Hebrews 5:1 is the third sentence of a topic to which the Writer returned after expositing what is arguably the overarching motif of Scripture: Rest. Joshua, at Joshua 21:43 – 45 (emphases added), proclaimed:
Thus the LORD gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. *** And the LORD gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. *** Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.
Of course He kept His promises! Yet,
For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So, then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Hebrews 4:8 – 10 (emphases added)
The Writer isn’t calling Joshua a false-witness-bearer; he’s proclaiming the Truth that the physical rest which was promised to ethnic/national Israel was but a type, the antitype being His Sabbath rest – eternal rest. The Old Covenant Sabbath isn’t the fulfillment of our Lord’s seventh-day rest … the “Sabbath rest for the people of God” is! The Old Covenant [made obsolete by the New Covenant (Hebrews 8:13)] Sabbath was the picture; the fulfillment is our rest from our works!
“Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” [Matthew 11: 28 (emphasis added)] was – to the Old Covenant Jew – blasphemy!
Them’s fightin’ words, unfortunately. That is, the foregoing Truth is, unfortunately, problematic for one of Christendom’s primary theological systems. Steve’s book on New Covenant Theology, available in the ids bookstore, is a good source for study of this Truth, inter alia.
The Writer cautions that unbelief is the barrier to rest and proclaims:
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:12 – 13
He knows. His word is His probe. Our throats are laid bare to Him. But:
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. Hebrews 4:14
Our Great High Priest didn’t pass through the curtain of the temple – it was “torn in two” via our Lord’s crucifixion (Luke 23:45). He entered the true “holy of holies”, the “more perfect tabernacle not made with hands” (Hebrews 9:11 – 12). The final Passover and the final Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) gave way to the inauguration of the new and everlasting covenant (Hebrews 13:20). Tetelestai/Paid in Full/Finished. It’s the work in which we must rest!
As mentioned, the Writer, at v. 4:14, returns to his central theme – Jesus’ high priesthood, first mentioned at v. 2:17 and then at v. 3:1. At v. 5:1, he mentions the role of the Old Covenant high priest: “[T]o offer gifts and sacrifices for sin” (v. 5:1). Jesus’ gift was His perfection … He was without sin (v. 4:15). * You will do well to read the articles found here, and here. * His sacrifice was Himself.
Contrary to the Old Covenant high priest, Jesus, of course, was/is not “beset with weakness” (v. 5:2). He wasn’t “obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins” (v. 5:3) as was the Old Covenant High Priest, pursuant to the Day of Atonement liturgy prescribed via Leviticus 16.
Aaron was chosen by God; Levites were God’s choice to be His priests. Via v v. 5 and 6, the Writer quotes from two Psalms to indicate Jesus’ divine commission and ordination. At Hebrews 1:5, the Writer quoted Psalm 2:7 (juxtaposed with 2 Sam. 7:14) in exaltation of Jesus’ Sonship and the incomparable superiority of such. In v. 5:5, the Writer juxtaposes Psalm 2:7 with Psalm 110:4 — Jesus’ unique Sonship with His incomparable superior High Priesthood … in the order of Melchizedek.
This is the third mention of Melchizedek in Scripture (the first: Genesis 14:18) and the first in Hebrews; eight more references to Melchizedek exist – all within Hebrews (six within chapter 7)! “About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain … .” (v. 5:11)