From Praying the Names of Jesus Week Twenty-One, Day One
Jesus is both Priest — the One who faithfully bears us into God's presence by virtue of his self-sacrifice — and Prophet — the One who perfectly communicates God's Word to us. We are called to listen to him, to trust in his work, and to take our places as part of a kingdom of priests who in Christ Jesus offer ourselves on behalf of others. As you pray to Jesus as both Priest and Prophet, ask him to help you understand the deep meaning of these titles so that you can live out their truths in your life.
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. Hebrews 4:14
In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son. Hebrews 1:1
His Names Revealed
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16
The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me [Moses] from among your own brothers. You must listen to him. For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, "Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die."
The Lord said to me: "What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him." Deuteronomy 18:15 - 18
In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. Hebrews 1:1-3
Thank you, Lord, for understanding what it means to be weak and tempted, and thank you also for never giving in to temptation. You are the only one able to bring me to the Father so that my sins can be forgiven. Through your life and through your death you have told me who God is and what his plans are for me. Now I pray that you will help me to imitate you, so that others might know you as both Priest and Prophet. Amen.
Understanding the Names
Prophet, priest, and king — these were the three major offices in Israel, titles also ascribed to Jesus. While the king governed as God's representative on earth, the priest's role was to represent the people to God by offering sacrifices, prayers, and praise on their behalf. Unlike kings and priests, which were normally hereditary offices held only by males, prophets had to be commissioned by God, and they could be either male or female.
The role of the priest was to bring the people before God. Moses' brother, Aaron, was the first Jewish priest. Thereafter priests were drawn from among his descendants, and they were given charge of worship, which eventually became centralized in the Jerusalem temple. Unlike worship in many churches today, Jewish worship primarily consisted not in singing songs and listening to sermons but in offering sacrifices as prescribed by the Mosaic law. The priest's role was to offer sacrifices for his own sins and for the sins of the people.
The animals killed in the temple served as a continual reminder to both priests and People that the penalty for sin is death.
The priesthood consisted of three groups: the high priest, ordinary priests, and Levites. The Levites occupied the lowest rung of the ladder, taking care of the temple service.
The priests, who alone could offer sacrifice, were next. At the pinnacle stood the high priest, the only one authorized to enter the Most Holy Place on the Day of Atonement. On his ephod (a garment attached to the breastpiece) were stones that bore the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, a physical reminder that the high priest was bearing the people into God's presence.
The New Testament identifies Jesus as a priest according to the order of Melchizedek (Melchizedek, a priest who was a contemporary of Abraham, predated the Levites). This was a way of indicating that his priesthood was both different and superior to that of the Levitical priesthood. Though most priests in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus rejected him, the book of Hebrews, emphasizing Jesus' role as High Priest, may have been aimed primarily at priests who became believers after the resurrection. The Greek word for "priest" is hierus (hee-uh-REUS).
While the primary role of the priest was to speak to God on behalf of the people, the prophet's primary responsibility was to speak to the people on behalf of God. The great prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures included Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Elijah, and Elisha. While prophets sometimes predicted future events, more often they called people to faithfulness.
Jesus acknowledged that his cousin, John, was a prophet — and more than a prophet because he prophesied most clearly about the Messiah. Though the common people acclaimed Jesus as a prophet and though he seemed comfortable with this title, most of the priests rejected this title for Jesus. In a Jewish context, Jesus' baptism in the Jordan, when the Spirit descended on him, would have been understood as a time of commissioning by God as a prophet. But unlike the prophets who preceded him, Jesus would be the one Prophet who not only perfectly revealed God's Word but who perfectly revealed God himself.
The New Testament identifies several people besides John the Baptist as prophets or as people who prophesied at one time or another. These included John's father, Zechariah; Anna; Simeon; Elizabeth; the high priest Caiphas; Agabus; and Barnabas. The New Testament also indicates that there were prophets in the early church and that prophecy was considered one of the spiritual gifts. The Greek word prophetes (pro-PHAY-tays) is found 144 times in the New Testament, which in proportion to its length, contains as many references to prophets and prophecies as do the Hebrew Scriptures.
Studying the Name
- Why do you think it is important that Jesus, as High Priest, is able to sympathize with our weaknesses?
- What about Jesus made him capable of sympathizing with us?
- Why do you think Jesus was more effective than the priests of the Old Testament?
- What do you think it means to say that "the Son is the radiance of God's glory"?
- How has Jesus as Prophet revealed God to you?
Two of Ann Spangler's most-loved books have been released in paperback: Praying the Names of God and Praying the Names of Jesus.
These books help us understand the biblical context in which these names and titles were revealed, and help us gain a more intimate knowledge of the Father and of the Son.