Today’s reading: Hebrews 7-10.
The Jewish Christians who received the Letter to the Hebrews had grown up under the Mosaic Law and were in danger of abandoning Christ and returning to their former practices. The letter exhorted them not to do so, since in Christ God had given them a better way, a better hope.
A forever priest
And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. For it is declared: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 7:15-17
The Mosaic Law established the Aaronic priesthood, but that ancestral priesthood failed to solve the problem of sin. Melchizedek, the priest and king in Abraham’s day, existed before and outside of the Mosaic law, showing that there was another way. He foreshadowed the priestly work of Jesus, who had no beginning or end, whose work God ordained, and who would serve eternally to bring men before God.
An eternal sacrifice
Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. Hebrews 7:27
Jesus’ sacrifice was once for all time. It was eternal, needing no repetition. It was also complete or perfect, since Jesus was perfect, accomplishing all that God intended to extend grace to men.
A new covenant
But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises. For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. But God found fault with the people and said: “The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.” Hebrews 8:6-8
God declared through the prophet Jeremiah that the old covenant would be replaced. There would be no need for a new covenant unless it was superior to the old one. God’s people should not look back to the older and inferior covenant, but should embrace the new one.
An internal cleansing
The 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. How 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! Hebrews 9:13-14
The Mosaic Law made a way for unclean people to come before a holy God. It made polluted things clean and clean things holy. All the cleansing was external, however, and only the priesthood could be made holy enough to serve God. The blood of Christ cleans our thoughts and minds, gives us power to resist sin, and enables us not only to stand before God, but also to serve him.
A full assurance
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, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 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. Hebrews 10:19-22
Believers in Christ have a full assurance to draw near to God. Jesus has opened the way into the Holy of Holies, and each believer may enter with no other mediator than the son of God. We enter to worship, to make requests, to confess sin, and to fellowship with God.
A call to persevere
So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. Hebrews 10:35-36
The writer of Hebrews exhorted his audience to persevere by acting out their faith. They were to do so by:
- encouraging each other to do good
- continually meeting together for worship and fellowship
- avoiding deliberate sin
- avoiding apostasy
- standing their ground in the face of suffering
Faith (10:22), hope (10:22-23), love (10:24), and good works (10:24) are the ways God exhorts us to persevere.
After he had offered one sacrifice for sins he for ever sat down at the right hand of God. Every priest, under the old dispensation, stood; but this man sat down, and the posture is very instructive. The typical priests stood because there was work to do; still must they present their sacrifices; but our Lord sits down because there is no more sacrificial work to do; atonement is complete, he has finished his task. There were no seats in the tabernacle. Observe the Levitical descriptions and you will see that there were no resting-places for the priests in the holy place. Not only were none allowed to sit, but there was nothing whatever to sit upon. According to the rabbis, the king might sit in the holy places, and, perhaps, David did sit there; if so, he was a striking type of Christ sitting as king. A priest never sat in the tabernacle, he was under a dispensation which did not afford rest, and was not intended to give it, a covenant of works which gives the soul no repose. Jesus sits in the holy of holies, and herein we see that his work is finished. – Charles Spurgeon
Image by Vic on Flickr, CC by 2.0