I had lunch yesterday with a friend who has been bound to crutches for weeks. She showed me her initial x-rays and I cringed as I saw how bad her break was. There was no arguing that keeping weight off that foot was imperative; her need of crutches was real.
But how odd would it be if, once her cast was removed and the doctor gave the all-clear to bear weight, she continued to use the crutches? It would be a case of using something needful in a time when it wasn’t needed, right? She’d be holding herself back from the freedom set before her by clinging to the answer to a problem she no longer had.
The Hebrews were bound heartily to the Levitical law. They took such comfort in the routine and tradition that they were missing the cross. They were grasping at a crutch that was no longer needed and this chapter is an appeal for them to walk in faith and in freedom.
For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. (verses 1-6)
The Jews had but the shadow of the things to come, we have the fulfillment. The law was a representation; the cross was the very image. Consider a mirror and how it reflects with exactness the one who is reflected therein in contrast with the shadow of that same one cast across a wall. The shadow is a suggestion of the reflection while the mirror is the reality.
Imagine you are in the midst of a house hunt. You’ve searched high and low for the perfect home for your family and have landed upon a piece of property boasting trees of every kind, bubbling brooks and vast gardens. You are then led to a grand house, complete with more than you had even dreamed. The owner, eager to close on the deal, points you to the magnificent shadow being cast by the house and names his price. You nearly jump at the thrill of hearing a price you can afford, until it hits you he’s offering to sell you only the shadow of the house. That may be good for cooling off in the heat of the day or for growing plants that don’t like the sun, but it isn’t enough to provide shelter from the storm.
The message being earnestly conveyed here is to let go of the shadows. Our only true shelter is in the cross. The Levitical law had served its purpose but that purpose had now passed.
Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (verses 7-10)
Once for all. That says everything. The ministry of the earthly sanctuary was repeated yearly, daily. It was unending in nature until the innermost curtain was rent (Matthew 25:51) as Jesus breathed His last upon that tree. In the exact moment His spirit (the breath of life) left His body, the need for those ceremonies ceased to exist. Study them? Sure. Examine the beauty contained therein? Absolutely! But always with the understanding that there is no longer any power in them.
And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. (verses 11-18)
We talked about this in an earlier chapter, but the priests were required to stand during their ministry. There were no chairs in the sanctuary because there was no rest in their work. But when Jesus had offered Himself, once and for always, He sat down beside His Father indicating His work of sacrifice was finished. He doesn’t sit idle, though. His work simply transitioned to one of intercession.
But did you notice where it said, “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified?” Because that is important. Is this sacrifice capable of saving every last person from their sin? Without exception, the answer is yes. However, it is only effective in saving those who are being sanctified, or are living connected to the one true God.
The new covenant is one with regard to the innermost man. It changes us from the inside out. He has promised to write His law on our hearts and in our minds but He has also offered the assurance that He will no more remember our sins and iniquities. It’s a complete surrender in acceptance of His gift, which results in absolute and complete forgiveness.
Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. (verses 19-22)
Here we find ourselves being called to come forth boldly. We are to tread the path He blazed for us, through the veil, straight to the throne. We are to put a toe to the trail and follow in the glow of the sacrifice. With our faith rooted in Jesus, we can have our hearts renewed, sprinkled with the blood of His offering for the purging of sin and the cleansing of conscience.
Which means we must accept His acceptance of ourselves. So many of us get stuck here!
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) (verse 23)
Our human nature, and our fallen condition, means we are very easily prone to discouragement. But we are exhorted to hold fast, without wavering. We grow weary and distracted and we start to trust in ourselves to meet our own need. But He is faithful and His promises are sure. We are much safer in His hands than we’ll ever be in our own.
And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. (verses 24, 25)
Oh, how we need each other! Friendships and relationships are the glue that binds us to this faith-journey. In the weakness of one, another can offer strength. We were created to encourage each other to seek Christ and live according to the testimony of His heart. The challenge to cleave together is here presented as our tendency to recluse, out of our disdain for the fellowship of fallen man, is increasingly prevalent. We aren’t to fasten our eyes, but rather our hearts, on each other that we might lead one another to Him.
For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (verses 26-31)
The message in these verses is far more critical than we might notice at first glance. Because this is a warning shout to steer clear of the sin of rejection. To look on the cross and His blood shed there, and see it as a common thing, being more drawn to the shadows of that cross, is a fearsome rejection of His offering. It’s a turning of one’s back on the Saviour.
Because if His blood is of no greater value than that of the countless animals slain before Him, there is nothing left to cleanse a person from unrighteousness. A wall is built which cuts off, even further, fallen man from the Spirit working to save Him.
But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions; Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used. For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance. Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul. (verses 32-39)
The Hebrews were being encouraged that they had made it through hard times before, clinging to eternal perspective. They had endured ridicule, affliction and persecution and had persevered, but here they were dangerously close to losing their hold on Him. His promises didn’t seem immediate and the long battle ahead was enough to drive them to discouragement.
It makes me think of a laboring woman, pain tearing through her body inducing her to believe the struggle will last forever. She is so close to her prize and yet the agony of the moment is overwhelming. She only has to endure awhile longer and the reward will be so great the trial will be forgotten.
So it is with embattled pilgrims, trudging the path toward Home. We must endure the storms and sidestep the obstacles. But seeing the journey through to the end, in spite of the struggle, binds us fast to the reward.
Disclaimer: I feel like it’s important to point out, I am a Bible student and not a Bible scholar. These studies are a reflection of my own personal journey each morning through one chapter of Scripture. I open the Word only after praying for discernment but I also fully understand the Lord brings increasing light over time, as it is sought. Therefore, I recognize there is much I have not yet come to understand. I welcome Christlike discussion on any of my posts.