Sacrifices Pleasing to God

Hebrews 13:1-19

Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture. The following passages can be read now: Matthew 25:31–40; Romans 16:1–16; Colossians 2:16–17, and Hebrews 13:1–19.

1.         Closing out the letter to Jewish Christians, who are likely in Rome, the author, who is probably in prison somewhere, urges his/her readers to  apply their faith in real ways.

2.         Showing hospitality to strangers, not a small thing in that day, remembering those in prison, and others who are mis-treated, is something they are urged to do.

3.         Also, all are encouraged to be faithful in terms of sexuality, and all sexual expression outside of marriage between one man and one woman, are sinful and God will judge those who do otherwise.

4.         Then the readers are to keep their lives free from the “love of money,” which indeed is behind so much pain and evil, but they are to be content with what they have.

5.         The author speaks of the leaders among them, likely pastors and preachers, that these should be respected.

6.         Also, the readers are to beware of strange teachings, which were as plentiful, and deceptive, then as they are now. And especially those diverse teachings focused on rites and rituals, which the readers were accustomed to.

7.         These readers are to no longer look to priests offering sacrifices since the one great sacrifice has been made, and so it is to Jesus they are to look.

8.         The worship now is to offer up praise to the name of Jesus; this is the true sacrifice.

9.         Leaders are to be obeyed and submitted to, not in a cultic sort of way, but these leaders are set to keep watch, or protect, them.

10.       The readers of the letter are asked to pray for “us” for they are sure their cause is just and that they desire to act honorably in all things.

11.       And the readers are urged to do so that “I” may be restored to them, which wording may even puzzle the readers.

A Kingdom that Cannot be Shaken

Hebrews 12:18–29

Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture. Read first of all: Gen. 4:1–7;

Ex.19:7–22; Mt. 3:4–12;  2 Th.1:5–12; Rev. 20:11–12.

1.         Not all of Scripture is comforting to read and here is a passage that illustrates this fact.

2.         Immediately following the Exodus from Egypt, God met with Moses on Mt. Sinai and issued to him His commandments. All the while those newly set free from slavery in Egypt rebelled and created the “golden calf” and worshipped it. God’s wrath was poured out on these.

3.         The contrast is now for those Jewish Christians, to whom Hebrews is written, they are part of the new Mount Zion, the city of the living God, indeed to the assembly or church of the firstborn and are forever enrolled in the Book of Life.   These are strong words of encouragement.

4.         For varying political and cultural and religious differences, there was yet a temptation to act as did those who worshipped a false god in the wilderness and who thus paid a dear price for their rebellion. Our author does not wish it to be so for his readers.

5.         Some commentators think that there was a kind of ‘shaking’ taking place amongst those he/she is writing to. It is thought that some were either falsely converted or were even walking away from the Christian assembly due to various pressures.

6.         Despite trouble some were experiencing, our author reminds them that the ‘kingdom’ they are part of could not be shaken so then they should continue “to offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.” 

Do Not Grow Weary

Hebrews 12:3–17

Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture. Also, look at these passages: Genesis 25:19–34, Proverbs 3:1–12, and Romans 12:14–21.

1.        Being a Christian is often compared to being an athlete running a race or a boxer involved in a boxing match. There is the arduous process of training, building up both muscle and skill, then facing real and competition. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose.

2.        A chief part of the process is looking at the life of Jesus, as we find it in the Gospels. Here, Messiah/Savior stood against incredible hostility, much of it satanically inspired, yet He finished the race and won the greatest prize, and all for us.

3.        Our great Coach and Lord, works with us as we both train for the struggle and engage in a contest that calls for all that we have.

4.        “Discipline” is also involved. When we go adrift, there is a price to pay, and it must be so in order that we learn to endure against great odds. This experience is anchored in the fact that the Father disciples and corrects His sons and daughters. This the author of Hebrews likens to earthly parents who discipline us.

5.        Such discipline, and you may want to look back now and see how you were disciplined, is for our own good no matter how unpleasant it seems in the time.

6.        We are encouraged to gather our strength, get back into the race and the battle. In fact, we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the powers of evil, a warfare we cannot win on our own.

7.        Our enemy would like to sideline us, keep us out of the game/work. There are too many who are sitting on the bench without even wearing a uniform, who have a “root of bitterness” in them that may well infect the entire team.

8.        The Word of God calls us to not grow weary, and though we carry on against great opponents, we are to continue to serve and obey our great Coach, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus, the Founder and Perfecter of Our Faith

Hebrews 12:1–2

Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.

1.   The author of Hebrews has described those, from Abel, Noah, Abraham, and many more, who lived by faith and were commended by God. Now the readers are addressed.

2.   “Therefore” is a key word here, meaning that as those who went before were faithful, so we are to be as well. And those who went before actually “surround” today’s followers of Jesus and serve as “witnesses” to these now. (We must understand that this does not mean we are to pray to these witnesses nor ask for their prayers.)

3.   Since we today, as in the days of the early Church, are to lay aside every distraction that would hamper our work and compromise our focus. And the image of the athlete comes to the mind of our Hebrews’ author, those who carefully and diligently are running the race. And the “race” is our Christian witness and ministry.

4.   “Sin” clings so closely and this must be laid aside. Here all of us can identify as we constantly battle against the pull of the lure and power of disobedience, the breaking of the Law of our Creator. To do this requires endurance, which every serious athlete is aware of.

5.   And how do we followers of Jesus do this? It is by “looking to Jesus” who is the “founder” and “perfecter” of our faith. He did this by going to the cross, despising the shame (He hung there naked and charged with crime worthy of death), and who is now “seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

6.   Jesus is our strength, our encouragement, our Lord, that one great “Coach” who is urging us on.

Pentecost

Pentecost

Acts 1 – Acts 2

Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.

1.   Joel 2:28-29 speaks of a time when the Holy Spirit would be “poured” out on all flesh, men and women alike. Prior to Jesus’ ascension to heaven He directed the disciples  stay in Jerusalem for the arrival of the great promise.

2.   When those early followers of Jesus were gathered together somewhere on the Mt. of Olives, with Jesus present, they asked Him if the kingdom of Israel would now be restored. Jesus then spoke of a coming empowering by the Holy Spirit, which would result in their being His witnesses to the entire world. At that point His ascending to heaven occurred.

3.   At this time there were eleven apostles, due to Judas’ death, and Matthias, who had been with them from the beginning, was chosen to replace Judas. It would seem that with the entire 120 early believers present, likely in the Upper Room, Matthias was chosen to replace Judas. As to the means of selecting, some think by vote, others by choosing one of two stones in a pouch.

4.   Now on the Day of Pentecost, 50 days after Passover, and which was one of the great festivals of Israel (see Leviticus 23:15–22 where it is called the “Feast of Weeks.”)

5.   Suddenly there was a powerful spiritual intervention and presence, and the disciples gathered began speaking in tongues, and apparently loudly and wildly. In a way we are not told, this noise was broadcast and a large crowd gathered.

6.   The crowd’s conclusion was that these believers in Jesus were drunk. This set the stage for the first Christian sermon preached, and that by the Apostle Peter.

By Faith

Hebrews 11

Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture. (A reading of the first 12 chapters of Genesis will prove to be of value.)

1.          Here we have one of the most beloved and important chapters in all of our Bible. The author of Hebrews is looking back at the faith of those who had gone before, from Abel, and Moses, and likely those who led the Maccabean Revolt.

2.          Faith, the noun, and believe, the verb, are both from the Greek word pistis, and is the center of this chapter. The description of faith (belief) in the first verse means trusting in that which God has promised, of which the core is the salvation we have in Jesus Christ.

3.          Cain, the first born of Adam and Eve, following their expulsion from Paradise, kills the second born Abel who offered a sacrifice more excellent than Cain’s. Abel offered a lamb while Cain offered what he grew from seed planted in the ground, thus prefiguring the crucifixion of the Lamb of God.

4.          The list of those who trusted in their Creator follows: Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, and a host of others including David, Samuel, and the prophets.

5.          Though these “Old Testament” faithful did not live to see the completion of the work of God, those things that were promised, they still are commended by God for their steadfast faith.

6.          However, the readers of Hebrews have received something better, these are living after the events of the promised Messiah, namely, the crucifixion, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus the Messiah, the Savior of those who trust in Him.

7.          The author of Hebrews, despite the turmoil and trouble of that present age, urges his/her readers to remain faithful to the promises of God that are in Christ Jesus.

The Full Assurance of Faith

Hebrews 10:19–39

Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture. Reading the following passages will be of help: Dt.17:2–7; Matthew 27:45–51; 1 Peter 4:7–11; 2 Peter 3:8–13.

1.          To set the scene, the Jewish-Christians living in Rome were subject to persecution by Rome, and this during the reign of Domitian, 81-96 CE. Plus, those family members and friends who were not accepting Jesus as Messiah would have applied pressure to desert the fledgling Christian churches. It was a difficult period to be a follower of Jesus and not unlike today for many Christians around the world.

2.          The author of Hebrews states that these Hebrew believers can have every confidence to enter into the inner holy place because of the shed blood of Jesus. Their salvation is assured, and they must hold fast their hope without wavering.

3.          These Christians are not to neglect meeting together, as some were, and they are to encourage one another especially in light of the fact that the “Day” may come at any time, and this is the Day of Judgment.

4.          Verse 26 seems to suggest that it is possible to lose one’s salvation and over the centuries there have been many resolutions to the seeming problem.

5.          One view is that within the congregations being written to were those who had actually not been truly converted but were present due to any number of other reasons. We may use the term “christianized” to describe this. Anyone who has been a pastor of a church for any length of time will attest to this circumstance.

6.          The Hebrews author reminds his/her readers that after their conversion they had to endure many sufferings, and such had been, as we know, also true of the Neronian persecutions several decades earlier. History tells us many were murdered, tortured, and cast into prisons.

7.          Though some would “shrink back” our author declares that “we are not of those who shrink back.”

Christ’s Sacrifice Once for All

GOSPEL MEDITATION

Hebrews 10:1–18

Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture. Recommended Passages: Psalm 40:6–8; Jeremiah 31:31–34; Phil. 2:5–11; Rev. 12:7–12.

1.         This letter (epistle in Greek) is addressed to Jewish Christians, likely second-generation Christians and likely living in Rome. At this point in history there is no Bible or collection of writings of the original apostles or their disciples.

2.         The author of Hebrews wants his readers to know that there is no longer any need for daily and yearly sacrifices of animals to be made at the temple. (There is a debate as to whether the Temple in Jerusalem yet stood or if the dating of the letter was after 70CE.)

3.         One thing is clear, the “blood of bulls and goats” cannot cover or take away sin. Psalm 40:6–8, written 1000 years earlier teaches this very thing.

4.         The daily and yearly (Yom Kippur) sacrifices are prophetic, a looking ahead to the one supreme sacrifice, the Messiah who is both priest and king.

5.         The work of Christ stands forever. And those in Christ have had their sin, shame, and guilt forever taken away.

6.         Now we are in “waiting” until all the enemies of Messiah Jesus are completely defeated, and by this is meant not only Satan and the entire demonic kingdom but death itself, that eternal separation from the presence of God.

7.         The author of our passage points, as before, to the prophet Jeremiah and the passage 31:33–34, clearly one of the most incredible verses in the Hebrew Bible. And the key statement is: “I will remember their sins and lawless deeds no more.” Herein is the core meaning of what we call “Amazing Grace.”

Hebrews 9:11–28 Redemption Through the Blood of Christ

Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.

1.          In this lengthy passage we find that Jesus is both high priest and sacrifice.

2.          “Redemption” is a word found in Scripture that theologically contains the effect of Jesus’ death on the cross. 3.  To redeem means “to buy back.”  Our sin brings us under the authority and power of Satan, the enemy of God. The first covenant, or the Old Testament, meant that on a   continuing basis, sacrifices, or payments, had to be made in order to satisfy the demands of the Creator God.

4.          The blood of goats, calves, and bulls were never intended to be a final solution however, but served as a shadow or pre-cursor of that which was to come.

5.          The blood of Christ alone purifies “our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” This is the blood of the covenant.

6.          The high priest entered, on the Day of Atonement, into the inner sanctum and sprinkled blood on the ark of the covenant and the mercy seat. Christ how enters into the very presence of God and acting as our high priest.

7.          This sacrifice was a one-time event.  “He appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”

8.          He, Christ, will appear a second time, which we refer to as the “Second Coming” in order to “save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”

9.          This salvation extends to all those who have been called and elected throughout the entirety of world history.

The Earthly Holy Place

Hebrews 9:1–10

Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.

1.            Reminder: the unknown writer of Hebrews is writing to a Jewish Christian audience, and it is most likely he or she, or a husband-and-wife team, but the author(s) is Jewish.

2.          The focus of this first part of chapter 9 is the “earthly holy place,” that tent or tabernacle wherein God dwelt while the people of Israel, and for forty years, were wandering in the wilderness. The “Temple,” Solomon’s, would not be built for another five hundred years, and which was destroyed in 587 BCE. What came to be known as Herod’s Temple would be begun when the captives came back to Israel about 530 BCE. This was the temple in Jesus’ day.

3.          That tent in the wilderness had a court about it, a space where people would gather. Then the single tent contained two rooms, one the Holy Place and the other the Most Holy Place. The Holy Place was twice the size of the Most Holy Place, and the two were separated by an ornate and thick curtain or vail.

4.          Ordinary priests, of the tribe of Levi, entered the Holy Place often, carrying out the offerings and sacrifices we read about in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers.

5.          The Most Holy Place, wherein were the stone tablets upon which the 10 Commandments were written and the “Mercy Seat” flanked by representations of magnificent angels, the high priest of Israel entered once a year, on the Day of Atonement otherwise known as Yom Kippur. He sprinkled the blood of a sacrificial bull and later blood of a sacrificial lamb, thus atoning for his sins and the sins of the people. This ceremony would take place every year.

6.          Now then, the author of Hebrews understands that the way into the holy places are not yet opened; at this point in history there is no Temple, 80 to 95 CE, there is no holy place. Israel is then without hope.

7.          Paul, in referring to the above, put it this way in his letter to the church at Colossae: “These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” And by this he means that the earthly holy place pointed ahead prophetically to another Temple, a New Covenant, wherein Jesus Christ is the great high priest.