The Perfections of Jesus: Prophet, Priest and King

"Whatsoever things are lovely … think on these things."

We waste no time when thinking of Jesus, for every thought of Him yields present delight and is of eternal value. All the wisdom that the minds of men can evolve will pass like smoke, but every Holy Ghost given thought of Him will abide as a priceless possession for ever. It is the understanding of Him which "is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared to her. She is a tree of life to them that lay hold of her, and happy is everyone that retaineth her" (Prov. 3:14-18).

To the anointed eye, and opened ear, and devoted heart, the Bible is full of Jesus and His beauty. He shines forth in the Old Testament through type and shadow, and no types are of greater interest and instruction than those in connection with the tabernacle in Israel.

The tabernacle in its largest interpretation is figurative of the wide universe of God, when everything in it will be subject to His will. It sets forth that vast realm in which His glory will be displayed in and by Christ; this is the meaning of the expression translated in the authorised version "a worldly sanctuary" (Heb. 9:1).

There were three parts to it: the courtyard, the holy place, and the holy of holies; in this latter God dwelt in the midst of His people, and as nothing unsuitable to God could be allowed to abide in His dwelling-place, the things which He commanded should be there must typify that which is delightful to Himself. These things are enumerated for us in Hebrews 9:4: —

"The golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with pure gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant."

The Ark of the Covenant was a type of Christ, it was made of an imperishable wood and overlaid with gold, the former speaking of His spotless and incorruptible humanity, the latter of the Divinity of His Person. He was here on earth "God manifest in the flesh," very God yet perfect Man. This incarnation is a great mystery which the mind of man cannot fathom, but faith accepts it as the revelation of God, and, like the wise men from the east, bows down in adoration before the glory of the Person thus presented to us. In this ark were the three things referred to in our verse, and to them we will direct our attention.

The golden pot that had manna

The manna was that with which God fed His people in the wilderness. It conspicuated their complete dependence upon Him; but He was a God who never failed them, and this "corn of Heaven" fell for their needs throughout those forty years. They wearied of it and cried in rebellion against the Giver: "Our souls loathe this light bread" (Num. 21:5). But God said of that which they despised "Take a pot, and put an omer full of manna therein, and lay it up before the Lord, to be kept for your generations. As the Lord commanded Moses, so Aaron laid it up before the Testimony to be kept" (Ex. 16:33-34). It was as though God said "That manna is precious to Me, the people may despise it, but it shall be preserved in My dwelling place for ever."

But its preciousness lay in the fact that it typified Christ: that which was the food of men entirely dependent upon God, prefigured Him who came down from Heaven to live a life of complete dependence, and to tread the road of perfect obedience to God's will. This was man's true place Godward, and Jesus came to stand where all beside had fallen before the tempter's power.

Though He was the Lord of Glory He was born in Bethlehem of Judea and laid in a manger; and the external lowliness of His birth was but the sign of that inward lowliness of heart which was perfect in Him. From that lowly advent to His glorious departure He was always dependent upon God, for He could say "I was cast upon Thee from the womb!" The devil brought all his wiles to bear upon Him, but Jesus stood firm in that dependence, and refused to look in any other direction than upward to God for all His need.

That life of dependence was also one of obedience. His ear was wakened morning by morning by His Father's voice; He listened as the learner to His Father's instructions, and went forth to fulfil His words, and do His works, no more and no less; this was His very life, His meat was to do the will of Him that sent Him, and to finish His work.

The people saw His works and had to say "He has done all things well." His enemies heard His words, and were compelled to confess "Never man spake like this Man." But did He take the praise of it to Himself? Nay, He said "The words are my Father's words, and I do the works of Him that sent me." He was the Man without pride, the Bread of God come down from heaven to give life to the world.

But while all this was manifested before the eyes of men, there was that which they could not see. They beheld a Man Who refused the path of ease and chose the path of sorrows, Who refused to receive the preferments of the rich, or popularity with the poor; they could not understand Him, and hated Him in consequence. Even His disciples rebuked Him for it, but they did not know the motive and spring of that blessed life. He lived on account of His Father. His only motive in life was to please His Father, every throb of His heart was true to the One who sent Him. He was controlled and governed by His Father's joy, His Fathers will. He was always one in mind and heart and purpose with His Father who sent Him. Thus He filled the infinite heart of God with satisfaction, while there shone forth from Him the glory of that grace which can fill with joy the heart of every creature beneath the sun.

But just as Israel loathed the manna, so men loathed the 'Sent One of God.' "He was despised and rejected of men, and when they saw Him there was no beauty that they should desire Him." And He had to say "Mine enemies speak evil of Me, when shall He die and His name perish" (Ps. 41). They wished to see and hear of Him no more, and a shameful cross was the end of that life, as far as men were concerned.

Our God has highly exalted Him. The precious manna has been placed in the golden pot, and put in the very dwelling of God. Not one thought, or word, or deed, or motion of the soul of that blessed humbled Man will ever be forgotten. The glory of that life shall fill eternity with its fragrance. Its imperishable beauty is now enthroned at the right hand of God, for He is there, and what He was, He is, and ever shall be.

But His exaltation has not increased His worth, for that were impossible. The Father's throne is the only suited place for Him; and as He was here, so He ever will be there, the joy of God's heart, and the wonder and joy of all the redeemed.

It was while here on earth in this lowly pathway, which led only to the cross, that He was the great prophet of God. He always delighted to speak of Himself as "sent," and as the Sent One He fully declared the One whom mortal eye has never seen. He did this in all His words and works, and the revelation of God could not be more complete. It will abide for ever; but as imperishable and eternal as the nature of God thus revealed, will be the perfections of Jesus as the Revealer of that nature.

Aaron's Rod that budded

There had been rebellion in Israel, and God instructed Moses to take the rods of the princes, one rod for each tribe, saying to him

"Thou shalt lay them up in the tabernacle of the congregation before the testimony, where I will meet with you. And it shall come to pass that the man's rod, whom I shall choose, shall blossom; and I will make to cease from me the murmurings of the children of Israel, whereby they murmur against you" (Num. 17:4-5).

Twelve dry staves were placed there as the sun went down; but when the morning dawned "the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi was budded, and brought forth blossoms, and yielded almonds."

The almond is figurative of resurrection, and in the blossoming of the high priest's rod we have a striking type of the priestly office of the Lord Jesus, exercised in the power of resurrection. He could not be a priest on earth (Heb. 8:4), but having been raised from the dead, He has entered into the presence of God there to appear for His saints. This is His present position and service, the doctrine of which is unfolded for us in the Hebrew Epistle.

The chief result of the budding of Aaron's rod was the removal of the murmurings of the people (v. 10). There is unmeasured comfort for us in this, for we are compassed with infirmity; all kinds of opposition confronts us in the path of faith; and there is also the chastening hand of God upon us, that we may be partakers of His holiness. In the midst of these things we should certainly become discouraged and murmur and repine, had we not an High Priest who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities, and Who can have compassion on the ignorant and on them that are out of the way. In the power of infinite and quenchless love He ever lives to make intercession for us; and His mighty intercession cannot fail. And though we see Him not with mortal eye, yet we know His sympathetic heart, for He made it known on earth; His tears were mingled with those of the weeping sisters by the grave of Lazarus, and He is just the same today, and we may prove as they did that His love is greater than the greatest sorrow that we can feel.

It is written "whoso offereth praise glorifieth God," and He has redeemed us, that we might praise Him in the new song. The devil knows this, and uses every effort to make murmuring take the place of singing, so that God may be dishonoured instead of glorified. But Jesus is our great High Priest that we might not fail in this way, and the resources of His grace are inexhaustible. He lives that we might draw largely upon these resources, so that the path of complete dependence upon God may be to us the path of great joy; and thus the very circumstances that the devil would use to make us murmur, become the cause for sweetest praise, for they turn us to Christ, and are the means of enabling us to experience His grace and sympathy, as we could not otherwise do. We have a most instructive example of this in the case of Paul, who was greatly tested by the thorn in the flesh; but to him the Lord could say "My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness; and Paul's response to this was "most gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities" (2 Cor. 12:9). He was more than a conqueror through Him that loved him.

But the Lord Jesus also fulfils His priestly services towards us because we are sons of God. God is "bringing many sons to glory"; they are so precious to Him, and such is their dignity, that He could not commit them to the care of an arch-angel; there is only one Person great enough and competent for this charge, even the One who is so constantly spoken of in the Hebrew epistle as Jesus. In obedience to the will of God, and to carry out His plan with regard to His people, He has become the Captain of our salvation; and "such an High Priest became us, who is holy, harmless, and undefiled, separate from sinners; made higher than the heavens;" and Who is able to save to the uttermost all "that come to God by Him" (Heb. 7:25-26). He cannot break down or fail in this service to God's blood-bought sons; His mercy, faithfulness, and power are all engaged to bring them safely home, because they belong to God; and it is His delight, as the Servant of God's pleasure, to do God's will with regard to them.

A little child wanders from its home, and is in danger of being hurt in the crowded thoroughfare, but a dear friend of that child's mother sees it standing all bewildered amid the whirling traffic. He takes it in charge and because it is hungry he feeds it, because it is tired he carries it, and at length bears it through all the dangers of the street to the mother's arms. That means much to that child, but who can tell how the mother will appreciate such a service!

So it is; the heart of our great High Priest is full of compassion; He feeds, and carries, and cares for us,

"His watchful eye shall keep

Each pilgrim soul amongst

The thousands of God's sheep,"

until at last we reach the home of our God. We shall praise Him for ever for this service of infinite love to us, but if it has meant so much to us, what will it have meant to God? How will He appreciate it? Every beloved child brought safely home, in spite of all the wiles of the foe; brought home too, with songs of gladness, instead of voice of murmuring. We may be sure that God will never forget this. The rod that budded shall be associated with the pot of manna, and laid up before Him for ever. The faithfulness of Jesus, in accomplishing God's will as the High Priest of His people, will never be out of God's memory, and it shall shine in imperishable glory to the utmost bounds of the universe of God.

The Tables of Stone

God brought Israel out of Egypt to be a kingdom for Himself; in the which His will should be maintained and His righteous character manifested; and this will and character was embodied in the ten commandments. The first tables were broken e'er ever they reached the camp of Israel, for the people had already violated the laws they contained. But God, in mercy, said to Moses:

"Hew thee two tables like to the first, and come up to Me in the mount and make thee an ark of wood. And I will write on the tables the words that were in the first tables which thou breakest, and thou shalt put them in the ark" (Deut. 10:1-9).

The tables of stone foreshadow the time when the once-rejected Nazarene shall have dominion to the ends of the earth. This is evidenced by the fact that they alone were placed in the ark when the temple of Solomon was built (1 Ki. 8:9). The temple glory is the glory of the millennial kingdom, while that of the tabernacle sets forth what is eternal.

Those commandments were broken by Israel, but when the true King comes they will be kept throughout His far-stretching domain; He will administrate according to them for the glory of God. The first request of the kingdom prayer is that God's will shall be done on earth, and this prayer shall receive an abundant answer, for God will have everything that He has introduced perfectly fulfilled.

Jesus was "born King of the Jews," but He did not at once take up the sceptre of government, for "His own received Him not;" and since those laws had been broken by those to whom God gave them, He, as the true Israelite, must keep them.

The law was maintained inviolate in His heart, it was His meditation day and night, He saw the glorious things in it, He fulfilled and magnified it, for He was the One Who loved the Lord His God with all His heart, and His neighbour as Himself. He showed the way of righteousness for all His subjects, by being completely subject Himself, and by that subjection has proved His right, as well as His competency, to rule. But righteousness is not the only quality that the Lord as King possesses. He presented Himself to His people as meek and compassionate: to Him the blind and the lame came in the temple, and as their King He healed them; all evil fled before His blessed touch, and so glad were the children made by His presence that they could not refrain from singing, "Hosanna to the Son of David." It was this King that was despised and crucified.

But He is coming again; His enemies shall lick the dust; all kings shall fall down before Him, and all nations shall serve Him. He will arise with healing in His wings, and deliver the needy when they cry; He shall be as the light of the morning when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds. For one glorious millennium this poor sin-riven earth shall be at rest, righteousness shall flourish, all shall know the Lord, and peace shall cover men as a garment. But all this will be because of the greatness of the King, in whose heart the law of God is enshrined.

The kingdom will be right because the King is righteous. He will administrate on God's behalf, and govern His people as a Shepherd, and maintain them in the ways and will of God by the power of His priestly grace — for He will be a Priest upon His throne (Zech. 6:13) — so that not only will that law have been carried out by one perfect Man, but it will also be maintained and administered by that Man in a wide-stretching kingdom for the eternal glory of God. No one but Jesus in whom infinite perfections dwell, could carry this out; and when He has done this, then shall He give up that kingdom to God.

But though that reign of 1,000 years shall come to an end, the glory of the King will not be forgotten. The tables of stone are placed with the rod that budded, and the pot of manna, in the dwelling-place of God; and when this creation has served its purpose, and been folded up as a garment and set aside, the perfections of Jesus, as Prophet, Priest, and King — the full, making-known of God in all His ways with men — shall be the eternal glory of the new heavens and the new earth.

Meantime while these perfections are hidden from the eyes of the world, believers have boldness to go right in to the presence of God where they for ever shine; for the precious all-atoning blood is there upon the Mercy Seat, and that blood is their title to be there (Heb. 10:19-22). There in the very presence of God they may feed upon Christ as the manna; be maintained by Him as the rod that budded; and have Him for a Pattern as the tables of stone; and as their souls enter into the glories of Christ which yield such delight to God, they are able to use the golden censer — which is symbolical of worship — and pour forth their hearts in adoration before the God whom Christ has fully declared.