No Dusty Bibles

Menu Close

Category: Hebrews

A Better Covenant

A covenant is a contract or agreement between two parties involving mutual obligations. In Hebrews 8 this morning I was reminded of why Jesus is such a superior High Priest and why His ministry is so much more excellent. I was also reminded of the superiority of the new covenant which was first promised by the prophet Jeremiah.

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”

Hebrews 8:8-12 (quoting Jeremiah 31:31-34)

When you read that, what jumps out at you as reasons why the new covenant is better than the old? Here are a few things I see in these four verses.

Divine Initiative – did you catch how many times “I will” shows up? God is outlining what He will do and because He is faithful, God’s people may rest in those promises and trust that His will be done.

Divine Inscription – Whereas the old covenant was written on tablets of stone, God promises in the new covenant that He will write His laws on human hearts. Hearts of stone are replaced with hearts of flesh. God gives His people an undivided heart and puts a new spirit within them.

Divine Identity – “I will be their God and they shall be my people”. Membership in this new covenant community is based on the sacrificial work, and most excellent ministry of the better High Priest – Jesus Christ. A new identity as God’s people is realized.

Divine Intimacy – “…they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.” One of the benefits of God putting His law into His people’s minds and writing it on their hearts is that He will be known and experienced in a new, more direct way. In the new covenant, God’s people may boldly and confidently approach His throne of grace.

Divine Cleansing* – “I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” In the new covenant, there is no longer any need for repeated sacrifices that serve as a reminder of sin. God’s people may rest in the fact that Jesus provided a perfect, once-for-all sacrifice that has brought forgiveness, holiness and perfection.

*Bonus points to anyone who can help me think of a word starting with “I”.

Hebrew Drift

“Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” Hebrews 2:1

This past year our men’s study walked through the book of Hebrews together. I remember when we came to this chapter in particular that I shared the story of when my wife and I were on our honeymoon in Kauai and went snorkeling not far off shore. The beauty of snorkeling is that the snorkel allowed me to breathe while my head was down in the water, allowing me to take in all of the amazing sea life that was on display through my mask. The problem was that when I finally decided to take a break and lift my head up I was shocked and surprised to see that I had drifted quite a long ways from shore. It was scary but through some effort and exertion I was able to make it back to shore safely. What’s interesting is that I didn’t try to drift away from shore. It just kind of happened. But it happened because I wasn’t lifting my head often enough and checking on my reference point. Although I wasn’t trying to drift I also wasn’t trying to not drift.

This verse in Hebrews is an encouragement to me. It’s an encouragement to pay closer attention to God’s word. It’s an encouragement to not neglect the gospel. Just like what happened to me while snorkeling in Kauai, if I don’t pay attention to God’s word, if I don’t check in with it regularly as my point of reference, I am at risk of drifting away from it. I’ve learned that it doesn’t take much effort to drift. It just kinds of happens. Most times it happens through apathy and neglect. It does however take some effort to not drift. The good news is that it is not effort that must be exerted in my own power. It is Spirit-empowered effort.

I make it my daily aim to stay connected to the vine (Jesus), to be filled and empowered by the Spirit, and to be informed by the word of God. By the grace of God and for His glory alone.

God’s Work, God’s Way

For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” Hebrews 8:5

When I read the above verse from Hebrews in isolation (and out of context) the thought that strikes me  is, “God’s work, God’s way”.

It’s a thought that also reminds me of when Uzzah was struck down for touching the ark. To some, that may have seemed harsh and unfair. After all, Uzzah was only trying to keep it from falling off the cart when the oxen stumbled. But you see, that was the problem. They did not follow God’s ways as it related to how the ark was to be handled. They followed the world’s ways.

It is important to to be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit and to seek counsel from the Word of God when doing God’s work. It’s important to not rely on our own wisdom and ways.

That’s the end of that random thought. Now back to considering how the Old Testament tabernacle and temple foreshadowed the true, heavenly tabernacle.

Action before understanding

Every Wednesday evening I gather with a group of men to study the Bible. We’ve been going through the book of Hebrews together and last night part of our discussion was in regard to the role of Jesus as High Priest and in particular, His priestly intercession.

He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:25

There was much discussion about why Jesus is interceding, what the nature is of His intercession, and what the implications are of His continuing intercession. There was debate about the role of this intercession in salvation and sanctification. Although time ran short and perhaps we were unable to resolve our discussion during our time together last night, I think it was a fruitful exercise to wrestle with God’s word as a group.

As I’ve continued to meditate on this section of scripture I have landed in a place where my concern has been refocused from ensuring I am confident in my understanding and interpretation of Jesus’ intercession as a High Priest. Not to say it’s not important and that it doesn’t play a role in assurance of salvation. It’s just that the Holy Spirit was me zeroed in on something else. In particular, my attention has landed on the part that discusses “those who draw near to God through Him”.

I realized that regardless of where I land on my interpretation of Jesus’ intercession as High Priest, my role in working out my salvation does not change. Again, I’m not saying that striving to properly interpret scripture is wrong. That’s the farthest thing from what I believe. I’m just saying that, as I’ve meditated on this passage, the Holy Spirit has drawn my focus and attention to the importance of drawing near to God. He has revealed to me that my efforts would be better spent on drawing near to God that He might draw near to me.

So, rather than waiting until I have 100% certainty in my understanding of a particular verse of scripture, I will simply respond in obedience to that which I do understand. That doesn’t mean I won’t continue to feast on the word of God or that I won’t continue to pray that the Holy Spirit would illuminate God’s word and lead and guide me into the truth of the word. It just means that I will not be anxious or troubled about these things. Like Mary, I will choose the good portion and it will not be taken from me. I will draw near to God. I will sit at His feet. I will abide and rest in Him.

I’m thankful that through Christ, I have been invited and am able to draw near to the Father.

Hebrews 4:16 – Let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 7:25 – He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

Hebrews 10:22 – let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Hebrews 11:6 – Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who draws near to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

Having faith does not make you exempt from trouble

There are many churches in America that teach, practice, and adhere to a theology that is commonly referred to as the word of faith movement, name it and claim it or prosperity theology. Although I have not paid too much attention or invested the time or energy to study up on them, their basic theology says that God wants His people to have good health, good marriages and relationships, and to live generally prosperous lives. I don’t know about you, but that sounds good to me. It sound so nice, so pleasant and comforting, and so encouraging. It also sounds so un-Biblical.

This morning I read through Hebrews 11, a chapter that is commonly referred to as the faith hall of fame. In light of the first ten chapters where the author has made the case for the superiority of Christ and the salvation that only comes through Him, the author turns to encouraging his readers to persevere in faith. Chapter 11 provides many illustrations of faith as demonstrated through the lives of many Old Testament “heroes”. People like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses. Stories about offering acceptable sacrifices, acting in obedience to build an ark or to offer a son as a sacrifice, or leading a people through a sea are used to reinforce this message of persistently hoping in the promises of God and believing in His ability to fulfill them.

It is our natural human instinct to assume or desire that steadfast faith is rewarded with good things. That is why the message of the word of faith movement is so appealing. It appeals to our rational and emotional selves. We gravitate to the stories where the outcome of faith is conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, and obtained promises. However, toward the end of Hebrews 11 we are reminded that,

“Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” – Hebrews 11:35-38

Although the prosperity gospel would have you believe that God wants you to be “happy, healthy, wealthy, and wise”, we see in God’s word that even those who are commended for their faithfulness sometimes end up sawn in two and killed with the sword. I think of John the Baptist who was faithful to prepare the way for Jesus. He ended up imprisoned and ultimately beheaded for his allegiance to, and proclamation of Jesus, the lamb of God. Something doesn’t reconcile. If God wants His believers to enjoy long life, be healthy, and enjoy material wealth and prosperity on this earth, why would He allow these things to happen?

We are not called to have faith in a particular outcome – happiness, health, or wealth. Rather we are to have faith in a particular person. Jesus should be the object of our faith. We are to continually look to, trust in, and believe Him. We are to “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Have faith that there is a future joy to be experienced and enjoyed that makes the best stuff that this earth has to offer pale in comparison. And although the outcome of your faith in Jesus may not be physical health or financial wealth in this present world, you will receive an outcome far greater and worth so much more – the salvation of your soul.

“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” – 1 Peter 1:8-9

With confidence

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. – Hebrews 4:16

The verse above is an invitation from the author of Hebrews extended to the recipients of his letter. It is an invitation extended in light of everything that has been shared in the first three chapters of the letter and most immediately in the context of Jesus as a great high priest that has suffered and experienced temptation and consequently, can sympathize with us in our weakness and time of need. Not only can He understand, He can offer help in time of need. He can offer mercy (not giving you what you deserve) and grace (giving you what you don’t deserve).

If you received this letter and this invitation, how would you respond? Would it sound appealing to you? Would you be interested? If someone created a Facebook event to “draw near to the throne of grace” would you be identified as someone that is attending? And if so, how would you attend? Would you be apprehensive and scared? Nervous and uncomfortable? Eager and expectant? What would you hope to achieve by attending? How would you expect to benefit?

I believe I have received this invitation. That fact that I am on the invite list says nothing about me but everything about the One who is on the throne. Because of who Jesus is and because of what Jesus has done, I have been invited to draw near to the throne of grace. I have been invited to approach God. And I can do so confidently and boldly. It is a confidence that is not based on me but it is a confidence founded in the One who is seated on the throne. It is a confidence that the curtain has been torn in two and I have been granted entry into the most holy place by the blood of the lamb. It is a confidence that knows that Jesus can sympathize with my weakness and needs and that, although He was tempted in every way, He was without sin. It is with a boldness that comes from knowing that I approach as one that has been washed clean and am clothed in His righteousness.

Why would I accept this invitation? That I might receive mercy and grace of course. When do I need mercy and grace? In my time of need? When is my time of need? Every day.

Drawing near to the throne of mercy and grace is not a one-time thing that you do upon being convicted and repenting of your sin and receiving Jesus as savior. This is for the Christian. This is for those of us who have been adopted as sons and daughters of God. We are to approach the throne of mercy and grace and to cast all our anxieties on Him because He cares for us.

Let us do this with confidence. Draw near to God. Receive from Him mercy and grace. Allow Him to be an ever-present help in time of trouble. For your joy and His glory.

Unbelief is tiring

So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. – Hebrews 4:9-11

It’s almost paradoxical, this idea of striving to rest. It seems contradictory to extend great effort to rest and yet, I am aware of this truth in my own life. After taking five days away with the family to spend some time at the beach, I was reminded that it is difficult for me to actually rest. It’s almost as though I feel guilty. I struggle with feeling as though I am wasting time and that perhaps I should be “doing” something. Of course, the rest that the writer of Hebrews is talking about is a little different than the state I was trying to achieve while on vacation. The rest he’s talking about has immediate benefits but even more importantly, it has eternal implications.

The epistle to the Hebrews was addressed to recent Jewish converts that were at risk of being lured back into Judaism or perhaps even creating a hybrid religion where they accept Jesus as savior but also adhere to the requirements and regulations of the OT law. The author’s intent is to remind them of the supremacy and sufficiency of Jesus. The recipients of this letter are reminded of how Moses led their forefathers out of Egypt only to end up wandering in the desert for forty years. They are reminded of how the exodus generation missed out on entering into the promised land – and associated rest – because their unbelieving hearts caused them to fall in to disobedience to God. The recipients of this letter are encouraged to not make the same mistakes and are reminded that God is offering them a Sabbath rest into which they may enter now and for all time.

Just as God rested on the seventh day of creation because His work was done, so believers in Christ are invited to rest from their work. That is not to say that you can perpetually hit snooze on the alarm clock and blow off showing up for work tomorrow. It’s also not saying that you can flake on your efforts in the children’s ministry or forget about dropping that meal off for your neighbor while they recover from surgery. It just means that you can rest from all the effort you’ve been extending in an attempt to justify yourself before God. You can rest from trying to be “good enough”. You can rest in knowing that Jesus paid your debt in full and that when God looks at you, He no longer sees you in your sin and He no longer sees you in the filthy rags of your good works. Instead, He sees you clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

That all sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? How do I get in on that action? Where do I sign up? How do I enter that rest? You enter by faith. We must believe, hope, and trust in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross. We must believe that He rose from the grave and has ascended to the right hand of God the Father. We must trust in His promises that He is preparing a place for us and that He will return again. We must believe that no one can snatch us from His hand.

Romans 10:9 says, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” The Bible also tells us that out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. God previously told His people He would remove their hearts of stone and replace them with hearts of flesh. The heart is the wellspring of life. It all starts with the heart. In Psalm 95 we read,

Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. For forty years I loathed that generation and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.” Therefore I swore in my wrath, “They shall not enter my rest.” – Psalm 95:7-11

Notice that disobedience is always preceded by going astray or failing to believe in the heart. It is not a sin to doubt or to struggle with “weak” faith. One of my favorite interactions with Jesus is when the father of a boy with an unclean spirit says, “I believe; help my unbelief!” But unbelief – an unwillingness to believe – is a sin. I like how Charles Spurgeon puts it,

“Hearken, O unbeliever, you have said, ‘I cannot believe,’ but it would be more honest if you had said, ‘I will not believe.’ The mischief lies there. Your unbelief is your fault, not your misfortune. It is a disease, but it is also a crime: it is a terrible source of misery to you, but it is justly so, for it is an atrocious offense against the God of truth.”

Today, as I read this, I am thankful that God has provided me with the gift of faith. I am humbled that He has given me eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to receive the truth of His word. I am overwhelmed by His goodness and patience with me when I struggle with doubt and fear. I am thankful that I have regular fellowship with other believers that are exhorting me to persevere in faith and not be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. And, I am thankful for the Sabbath rest that God has provided for those who trust not in their own merits but in the supremacy, superiority and all-sufficiency of Jesus Christ.

Take care and exhort others

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
(Hebrews 3:12-13 ESV)

In the above passage, the author addresses the readers of this letter as “brothers”. This is not to indicate that they share the same mother and father and found themselves regularly fighting over the last piece of bread at supper every night while growing up. The author appears to be addressing his brothers in the faith. These are Hebrew believers that are in Christ and he has a warning for them.

The warning is to not have an evil and unbelieving heart that would lead them to fall away from the living God. It’s a good warning and is issued in the context of the past sins of the Israelites while wandering through the wilderness for 40-years prior to entering the promised land. It’s a warning to not fall into the same type of rebellion that prohibited their forefathers from entering into the rest that God had promised them. It’s a warning to not repeat the same mistakes of past generations. It’s also a warning that is appropriate for any modern day believer.

The author makes the connection between an evil, sinful, unbelieving heart and how those things could cause someone to fall away from God. The concern isn’t that God will abandon you in your sin and unbelief but rather that you will abandon God. Unbelief and hardness of heart keeps the believer from enjoying the promises and the blessings of God. Unbelief and hardness of heart keeps the believer from properly yielding the praise, honor, and glory that is due His name.

I certainly don’t want that to happen to me so my ears perked up and I took notice this morning when I read that I should “take care” to not have an evil, unbelieving heart. But I was left with the question, how do I take care and what do I need to do? Fortunately, the author provides the remedy. And the great thing is that it’s a one-a-day type of remedy. He says that we should exhort one another every day.

Do you do this? Do you exhort fellow believers in Christ on a regular basis? Do you even know how to exhort or what it means to exhort? You exhort someone when you call them to your side and you speak directly to them in order to offer instruction, teaching, comfort and console. Really, when it comes down to it, it’s about speaking truth into the lives of others.

The other side of the equation to consider is, in addition to exhorting others, are you putting yourself in situations where you are able to be exhorted by others? Are you in regular fellowship with other believers? Are you submitting yourself to a local church body and the pastoral leadership within that church?

I see this call to exhort one another every day as a preventative measure to keep us from falling into unbelief and from allowing sin to harden our heart. Surely, the practice of exhorting others is beneficial to yourself as well. It gives you a chance to preach to yourself and to listen to the truth that you are proclaiming and speaking into someone else’s life and to grab onto it for yourself.

My to-do list for the day is to exhort and be exhorted. And I hope to keep that as a recurring “to-do” as long as it is called “today”.

© 2017 No Dusty Bibles. All rights reserved.

Theme by Anders Norén.