Biblical Warning: Round 2

Hebrews 3

1And so, dear brothers and sisters who belong to God and are bound for heaven, think about this Jesus whom we declare to be God’s Messenger and High Priest. 2For he was faithful to God, who appointed him, just as Moses served faithfully and was entrusted with God’s entire house. 3But Jesus deserves far more glory than Moses, just as a person who builds a fine house deserves more praise than the house itself. 4For every house has a builder, but God is the one who made everything.

5Moses was certainly faithful in God’s house, but only as a servant. His work was an illustration of the truths God would reveal later. 6But Christ, the faithful Son, was in charge of the entire household. And we are God’s household, if we keep up our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ. 7That is why the Holy Spirit says,

“Today you must listen to his voice.

8Don’t harden your hearts against him as Israel did when they rebelled, when they tested God’s patience in the wilderness.

9There your ancestors tried my patience, even though they saw my miracles for forty years.

10So I was angry with them, and I said, ‘Their hearts always turn away from me. They refuse to do what I tell them.’

11So in my anger I made a vow: ‘They will never enter my place of rest.’”

12Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. 13You must warn each other every day, as long as it is called “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. 14For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ. 15But never forget the warning:

“Today you must listen to his voice. Don’t harden your hearts against him as Israel did when they rebelled.”

16And who were those people who rebelled against God, even though they heard his voice? Weren’t they the ones Moses led out of Egypt? 17And who made God angry for forty years? Wasn’t it the people who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18And to whom was God speaking when he vowed that they would never enter his place of rest? He was speaking to those who disobeyed him. 19So we see that they were not allowed to enter his rest because of their unbelief. (Hebrews 3:1-19, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

A few days ago, I wrote my thoughts about a warning that was included in Psalm 95. You can read my thoughts here.

Just two days later, I came to this passage in Hebrews 3, in which the author quotes the very text I had read from Psalm 95 and highlights the same warning that I mentioned a few days ago.

Coincidence?

Actually, these kinds of random biblical cross-references happen more often than you might think when you’re following the Grant Horner Bible reading plan.

So what is happening in this passage and why is the author referencing Psalm 95 to issue this warning?

The theme of the letter to the Hebrews could be labeled as “Jesus is Better than…”

The audience, as the name of the letter implies, is Hebrew Christians. These believers were in danger of reverting back to their Jewish rituals and customs as a means of appeasing God and gaining His favor.

So the author erects an outline, detailing in point by point fashion that Jesus is better than everything associated with the Old Testament religious system.

In chapter 1, the author demonstrates that Jesus is better than the angels, and now in this chapter, the author takes on the greatest icon within the Jewish religious system, Moses himself.

The author states that Jesus is better than Moses in the same way a builder of a house is better than the house.

The author then develops their argument by stating that Moses was faithful in God’s house but only as a servant. Jesus, on the other hand, is in charge of the household because he is a son, not a servant. I wrote about the implications of slaves/servants as opposed to sons here, in a blog post which referenced a passage from Galatians.

The point is that in the household of God, Moses was a servant. Yes, he was important and he played a key role and he was faithful in his duties. But Jesus is a SON in the household and therefore deserves more glory because as a son, He is the heir to the household. He is the owner!

The author then says that we (people) ARE God’s household. Our choice is that we can follow Moses who is a servant in God’s household, or we can follow Jesus, who is a son in God’s household. Which person makes more sense to follow?

It’s at this point that the author references the warnings from Psalm 95.

The warning can be paraphrased as follows:

    • We must listen to God’s voice today
    • Don’t harden your hearts as the Israelites did when they rebelled (see the Psalm 95 blog post here to read about the incident in which the Israelites rebelled against God)
    • The consequence for their rebellion was that they were not allowed to enter into God’s rest – they were not allowed to enter the promised land.

Starting in verse 12, the author of Hebrews begins to unpack the warning of Psalm 95 a bit more, demonstrating the implications of how the warning applies to his readers.

Remember, the recipients of this letter were being tempted to forsake Jesus as the object of their faith and trust for salvation and revert back to the Old Testament legal system, with its many rules and regulations as a means of achieving a righteous standing before God.

The author then elaborates on the warning, saying:

    • Make sure your hearts are not evil and unbelieving
    • This results in turning away from God
    • You must warn each other so that you won’t be deceived by sin and hardened against God
    • This hardening results in a lack of trust in God (unbelief)
    • Unbelief is characterized by disobedience

So the pattern is as follows: sin, hardening (lack of openness to God), distrust, disobedience.

When this pattern fully develops into disobedience, we will no longer experience the benefits of God’s rest. All of the benefits Jesus wants us to experience now as His beloved children and followers will fail to materialize.

How do we avoid the hardening, distrust, disobedience cycle?

It starts with listening to His voice, a command the author reiterates again in verse 15.  When we listen to His voice, we learn who He is and we learn to trust Him. We also learn what He wants from us and we learn how to follow Him.

When we don’t listen to His voice, it means that we’re listening to another voice, whether it’s our own or that of the culture or someone else. At that point, we’re no longer following God but we’re following ourselves.

How then do we listen to God’s voice?

It’s possible God may audibly speak to you but I would say that is not typical. The primary way in which God speaks to us today is through His word, the Scriptures. If you want to listen to God’s voice, to know Him and understand what He expects, then read the Scriptures. It’s through God’s word that we understand what is sin and what isn’t. It’s through His word that we understand who He is and who He isn’t.

If we fail to appeal to God’s word as our means of listening to His voice, it is quite likely we will be deceived by sin. We will begin to follow our own ideas about what we think is right and wrong. We may even attribute our new moral values to God Himself. Indeed, it’s quite common today for people to reject certain moral standards from the bible and replace them with more updated, contemporary values that speak to today’s cultural norms.

It is also common for these same people to claim to be God worshipers and Christ-followers. But if they are creating their own morality while rejecting what God explicitly says, they are in effect, creating their own version of God. This is the modern day equivalent of idol worship. I wrote about this in a previous post here.

This is deception, which leads to a hardening of the heart, which is characterized by not listening to God. This results in unbelief which is characterized by disobedience.

This cycle is alluring and it’s easy to fall into, which is why the author exhorts the audience to “warn each other every day”.

We are ALL susceptible to deceiving ourselves and falling into this religious trap.

Hence, the author says again in verse 15, “Never forget the warning”!

Reflection

In what ways are you tempted to harden your heart towards God?

What are some examples in today’s culture where you see people forsaking biblical moral values and substituting them for something that seems to fit our current culture better?

The author says that those who reject God because of their unbelief will not enter God’s rest? What do you think that means? What would it look like to not enter God’s rest?

What are some ways you could heed the author’s warning and ensure that you are listening to His voice today?

What can you do to ensure that you don’t harden your heart towards God?

 

Photo by Matthew T Rader on Unsplash

 

A Psalm With a Timely Warning!

Psalm 95

1Come, let us sing to the LORD! Let us give a joyous shout to the rock of our salvation!

2Let us come before him with thanksgiving. Let us sing him psalms of praise.

3For the LORD is a great God, the great King above all gods.

4He owns the depths of the earth, and even the mightiest mountains are his.

5The sea belongs to him, for he made it. His hands formed the dry land, too.

6Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the LORD our maker,

7for he is our God. We are the people he watches over, the sheep under his care. Oh, that you would listen to his voice today!

8The LORD says, “Don’t harden your hearts as Israel did at Meribah, as they did at Massah in the wilderness.

9For there your ancestors tried my patience; they courted my wrath though they had seen my many miracles.

10For forty years I was angry with them, and I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts turn away from me. They refuse to do what I tell them.’

11So in my anger I made a vow: ‘They will never enter my place of rest.’”
(Psalm 95:1-11, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

If you read through the Psalms regularly, you no doubt have certain psalms that become your favorites. Psalm 95 is one of my favorites because it praises God for who He is and what He’s done.

Here is a simple list of items to recognize about God from this psalm:

    • He is the ROCK of our salvation
    • He is a GREAT God
    • He is the KING above all gods
    • He owns the depths of the earth
    • He owns the mightiest mountains
    • The sea belongs to Him because He created it
    • He also created the land
    • The Lord made US as well
    • The Lord is OUR God
    • He watches over us, His sheep

Though there are plenty of reasons to praise God, this psalm also comes with a command and a caution.

The command is to “listen to His voice today!”

The caution is that we not harden our hearts as the Israelites did at Meribah.

The reference here is to a situation that occurred in Exodus 17. The Israelites had been miraculously delivered from the Egyptians but found themselves wandering in the desert and doubting God’s motives and ability to provide. In the previous chapter they had complained about having a lack of food so God miraculously provided quail and manna for them to eat.

In Exodus 17, they found themselves thirsty with no visible source of water. Again, they complained to Moses and to God despite all of the miracles God had already performed to demonstrate His ability and desire to provide for His people.

In this psalm, the Lord gives the caution that we should heed as well. Despite the Lord’s miracles that we’ve seen in our own lives, we are all susceptible to a hardening of our hearts. This hardening will often come in times of distress or struggle, when things are not going the way we want. In those times, it’s easy to question whether God is there or whether He cares!

These words are especially timely, given all that’s happened this last year. It’s a reminder that God is still great. He’s still the king of all gods. He’s still the rock of our salvation. And He’s still the creator of all that we see, including US!

Therefore, God deserves our praise, even if our own personal circumstances aren’t what we would hope or desire.

Reflection

What are some times in your life where you’ve been tempted to harden your heart and question God or even doubt His existence? What were the circumstances?

What are some practical things you can do to avoid a hardening of your heart?

Besides the list from this psalm, what are some of God’s other attributes and actions that make Him worthy of our praise?

God’s command in this passage is to “listen to His voice today!” What are some ways you are able to listen to God’s voice? How do you typically hear the Lord’s voice?

 

Photo by Jeremy Perkins on Unsplash

 

Understanding the Plagues in Exodus

Exodus 12

1Now the LORD gave the following instructions to Moses and Aaron while they were still in the land of Egypt: 2“From now on, this month will be the first month of the year for you. 3Announce to the whole community that on the tenth day of this month each family must choose a lamb or a young goat for a sacrifice. 4If a family is too small to eat an entire lamb, let them share the lamb with another family in the neighborhood. Whether or not they share in this way depends on the size of each family and how much they can eat. 5This animal must be a one-year-old male, either a sheep or a goat, with no physical defects.

6“Take special care of these lambs until the evening of the fourteenth day of this first month. Then each family in the community must slaughter its lamb. 7They are to take some of the lamb’s blood and smear it on the top and sides of the doorframe of the house where the lamb will be eaten. 8That evening everyone must eat roast lamb with bitter herbs and bread made without yeast. 9The meat must never be eaten raw or boiled; roast it all, including the head, legs, and internal organs. 10Do not leave any of it until the next day. Whatever is not eaten that night must be burned before morning.

11“Wear your traveling clothes as you eat this meal, as though prepared for a long journey. Wear your sandals, and carry your walking sticks in your hands. Eat the food quickly, for this is the LORD’s Passover. 12On that night I will pass through the land of Egypt and kill all the firstborn sons and firstborn male animals in the land of Egypt. I will execute judgment against all the gods of Egypt, for I am the LORD! 13The blood you have smeared on your doorposts will serve as a sign. When I see the blood, I will pass over you. This plague of death will not touch you when I strike the land of Egypt. (Exodus 12: 1-13, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

Have you ever wondered about all the plagues in the book of Exodus? For six chapters in Exodus (7-12), Moses squares off with Pharaoh via a series of plagues that the Lord brings upon the Egyptians.

After each plague, it appears that Pharaoh is going to relent and release the Israelites but in each case the text says that Pharaoh hardens his heart and maintains his grip over his Hebrew subjects. The result of Pharaoh’s stubbornness is yet another plague.

Why exactly did God initiate all these plagues against Pharaoh and the Egyptians? If God can harden Pharaoh’s heart why couldn’t he also soften Pharaoh’s heart and bring an end to this stalemate so that God’s people could be released as soon as possible?

These kinds of questions demonstrate that in our human understanding, we always have a blueprint in our mind regarding how we think things should go and how they WOULD go if WE were in charge. And when things don’t unfold the way we would expect, we can easily question God’s motives or misunderstand His purposes.

The truth is that while my approach is like playing checkers, God’s approach is llike playing 4D chess. In other words, my outline, if I were writing the story, would be pretty simple and basic. Moses would show up and force Pharaoh to release the Israelites and in the next scene, we’d see the Israelites collectively marching to the promised land, and probably singing “Don’t Stop Believing” as they embark on their Journey to the promised land! (Do you see what I did there?)

But God’s approach to the story line is much more complex than mine and it’s because God always has a much bigger purpose to accomplish than what I can imagine.

So the question remains, why does God enact all these plagues instead of just one or two? We know the first plague likely took place in July or August when the Nile flooded and the last plague likely occurred in April. Why make the Israelites wait for nine months to fully realize their rescue?

The key to understanding the plagues and God’s ultimate purpose in this face-off between Moses and Pharaoh is Exodus 12:12, where God states:

On that night I will pass through the land of Egypt and kill all the firstborn sons and firstborn male animals in the land of Egypt. I will execute judgment against all the gods of Egypt, for I am the LORD! 

God’s purpose in executing the ten plagues was not just a battle of wits between Him and Pharaoh but it was a statement of His superiority and a display of His power over all the Egyptian gods, of which there were many. God orchestrated this elaborate series of plagues in order to demonstrate to the Israelites and the Egyptians that He alone is the Lord.

If we examine each of the individual plagues with this new understanding, that God was demonstrating His power over the Egyptian gods, we can see that each individual plague was actually a display of power and authority over a specific Egyptian god.

For example, in the first plague, Moses turns the Nile river into blood. This plague was a demonstration of God’s power and authority over Hapi, the Egyptian spirit of the Nile, and Khnum, the Egyptian guardian of the Nile.

The plague of flies was a judgment against Uatchit, an Egyptian god who manifested himself as a fly.

The plague of locusts was a judgment over Isis, the Egyptian goddess of life, and Seth, the Egyptian protector of crops.

Finally, the plague of the death of the first-born, was a culmination of all the plagues and was a judgment over all Egyptian deities, including Osiris, who was seen as the giver of life and Pharaoh himself, who was often regarded as a deity among the people.


NOTE: for more information on the plagues as judgment over Egyptian gods and deities click here and here. Keep in mind that there are so many Egyptian deities that the names and subjects of Egyptian deities may vary slightly depending on the list, but the point still remains – the plagues were intended to show the impotence of the Egyptian gods compared to the God of the Israelites.


So you see, God had a greater plan in bringing about 10 plagues over a period of about 9 months. His plan involved bringing judgment against the Egyptian gods and demonstrating to all His authority and power over them.

So while the Israelites were waiting and wondering for 9 months, questioning the Lord’s abilities and intentions to make good on His promise of deliverance, God was slowly laying the groundwork to demonstrate His superiority over all of the so-called Egyptian gods.

And as a bonus, by the time the final plague comes, the Egyptian people are so weary of the escalating devastation they’ve experienced, and so fearful of what disaster might come next, that they jump at the chance to help the Israelites “pack their bags”, hastening their exit from their presence.

The Israelites end up with clothing and silver and gold from the Egyptians and the text says that it is in this way that the Israelites plundered the Egyptians on their way out of town.

So, the next time you find that God is not responding as quickly as you want, or when you think things aren’t happening in the way that makes sense to you, remember that we tend to think linearly and very one-dimensionally. But God is multi-faceted and He thinks multi-dimensionally. He’s aware of every factor and the purposes that He’s working to accomplish are likely far greater than we can even comprehend.

Perhaps God is working out a story that’s exponentially more amazing than the one we would create for ourselves if we were writing the script. That was certainly true for the Israelites.

Reflection

When is a time when you thought God wasn’t working out circumstances the way you thought made sense to you? What was the situation? How did things ultimately work out?

What are some examples in your life when things worked out differently than you expected but you came to understand God’s greater purposes in the end?

Why do you think we have such a hard time waiting on God and trusting His ultimate plan even though we have countless examples from the Scriptures and our own lives that demonstrate that God’s plans and purposes are perfect?

What is something that you are struggling to trust God for in your life right now because it’s not working out in a way that would make sense to you or it’s not working out as quickly as you think it should? What can you learn and apply from this passage that will help you to trust the Lord for the outcome?

 

Photo by Yigithan Bal from Pexels

What’s in a Name?

Exodus 3

1One day Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he went deep into the wilderness near Sinai, the mountain of God. 2Suddenly, the angel of the LORD appeared to him as a blazing fire in a bush. Moses was amazed because the bush was engulfed in flames, but it didn’t burn up. 3“Amazing!” Moses said to himself. “Why isn’t that bush burning up? I must go over to see this.”

4When the LORD saw that he had caught Moses’ attention, God called to him from the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

“Here I am!” Moses replied.

5“Do not come any closer,” God told him. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground.” 6Then he said, “I am the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” When Moses heard this, he hid his face in his hands because he was afraid to look at God.

7Then the LORD told him, “You can be sure I have seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries for deliverance from their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering. 8So I have come to rescue them from the Egyptians and lead them out of Egypt into their own good and spacious land. It is a land flowing with milk and honey—the land where the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites live. 9The cries of the people of Israel have reached me, and I have seen how the Egyptians have oppressed them with heavy tasks. 10Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You will lead my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”

11“But who am I to appear before Pharaoh?” Moses asked God. “How can you expect me to lead the Israelites out of Egypt?”

12Then God told him, “I will be with you. And this will serve as proof that I have sent you: When you have brought the Israelites out of Egypt, you will return here to worship God at this very mountain.”

13But Moses protested, “If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they won’t believe me. They will ask, ‘Which god are you talking about? What is his name?’ Then what should I tell them?”

14God replied, “I AM THE ONE WHO ALWAYS IS. Just tell them, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” 15God also said, “Tell them, ‘The LORD, the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ This will be my name forever; it has always been my name, and it will be used throughout all generations.

16“Now go and call together all the leaders of Israel. Tell them, ‘The LORD, the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—appeared to me in a burning bush. He said, “You can be sure that I am watching over you and have seen what is happening to you in Egypt. 17I promise to rescue you from the oppression of the Egyptians. I will lead you to the land now occupied by the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites—a land flowing with milk and honey.”’ (Exodus 3:1-17, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

I’m not sure that it’s as much of a thing in our modern culture but in ancient times, a person’s name often said something about how they were born or the aspirations the parents had for their child.

For example, Jacob was born grasping the heel of his twin brother Esau, who was born first. The name Jacob means “grasps the heel”, but figuratively can mean “he deceives”.

Some time later, Jacob deceives his father Isaac into thinking he is Esau and he secures the blessing that normally was reserved for the oldest child, his brother Esau. When Esau learns that his blessing has gone to his brother, his response is “No wonder his name is Jacob, for he has deceived me twice, first taking my birthright and now stealing my blessing.”

Another example is Benjamin, whose mother Rachel died giving birth to him. In her last breaths before dying, she named the child Ben-Oni, which means “son of my sorrow.” However, Jacob called his son Benjamin, which means “son of my right hand.”

So you see, names in the Old Testament often had meanings beyond just what was most popular in that year’s baby name book.

In this chapter, we are many years beyond the life-span of Jacob and his son Benjamin. While Jacob and his family were warmly welcomed in Egypt at first, thanks to Joseph’s relationship with Pharaoh, over time the Israelites became so numerous that they became a threat to the king, who enslaved them as a means of controlling them and ensuring they would not be able to rise up  against him.

Moses, a Jew who grew up in Pharaoh’s household but who was wanted for murder, escaped to Midian, where he has been living for 40 years. One day he sees a strange occurrence, a bush that is burning but not being consumed.

He goes to take a look and finds out that it is God in the bush. God tells Moses that He has seen the suffering of His people and He’s commissioning Moses to go and rescue the Israelites from Pharaoh’s grip.

Moses really doesn’t want to go and he comes up with excuse after excuse as to why God shouldn’t send him. One of his excuses is centered around God’s name. “Look”, Moses says. “They’re going to ask me who sent me. What am I supposed to say? If I tell them the God of their ancestors sent me, they might ask ‘Which one? What is His name?'”

God is patient with Moses, addressing every one of his excuses. God’s response to Moses’ question about His name is “I AM THE ONE WHO ALWAYS IS. Just tell them, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”

God’s response is significant because it tells us something about His nature.

The phrase “I AM” is based on the verb “to be”. God is saying, “I’m the one who is.” Essentially, God is referring to Himself as the eternally self-existent one.

This is important because in this descriptive name of Himself, God is setting Himself apart from and above all other gods. It’s important to note that people in the Ancient Near East (ANE) were conditioned to believe that there were many gods who oversaw regions. Hence, they might think Moses was referring to some regional deity. In response to their question about which regional god sent Moses, God’s answer is to tell them “the eternally self-existent one” has sent you.

In our culture today, we sometimes give people nicknames, based on who they are or how we perceive them. In this chapter though, we see God giving Himself a name that describes himself as eternal and self-existent, meaning that he is not created and therefore is above all other created things.

Reflection

Did you have a nickname growing up? If so, what was your nickname and why were you given that name? If you didn’t have a nickname, think of someone you knew who did. What was their nickname and what was the reason they were called by that name?

What is the reason your parents gave you your name? If you were named after a relative, what was it about that person that motivated your parents to give you their name?

What are the implications for you in knowing that God calls Himself “I AM – the eternally self-existent one”? What other names do you find for God revealed in Scripture and what do they tell you about God’s nature?

 

Photo by Guido Jansen on Unsplash

A Better Sacrifice

Hebrews 9

11When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation.  12He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. 13The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

15For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

16In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, 17because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. 18This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. 19When Moses had proclaimed every commandment of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. 20He said, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.” 21In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. 22In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

23It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.  25Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,  28so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:11-28, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

The theme of the book of Hebrews is “better”. The author gives a logical argument for why Christ is better than all of the elements of the Jewish religious system. He’s better than Moses; He’s better than the angels; He’s a better high priest and in this chapter, the author outlines why and how Jesus’s sacrifice is a better sacrifice than the Old Testament sacrificial system.

The short answer to why Jesus’s sacrifice is better is: it’s the blood.

In the first 10 verses, which I didn’t list, the author gives a brief description of the layout and function of the earthly temple, including the exact detail of the priestly duties in relation to the Holy of Holies, which the high priest entered only once a year to atone for his own sins and the sins of the people.

The first reason the author gives for Jesus’s sacrifice being better is that Jesus offered his sacrifice in the heavenly temple, not the man-made temple. According to verse 24, the earthly temple was merely a copy of the heavenly temple, and when the earthly high priest made atonement, once a year, he was doing it in the earthly tabernacle, which was merely a symbol of the heavenly temple.

Secondly, when Jesus made atonement, he did it with better blood. The earthly priests offered up sacrifices with the blood of goats, bulls and calves, which are imperfect animals. As a result, the earthly priest made this atonement on an annual basis. There was always a reminder of sin because of the constant need for atonement.

Jesus, on the other hand, offered up his own blood, which is perfect in every way, because he is not only better than an animal, he is God himself. His blood does not come from an imperfect, sinful being.

This logically leads to the final reason Jesus’s sacrifice is better. Jesus sacrifice is better than the Old Testament sacrifices because it is FINAL. As has been mentioned, the Old Testament sacrificial system required a constant stream of sacrifices to atone for sins committed. This is because the blood of bulls and goats could not permanently atone for sin.

But Jesus’s blood DOES permanently atone for sins. The author declares in verse 28 that:

Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people;

The argument the author is making is crucial to his audience, the Hebrews because there was a strong urge to hold fast to Old Testament rituals and to maintain adherence to the Law, even after trusting in Jesus as the Messiah. It was difficult for these believers to shift their thinking and see that there was no longer a need for the religious rules and rites they had been following for centuries. The author is helping them to see how the Old covenant had a purpose, but Jesus offers a new and BETTER covenant.

He offers this better covenant to us as well as the author notes that “Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”

Reflection

Early Jewish Christians had difficulty discarding their old religious traditions, (namely, the sacrificial system) and putting their trust in Jesus’s sacrifice alone. What religious traditions might be easy for you to subtly make a substitute for Jesus’s sacrifice? In other words, what rules or religious rituals apart from Jesus,  are you apt to put your hope and trust in as somehow providing a means of forgiveness and atonement?

The author states in verse 27 that man is destined to die once, and then comes the judgment. What is your reaction to the idea that there are no second chances after we die?

What new awareness or insights do you have regarding Jesus’s sacrifice as a result of this chapter of Scripture? How will this new awareness impact your relationship with Christ?

 

Photo by Dave Lowe