The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever. Hebrews 7:23-28, ESV
The priests of Israel were employed first in the tabernacle and later in the temple. Their main tasks were offering sacrifices, maintaining the temple, and instructing the people. Their role was intercessory, representing God to the people, and the people to God. The men who served as priests came from the right family and were raised to this vocation.
While there were many priests, there was only one high priest. He was responsible to ensure that the priests and the people followed the commands God set forth in the law of Moses. He bore the burden of directing the hearts of the people to God. He also led in the sacrifices, oversaw the offerings, blessed the people, and annually entered the holy of holies with a sacrifice on Day of Atonement.
Hebrews 7 tells us these priests have been replaced by a better High Priest. This better High Priest is eternal, so He will never need a replacement. This High Priest does not need to deal with His own sin before dealing with the sins of others, for He is “innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.” This High Priest does more than offer a once-a-year symbolic sacrifice. In fact, He “once for all … offered up himself” and continues to intercede for the saints before God at all times on the basis of that “once for all” sacrifice.
Of course, this ever active and perfect High Priest is Jesus. The beauty and the blessing of His priesthood is reflected in the song lyric penned by Irish American hymn writer Charitie Lees Bancroft in 1863:
Before the throne of God above,
I have a strong and perfect plea,
a great High Priest whose name is Love,
who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on his hands,
my name is written on his heart.
I know that while in heav'n he stands,
no tongue can bid me thence depart,
no tongue can bid me thence depart.
When Satan tempts me to despair
and tells me of the guilt within,
upward I look and see him there,
who made an end to all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died,
my sinful soul is counted free;
for God, the just, is satisfied
to look on him and pardon me,
to look on him and pardon me.
Behold him there, the risen Lamb,
my perfect, spotless righteousness,
the great unchangeable I AM,
the King of glory and of grace!
One with himself I cannot die.
My soul is purchased by his blood!
My life is hid with Christ on high,
with Christ, my Savior and my God,
with Christ, my Savior and my God.
I pray that your day will be filled with the peace and assurance that are yours by faith in Jesus our Great High Priest.