Follow Jesus, save a goat. Heb. 9

About the time of Abraham, many religions were floating around which we think of as oppressive, archaic, and quite frankly, brutal. In order to appease the gods, humans would go to great lengths of sacrifice. One popular religion, the worship of Molech, required that followers would sacrifice their firstborn son as a sin offering (google “Molech” and be horrified). The cult of Molech comes and goes throughout the Old Testament. In fact, many pagan religions of antiquity required such a sacrifice to appease the gods.

This may be why Abraham was not surprised of God’s demand of him in Gen. 22:2; everyone else’s god required this. God tells Abraham to take his son whom he loves (which is the first time the word “love” appears in the Bible) and sacrifice him as a burnt offering. And of course, we know how the story ends… God provides a ram in place of Abe’s son for the sacrifice. This is an important story in the big picture of the Bible. This is a story about a God who does not require you to sacrifice your firstborn son to appease him but provides a different sacrifice. For people in Abraham’s day, this would be “good news” for obvious reasons.

And God takes it a step further, he sends his son, “whom he loves” (check out the similarity of these phrases when God speaks in Matt. 3:17 and Gen. 22:2) into the world. John the Baptist identifies Jesus as “The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” John 1:29.

This is not a story about a god who demands humans to sacrifice their firstborn to appease him. This story is about a God who sacrifices his son for us. This is a story about a God who pursues us. This is a story about a God who initiates our salvation, a God who jumpstarts restoration. This is a story about a God of love. And that is good news.

And that, maybe, is what she is trying to get across in Hebrews 9 and 10. All of the blemished rituals we use to try to get to God are now obsolete because God has come to us through Jesus.

For an amazing explanation of the book of Hebrews and of Christ’s sacrifice, watch Rob Bell’s “The Gods Aren’t Angry”


Mel, Abe and Jesus

Remember today that the author is working on an argument that presents Jesus as superior to anyone the readers have considered being sent from God. The author presents Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest in Jerusalem during the time of Abraham. To a Hebrew reader, Abraham was one of the great Patriarchs of the faith. He was a very important man in the history of the Jewish nation, and he was sent from God. In Genesis, we find that Abraham, a great man of God, paid tithes to Melchizedek. Melchizedek then blesses Abraham. At first glance, we may think that the author is just another pastor who is getting ready to take up an offering (insert chuckle here) ... but the author is once again brilliantly building a case for who Christ is. Abraham paid a tithe to Melchizedek, showing that Melchizedek was superior to Abraham - and Abraham's family line...which is the priesthood of the Old Testament (the Levitical priesthood). If this Old Testament law and priesthood would have been sufficient, God would not have needed to send Jesus, a new priest. God did send a new priest, and because of this, everything must change.

Read verses 18 and 19 again. The Old Testament law did nothing to perfect humanity - it only made us aware of the sin in our lives. The new system, the new priest - Jesus Christ - has taken the place of the old and has the power to reconnect us to God Himself ("and this is how we draw near to God"). The author finishes this chapter with another beautiful picture of what Jesus did for us. Read verses 23-28 again. What is Jesus doing now? What did He do on the cross? And what difference does that make for you?


Hebrews 6

First, let me confess that I've been prepping VBS all week, so my study on Hebrews 6 is greatly lacking. However, as it contains verses 4-6, I wanted to at least start a discussion. When I first read these verses I thought "this must be one of the passages that causes the 'can you lose your salvation?' controversy." The few commentaries I did get to read seem to lean toward an understanding of this section as the writer is talking to/about unbelievers who have heard the Truth and know of it, but have chosen not to except the Truth in it's entirety and for eternity. I want to share a few thoughts I found...

The tasting of truth is not enough to keep them from falling away from it. They must come all the way to Christ in complete repentance and faith; otherwise, they in effect re-crucify Christ and treat Him contemptuously. Those who sin against Christ in such a way have no hope of restoration or forgiveness because they reject Him with full knowledge and conscious experience. They have concluded that Jesus should have been crucified, and they stand with His enemies. It is impossible to renew such to repentance. ("Got?.org" )

Now come to verse 4, he says, "You know so much that it is impossible, for you who have been so enlightened and tasted the heavenly gift, partakers of the Holy Spirit, tasted the good word of God, the powers the age to come, if you fall away to renew you to repentance." In other words, with all you know if you turn your back on this you could never be saved. Why? Because if you reject with such full light, how could you ever be saved? Do you see the point? (John MacArthur)

In other words, if you walk away from this there’s no hope for you, because this is all the revelation you could possibly have, you ought to be a teacher. I mean you know everything. And if you turn your back on this…it’s hopeless. Your going to go right out and crucify the Son of God and put Him in open shame. (John MacArthur)

Not one word in verse 4 or 5 is ever used anywhere in the Bible to speak of salvation. Salvation is never called enlightenment, it is never called tasting the Spirit of God, it is never called tasting the powers of the age to come, it is never called tasting the good Word of God. Those are references to having an intellectual perception. So you see, the point there is they weren’t even saved...  (John MacArthur)

Now, I'm sure we could discuss this all day, and please share your findings on this passage, but I don't want to overlook the first 3 verses of this chapter where we are told to make sure we grow up.  Having worked with kids all my life, I've seen every different maturity rate out there! However, I'm not sure I've ever seen a kid who didn't want to grow up, who wasn't always looking into the future and what a few more years would bring them:  different TV options, sleepovers, kindergarten, bigger allowance, driver's license, etc.  Kids tend to focus on the rewards that come with growing up, with maturity.  So, why don't we, as Christians, do the same?  Why are so many of us content to just stay babies?  Why don't we focus on the rewards of maturity? That is a closer relationship with Christ, a faith that is ever more secure and a clearer and deeper understanding of who God is.  

So, where in your walk are you still taking baby steps?