“For he must remain in his city of refuge, until the death of the high priest. But after the death of the high priest, the manslayer may return to the land of his possession.”
– Numbers 35:28
So the picture here in Numbers 35:28 is even if someone accidentally kills someone else, then they need to stay in the city of refuge. This area is allotted for people who are guilty of offenses in this way, and they must stay there until the death of the high priest. Which could be a matter of days or it could be a matter of decades. It could be a short time, could be a long time. So it causes you to wonder, “Well why is it that the death of the high priest?”
What can free us from the judgment we deserve? The death of our Great High Priest frees us from bondage to sin. Jesus atones for all our sins and has reconciled us to God.
The High Priest Atones for the Loss
Well, there’s one sense in which, “Okay, the death of a high priest marked the end of that era and a new high priest comes in”, so there’s that picture. But there’s probably a symbolic picture here that the priest, the high priest specifically, has died. The penalty of death in an even greater sense has been paid among God’s people, among the high priest, and so when one of God’s image-bearers is killed, even accidentally, then the person responsible for that and the offense of that is in a sense released when another of God’s image-bearers, specifically the high priest, loses his life.
Jesus is Our Great High Priest
Well, this is the picture in the Old Testament, but we obviously know where this kind of thinking and this theme leads in the bigger picture of the Bible. So Jesus, our great high priest, his death, his laying down his life, opens the door for all kinds of freedom for those who have offended God and others. This is the picture of grace in Jesus that is available to every single one of us. We have all sinned in all kinds of ways. We have dishonored God and we have dishonored others. And we deserve separation, we deserve judgment.
Jesus’ Atonement for Our Sins
So what can free us from that judgment? Well, the answer the Bible ultimately gives is the death of the great high priest, the greatest high priest. Jesus, the Son of God, has died, and he has in his death provided freedom for the vilest of sinners. Forgiveness for the most guilty of sinners. No sin is too great that we cannot be saved by the grace of God in Jesus. Isn’t that awesome news? No sin that you or I commit is out of the bounds of God’s grace towards us in Jesus.
Numbers 35:28: Praising the Great High Priest for Paying the Price of Sin for Us
So Jesus, we praise you for your death. We praise you for paying the price for the worst of sin and the worst of sinners. God, none of us, none of us deserves to stand before you. None of us deserves to be praying right now, to be talking to you, to experience communion with you. None of us deserves eternal life with you, we should all be in Hell right now. That’s what we deserve.
And yet here we are, talking to you, worshiping you, with the confidence of eternal life in you. With opportunities to share this life with others. We don’t deserve this. So Jesus, we praise you. We praise you for your death that makes this kind of life possible. We thank you for covering over the worst of our sin. Not that any sin is not severe, but we just praise you for covering it all, we praise you that your grace is sufficient to cover over all our disobedience to you, and our dishonoring of others.
All made possible, this grace. All made possible, through the death of your Son, O God. You, Jesus, on the cross. All glory be to your name. And in your name we pray, the only way we can pray. By your blood and in your name, we pray. Amen.