Salvation, Sympathy & Succor

Everyone would agree that one of the great themes of Hebrews is, “We have such an High Priest.” The article which follows shows us something of the character of our High Priest.

The great theme within the Hebrew epistle is the priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Within the epistle we see a better Priest serving under a better covenant, within a better sanctuary and on the basis of a better sacrifice. This better Priest is One who is able to save, to sympathize and to succor.

The proof of His capacity to save is seen in 7:25, “Wherefore He is able to save them to the uttermost I that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them.” Earlier in this chapter, the writer, in his attempt to show the superiority of the Lord Jesus as Priest, outlined three arguments. First, when Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek, this act proved that Abraham was inferior to Melchizedek and therefore Levi also would be inferior for he was yet in the loins of his father. Since Levi was inferior to Melchizedek, then the Levitical priesthood would be inferior to the priesthood after the order of Melchizedek. Secondly, the inferiority of the Levitical priesthood is proven in the fact that it was to be replaced in keeping with God’s oath to His Son, “Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” (Psa 110:4). But his third argument for the Levitical inferiority is in the fact that it was in the hands of failing, dying men, and is now replaced by an unchanging, untransferable and uninterrupted priesthood. We, therefore, now have One who brings us to a salvation, perfect and complete, in which the Lord Jesus has power to save completely all who come unto God by Him.

Our Great High Priest can save. But that is not all. Turning to 4:14, we have the statement, “We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” This is a more emphatic way of saying we have a high priest who can be touched. The word translated “touched” is sumpatheo, to suffer along with another. We can readily see that it comes directly into English as “sympathize”. The suffering is that of a tender hearted person who suffers with those who are passing through what he himself has personally experienced.

In Ch.5, we have the three great qualifications of a high priest: he had to come from among men (thus the emphasis on Jesus’ humanity in the epistle); he had to have the call of God (hence the quotation from Psa 110:4) and he had to have the capacity to sympathize (5:2).

Moses was brought up in the palace and never felt the sting of the taskmaster’s whip, nor did he pass through the other trials of a people in bondage as did Aaron. Therefore, Moses was not qualified to be the high priest. They could never say to Aaron, that he did not understand their problems. Unlike Moses, he had suffered as they had.

Paul was capable of being a sympathizer, for he had come to know better than any other “the God of all comfort who comforteth us in all our tribulations that we may be able to comfort them that are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (2 Cor 1:4).

Our Lord Jesus showed His sympathy to the widow of Nain whose only son had died when He “touched the bier, and he that was dead sat up” (Luke 7:14). When he saw Mary weeping, He wept with her, for He Himself was touched with the feelings which characterize perfect humanity.

Job looked for a sympathizer and chided Eliphaz with the words, “To him that is afflicted, pity should be shewed from his friends” (6:14), but Job found no comfort in his calloused friends and had to compare them to the ice, in that it is cold and is consumed so quickly when its environment becomes warm. Little wonder that he cried out for a priest in the words, “Neither is there any Daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both” (9:33). Thankfully, we are not left as job, for we have a Great High Priest who is able to sympathize as well as save.

Another word is used of this Great High Priest in the Hebrew treatise. In chapter 2:18 we read, “For in that He Himself has suffered being tempted, He is able to succor them that are tempted.” The word “succor” is boetheo and comes from the word boe (a cry) and thein (to run), and so it means to run in response to a cry for help. In 2 Cor 6:2 we read, “…In the day of salvation have I succored thee.” In that day when the call from our hearts was, “God be merciful to me the sinner” (Luke 18:13), He ran to our help in response to our cry. The Canaanitish woman used the word in Matt 15:25, “Lord succor me.”

In 4:16 we are enjoined, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of Grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” The word “boldly” coming from parresia, means freedom in speaking and refers to our ability not only to come with confidence but to the fact that we can tell Him everything, for He is the One in whom we can confide. The word “help” is veothos which is the verb form of the word for “succor” in 2:18. The expression, “in time of need” is from the word eukairou and carries the thought that this grace is exactly suitable for the occasion and is suppiece in the nick of time – entirely appropriate grace received at the entirely suitable moment. In Matthew 14:28-31, Peter began to walk on the water, but, beginning to sink he cried, “Lord save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth His hand.” Peter was succored!

Think of other examples in the gospels of this succoring ministry of the Lord Jesus.

There is another reference to this word. Can you find it? The writer had just quoted the words with the intensity of five negatives, “I will never, never leave thee nor in any wise forsake thee… So that we may boldly say, the Lord is my succorer, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Heb 13:6).

So we say with the writer to the Hebrews, “We have such a High Priest” (8:1) – One who is able to save, to sympathize and to succor.