October 18, 2014.
Daily Reading: Hebrews 9-10.
Background: Hebrews 1-8.
Concepts and Connections.
Old Covenant worship and Jesus Christ: The Hebrew writer showed us in the previous chapter that through Jesus, a better ministry was brought forth. Here, he seeks to examine the sanctuary and temple worship to show us how the ministry that Jesus brought was always the plan, as the first offered no way to perfect the conscious of the worshiper. In the tabernacle, there were two sections, the holy place and the most holy place, and only certain people could go into each section (see Exodus 26). In the first section, where the lamp stand, table and bread of the presence were, the Levitical priest would go in regularly and preform the ritual duties. In the second section, the most holy place, only the high priest would go in, and he only once a year. He first had to offer sacrifice for himself and for the people before he could enter in before the Lord, for in the most holy place was the golden altar and the ark of the covenant, which represented God’s presence. The most holy place was separated with a curtain which separated it from the holy place, and this curtain indicated that the way into the holy place was not open to us. Only one high priest was to go in once a year. The people were cut off from their God, because they could not stand before Him in their sins. It had to be this way, because the blood of bulls and goats could not actually take away. The only reason the Levites were allowed to minister in the tabernacle was because they were chosen by God and concentrated as the first born of Israel (see Numbers 3 and Numbers 18), and even they could not do so without making an offering beforehand. Thus, the Old Covenant worship was put in place to serve the people though law, washings and regulations until the time of reformation was to come.
This was not the ultimate plan of God (as seen in His creation in the garden of Eden, see Genesis 1-2), but rather a system put in place as a guardian until Christ came (see Galatians 3:23-29). This is what the Hebrew writer tries to relate in the second half of this chapter. When Christ came, He entered though a greater and more perfect tent, one not made with men’s hands, not by the blood of bulls and goats, but by His own blood, the pure blood of the Lamb of God. It is only the blood of Christ that can purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God (see also I Peter 3:21-22). The curtain had been torn though His sacrifice, and the way to God had been made available to all though His blood (see Matthew 27:51). In this, Christ ushered in a new covenant, a better covenant that was inaugurated with His blood, and His will was established at His death and pushed on to victory though His resurrection. We understand the concept of a will, that they do not go into effect until the person dies. In the same way, Jesus’ will and testament could not go into effect until He died. Though His death, He was offered to bear the sins of man, once for all, that we may be saved through His blood. We will all die and appear before the judgement seat of Christ, but thanks be to God that Christ will return a second time to save those who eagerly wait for Him.
1. Christ’s sacrifice for all sin: Continuing on with the idea of how the Law could not actually cleanse sin, the Hebrew writer here brings up the offerings for sin year after year. He posits that if the blood of bulls and goats could actually cleanse sin, then there would not be a need to continually offer these offerings every year, for the sin would have already been taken care of. This is precisely what the blood of Jesus does for us, as He did offer Himself as a sacrifice, once for all, showing that His blood does indeed cleanse sin. The Hebrew writer quotes from Psalm 40:6-8 to reinforce this idea, showing that the Lord did not desire sacrifices and offerings, the ones that were indeed according to the Law, but rather Christ came into the world to do the will of God. Thus, the first covenant is done away with though the blood of Christ, that the second might be established, just as was prophesied in Jeremiah 31:33-34. Christ offered Himself once for all, and in His blood we have the forgiveness of sins. There is no longer any need for continual offerings for sin.
2. The application of Christ’s sacrifice: After going into great detail explaining the importance and meaning of Christ’s sacrifice once for all, the Hebrew writer presses on to the application of this sacrifice to our own lives. Though Christ, the curtain that separated the most holy place had been removed, and therefore we should have confidence to enter in and draw near to the throne of God, with the full assurance of faith as our hearts have been cleansed with the blood of Christ and our bodies washed with pure water (see Titus 3:4-7). Note the emphasis on the boldness and courage of faith presented here, as this confidence is offered to us through the blood of Christ. We are not confident in our own abilities to draw near, but rather confident that Christ has made our way to stand before God, blameless. It is in Him that we have, and should have, this confidence. Further, we have a duty to one another, to stir each other up to love and good works, being with one another and encouraging each other as we look towards the second coming of Christ. This is the application of our faith, that we build each other up, that we be in community with one another, helping each other. Christianity is not an island. Christ died for the church, His bride.
However, if we go on sinning deliberately, there is no longer a sacrifice for our sins, as we have thrown off the gift that Christ offered us. It is true that His blood continually cleanses us from sin, but this is so long as we continue to walk in the light (see I John 1:5-10). If we step out of His blood, if we reject the precious gift that was given to us, then we reject the sacrifice that Jesus made for us, and there is only a fearful expectation of judgment and a fury of fire that will consume us. We do this through continual, deliberate sin. There is a difference between struggling with sin and embracing sin. If we struggle with sin, we may fall many, many times. But each time we do, we get back up and continue to try to follow Christ. This is walking in the light. Embracing sin, or as the Hebrew writer puts it, deliberately sinning, is when we stop trying to walk in the light. We give in to our sinful nature, and perhaps even write it off as “well, the blood of Christ will save me.” This is not walking in the light, and the Hebrew writer makes it clear here that we have rejected the sacrifice of Jesus when we do this. Anyone who did this under the law of Moses died by the evidence of two or three witnesses. The Hebrew writer makes the point that profaning the blood of Christ will insure a punishment that is much worse than that which came through an inferior ministry. He cites Deuteronomy 32:35 (see also Romans 12:19) to remind us that the Lord will take vengeance on those who are not His, those who have rejected the sacrifice. We do not need to take lightly the righteousness of our God.
However, we were called to righteousness, and if we are walking in the light, we do not have to fear the wrath of God, for we will be saved from it. Because of this knowledge, we have joy, in the midst of persecution and trials, because we are awaiting a great day, a day on which we will receive our eternal salvation through our King. He is coming (see Isaiah 26:20 and Haggai 2:6), and through faith we will preserve our souls when He comes. Praise be to the Lord for His salvation.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Numbers 25-28.
Praise the Lord.