Beset with Weakness
The Preacher will now spend many chapters comparing the old covenant with the new, proving the superiority of the latter, a superiority based upon the Son who sits at the Right Hand of the Father where he continues to exercise his priestly office.
So the Preacher begins by comparing the men who served as priests under the Aaronic priesthood to the priesthood of Christ showing the impotence of the former. Under the old covenant, the sons (descendants) of Aaron (brother of Moses) constituted the order of priests with their relatives, the sons of Levi, acting as their assistants. Among the priests, a high priest was chosen and “appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.” This was the priest’s primary function: To act as mediator between God and men as only the priest could offer sacrifices. This entire system was instituted by God in the Law and as such deserves our respect. But at the same time, as with all matters pertaining to the old covenant, its primary purpose was to foreshadow the ministry which was to come under the new covenant inaugurated by Christ.
So how is the old covenant inferior to the new regarding the priesthood? Well, the priest, though ordained to that position by God, was still a mere man. The good part about this was that “he can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.” And this is something every minister today must remember: We are all beset with weakness and need someone to deal gently with us—not excuse our sin—but deal gently with us, understanding that we each have our own trials and temptations. The Preacher goes on describing the reality under which the High Priest lived: “Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people.” And so do we. As “priests” to one another, interceding for one another, knowing our own sins and weaknesses, we confess to God as we pray for one another.
“And no one takes this honor [being a priest] for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.” And this is the Preacher’s lead in to speak of how Christ’s priesthood outshines the weakness of the Aaronic priesthood under the old covenant. Our Lord still deals gently with us with grace and mercy; but, not because he sinned, but because he suffered. So may we deal gently with one another, firm as that regards calling out the sin, but gently as that regards forgiveness and leading others to the throne of grace.