelings of the people, and to make, in some measure, their interest his own. So that none could be fit for an High Priest, but one taken from among men; and even among men, none but he who had a feeling heart, and who, from a consciousness that he himself was compassed with infirmities, could have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way. And, after all these qualifications, still no man had an authority to take the office of High Priest upon him, uncalled of God. Aaron was specially called of God. And so much so, that the daring presumption of Korah, and his company, who sought the priesthood, uncalled, was punished with an awful death. See Numbers 16:1-35. Reader! if such a tremendous judgment, under the law, followed the unhallowed attempt of men to minister in holy things before the Lord, what may be ultimately expected to follow those, who, under the Gospel, run unsent, uncalled, and not only rush, like the unthinking horse to the battle, into the sacred department of the ministry, but profess to be moved by the Holy Ghost, albeit everything seems to speak concerning them, as in that Scripture: I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied, Jeremiah 23:21.

Reader! I need not, I should hope, call upon you to observe, what is in itself so very plain; that all that is here said, in these verses, concerning the High Priest, taken from among men, with those qualifications, and appointed of God, is here said, expressly to shew how Christ was taken from among men; how suited he was to such an office of mercy, and how fully authorized, and called of God to the appointment? But, Reader! though this was the evident intention of God the Holy Ghost in this Scripture; and though, at first view, in reading what is here said of the great Jewish High Priest, Aaron; every child of God, who is taught of God, cannot but be immediately led, to contemplate the unequalled suitableness of our Almighty Aaron; the Lord Jesus Christ; as the One, and the only One, capable in all its departments to the performance of this high office: yet, I should be unpardonably remiss, in a work of this kind, to pass away from so interesting a subject, without first offering an observation or two upon it. The thoughts which arise out of it, are indeed very plain and striking; but they are not on that account the less beautiful and important. Let us look at a few of them.

And, first. As every High Priest was taken from among men, so the Son of God took upon him our nature for this express purpose, so that he also was taken from among men. For we are told, that in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful High Priest, in things pertaining unto God, Hebrews 2:17. And hence, when, in the counsel of peace, between the Persons of the Godhead, the Lord Jehovah is represented in Scripture as speaking in vision to his Holy One, these are the words which were spoken, I have laid help upon One that is mighty; I have exalted One chosen out of the people, Psalms 89:19. And as Jesus, our great High Priest, was taken from among men, so was he ordained for men. For there would have needed no High Priest, nor sacrifice, had there been no sinners. But, as Christ's Church, Christ's people, his spouse, whom he betrothed to himself before all worlds, had fallen into sin; the Son of God came to redeem her from all sin, by the sacrifice of himself. And, as God the Father, first gave her to his dear Son, so God the Father ordained Christ from among men, to be an High Priest, to act the part of an High Priest, to redeem her to himself, and to present her to himself a glorious Church; not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but to be without blame before him in love, Ephesians 5:26-27.

Secondly. As no man, among men, would have suited the office of an High Priest, according to what this blessed Chapter saith, but such as could have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; so the great feature of character, in our dear Lord, to constitute him High Priest, was eminently his great meekness and tenderness of heart. God the Father's account of him was this by the Prophet. Meek and lowly, Isaiah 42:1-4, compared with Matthew 2:23 and Matthew 12:17-21. And, although in point of holiness, Christ was holy, harmless, and undefiled: and, in point of power, made higher than the heavens: and, in point of understanding, in him were hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; yet, though all these were indeed requisites for the high office of the Priesthood, it was the infinite compassions of his heart, which made him so peculiarly suited for our High Priest, and more immediately hath endeared him to the affections of his people, Hebrews 7:26; Colossians 2:3; Hebrews 4:14-16.

Thirdly. Our great High Priest, as in Person and qualifications, so in gifts and sacrifices, hath infinitely transcended all the offerings made by mere men. The priest taken from among men, who had a tender heart, and who, upon due consideration of the sinner's offence, when he came to him, knew how to distinguish, and to make an offering accordingly, between sins of ignorance, and sins of presumption, acted in a very suitable manner, as the law appointed (see Le 4 and Nu 16), but the gifts and offerings of Jesus, were himself, which not only included an all-sufficient ransom for all sins, both of omission and commission, but carried with it such an over-value, resulting from the dignity of his Person, and the preciousness of the offering, as can never be fully recompensed to the Church of God, to all eternity. Reader! think of this! Such is the efficacy of Christ's merits and sacrifice, that the remuneration to the Lord's body, the Church, can never be made, so as to say, there is nothing more to be received, in a way of acknowledgment, to all eternity!

Fourthly. One very blessed view meets us in this subject, of a similarity in the cases of the Jewish High Priest, to that of our Almighty Lord, only here also, as in all other comparisons with an infinite superiority on the part of Jesus; I mean, in that it is said, the High Priest taken from among men, must have been one that could have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that were out of the way, in that he himself also was compassed with infirmity. Here opens a most precious view of Jesus. Though in himself he knew no sin, yet he personally knew all the sinless infirmities of our nature. Though none of our sins was put in him, yet the Lord laid on him the iniquities of all his people, Isaiah 53:6. Though, in himself, temptations had no power, yet, temptations, in all the varieties of being tempted, he knew; and was in all points tempted as we are. And, though no guile was found in his mouth, yet, surely, in the years he lived in our world, all the sin he beheld in his people, became so many wounds to his heart. If the filthy conversation of the wicked vexed the soul of Lot day by day; what must the holy Jesus have felt, when he endured such a contradiction of sinners against himself? 2 Peter 2:8; Hebrews 12:3. Reader! here again contemplate the suitableness of the Lord Jesus, in his High Priestly Office, for the boundless compassion of his heart, and for the compassion he must still feel for the ignorant of his people, and all their infirmities, seeing he himself was compassed with all of them; though in himself without sin, and liable to none of them in the possibility of error.

Fifthly. we must not overlook one feature more belonging to our Lord, as our great High Priest, to which the Jewish high priest could bear no comparison. I mean, that the interests of Christ are blended with the interests of the people. He that acted as an high priest in the Jewish church for men, and was taken from among men, might have had, and no doubt he had being from the Lord's appointment, a feeling heart. But he could go no further. If he succeeded not when he had made his offering, he might indeed lament in secret, as holy men of old did, over the sins of the people. But, with our High Priest, there can be no failure. His Church is his body. Her concerns are his. The glory of Christ is more than all the events to his people. That glory ensures his Church's interest. Hence, she must succeed in all her members. Jesus must see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied, Isaiah 53:11. And, hence that blessed intercession of Christ, as our High Priest: Father! I will! that they also whom thou host given me, be with me where I am, that they may behold any glory, John 17:24.

Lastly: and as the crown of all. As no man presumed to act as an High Priest, in the Church of God, uncalled of God, so sweetly are we told, in this blessed Scripture, that Christ, though Son of God, and equal with the Father and the Holy Ghost, in his divine nature, yet, when taking upon him our nature, glorified not himself to be made an High Priest, but was called to it; yea, and sworn into it, (different from all other priests, Hebrews 7:21) and consecrated in it, an High Priest forever, in an unchangeable priesthood, after the order of Melchizedeck! This is a grand point ever to be kept in view, in our remembrance of the priesthood of Christ. This gives validity and efficacy to all. Here is the warrant to faith to believe the record which God gives of his dear Son. Hence, every child of God, coming to the mercy-seat of God in Christ, finds confidence and boldness in the double view, that Jehovah's authority, and his name, is in Christ; and, therefore, in the efficacy of Christ's blood and righteousness, he cannot but meet with a most gracious reception, Hebrews 10:19-23. Reader! I must not trespass any longer. The subject indeed is in itself endless. Oh! for grace to have it always in view! Jesus is my High Priest. He was, and is, and ever must be, One with the Father over all God blessed forever, Amen. He was also, in his human nature, taken from among men. He can have compassion, yea, boundless compassion. Not simply by taking our nature only, but by having known that nature compassed with infirmities. And now in heaven he wears that nature still. And he cannot but recollect his former exercises, when on earth, and which hath everlastingly suited him, by past experiences, for sympathy, and fellow-feeling for his people here below. Precious High Priest of thy people! surely, all thy redeemed upon earth are as dear to thee, and as much watched over by thee, and loved and regarded by thee, as thy redeemed in heaven, Isaiah 27:3.


Verse 6

As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

I will not detain the Reader with a long observation on what the Holy Ghost hath here said concerning the same authority which made Christ High Priest, which said also unto him, Thou art my Son, today have I begotten thee. To enter into the whole of this passage to the full, and follow it up with the remarks which arise out of the Scripture, would fill many pages. Let it in this place be sufficient to observe, that, in whatever sense the words be taken, they are most highly expressive of the eternal nature and glory of the Son of God. They are a quotation from the second Psalm (Ps 2); where Christ, being set by Jehovah a King on his holy hill of Zion the Church; and having, as is represented by vision in the revelations, been alone found worthy to open the book, and loose the seals thereof, (Revelation 5:1-10) now, as King in Zion, declares the decree. And the first Chapter in this mysterious volume, which none but Christ could open, is the sovereign purpose of Jehovah, and addressed to Christ, as Christ, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. Reader! pause one moment, and remark the superior blessedness of all that God the Father saith to his dear Son, to every other declaration whatever. Very blessed it is to hear the Lord speaking in a way of grace to the Church. And very blessed, when all that the Lord saith to the Church, the Lord gives grace to hear and obey. But, oh! how sweet beyond the expression of all language is it, when we hear the Lord the Father speaking to his dear Son, concerning his blessing the Church in Him? Here the Father is the Almighty Speaker, Christ is the sum and substance of all his proclamations to the Church; and God the Holy Ghost gives the hearing ear, and the seeing eye, to believe the record God hath given of his Son, 1 John 5:10-11.

The blessedness of the words themselves, in confirmation, that He who called Christ to be an High Priest, said also unto him, Thou art my Son, to-day have I begotten thee; very plainly were designed to shew, that in no office of Son-ship, or Priesthood, did Christ, as Christ, enter uncalled of God. So that the words are very important, in proof of Christ's authority. But, it should be observed also, that they are no less very precious, in confirmation of Christ's being set up from everlasting, in his high Mediator-character. To-day cannot refer to the nature and essence of the Son of God, as God; for eternity is never called in Scripture language, to-day. And although Christ, as Christ, could not have been set up in his Mediator-character from everlasting, had he not in his divine nature and essence as God, been one with the Father and the Holy Ghost from all eternity; yet, here the Holy Ghost is evidently speaking of Christ, as Christ, in his character of Mediator. This is the decree which the Book, when unsealed and opened, was found to contain; and the Son of God, who came forth from the bosom of the Father, came forth to declare, Joh 1. But it was no decree, or the result of any covenant-settlement, between the persons of the Godhead, concerning mans redemption, to declare the Son of God, as the Son of God in his essence of Godhead; for, this, he was, and is, and will be, in the eternity of his nature, forever. In relation to Christ being said to be a Priest, after the order of Melchizedec, we shall have occasion to speak of it more fully (Heb 7), to which therefore I refer.


Verse 7-8

(7) Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; (8) Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;

In these verses we have a most interesting account of our Lord. It will be our mercy to consider what the Holy Ghost hath here said of Jesus. By the days of his flesh, must he understood, the different state to that of his glory. The expression is strong to this purpose. The days of his flesh; not the flesh that is his human nature itself, for that he hath the same still, but the time of his abode in our world, accomplishing the redemption of his people. During this period of the Son of God's humiliation on earth, he was subject to all the feelings and infirmities of that nature, which he had assumed, and was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin, Hebrews 4:15. And it is our mercy that he was so; because it proves the certainty of his having been made like to his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful High Priest, in things pertaining to God. Hence, under this consciousness, I can, and do, go to Jesus, because he knows what my nature is by his own. He not only knows it, as God, but he feels it as man. He, who in the days of his flesh offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears, will assuredly now, in the day of his power, take part in his High Priestly Office with his people, when in their depth of sorrow they cry to the depth of divine mercy, Psalms 130:1-3.

I beg the Reader not to overlook what is said of Christ being heard, in that he feared. It is not said that Christ was fearful, but that he feared. There is a natural fear, which, no doubt, the Lord Jesus, by taking our nature, felt; for, without it, he could not be said to be in all things made like unto his brethren, Hebrews 2:17. And, in confirmation, we read, that in his agony in the garden, he was sore amazed, Mark 14:33. And beside this natural fear, there is a godly fear, which marks the Lord's people, and is the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Lord promiseth this as a covenant blessing: Jeremiah 32:40. This the Lord Jesus himself possessed, when the Spirit of Jehovah rested upon him, Isaiah 11:2. Such views will help us to understand, concerning those cries of Jesus which he offered up, in the days of his flesh, when it is said, he was heard in that he feared.

One word more on this interesting passage. The Son of God it is said, learned obedience by the things which he suffered. By which I presume is meant, that he learned, not as Son of God, but in his human nature, by personal feeling, in human sufferings, and human exercises. He acquired in that school, the full apprehension of suffering obedience, in suffering distresses; and, in a personal sense, of what we feel, he knew, what our exercises are. Sweet thought! In that he himself, hath suffered, being tempted; he knoweth how to succour them that are tempted!


Verses 9-14

(9) And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; (10) Called of God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. (11) Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. (12) For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. (13) For every one that useth milk is unskillfull in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. (14) But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

There is somewhat particularly striking, in these words, concerning Christ, being made perfect. By which, we must of course accept the terms, as referring wholly to his character of Mediator. The perfection of the Godhead can never be said to be made. And it is most evident, and plain, from all the concurrent testimony of scripture, that every act of perfection, revealed or made manifest; and all the revelations made of Jehovah, are in the Person of the God-Man Christ Jesus. As in creation, it is most decidedly said, that all things were made by him, and that without him was not anything made that was made; so in all the after acts of grace; every communication of Jehovah, in redemption, providence, grace, glory all are wholly in, and by Christ. It is the Son of God, which in our nature came forth, from the invisibility of God, to make known God, and the purposes of his will, to his creatures. And in a more especial manner, the whole work of redemption is said to be his. He became the Author of it; and that eternal. A plain proof of the eternity of his nature by whom it is wrought.

Whether Christ, or Melchizedec, be meant, by what is here said, of having much to relate, and yet hard to be uttered, is not so clearly shewn. The person of Christ and his priesthood: or in relation to Melchizedec, and his priesthood; vast things are folded up in mystery, which the Lord only can unfold to his people. Paul speaking of his Lord, calls his Gospel the unsearchable, riches of Christ, Ephesians 3:8. And what is unsearchable cannot be fully revealed. But from the figures, or similitudes, of babes in Christ, unskillful in the word of righteousness, we learn, how deep the science is; and how much like children, yea, and little children too, the Lord's people are, during their minority in this world. Very blessed it is, when the Lord the Spirit, leads on the people of God to acquire fuller views of the Person and work, and glory of Christ; and when the actings of their faith are going forth, in continual exercise upon Him, as the Lord our righteousness. Oh! for grace to be always sending in, before the Lord, the cry of the soul. Lord! increase our faith!


Verse 14

REFLECTIONS

Precious great High Priest of thy people! Lord! I would hail thee as both my Priest, Altar, and Sacrifice. Thou wert indeed taken from among men: for in thy human nature, thou were alone suited for the high office. Who, like Jesus, could have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way: from a knowledge, like Jesus, of the infirmities of our nature, tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin? And who like Jesus, could be begotten to the Son-ship of his holy nature, and be sworn into the office of an high priest forever, after the order of Melchizedec? Surely Lord, none but Jesus could offer up gifts and sacrifices for sins. Neither could there be anything short of thy divine nature, to offer gifts and sacrifices upon, and to give acceptance and efficacy to all offerings, but the Person, blood, and righteousness of God's dear Son? And oh! what everlasting efficacy, hath the one offering of my God and Savior wrought; and his everlasting unchanging priesthood, made secure, to render both his priesthood and his sacrifice of eternal duration, confirmed also by the oath of Him, who hath sworn, and will not repent; Thou art a Priest forever after the order of Melchizedec!

Oh! for grace from God the Spirit, never to lose sight of the mercy-seat itself, that the whole purpose, for which it is erected is for mercy. There would have needed no mercy-seat, had not Christ's children been sinners. Neither would God the Father have constituted his dear Son, as high Priest, and formed him in our nature in this office, but that he might have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way. The very office itself, and the conscious sense of Him Who sits there, are full to this purpose, that God hath chosen Jesus expressly with this view; and Jesus hath infinite dimensions of love, that he might be a merciful and faithful high Priest, in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of his people. Lord! may I never lose sight of these things! May I always have in contemplation thy Person, and thy high priestly office; and by faith, behold my Lord, still, clothed in a vesture, dipped in blood, as if to tell me Jesus wears these robes, in proof of his unceasing office. Let me day by day, come boldly to thy throne, and find grace to help, in all time of need.

 


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Bibliography Information
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Hebrews 5:4". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pmc/hebrews-5.html. 1828.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, November 28th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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