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Hebrews 12 – Their Faces Move Us Forward

I have a confession to make, and to those of you who know me best this will not come as a surprise.  I am a nerd.  I have always been a nerd and continue to be one today.  I was on the Academic Team, MathCounts, Scholastic Team, and was Academic All-State (and yes, I do have an All-State jacket just like the football and basketball guys.  Mine just has the lamp of knowledge on it).  I also loved a series of Fantasy (like Lord of the Rings, not weird Romance stuff) novels by Robert Jordan as a kid.  The series was completed this month, but before reading the last couple of books I decided to listen to the first eleven on audio book again first.

I tell you all of that to tell you that a number of the scenes in this book take place on royal castles.  One character in particular is destined to be Queen someday and she is always talking about the portraits of former queens that hang around the palace.  They remind her of the great queens of the past and make sure she doesn’t forget the legacy being passed down to her.  They inspire her to pursue this kind of courage and leadership in her own life.  At times, she feels she cannot go on, but the eyes of those queens of old, looking down on her refuse to let her fail.  With an audience like that, she must have a courage worthy of those who went before her.  

You can see why Hebrews 11 and 12 remind me of these stories.  The writer of Hebrews very literally wants us to be inspired, motivated, encouraged and held accountable by this ancient Hebrew heroes.  It’s also worth noting that the writer is claiming Israel’s ancient heroes as the heroes of the Christian community as well, which is interesting since they are not all Jewish.  But chapter 12 begins with the idea that because we have an audience of heroes who are watching us, we should not waver in our faith but press on to the goal.  We should have laser like focus on Jesus and refuse to be distracted from anything.  I mean, think of what those heroes accomplished and think about what we can accomplish with Jesus today!  So just recognize that when troubles come, God is working through those troubles to make us even better children.

And don’t let anything get in the way.  Live in peace with one another so that conflict doesn’t tear us apart.  Live pure lives so that sin doesn’t rip you away from the Gospel. Don’t let earthly desires tear away your true desire for what matters the most…that happened to Esau and look how that ended for him.  Stay focused.

After all, Israel stood at a mountain where God gave them the law and they trembled with fear and anguish because what was on the mountain was terrifying.  But we have come to a mountain of joy, a mountain of salvation, a mountain where God gives us a covenant of peace and love.  How can anybody turn away from this mountain to go back to the mountain of terror?  So worship our God…the God of the unshakable kingdom.  And do not fall away!

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2013 in Hebrews

 

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Hebrews 10 – You’re Kidding Me

The author of Hebrews has been working to establish how much “better” the way of Christianity is than the old Judaism.  It’s clear that there is a strong pull within the early church to move back towards the old ways, the ways of Judaism.  Some have left the church entirely and are going back to the sacrifices, priests, and obedience to the law.  Others are simply bringing those with them into the church, which is problematic in and of itself.  Now, in chapter 10, we find two strong arguments seeking to motivate people to stay the course and not look back.

The first argument is that the old sacrifices and rituals happened over and over again because they weren’t complete.  If any one of those sacrifices or rituals ever completely worked, then you obviously wouldn’t have to do it again.  Because it happens regularly, it’s clear that they are partial and temporary.  On the other hand, Jesus died once and was resurrected once for all time.  You were baptized once and your sins were washed away for all time.

Hebrews then gives a specific example.  To the first century Jewish reader they could easily read between the lines and hear something like this: “Remember the Day of Atonement you celebrated every year?  Remember how every year the High Priest cleanses and purifies the Holy of Holies?  And remember how they tied a chord to his foot in case he did any little thing wrong and was struck dead by God while behind the curtain and nobody wanted to go get him so they could pull him out by the rope?  They of course do that because of what happened when fire consumed Nadab and Abihu…you remember that story, right?  Remember how scared even the priest were to go behind the curtain…yeah…that’s what you are going back to.”

On the other hand (vs 19 and following), Christians have the confidence to enter the Most Holy Place!  There is a living way through the curtain since our High Priest takes us into the very throne room of God and we enter it, not with fear and trepidation, but with confidence and full assurance as we DRAW NEAR TO GOD!  We don’t need a Day of Atonement because we have been completely cleansed and atoned for already, once and for all.  Jews were scared to the bone to come near God, but now we draw near to God with confidence and assurance to have a RELATIONSHIP with him!  How could you consider…even consider going back to that?!

 

Dear writer of Hebrews, that’s a really good point.  Would you like to add something to that?  Oh you would…

Remember when you first became a Christian and suffered for the name of Christ?  You were mocked, possibly beaten, exiled from family meals, stood beside those in prison (for their faith in Christ), allowed your stuff to be stolen and much more?  Remember that?  You prevailed.  You came through it with your faith intact.  And now you are considering giving it all up….for what?  God will take no pleasure in those who shrink back.

 

“But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.”

Good point Hebrews author.  Can you give me some examples of God’s people who refused to shrink back?  Oh…fine…I’ll wait until next week.  Also, great use of Jeremiah 31 throughout the first part of this chapter.  I see what you did there.

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2013 in Hebrews

 

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