From Praying the Names of Jesus Week Twenty-One, Day Two
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.
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
Praying the Name
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
Praise God: For sending us a High Priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses.
Offer Thanks: >For the forgiveness you have been granted.
Confess: Any tendency to believe that you alone can pay for your sins.
Ask God: To help you approach him with confidence because of Jesus.
Remember those Russian nesting dolls? When you open the first one, you discover another just like it nesting inside. As you open each successive doll, you find a smaller one until finally you reach the last and smallest doll of all — a miniature of all the others. I think the Bible often operates like this, only in reverse. You start with the nugget of something, a truth or a promise or a character, and then as the Bible progresses you get larger, more explicit versions of them until all the figures and types and shadows finally converge, coming into focus in the life of one particular man, in the life of Jesus.
Take the Day of Atonement, for instance. Every year for thousands of years, the Jewish people have celebrated this day as the holiest day of the year. But maybe it's misleading to say they "celebrate" it, for the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) is a time of fasting, of soul searching, of asking God's forgiveness for wrongs seen and unseen. During Jesus' lifetime and for hundreds of years before that, the high priest would bow his head and walk reverently into the holiest place on earth — the place in the temple where God's presence was thought to dwell. He would enter not as a proud man but as a sinner on behalf of sinners.
There he would confess his sins and the sins of all the people, sacrificing animals in order to make things right with God. But the forgiveness obtained on that day was only partial, and the ceremony had to be repeated year after year. Why? Because the only acceptable payment for sin is death, and animals cannot possibly pay the price for human sin. But if the high priest's offering was mere pocket change in comparison to the size of the debt, why did God insist that the ceremony be repeated over and over?
Last year, my daughter's third grade class spent several weeks immersed in what her teacher called a "mini-economy course." Each child was hired for a particular job, something simple like managing a mini-store in the classroom or recording average daily temperatures as an assistant weather person. Wages were paid in the form of play money, which could then be used to make purchases at the mini-store.
But first each child had to set aside enough money to cover basic expenses like food, clothing, shelter, and health care. I felt a twinge of envy when Katie smugly informed me that her health care cost only five dollars a month! But I knew my daughter was learning a little about how real life works.
I think God works in similar ways. He begins by giving his people mini-lessons about how the universe works, showing them that sin exacts a price, that it produces death. And once the people understand this, he makes it clear that they can never pay off the debt their sins have incurred. Then he repeats the lesson year after year to help them understand their predicament.
But not wanting to frustrate them forever, God sent the only High Priest capable of wiping out the debt completely. He sent Jesus, who began by immersing himself in our life and by sharing our sorrows, our hopes, our happiness, our weakness, our temptations. He shared everything but our guilt so that he could represent us, bearing us in his heart without also bearing sin of his own into the presence of God. Instead of placing an animal on the altar like so much play money, Jesus climbed onto it himself, offering the most precious currency of all — his life.
The next time you sin (for most of us that will be today), ask Christ to forgive you. Then picture yourself before your great High Priest. Imagine him not as a scolding, disapproving high priest, but as he is — the One who bears you tenderly in his heart, carrying you straight to the Father who forgives 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.