Tag Archives: Hebrews

The Days of Awe

In less than a week, those of us observing the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) will be in the midst of a 24 hour period of time that is among the most important and holy days of the year on God’s sacred calendar. However, because of the nature of what God asks us to do on Atonement, we can sometimes view it as a distraction from the hustle and bustle of travel plans, packing, and festival preparations for the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). Let’s face it – it’s much more appealing to think about and to make plans for our feasting than it is for our fasting, but let’s take a look at how God issues this command to keep the Day of Atonement.

Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God. For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall be cut off from his people. And any person who does any work on that same day, that person I will destroy from among his people. You shall do no manner of work; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. It shall be to you a sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict your souls; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall celebrate your sabbath.” (Lev. 23:27-32)

Now, that doesn’t sound like a day that should be taken lightly, or viewed as something that we just have to endure on the way to Tabernacles. I must confess, though, that there have been years when I’ve done that.

Blessed and Distracted

It is very important that we don’t allow the Day of Atonement to be overshadowed by our busy lives.  We are a blessed people, and it’s very easy for blessed people to take for granted those three square meals a day, and all of the comforts of our lives. A couple of months back, I started keeping up with the world population clock, and related statistics … about 7 billion 264 million right now. And it can be sort of humbling just to sit for a few minutes and watch the physical growth of God’s family, and to realize that if you make more than 10 American dollars a day, you are more richly blessed, materially at least, than 80% of those 7 billion people.

For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing; a land whose stones are iron and out of whose hills you can dig copper. When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you.

Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest—when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage (Deut. 8:7-14)

God told the children of Israel this before they entered the promised land, and it is just as true for us today. When you are as richly blessed as we are, with daily sumptuous meals, soft beds, hot baths, and comfortable homes, it’s easy to take for granted what God has given to us, and, it can be a bit irritating to have to give up those blessings, even if it is just for one day.

But it seems to be very important to God that we approach the Day of Atonement with due respect, and set it aside just for Him and His Son. So what are we to do with the days leading up to the Day of Atonement? How are we to prepare?

Sabbath of Return

According to Jewish tradition, the 10 days between the Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah, also called Rosh Hashana as the civil New Year) and the Day of Atonement are known as “the Days of Awe.” They are a time of self-reflection, repentance, and penitence for sins committed during the previous year.

The weekly Sabbath that falls during these Days of Awe, between Trumpets and Atonement, is called shabbat shuva, or the Sabbath of return. Traditionally, the scripture that is read on this Sabbath is Hosea14:1-2. The sentiments behind these traditions seem very similar to the way we’ve always viewed Passover preparation, and may be worthy of consideration as we go through the next week and prepare for the fast.

O Israel, return to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity; take words with you, and return to the Lord. Say to Him, “Take away all iniquity; receive us graciously, for we will offer the sacrifices of our lips.” (Hos. 14:1-2)

The world around us becomes more complicated by the day. We rush about trying to make a living, and raise a family, and we can wear ourselves out with all the distractions of life, and the atrocities we see in the world around us. That whole package can come between us and God, and then the bedrock, spiritual principles that should govern our lives can be eroded away.

Our relationship with the Godhead should be the most important thing in each of our lives. As a truly loving God, He gives His people several wake-up calls each year in the Holy Days to remind us of what is truly important in life. The Day of Atonement paints a vivid picture centered mainly on the activity of the high priest, who in the Old Testament entered the Holy of Holies once a year on this day with the blood of a goat. Now in the New Testament church, what a wonderful blessing it is to have Jesus Christ Himself as our High Priest and mediator as we spend this week preparing for the Day of Atonement.

But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. (Heb. 9:11-15)

I Am Among You As One Who Serves, part 4

It is interesting to me to observe the flow of the book of Hebrews. I’d like to spend most of my time here in this fourth and final part of the “I Am Among You As One Who Serves” series in an overview of the book of Hebrews with the focus on how Jesus, the Christ of God, is among us today as One who serves, primarily in the office of High Priest.

Words of Faith

Hebrews begins with a very basic, simple truth of a change in the way God has chosen to minister to mankind, and speak to mankind.

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds (Heb. 1:1-2)

Jude 1:3 calls these words spoken “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” We can see evidence of this delivery in Jesus’ prayer to the Father in John 17. Here, He says that He gave His Father’s words to disciples (John 17:8), and taught them how to preserve it for all generations to follow (John 17:17-20). And they did that job, sharing Christ’s words in person with everyone they could, and recording the New Testament writings for generations to come.

Jesus said, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). Not long ago, we completed a series of posts entitled, “The Interactive Book.” The word of God is intended to be used as an interactive tool, and is written so that the meaning deepens with life experience, trials, maturity, and the exercise of living faith.

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb. 4:12-16)

With Christ living inside of you, helping you, and serving your true needs, the whole Bible-package is interactive. He has power over all flesh, and lives in us, and we are linked together by common experience in the flesh, and by the daily advice that we glean from His Word.

High Priest

As we just read in Hebrews 4, Christ is intimately involved as One who serves among the called out ones … and most prominently here in Hebrews in the role of High Priest.

Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus. who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all His house. For this One has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who built the house has more honor than the house. For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God. And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward, but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end. (Heb 3:1-6)

An apostle is one sent by God with a message, and we’ve already discussed Jesus Christ’s communication of the words of the Father to mankind. He is also called the High Priest of our confession. This great High Priest is the One who has been and continues to build His house, and we are that house, as it says here and in other places like Matthew 16:18 and 1 Peter 2:5. The house that He is building is His church, and His body, and the Father appointed Him over it as its Head and as One who serves (Eph. 1:22).

Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. Therefore it is necessary that this One also have something to offer. For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law; who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, “See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”[a] But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. (Heb. 8:1-6)

It is important that we remember who’s house we are a part of – “the true tabernacle which the Lord erected” (pitched, set up, built, fixed) – one that is not built by man but by Christ, the High Priest, and the minister, as it calls Him here, of the sanctuary. The word sanctuary – in the Greek hagion (G39) – as used here refers to the immediate presence of God and His throne where Christ conducts His ministry on our behalf, as one who serves.

Building His Church

And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.
But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,” (Heb. 10:11-16)

See all that Christ is doing for us, ministering to our needs from “at the right hand of God,” in His Father’s presence for us? I said earlier that the word of God was an interactive tool for both He and us to use, and here in Hebrews 10 He says He will write His law in our hearts. Just a few verses later, it talks of Jesus consecrating “new and living way” for us “to enter the Holiest” (Heb. 10:19-20). As “the Mediator of the new covenant,” Jesus is among us as One who serves, and His words deserve our closest attention (Heb. 12:18-25).

Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Heb. 13:20-21)

What is this work He is doing in us that is so pleasing in His sight? What will be the end of it for the elect and for the rest of mankind?

Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.”
Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.” They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. (1 Pet. 2:4-10)

We are called living stones, being built up by Jesus Christ into “a spiritual house” founded upon Himself. Just a few verses later, we are described as chosen to be a royal priesthood (see also Rev. 1:6; 5:10). As a “holy priesthood” in training, what kind of spiritual sacrifices are we to be offering up?

"I Am Among You As One Who Serves" baptismforlife.wordpress.com

In Matthew 25:34-40, Jesus says that serving “the least of these My brethren” is counted as service to Him. We are supposed to be among our brethren, and in the world as those who serve, emulating the example of Him that is among us as One who serves

I’d like to wrap up this blog series by quoting two sections of scripture from Isaiah 61. The first was used by Christ in Luke 4:17-21 to describe His 0wn ministry when He came among us as one who serves. The next set of verses describes, the people who have allowed Jesus Christ to build them into a ‘holy priesthood of the Lord’ – the ones who will be among the people in God’s kingdom as those who serve.

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” (Is. 61:1-3)

But you shall be named the priests of the Lord, they shall call you the servants of our God. You shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory you shall boast. Instead of your shame you shall have double honor, and instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion. Therefore in their land they shall possess double; everlasting joy shall be theirs. “For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery for burnt offering; I will direct their work in truth, and will make with them an everlasting covenant. Their descendants shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people. All who see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the posterity whom the Lord has blessed.” (Is. 61:6-9)