July 31 – A Few Last Words

Friday, July 31, 2009

July 31 – Hebrews 13:15-25 – A Few Last Words

Through Jesus, let us continually offer God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess His name.

Read that verse one more time. “Through Jesus, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess His name.”

If you don’t have that verse anchored in your heart, read it once more. This is the blessing that comes to us. All through the book of Hebrews we have read about the importance of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. It is the only thing that allows us entrance into the throneroom of God.

The sacrifice that we bring back is one of praise and this is made possible when our lips confess His name. A sacrifice of praise because we lift up the name of Jesus.

He offered Himself for us, we offer praise in return.

And because, this is probably written by Paul, he can’t just close a letter without a few more words of exhortation.

Do good and share with others. Obey your leaders, submit to authority. Pray for us.

And the blessing is poured out from his heart:

“ay the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

July 30 – Jesus Christ Alone

Thursday, July 30, 2009

July 30 – Hebrews 13:7-14 – Jesus Christ Alone

Though earthly teachers and leaders have taught us many great things and in some cases brought us to know Jesus Christ personally, they still pass away. We can’t count on anyone but Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow to complete us through our lifetime.

When I was young, I was fully aware that I would get to the age I am now and that I would look back and be startled at the rapid passage of time. I have encountered many wonderful people who have taught me incredible things. My parents were two of the foundations of my faith. But, even they have gone. The only foundation that I have left that will stay with me throughout eternity is Jesus.

While these Hebrews were being coerced into remembering the early Tabernacle ceremonies of the desert wanderings, we need to know that there are those who would try to coerce us into strange teachings as well. We need to set everything aside except our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Romans 8 tells us that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of Jesus Christ. Crazy ceremonies, legalistic church teaching … none of that. Jesus separated himself from the insanity of the Temple and calls us to meet Him in the quiet outside the city. (Hebrews 13:13)

And in Hebrews 13:14, we find that we are reminded one more time of the eternal Jerusalem, the living city in which God will reign with Jesus at His right hand.

July 29 – How to Live

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

July 29 – Hebrews 13:1-8 – How to Live

As the church learned how to live while waiting for Christ’s return, there were several things that needed to be reinforced.

Brotherly love. Now, to be honest, when I was young, my idea of loving my brother was to sit on him or beat him up in some painful way. I never quite comprehended what this meant. Fortunately, we both grew out of that. Sharing love among the community of believers is important to holding each other in strength before the throne of God.

Hospitality is a concept that was very important to the Jews. In the Old Testament community, no one should have ever been hungry or without a place to sleep. As time passed, so did the strength of that tradition. In Genesis 18, the story of Abraham entertaining the Lord and two companions is told. It is at this point that Sarah and Abraham are told they will have a son within the year. We might never know who we help when we open our homes and lives to being hospitable.

Those who are less fortunate than us, prisoners and those mistreated deserve as much care as we would find for ourselves. It is easy to turn a blind eye to a beggar or to ignore those in prison. We are told that we shouldn’t be that person. We should always be generous with our compassion.

Sexual purity, freedom from love of money, contentment with what we have. God has said that He will be with us, He will help us, He will intervene for us. What more could we ask for, but for Him to guide us through our lives.

July 28 - God is a Consuming Fire

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

July 28 - Hebrews 12:14-29 - God is a Consuming Fire

The one thing that the Lord wants us to all understand is that we are not perfect, yet we should always be striving perfect. God knows that we aren't. The opening words of the passage say, "Make every effort ..."

We aren't told that we are to live in peace and be holy or we die. We are told to make every effort to do these things. God created humanity and will spend all of recorded time trying to help us overcome our willful brokenness.

The first verses of this emphasizes the need for us to achieve holiness. Without holiness, we can not be in the presence of God. (Hebrews 12:14-17)

Yet, things are no longer the same. In the Old Testament, approaching the mountain where God resided was tantamount to death. The people were so afraid of God on that mountain that they begged for God to stop speaking directly to them, they couldn't bear it. (Hebrews 12:18-21)

Now, however, instead of Mount Sinai, we approach Mount Zion - the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. Angels are there singing joyfully. And while God remains the judge of all men, looking for only those who are righteous and holy, we have standing before Him our mediator, Jesus Christ who shed His blood that we could be made clean.

We must not refuse Jesus Christ. This is our last, best hope (homage to the movie Independence Day, but I also discovered that Abraham Lincoln used those words in a message to Congress one month before signing the Emancipation Proclamation). (Hebrews 12:22-25)

God's voice will shake the earth. Everything that He created will be removed when that occurs. But, we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken. This is the Kingdom of God. No matter what He removes in His creation, He has created a home for us that will never be shaken.

Our response is to worship God with reverence and awe. Our God is a consuming fire.

July 27 - Discipline

Monday, July 27, 2009

July 27 - Hebrews 12:1-13 - Discipline

The Hebrews that are receiving this missive are obviously under some sort of persecution, and though it is difficult they are being urged to continue on in their faith. The litany of Old Testament heroes in the previous chapter was given to encourage them. Those men and women were great witnesses to the power of God in their lives.

Now we have Jesus, who has perfected our faith, seated at the right hand of God. He is the light that shines when we struggle through the race set before us.

But, what of discipline? What son is not disciplined by his father. If you aren't disciplined, then the author implies that you are not a true son. Discipline garners respect, given by fathers who do what they think is best.

God is much different, though in His discipline. Hebrews 11:10 says that God disciplines us for our good - not so that we grow into good little Christians, but so that we may share in his holiness. This discipline will produce ea harvest of righteousness and peace.

Whenever I was in trouble with Dad, he would lecture me on the importance of discipline, that I would appreciate it some day because he was helping me become a better person. I truly hated the sound of that word, because I knew that it was something I was going to find painful in the short term. But, in the long run, the training I received benefitted me in many ways.

God assures us that allowing Him to discipline us, though it may be painful or unpleasant will bring about righteousness and peace. I can't imagine anything better.

August Blogging

Sunday, July 26, 2009

I'm going to do things a little differently during the month of August. Rather than a specific book of the Bible or a topic, I have decided that I want to study and blog about some of my favorite passages throughout the Bible.

I will start with Genesis 1:1 and end the month in Revelation 22. That should pretty much cover the whole thing ... except for the fact that I am only choosing 31 specific passages that have intrigued me or stirred passion within me throughout my life. It's difficult for me to winnow these down, but I think that I will enjoy writing about the specific things I have chosen.

That you choose to read along with me is an honor and I appreciate that every time I write. Your faithfulness to my blog has caused me to remain faithful to reading and writing every day. I am very thankful.

If you know of someone else who would like to join me on this journey, please invite them to do so. They can get daily reminders by emailing me at nammynools (at) cox (dot) net or they can follow this blog or just pop in whenever they have time. And at any time, if you wish to be added to or removed from the email list, please just send me a quick email and I will adjust my contact list.

July 26 - By Faith

July 26 - Hebrews 11:1-40 - By Faith

We just read in Hebrews 10:38 that the righteous one will live by faith. What is it? We are told in Hebrews 11:1-3. Being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Faith is necessary for trusting God.

And then we are given examples of incredible faith from creation until the Israelites entered Canaan (Hebrews 11:4-31).

Abel, though dead, still speaks through his actions. Enoch and Noah stood for truth in a world gone astray and God loved them for that. Abraham did many things that showed his strength of faith in a God that would not fail him (Hebrews 11:8-19). Isaac gave blessings to his sons that would impact the world forever. Jacob and Joseph acted in faith as did Moses' parents. Moses made a choice to live differently because of his faith and the Israelites (even though they complained a lot) walked through the Red Sea by faith in their God. Joshua brought down the walls of Jericho by faith and Rahab reached out to the spies in faith.

Men and women acted through faith and in Hebrews 11:33 we are told they conquered kingdoms, administered justice and gained what was promised. Others were tortured, chained and imprisoned, stoned and put to death in hideous ways, they were persecuted and mistreated. (Hebrews 11:35-37). The world was not worthy of them. But, all of these things happened because of their faith in God.

As I look back over my life, I know that I made many choices because of the faith that I have in God.

Yet, even so ... Hebrews 11:39-40 tells us that they did not receive what they had been promised. You see, that time is yet to come. No matter the extent of our faith, until Jesus Christ returns, we will not receive the fulfillment of the promise. But, God has planned something better for them and for us and we will see that day, the Day of the Lord.

July 25 - We Believe and Are Saved

Saturday, July 25, 2009

July 25 - Hebrews 10:32-39 - We Believe and Are Saved

After all of the dire warnings, it is time for encouragement.

You know, I remember when I stood in the face of insult regarding my faith and held my ground. I remember the passion and excitement that filled me as I shared the Good News of Jesus Christ with those around me. I was excited about being in the mission field (well, the domestic mission field - I was NEVER excited about traveling to Africa, which is where all the good missionaries went), I would have gone anywhere to bring the story of Jesus.

I remember those earlier days. The life of a Christian was more important to me than anything else.

And then, I grew up. I had to manage people and manage money. I had responsibilities and people that I answered to. I got busy in the church and had responsibilities there. Everything seemed to reduce the intensity of my passion until it became nothing more than a tiny smoldering flame, buried deep inside me.

I need to remember the confidence with which I approached life and my faith. I need to persevere and to remember that what I am doing is the will of God. (Hebrews 10:35-36).

"In just a very little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay." (Hebrews 10:37)

Jesus Christ is coming. We do not know when, but we do have the confidence that stands on the promises of God. He is returning. We can not shrink away from the task that is before us. We will not be destroyed.

We are those who believe and are saved. I am one who believes and is saved!

July 24 - A New and Living Way

Friday, July 24, 2009

July 24 – Hebrews 10:19-31 – A New and Living Way

It is impossible for me to imagine living under the Levitical sacrificial system, but it wasn’t for the people that read this message. This was probably written just before the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD.

These Hebrews knew the importance of offering sacrifice as atonement for their sins. Imagine their emotional reaction to the words of Hebrews 10:19-20, “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body … let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”

These words are life-changing for us, but they were an entire shift in the worship paradigm for those early Christians who had grown up taking sacrifices to Jerusalem. Everything changed!

The next transformation comes in the relationship that we have with the Great High Priest (Jesus). Under the sacrificial system, the high priest was separated from the people on the day of the year that he went into the Most Holy Place to offer the atoning sacrifice. Now, we are being invited by Christ as the Great High Priest to enter that Most Holy Place. He will not fail us. He can not. He is faithful. He is sitting beside the Father, offering us hope and assurance of eternal life.

The end of today’s passage comes with warnings of retribution for those who choose to reject and ‘trample’ the Son of God. If someone rejected the Law of Moses, it only took the testimony of two or three witnesses to hand down a death sentence. The severity of punishment for those who treat the blood of the covenant as an unholy thing and who insults the Holy Spirit will be judged by the Lord Himself. Hebrews 10:31, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

This is a living God that we serve. He is not an idol or a long-forgotten god of some pantheon. He is Yahweh, He is present, He is living. He will be the final judge.

July 23 - One Sacrifice - Completion

Thursday, July 23, 2009

July 23 – Hebrews 10:11-18 – One Sacrifice-Completion

The comparison between the Levitical priests who could never sit on the job (Hebrews 10:11) and Christ who sat down at the right hand of God after offering the perfect sacrifice once is almost humorous! The priests stood while performing their duties, they were never finished. The fact that Christ sat down means that His work was completed.

How many times do we in our humanity keep pecking away at a problem, trying to solve it when allowing Christ to actually guide our will and our lives would eliminate the need to do all of these petty things repeatedly.

Christ’s sacrifice was offered for all time (Hebrews 10:12) … forever. This can never be altered, it can never be taken back, it can never be set aside.

Jeremiah’s prophecy regarding the covenant has been fulfilled (Jeremiah 31:31-34) in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit declared that mankind’s sins would be remembered no more and though the Levitical sacrificial system was a constant reminder of sin, the single act of Christ’s sacrifice ensured that our sins would be erased from memory. This act offers us perfection so that we can stand in the presence of God.

Jeremiah and the author of Hebrews remind us that the New Covenant brings a personal relationship with God. No longer are the laws written on stone tablets and delivered by priests to the people, but are written on the hearts and minds of every individual person.

We now know for certain what the will of the Father is to be in our lives. It is written across our very being. The ultimate sacrifice has been offered for the forgiveness of our sins. Hebrews 10:18 says “And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.”

We are forgiven, we know the will of the Father. He has written it on our minds and put it into our hearts. Will this change how we live our lives?

July 22 - Made Holy by Christ

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

July 22 - Hebrews 10:5-10 - Made Holy by Christ

In Psalm 40:6-8, the Psalmist tells us that God is weary of sacrifices and offerings made without passion. They were being made simply because the Law required it.

What is it that we do because it seems to be required of us? Do we donate to the church because we want to or because we should, do we attend worship on Sunday morning because we desire to be in the presence of God with other worshipers, or because it would look bad if we weren't there? Do we care for the poor, feed the hungry, reach out to others? Have we become like the Israelites in their surface attendance to the Law of the Lord or are we passionate New Testament followers of Jesus who live out lives that are offerings to God?

When Jesus came as the perfect sacrifice, there was something more than just an offering of His body. He came to do God's will.

Hebrews 10:9 says that Jesus set aside the first, to establish the second. The Levitical Sacrificial system was exchanged for Christ's obedience.

Christ's obedience enables us to be made holy, to be set apart, to be sanctified. This is what allows us access to the presence of God!

This verse offers us the promise of sanctification not because of anything we can do or anything we can achieve. There is nothing we can do to be made holy. Christ did it all on the cross.

By God's will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:10)

We have been made holy, let us live as if we know that!

July 21 - Made Perfect in Worship

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

July 21 - Hebrews 10:1-4 - Made Perfect in Worship

In the Old Testament sacrificial system, worship was part of the entire system. When people brought forth their sacrifices to atone for their sin, this was part of their worship before the Lord.

But, the sacrifices that were made under the Law never were enough. There was simply no way to atone for all of the sin that had been committed. Hebrews 10:2 says that if perfection could have been achieved, wouldn't they simply have stopped offering sacrifices? But, those sacrifices were an annual reminder of sins.

Being made perfect by drawing near to worship is such an amazing concept. Christ sacrificed Himself once. The paradigm of the entire process shifted.

Worshipers are cleansed. We no longer have to bring an earthly sacrifice so that we can approach the Most Holy Place. We have access to the throne of the Lord God Almighty because of the sacrifice of Christ. Our sins are washed away with His blood.

While it is difficult to imagine the importance of this cleansing, because the symbolism is lost on us, the reality is that we are given access to continual worship in the presence of the Creator.

The Israelites couldn't imagine such a thing. Their understanding of Yahweh was of an incredibly powerful ruler that required the blood sacrifice of a perfect bull once a year so that a priest could approach to offer prayers of atonement for the entire community.

The children of Israel couldn't imagine a personal relationship with Yahweh. We are given such an amazing gift and we take it for granted, we abuse it or we ignore the power that comes from this relationship.

Christ sacrificed Himself once so that all of us would be able to continually come before the Almighty God. Why do we come before Him? To worship. To be made perfect in worship.

Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.
Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise! (Revelation 4:8; 5:12)

July 20 - Christ's Will

Monday, July 20, 2009

July 20 - Hebrews 9:16-28 - Christ's Will

A covenant, a will, a testament ... these things are all quite similar. But for a will to be in force, a death must have occurred.

The author begins by showing us the importance of a blood sacrifice to not only consecrate the tabernacle, but to cleanse everything within it and the people of Israel. I think that it is difficult for many of us to understand the implications of sin. Under the sacrificial system, sin necessitated a death. Life was so important and the lives of the animals that were cared for by the Israelites were important. Life is important to God.

When we sin, the only way to reconcile that sin is with a sacrifice ... a death. The daily and yearly sacrifices that the Israelites made reminded them over and over again of the importance of their sin. It was not something they could take lightly, when they saw the life blood being drained from an animal. That life blood was shed as payment for their transgression.

We no longer see that intimate relationship between our sin and the loss of life. And it worries me that I sometimes have no concept of the depth of meaning behind Christ's sacrifice for me. I can only be grateful for it.

Under the old system, sacrifices had to occur each year, but it was only copies of heavenly things that were being purified. Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary, He entered heaven itself (Hebrews 9:24). And because of the magnitude of His sacrifice, He doesn't need to offer Himself year after year to purify the world.

Christ's sacrifice was made once so that all of the sin on earth could be purified. This sacrifice took away the sins of many people. And when He comes again, He will not be here to bear our sin - that has already occurred. He will bring salvation.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

July 19 - Christ, the Sacrifice

Sunday, July 19, 2009

July 19 - Hebrews 9:11-15 - Christ the Sacrifice

In the Tabernacle/Temple system, there was no sacrifice that would ever be able to wholly cleanse the people from their sin due to the limited access to the Most Holy Place. It was as if the people were always behind the 8-ball, trying to cover over the multitude of sins that had happened in the previous year. No matter what they did, it would never be enough.

But, Jesus was the great high priest. He didn't bother with the man-made Tabernacle/Temple. He didn't bother with the blood of goats and calves. He did it all Himself. As the Son of God, He was able to enter the true Most Holy Place and offer the sacrifice of Himself. It wasn't an earthly copy, it wasn't a part of creation, it wasn't manmade. He was able to stand before the Creator and offer the one sacrifice that would cleanse every sin from creation - Himself. (Hebrews 9:11-12)

Hebrews 9:13 describes the fact that the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of the heifer are sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean, but that only cleanses them outwardly. Christ's sacrifice goes so much deeper than that. He is able to cleanse our consciences. (Hebrews 9:14)

And why does He do this? So that we may serve the living God!

For THIS reason, Christ mediates the New Covenant. We have been set free from sin. Set free from sin! That is an incredible declaration. We are free from the sins that bind us and enslave us to this earth. It is a choice that we must make - to allow ourselves to live in that freedom, but Christ made the sacrifice so that we can be alive! And when we are ALIVE, we can serve the living God.

We are set free from sin!

July 18 - Worship on Earth

Saturday, July 18, 2009

July 18 - Hebrews 9:1-10 - Worship on Earth

We live in a time when personal access to God is simple. All we have to do is talk to Him and scriptures assure us that He is listening. We don't have to continually bring sacrifices before Him in specific manners and we don't have to worry about unconfessed sin, which is the purpose of the high priest's entry into the Most Holy Place once a year.

All of that was changed when the temple was destroyed in 70 AD. The sacrificial system didn't work without a temple.

Notice the importance of the structure in Hebrews 9:1-6. Because we are simple humans, God set forth a pattern for the Israelites to follow to deal with their sin as they approached the Holy of Holies. When everything had been done correctly, the priests (not the people) could finally enter the outer room to continue their ministry before God and only the high priest, once a year could enter the Most Holy Place.

The first covenant required the earthly tabernacle and then the specific requirements for worship spoken of in Hebrews 9:6-10. Because these things ARE earthly, they actually limit access to God. There is only so much that can be done to cleanse the hearts and souls (conscience - Hebrews 9:9) of the people.

The reality is that the sacrifices were simply a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings. Hebrews 9:10 says that these are external regulations which would only apply until the time of the new order.

July 17 - The New Covenant

Friday, July 17, 2009

July 17 – Hebrews 8:7-13 – The New Covenant

Jeremiah promised that a New Covenant was coming. The entire promise / prophecy is quoted here from Jeremiah 31:31-34.

There are some cool things about this New Covenant and these become quite important as we realize that Jeremiah was writing these words during the time of the Exile. He did not know the Messiah, but could only hope for His coming.

The people of Israel and Judah had not remained faithful to the Old Covenant. Moses had brought forth the Law from God that would establish the rules of the Covenant. God had promised to make the people of Abraham a fruitful nation and to bring them to a land that would be called their own. They fought the relationship with Him every step of the way. Finally, Moses was called to bring His people out of Egypt and even then, the people fought God’s leadership. When the Law was given to Moses, it established a sacrificial system to bring the people into relationship with God. This worked on and off many years, the Old Testament is filled with the stories of the on and off relationship God had with His people.

The original covenant was established between God and the entire nation of Israel. It was not an individual covenant. The priests were responsible for offering the sacrifices and approaching the Holy of Holies. If there was a King of Israel or Judah who did not do right in the sight of the Lord, the entire community was at risk, not just the king.

By the time they are in exile, Jeremiah hears from God that a time will come when a New Covenant is established. This covenant will be quite different as we see in Hebrews 8:10. God will put His law in their minds and on their hearts. No longer will it be the responsibility of the priests to intercede for the people. Hebrews 8:11 points this out clearly – “No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother … because they will all know me.”

Each individual person will be able to have a relationship with God the Creator. The day that the curtain in the temple was torn, when Jesus Christ offered the final sacrifice, the New Covenant was set into place. Jesus had confirmed it at the Last Supper, but it was etched into the hearts of every man on earth when He breathed His last.

July 16 - Our High Priest

Thursday, July 16, 2009

July 16 - Hebrews 8:1-6 - Our High Priest

We finally get to the point of the previous chapter. We have a high priest, Jesus Christ, who is seated at the right hand of God. The right hand is the point where God releases His power.

From the Tyndale Bible Dictionary, "Figuratively speaking, God’s right hand is the means whereby victories are obtained for the people of God (Pss 17:7, 98:1); it is also an instrument of punishment for the ungodly (Hb 2:16). While the right hand of man is impotent to save (Jb 40:14), God’s right hand sustains his children in the hour of need (Ps 139:10). Furthermore, God promises to strengthen the right hand of the person he purposes to help (Is 41:13).

"To be at the right hand of God is to occupy a place of the choicest blessings (Ps 16:11); it is the place where the Lord Jesus Christ now reigns in glory and intercedes for those he has redeemed (Rom 8:34).

"To offer the right hand of fellowship is to extend the warmest and most accepting type of camaraderie (Gal 2:9). Giving the right hand as the sign of a pledge also has a biblical antecedent (2 Kgs 10:15)."

Jesus Christ serves in the true tabernacle. It is in this passage that we discover that the Tabernacle given to Moses was simply a pattern, a copy of what is found in heaven. We get a much truer image of what will be found in the throneroom in Heaven in the Revelation. We see many different powerful images when God gives John a glimpse of the center of His power.

While the Levitical priests served in a copy ... a shadow of what is in heaven, Jesus as the superior priest, the mediator of the New Covenant, is the high priest that stands with us as we approach the throne of God.

July 15 - Jesus Like Melchizedek

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

July 15 - Hebrews 7:11-28 - Jesus Like Melchizedek

Romans 6:14 says, "For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace." When God gave His people the law and then gave the Levitical priests the responsibility of bringing the people of Israel to perfection through offering and sacrifice. If they had been able to do their job, there would never have been a need for for a priest to come in the order of Melchizedek.

Then, look at what Hebrews 7:12 says ... with a change in the priesthood, there would be a change in the law. Interesting! Paul had said all along that Jesus' coming to earth meant that a new outlook on the law would become prevalent. The law was all about dealing with sin, Jesus was all about dealing with grace.

Hebrews 7:13-17 makes it clear that Jesus Christ came from a completely different son of Israel. He was not from the tribe of Levi, but Judah. So, when he became priest, he was able to do so under the order of Melchizedek rather than the ancestry by which all other priests had come to serve.

Levitical priests inherited their service. Jesus became the 'guarantee of a better covenant' by the oath that was sworn in Psalm 110:4 by God. (Hebrews 7:21-22). This better covenant or New Covenant was prophesied in Jeremiah 31:31-33. The New Covenant was about forgiveness of our sin and was confirmed by Jesus Christ in Luke 22:20 at the Last Supper.

In Hebrews 12:24 we are told that " You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks of forgiveness instead of crying out for vengeance."

He is the priest of the New Covenant.

The ancient Jewish historian, Josephus estimated that there were 83 different high priests between the time of Aaron and the fall of the temple in AD 70. All of these men were subject to death. Jesus, on the other hand will never give up the office. He will always be in a position to save us because he will always live to intercede for us. (Hebrews 7:23-25)

Finally, we read that Jesus is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. There is no need for Him to offer sacrifices for himself, he is without sin. And, He already sacrificed Himself as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. The Levitical sacrifical system has been rendered unnecessary by the Son, who has been made perfect forever. (Hebrews 7:26-28)

July 14 - Melchizedek not Levi

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

July 14 - Hebrews 7:4-10 - Melchizedek not Levi

You have to read this passage closely to catch all of the innuendos of hierarchy, even down to the point of Levi paying a tithe to Melchizedek because he was still in the body of his ancestor. Now, that's a pretty far reach for me, except that the author is clearly trying to make the point that Melchizedek was highly honored by God and by man.

There are several points to be made here. Melchizedek as the head of the order of priests that Jesus comes from, is superior to any that will follow.

Abraham, the father of all of the nations of Israel, paid him a tithe. Then, Abraham received a blessing from Melchizedek. Hebrews 7:7 says that "Without a doubt, the lesser person is blessed by the greater," so, in other words, Abraham is actually less than Melchizedek.

There is actually no record of Melchizedek's death, yet we know that all of Levi's sons and descendants died normal deaths and the role of priest was handed down throughout the line.

Finally, as I said before, Levi is lesser than Melchizedek because as Abraham was less than him due to the reasons stated above, so was all of Israel who had yet to be conceived.

Neither Melchizedek nor Jesus were dependent on the qualifications of the Levitical priests. They operated outside the order founded by Aaron. Because of this independence, the corruption that occurred within the priests which was seen throughout the Old Testament in the allowing of idol worship and many other sins, and then in the New Testament as they corrupted the sacrificial system, would not be propogated any longer. A new order was here in the man of Jesus, through the order of Melchizedek.

July 13 - Melchizedek

Monday, July 13, 2009

July 13 - Hebrews 7:1-3 - Melchizedek

Melchizedek is only mentioned in two Old Testament passages. He is introduced in Genesis 14:18-20. Now, in Genesis 12, God makes a covenant with Abram and promises to make him into a great nation. Abram travels to Egypt after that because of the famine and then allows Pharoah to flirt with Sarai, claiming she is just his sister. All sorts of trouble happens and Abram leaves, heading up to the Negev (Gen. 13:1). He and Lot separate for awhile, but then has to rescue the idiot (Gen. 14:1-16). He defeats all of these armies and the King of Sodom rides out to meet him.

However, who should show up but Melchizedek, the king of Salem, which is modern day Jerusalem. Remember - Salem means 'peace.' It's really interesting. Melchizedek is identified as a priest of God Most High and he blessed Abram (Gen. 14:19-20). Abram turned over a tenth of everything he owned to Melchizedek in response to this blessing.

When the king of Sodom set out to make a bargain, Abram refused because he did not want the King of Sodom, who was not a man of God to ever be able to say that he had a hand in Abram's wealth. Abram was a man of God.

So, where did Melchizedek come from? No one really knows. But, he is a precursor to Jesus Christ. He was a king and a priest. No other priest achieved that until Jesus.

Psalm 110:4, in prophecy, declared that "You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek." The Messiah does not come from the Levitical priestly line. These men were limited by their lineage. They couldn't own land, they had nothing except what the other tribes would bring them as offerings. They couldn't rise above their position to become king. Jesus was from the tribe of Judah, he was from the line of David. His was a royal line.

Psalm 110:4 and Hebrews declare the Jesus Christ was royalty and part of the priesthood. This sets the tone for 1 Peter 2:9 where we are told that we are a chosen people, a royal priesthood. Not common priests, but royal priests. We are made this way because of the relationship that we have with Jesus Christ. He established the royal priesthood and we follow Him.

July 12 - God's Promises

Sunday, July 12, 2009

July 12 - Hebrews 6:13-20 - God's Promises

How certain are we of God's promises? Who is it that we have faith in? Why should we look forward to eternal life?

God made a promise to Abraham in Genesis 22:17 and after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised. So, then the question becomes, "Are you patient enough for God to fulfill His promises in you?" Wow, sometimes I am just not. I want it all to happen immediately!

Now, when man swears an oath, he does so on someone greater than himself. In a court of law, an oath to speak truthfully was made on the Bible. "Swear on your mother's grave" was a popular oath. And that type of oath puts an end to argument.

But, when God confirms something with an oath, there is no one greater. But, why should we trust Him? This is one of those verses that is profound, yet terribly simple. It is impossible for God to lie. (Hebrews 6:18) It is impossible for God to lie. Wow. Of course we know that to be true, but sometimes our actions don't prove this out. When God makes a promise, He will follow through. It is impossible for Him to lie.

Life brings storms. God knows this about us. We have to face a lot while living on this earth. But, when we flee to refuge, we grab on to the hope that we have in a God who fulfills His promises. This is hope. It is an anchor for the soul and this anchor takes us to the inner sanctuary where the Great High Priest, Jesus, has already entered to prepare the way for us.

We are about to learn a lot more about Melchizedek, who was a priest and a king. He believed in God even though He was not a part of Abraham's tribe. He worshiped the one true God. It is in the order of Melchizedek that Jesus became a high priest forever. Tomorrow we'll begin looking at this process.

July 11 - Grow Up!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

July 11 - Hebrews 6:1-12 - Grow Up!

It is time to go beyond that first step, to move into maturity. Dead acts of faith, things that have no meaning need to be set aside. We need to quit doing these things and then going back and repenting of them. At some point, the foundation of our lives needs to be more than that - faith in God, baptism, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. God wants us to move beyond ourselves to something bigger, something more powerful. He wants us to move into releationship with Him!

Hebrews 6:4-6 speaks of those who have fallen away. You can't become a Christian again. No wait, that's not what I mean. What this is saying is that you don't actually stop being a Christian, you may fall away to immaturity. Get back on the road and move toward maturity. You don't need to become born again ... again.

We see in Hebrews 6:7-8 that those who choose to stay immature and produce thorns and thistles are worthless to the kingdom of God. There is danger in these actions. God will not tolerate those of us who choose to become Christians and then set it aside for the more exciting things of life.

There are so many ways that we attempt to move away from God. He is just and will remember all of the good things we have done and the love that we have shown him (Hebrews 6:10), but just as we learned in previous chapters of Hebrews, we can't allow ourselves to not pay attention (Hebrews 2:1-4), harden our hearts (Hebrews 3:7-4:13), be slow to learn (Hebrews 5:11) and now, we can not become lazy (Hebrews 6:12).

There are things that will be set before us as we traverse the road that leads to eternal life. We must always be alert!

July 10 - Warning!

Friday, July 10, 2009

July 10 - Hebrews 5:11-14 - Warning!

What is coming next is going to be very difficult to understand. The author is concerned that many of his readers will not be able to manage the information presented because they refuse to grow into a full understanding of what it takes to be a Christian.

How many of us have approached spiritual maturity? Not acquainted with teaching about righteousness? This simply means that we can't understand the difference between right and wrong. If we do understand it, we don't implement it into our lives and still rely and being spoonfed our Gospel.

Over and over I hear that people are afraid of speaking about their faith because they don't feel as if they know Scriptures well enough. I get a lot of people who ask me questions about things, but lament that they don't have time to read the Bible. They are astounded by the knowledge that I have, but it is nothing more than spending time reading Scripture. I've tried many different Bible reading plans in my lifetime and have failed at many of them, but the thing is ... I didn't quit reading. Every time I attempted another reading plan, I spent time in the Bible, reading and learning and allowing the words of God to flow into my life.

I've had people tell me that they don't actually read this blog because they can't find time to add it into their schedule. A schedule that doesn't include any scripture reading anyway.

These verses are speaking to that. After all these years, those who were reading these verses were still needing to be taught the very basic truths of repentance and grace. No one could teach them the deeper things of faith because there was no understanding. They were still dealing with the same issues they had dealt with when they first came to know Christ.

Hebrews 5:14 says that spiritual maturity comes from constant use - constant attention to the Word of God, the scriptures that He gave to us for guidance and training. We fool ourselves if we think that we can live well without them. This is a gift from God, offered to us so that we can know Him better and live well while on earth, to distinguish good from evil.

July 9 - The Great High Priest

Thursday, July 9, 2009

July 9 - Hebrews 4:14-5:10 - The Great High Priest

A friend told me about going before a judge, accused of something he hadn't done. But, the accuser pushed things until they stood before this woman. As my friend looked at her, he realized that she had gone to law school with him and they had been very good friends during those years. She knew him, his character and his behavior. She knew that he could not have done the things that the accuser laid out. Since there was no real evidence, she recognized that this was a petty accusation and set it aside.

That's the type of friend that stands before the throne of grace with us. Jesus knows what it is like to be us. He came to earth to stand with us, he faced temptations that we face and though he is without sin, He understands what we deal with every day.

With this great high priest standing before us, we know that we will receive mercy and grace at God's throne. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

The high priest system that had been in place since the time of Aaron had been set forth to represent the Israelites before God. The high priest knew his people and cared for them. He brought their gifts and sacrifices before God and also because of His own weakness, had to offer sacrifices for his own sins. The high priest couldn't just become that on a whim, but had to be called by God. (Hebrews 5:1-4)

Even Christ did not proclaim Himself as high priest, but God called Him to the position. (Hebrews 5:5-6)

While Jesus was on earth, His offerings were made up of the prayers and petitions that He cried out to God. In Revelation 8:3-5, the prayers of the saints fill the golden altar in heaven. Our prayers are the offerings that God craves, Jesus' prayers while He was on earth were the offerings that He could best give to the Creator.

He willingly became the source of eternal salvation through suffering and obedience to the Father. He offers this salvation to us who willingly obey Him.

These first few chapters of Hebrews emphasize the importance of eternity in our lives and what it takes on our parts to be there. We can enter God's rest, we can find eternal salvation through faith and obedience.

July 8 - The Word of God

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

July 8 - Hebrews 4:12-13 - The Word of God

One of my favorite things to talk about is the Word of God. You see, God has given us so many hidden mysteries within Scripture that describe this gift, but this verse illuminates many of them and asks us to scour the scriptures to figure out what it is God is saying to us.

We find in Ephesians 6:17 that the Sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. We see in John 1:1 that Jesus Christ is the Word. He was there in the beginning, He was with God and He was God.

Now with those two pieces of information, we come to these verses in Hebrews and see that this sword is so sharp, it can penetrate to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Look at Revelation 1:16. In this vision of Jesus, John sees Him with a sharp double-edged sword coming from his mouth. To the church at Pergamum in Revelation 2:12-17, Jesus comes as the one with this sword in His mouth. He comes to bring judgment against the Nicolaitans and He reminds the people that even though they have been faithful to Him, they are allowing teachings of other Gods to penetrate their midst. He brings judgment.

We see this sword again in Revelation 19:11-16. Jesus, called Faithful and True, comes forth on a white horse. He judges with justice. In Rev. 19:15, we see that out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. He comes to bring justice and judgment.

When Jesus sends out the twelve in Matthew 10, he tells them that there will be people who can not leave their lives to follow His teaching. In Matthew 10:34, He says, "do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword."

This sword, the Word of God, Jesus Christ, comes to bring judgment in justice. Hebrews 4:13 finishes by saying, "Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account."

Everything is laid bare before the one who brings judgment. The good news for us is that this is also the one who is our advocate before God Almighty and the one who chose to stand in to cover our sin.

The Sword of the Spirit, The Word of God, Jesus Christ. He is living and active yet today.

July 7 - Enter His Rest

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

July 7 - Hebrews 4:1-11 - Enter His Rest

I've spent enough time around philosophy-lovers that my brain starts reeling sometimes as I listen to them bat ideas back and forth. When I read these verses, that happens to me again.

The author of Hebrews wants us to completely understand that resting in God is so much more than what our bodies need to restore us to face another day.

When God rested on the seventh day, the Sabbath, it was after he had fully and perfectly completed His Creation.

As we come to know God's rest, we not only rest from our work, but we are putting our faith completely and totally in Him. This is about faith. Faith in the Creative power of God, faith in the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

Lack of faith kept the Israelites from God's rest. Lack of faith can keep Christians from God's rest. The only barrier to resting in God is if we back away in disbelief ... if we harden our hearts.

Entering into God's rest comes from not only hearing the Gospel, but believing it as well. It brings forgiveness of sins and peace to our hearts.

Ever since I have been an adult, I seemed to search for peace. I knew that it would be found in God, but it seemed as if the world constantly battered me until I was exhausted. We are all exhausted. But, this is because we try so hard to do this all alone. Sabbath rest is not about a decision that we make to cease working one day a week, it is about being obedient to God's call and deliberately setting ourselves aside so that we can enter His rest.

July 6 - Don't Harden Your Hearts

Monday, July 6, 2009

July 6 - Hebrews 3:7-19 - Don't Harden Your Hearts

If there was one dark period in Israel's history, one that they would be constantly warned about, it was that day at the border of Canaan. Spies went in and reported that the land was lush, flowing with milk and honey. But, many that went in came back with bad reports (Numbers 3:26-33). The entire community grumbled, stating that they would have preferred to die in Egypt, or even in the desert. Why would the Lord bring them to this land only to have them die by the sword.

They were so willing to believe the lies and not the Lord, that He became furious with them. They were doomed to spend 40 years in the desert. (Numbers 14:1-45) The men of that generation never saw the Promised Land.

Psalm 95 is quoted several times in this passage and in Hebrews 3:13, the use of the word 'Today' refers back to the beginning of the quote in Hebrews 3:7. It means something like 'while you still have an opportunity.'

We have the opportunity daily to encourage each other. It becomes apparent as you read the rest of this chapter (Hebrews 3:12-19) that the importance of this takes on eternal significance.

Sinful, unbelieving hearts led to the Israelites wandering the desert for 40 years. This disobedience on their parts prohibited them from entering the Promised Land, AND God's eternal rest. I can't imagine anything worse than evoking God's anger. But, unbelief is a disobedience that God can't handle from us. He simply asks us to believe.

If someone is having difficulty believing, we are to encourage them daily. Not just on a random basis, but daily. God's desire is that no one is hardened by sin's deceitfulness. It is not just about us, folks, it is about our responsibility to care for each other, to encourage each other. We have got to move past our selfish, self-centered, personal agendas to bring people before the throne of God with confidence.

July 5 - Fix Your Thoughts on Jesus

Sunday, July 5, 2009

July 5 - Hebrews 3:1-6 - Fix your thoughts on Jesus

Holy brothers. So much power placed into two small words. Hebrews 2:12 identifies us as brothers with Jesus Christ. We are given so much honor and recognition by Him, yet sometimes we act as if it doesn't matter. I think of the brothers of two of our Presidents, Billy Carter and Roger Clinton. They were buffoons, yet were the brothers of two of the most powerful men in the world. Is this how we act when give the honor of being called 'brother' by our Savior?

But, we are also called 'holy.' We are made holy by Jesus (Hebrews 2:11). This holiness and the fact that we are part of the family that Jesus Christ has called us to, brings us to the point of sharing in His heavenly calling. We have been given the honor of being companions with Jesus Christ in future glory.

So what do we do now? Fix our thoughts on Jesus Christ. That shouldn't be too difficult, but daily we prove that it is nearly impossible.

The next few verses show us why He is deserving of that respect. He is the model by which we are to live. He is faithful to God, just as Moses was when He designed God's Tabernacle according to every specific detail.

Moses built the Tabernacle as a servant would - carrying out the instructions that were given to Him. But, Jesus is the author of creation. In Hebrews 3:5, we realize that what Moses built was like a 'miniature' of the grand scheme of God's home. The future will bring so much more awareness of what God's temple is really like. We will not see this until we are in heaven, but we will see it.

And, as for that home, Jesus Christ is the master of the house. We make up the essence of that home if we can hold on to our courage and hope. We can not turn away from the living God. We must keep our thoughts firmly fixed on Jesus.

July 4 - For Us

Saturday, July 4, 2009

July 4 - Hebrews 2:10-18 - For Us

Jesus Christ, the author of our salvation. Think about that for a moment. He came from a position of Creator to that of being lower than angels among His creation. While He was still in heaven, Jesus Christ was the author of our salvation. He authored the way for His creation - mankind - to be with Him in heaven.

Hebrews 2:11 tells us that we are part of Jesus' family and that He is not ashamed of us. The quote comes again from Psalm 8 when affirming the fact that He would acknowledge us. We are so important to Him.

Now, the only way that this could happen was that Jesus Christ became like us, made with flesh and blood. By becoming human, when He died, He was able to destroy the devil who holds the power of death and free us from being afraid of death.

Isn't Hebrews 2:16 awesome? After all of this information we have received about angels, we find that Jesus really doesn't worry too much about them. He came to help Abraham's descendants. He didn't come in the form of an angel, but in the form of humanity, those He calls brothers. This thrills my heart! There is so much love and compassion for mankind. God has done everything possible to bring us back to Himself.

As we proceed through the book of Hebrews, we will learn more about Jesus being the great high priest, but it was important for Him to die - to make the atoning sacrifice - so that He could fully know our plight as He is the great high priest. (Hebrews 2:17)

Jesus was tempted in the Garden and through that learning experience, we have confidence that He can help us as we face incredible temptation.

Everything that Jesus did was done for us. Everything. There was no selfish agenda, no other purpose than to offer salvation to those He loves the most ... His brothers ... Abraham's descendants ... those whom God will bring to paradise.

July 3 - Crowned with Glory

Friday, July 3, 2009

July 3 - Hebrews 2:5-9 - Crowned with Glory

There is speculation that the people of Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were kept, believed that in the world to come, Michael and the angels would have dominion. Hebrews 2:5 puts that speculation to rest. We have read much about angels and the fact that they are subject to the Son, who is superior in all ways to the angels, in fact, they are simply part of creation.

Psalm 8:4-6 is quoted, showing that God gave mankind dominion over the earth. This is a command that was made in Genesis 1:28. Even though man was a little lower than the angels, we still have ruling control of the earth's beings.

In Hebrews 2:8, the explanation continues by telling us that everything is subject to God even though we may not see it.

But, it goes on to say, we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels as well when He came to earth. He became just like man, but was crowned because of the suffering He went through on the cross.

The only purpose for Jesus Christ becoming man was so that He might die.

From the moment He was sent to earth in the form of a tiny baby, the plan was that He would become the sacrifice for everyone. No one could change the motion of the plan that was set in place.

His crown ... glory and honor ... comes because of His willingness to face death for us.

July 2 - Pay Attention

Thursday, July 2, 2009

July 2 – Hebrews 2:1-4 – Pay Attention

After what we have just read, we are told to pay close attention to the truth of those words. This is the first of five warnings found in Hebrews. The others are found in Hebrews 3-4; Hebrews 5:11-6:20; Hebrews 10:19-39; and Hebrews 12. This short admonition begins the series as the author pleads with his readers to heed God’s Word.

In Galatians 3:19, Paul tells the readers that the Law was put into effect through angels by a mediator. Here in Hebrews, we find that the message given by the angels was binding (Hebrews 2:2). If the angels gave the Law to God’s people, how much more important are the words that the Son has spoken to us (Hebrews 1:2). The law tells mankind what to do. The Gospel tells mankind what God has done. The law is the knowledge of sin. The Gospel is the knowledge of salvation (Believer’s Bible Commentary).

The law was given by God to the angels to Moses who brought it to the people. The Gospel of salvation came directly from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. This is the greater loss, rejecting or neglecting … drifting away from this Gospel.

In Hebrews 2:4, we read that God testified to this Gospel of Salvation by offering signs, wonders, miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit. These signs and wonders were seen while Jesus was walking among the people and then as the apostles began to perform miracles while spreading the Gospel throughout the world.

Hmm, the last bit of this passage is astounding to me. These gifts are distributed according to the will of the Father. We can’t demand that they come to us, we can’t pray hard enough for miracles, we can do nothing. They were never promised to us, they are simply gifts that the Father can give to His children … according to His will.

Do not drift away, do not try to escape the greatest gift of all – salvation. It is a free gift, offered to us by the One who created everything and who has moved heaven and earth to draw us closer to Him.

July 1 - The Son and the Angels

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

July 1 – Hebrews 1:1-14 – The Son and the Angels

While we are uncertain as to the authorship of this letter to the Hebrews, it is generally attributed to Paul, Apollos or Barnabas. The men worked together and knew each other well, so while exact authorship isn’t specifically claimed, we can be sure that God’s hand was at work in the lives of the writer.

The Israelites had a history of spoken prophecy which they counted on as being God’s word translated for their ears. With the end of that age and the coming of the Messiah in Jesus Christ, the Israelites needed to know who would speak for God.

Before we learn about faith, which is the primary topic of the book of Hebrews, we have to know who it is in whom we place our faith. There are a few things right at the beginning of this book that tell us about Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 1:1-4

He is identified as God’s Son, the heir of all things and the co-creator of the universe. This identification informs us that He is greater than any prophet that came before Him.

The Son radiates God’s glory.

The Son represents God’s being.

The Son sustains all things by His word.

The Son offered purification for sins.

The Son is seated at the right hand of the King of heaven.

The Son is superior to the angels and inherited a name that is superior to them.

All of these things come together in one man, Jesus Christ. It is in Him that we have confidence to place our faith.

Hebrews 1:4 stated the fact of the superiority of the Son, and backs this up with seven Old Testament scriptures found in Hebrews 1:5-14.

Psalm 2:7 is used to show us that God never offered the title Son to any angel. While they were created by God, Jesus is the Son of God. 2 Samuel 7:14 is quoted and is a prophetic passage regarding the Messiah as coming from the line of David. (Hebrews 1:5)

Deuteronomy 32:43 is used to establish the fact that angels should worship the Son. In our contemporary translations, this line “and let all the angels worship him” is not translated. It is however, found in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Septuagint. (Hebrews 1:6)

We find a list of things that God controls in Psalm 104. The angels are within that list as ministering servants. (Hebrews 1:7) In direct contrast to that is the Son, who is worshiped as Sovereign and is found on the throne because God has set Him there above everyone. (Psalm 45:6, 7; Hebrews 1:8-9).

The text from Psalm 102:25-27 refers to Jesus as Creator. The angels were part of creation, but Jesus Christ was there before time began and will remain the same throughout eternity. (Hebrews 1:10-12).

It is mentioned many times in the New Testament that Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father (Matt. 22:43–44; 26:64; Mark 16:19; Acts 2:33–34; Rom. 8:34; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3, 13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 1 Peter 3:22). Angels minister before the throne as well as to those who will inherit the salvation offered by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 1:13-14)