For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Hebrews 4:15-16 (NIV)
When we read some of the rituals and practices that are described in the Old Testament many of us are probably glad that things are no longer that way for us. The children of Israel were under the Law. There were specific practices, festivals, and rituals under the leadership of a priesthood. This priesthood had a hierarchy that culminated in a high priest who acted as the intermediary between God and the people.
The system had origins of direct appointment from God. However over the years and as a result of a certain degradation of the priestly lines this priesthood became not of God but more politically motivated. By the time Jesus was born, the priesthood had become corrupt and ungodly. The arrival of Jesus Christ became a turning point for God's people. A time for choosing had come.
Under the Law, the priests would practice ritual sacrifice in order for the people to atone for sin. Originally this was of God, and even though the concept of animal sacrifice can be a difficult one to understand for most of us, this is what God had ordained and thus it was done. But then just as Jesus turned the tables of the moneychangers in the temples, Jesus overturned the old Law and made a New Covenant.
The order of the Priesthood was no longer necessary to act as an intermediary with God. Now we are able to be in direct communion with God.
In the anciet times of Israel the Day of Atonement, which now is Yom Kippur and is the holiest day of the year for religious Jews was a time of animal sacrifice and the cleansing of sin as a result of the rituals performed by the high priest. This priest was a man who was susceptible to sin, but perhaps the loftiness of his position did not allow him to truly care for his flock.
Then came Christ, the only real High Priest that really matters. The animal sacrifices were no longer necessary because Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice of himself to atone for all of our sins. Jesus is the intermediary to the Father. Jesus came as a man and he was tempted just like we are tempted. He resisted temptation and was without sin. Jesus was more perfect than the finest bull offered for ritual sacrifice. Jesus offered up his life, suffered, and shed his blood to atone for our sins. Then he conquered death and ascended into heaven with a promise: If we acknowledge our sinfulness, repent of that sin, and accept Him then He will act as our High Priest to atone us, to cleanse us, and to accept us into His eternal Kingdom.
We can be confident in going directly to God, who is Jesus Christ, who provides mercy and grace to those who faithfully come to Him. He knows our needs and when we go to Him He will provide for those needs.