Milk, Mouths, and Messes: Lessons from the Littles

1 Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. 3 This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people. 4 And no one takes this honor on himself, but he receives it when called by God, just as Aaron was.

-          As William Barclay puts it, sin disturbs the relationship that exists between men and women and God. It creates a barrier. The purpose of the high priest was to offer sacrifices for the sins of the people – to restore that relationship and remove the barrier of sin.

-          Priests were susceptible to weakness, just like anyone else. When you and I experience trials, brokenness, or heartache a beautiful transformation occurs: we develop empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, and it’s a necessary emotion to genuinely connect.

-          Notice how God established humility into the role of high priest. The high priest was not only responsible for offering sacrifices for the people, but had to first bring a sacrifice for his own sins (verse 3). This is a good truth for us to remember whenever we’re correcting others because we sin, too. 2 Timothy 2:24 tells us we are to be kind to everyone, not quarrelsome, able to teach, and not resentful. Those are meaningful words to recall when we’re tempted to be overly harsh – we must be gentle and able to teach through the situation. At times I get the teaching part right, but I go too far on the staunchness of my corrective words. Lord, I fail, too. Please help me to be kind and able to teach.

5 In the same way, Christ did not take on himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him,

“You are my Son;
    today I have become your Father.”

6 And he says in another place,

“You are a priest forever,
    in the order of Melchizedek.”

-          As it mentioned in verse 1, high priests are not self-designated, they are appointed. Christ was no different – He was appointed by God. What’s interesting is the mention of Melchizedek. You must travel back to Genesis to understand who this person is, and how he was a foreshadow of Christ. Never fear, we’re going to talk about this more in Hebrews 7 in a couple weeks, so I won’t get into it too deeply now. Just remember that unusual name!

-          It was difficult for the Jewish people to comprehend how Christ was the High Priest. He wasn’t appointed, He wasn’t from the line of Aaron, He didn’t practice the ministry in the temple, and He seemed to confront the religious structure v. join it. The author spent time reinforcing the qualification of Jesus being our High Priest. For example, he speaks of how Jesus’ resurrection vindicated Him as the Holy One (Acts 2:24). That means, Jesus didn’t have to atone for His own sins first (like a human high priest). Instead, He became our sin without sinning so that He could abolish death once and for all!

7 During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him 10 and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.

-          We can so quickly skip over these verses and not realize what the Lord personally experienced. Notice that it says Jesus “offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death…” In Luke 22:42 we read how Jesus asked God to take the cup away. Friends, when a bitter cup is presented to us, it’s okay to ask God to take it away. Jesus did, and there is no shame in asking the Father. However, don’t overlook the powerful words Jesus spoke next, “Yet not my will, but Yours be done.” That’s the ending we must always speak after we have offered up our prayers, petitions, fervent cries, and tears to our God. He knows exactly how you feel because He experienced it Himself. Hebrews 5:8 gives us the second important lesson: he learned obedience from what he suffered. You are no different. When God allows a bitter cup to come – a cup which is He fully knows and understands – He also knows that suffering is how you learn obedience. Obedience you wouldn’t have otherwise learned had it not been for the pain. Lord, give us strength to endure the pain and keep our eyes focused on Your will above all else.

11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

-          I have a 10-month-old son (my fourth), so we’ve been through the milk-to-solids progression several times. It’s great how the author chose this analogy, because it’s one that would resonate with many. The infant starts with just an ounce or two of milk, then the quantity builds as they grow. Around six months, pureed food comes into play and over time, they ween off a diet of only milk and progress into foods that they can sink their baby teeth into. It’s the same with us as believers. When we begin, it’s the ABCs of relationship: sin, grace, and peace. Babies are needy (but cute) and require other people to meet their desires. Boy, we certainly see this in the Church today! How often we hear, “I don’t feel connected.” Well…what effort have you consistently offered to be a conduit to others? Is the expectation for others to tend to you or is the expectation for you to serve others? I recognize there is a balance here. Churches should be welcoming and not closed off, and if they are, then that’s probably an indicator of poor spiritual health. However, we can’t expect to be “served” when we attend church. It’s okay to be at the infant stage for a season, but it’s not meant to be for a lifetime.

-          Verse 14 has a great truth tucked in it about “distinguish good from evil.” My third son, Ezra, used to shove everything in his mouth. He had some developmental delays and putting things in his mouth was his way of examining items and understanding them better. However, what he chose to put in his mouth wasn’t always beneficial. New believers are similar – they don’t exactly know what’s right or wrong and they’ll “feed” themselves the wrong thing if there isn’t someone disciplining them. Oftentimes, new believers spend time trying to ponder what is “right” and can frustrate themselves. If you are a mature believer, help others along – you have discernment on what is good and evil, and you should be able to point them to understanding based on Scriptures. Don’t let the babes accept just any kind of spiritual food! Protect them and help them to grow into seasoned believers. Help them strengthen their spiritual jaws as they chomp on the Word of God. Amen.