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Aug 10 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 9, 2020

Intro: The passage we are looking into this morning, Is as terrible as last week’s passage was wonderful

I have found last Sunday’s reminder to be very helpful this week
– I’ve survived and thrived on moments of “drawing near”
– but now we come to this:

For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 10:26-31

• last night, I read this passage to Barbara
• when I finished she threw up her hands, and said,
“We’re all going to hell!”
◦ that was not what the writer intended,
◦ but it is an understandable reaction

From the beginning of our study in Hebrews, we observed its structure
– the writer provides instruction that he follows with a warning
instruction-warning, instruction-warning, etc.
• the first warning was in chapter 2, the second in chapter 3, then chapter 6
• it seems that the warnings are getting progressively scarier
– if you’ve read any of the medical reports on COVID-19,
• you know that if the symptoms manifest, they are painful and disorienting
◦ if it runs its course, the patient dies in misery (apart from hospice intervention)
◦ patients who recover may suffer permanent tissue damage to their organs
• why do some websites make a point of publishing these dire facts?
◦ to motivate people to take the virus seriously and act accordingly
– that is precisely the point of our passage
• the writer wants us to take leaving God seriously and act accordingly
• the threat is real and the consequences are tragic

This block of verses is wrapped together by one word: fearful

At the beginning fearful expectation (v. 17) and the end fearful thing (v. 31)
– this way of enveloping a text is a writer’s technique (literary device)
• placing the text within brackets makes the theme obvious
• in this case, the writer does not want us to simply know about fear,
◦ he wants us to feel it
◦ so he uses vivid images and analogy to evoke this reaction

What has the writer so worried?
– that his readers may go on sinning deliberately
• I think most of us will confess that we go on sinning
◦ we’re guilty, IF we take only the surface meaning of the phrase
◦ God has made provision for continued screw-ups
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (1 Jn. 2:1)
• so we have to look deeper than the surface meaning to understand the writer is getting at
– his warning is basically the same as in chapter 6
• it has to do with someone who has had an experiential knowledge of God
◦ but now they’ve turned their back on God
• “deliberately” is the key word
◦ do you remember the sacrificial offerings in Leviticus
. . . the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, If anyone sins unintentionally in any of the LORD’s commandments about things not to be done . . ., sacrifices were provided so that the people could be forgiven (Lev. 4:1-2)
◦ but what the writer of Hebrews refers to is intentional (deliberate)
[God, to Jeroboam, the king of the northern empire of Israel] . . . you have done evil above all who were before you and have gone and made for yourself other gods and metal images, provoking me to anger, and have cast me behind your back (1 Ki. 14:9)
◦ tossing God behind your back is not something a person does accidentally

There is no way to get to God from there
– a person cannot reject Jesus and once again have the same access to God
• there’s not another sacrifice for the one who has walked away from Christ
• what there is, instead, is
a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries
– we need to appreciate the writer’s use of metaphors
• biblical scholars have recognized “literary devices” in Hebrews
◦ these are used for clarification and to make the text interesting
◦ metaphor is a grammatical device often used in scripture
• generally, it is used for effect
– what author describes is a firestorm
• you cannot outrun it, and it destroys everything
• destructive forces meant for God’s enemies will be released
◦ if you’ve gone over to other side, you’re on wrong team

All along, writer has been comparing Old Testament religion to Jesus
– frequently his logic has been “from lesser to greater”
• “how much more”
• here the comparison is with punishment under the Mosaic law,
◦ and the greater punishment one deserves for turning from Jesus
◦ the greater the privilege, the greater the responsibility (Lk. 12:48)
– what we’ve received in Jesus is infinitely great

Please bear with me – I want to go off on a brief tangent
– I do not believe that God faults people who reject Jesus,
• if the Jesus they reject is a misrepresentation
• today’s media (Christian and non-Christian) have produced many twisted caricatures of Jesus that are not Jesus
◦ I also reject those versions of Jesus that misrepresent him (cf. Gal. 1:6-9)
– but now, back to the passage

The writer emphasizes the seriousness of deliberately rejecting Jesus
– whether they know it or not, the person who walks away from God has done three things:
1. trampled underfoot the Son of God
◦ as a metaphor, trample means to show contempt, to disdain
2. profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified
◦ verse 19 showed us that Jesus’ blood is our means of access to God
◦ to treat it as if not special or not “holy” is to render it useless
3. outraged the Spirit of grace – outraged is better translated “insulted”
◦ the writer puts together two key terms: Spirit and grace
◦ both have to do with God making the Christian life possible (cf. 4:16 and 9:14)
◦ through both, God works directly in our lives
Grace: God’s disposition that explains his generosity to people who don’t deserve it
The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness (Ex. 34:6)
Spirit: God sharing his divine life and power that enables Christians
◦ to be witnesses in the world (Acts 1:8)
◦ to minister to each other with spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:7)
◦ to glorify God in worship and our lives (1 Cor. 6:19-20)
– to insult the Spirit is to cut off our lifeline

God’s people have a long history of not seeing sin from his perspective
• for us, sin is merely “fooling around,” and “not hurting anyone else”
• for God, sin is “adultery” — it is personal

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God
– “fearful” because as Luke T. Johnson says,
“. . . the worship of the living God is quite unlike the worship of an idol, whose existence depends on human service.”
– this is the really sad part of this passage
• what the person who walks from the Lord is doing is exactly the reverse of conversion to Jesus Christ, where as Paul says, we
turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God (1 Th. 1:9)

To help them stay the course, gives them a reminder
But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised Hebrews 10:32-36

Forgetting can be the first stage of turning away
– Psalm 106 recounts Israel’s history of repeated failures
• frequently, the first step they took in the wrong direction was forgetting
they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love (v. 7)
they soon forgot his works (v. 13)
they forgot God, their Savior (v. 21
• remember in a way that you re-experience the feelings you had about God

The writer also reminds them of everything they had suffered
– and all the good they did for each other
William Barclay, “In effect he says: ‘Be what you once were at your best.’ If only we were always what we can be at our best, life would be very different.”
• if they remember these things, they will not throw away their confidence
– what all of this boils down to: You need endurance
Barclay refers to endurance it as “one of the great unromantic virtues.”

The key to endurance: faith
Yet a little while,
and the coming one will come and will not delay;
but my righteous one shall live by faith,
and if he shrinks back,
my soul has no pleasure in him.
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.
Hebrews 10:37-39

Habakkuk, one the prophets quoted here,
– lived in one of most distressing periods of Israel’s history
• God did not have a pleasant message for him
◦ but the important revelation he received to carry him through was
[God’s] righteous one shall live by faith
◦ that is how God’s people maintain their relationship with him through difficult times
– receiving this message, Habakkuk was able to end his prophecy with a song:
Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor the fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
GOD, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places
(Hab. 3:17-19)
• he is saying that nothing has to change, and he will still rejoice in God

This stern warning ends in reassurance
But we are not of those who shrink back
– in other words, we are not like those he has been describing
• so if you are reading this letter, he is not talking about you
• you’re safe

Conclusion: Evangelists have told us we need to
“make a decision for Christ”

That is somewhat misleading
We are constantly faced with decisions and choices
When many of Jesus’ followers abandoned him, he asked his disciples
Do you want to go away as well? (Jn. 6:66-67)
The door is always open
And the decision to follow Jesus must be made again and again

Keep choosing God – keep remembering
his love for you,
the beauty and goodness he has shown you,
remember how he has always been faithful in caring for you
Whenever you need to catch your breath, do it
Take a break,
we cannot keep going at full speed all the time
Run to the throne of grace when necessary,
refresh and renew your soul
But once you are up and going again
push yourself,
test your endurance
The payoff is when we experience in truth what we read in James
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you (Jas. 4:8)

Aug 3 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 2, 2020

Intro: We have come to the climax of the Book of Hebrews

N. T. Wright, “The whole letter has been about Jesus, and about who we are as a result of who he is and what he’s done.”
– now the writer of Hebrews reveals the purpose of telling his story of Jesus
• there is no point in reading or studying Hebrews if we miss what is here
• for me, this is the most wonderful revelation in the entire book
– in Genesis, God created the universe
• and, in particular, he created the man and woman for himself
◦ he revealed himself to them and they knew him
◦ their interaction was as children with him, their true Father
• when they chose something else over him, they were banished from Eden
◦ the entrance to Eden was blocked by angelic guards (Gen. 3:24, cherubim)
◦ we were born into the world outside of Eden

We still belong to God – we were still made for him and in his image
– so God chose a man and his descendants, to live among them
• but not like with the same closeness Adam and Eve enjoyed
• “Eden” was no longer a garden, but a inner chamber of the sanctuary
◦ the entrance to that space was also blocked by angelic guards (Ex. 26:31)
– however, that space never contained God
• it was merely a space to reveal his presence among his people
◦ the space of God’s actual existence transcends our universe
• the book of Hebrews has revealed that Jesus entered the transcendent, heavenly realm
◦ we have now arrived at the message the writer has been wanting to tell us

Two introductory statements that begin with, “since we have
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God . . . . Hebrews 10:19-21

First, we have confidence to enter the holy places
– this is crazy! We’re not qualified to go where the high priest went
• how can we possibly enter heaven’s holy space?
◦ previously, the writer told us,
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (He. 4:16)
• we get into places we don’t belong by grace and mercy
◦ this is what Jesus has made possible
◦ we’re at a point where we cannot be shy or tentative
• it’s true, we’re not qualified to enter here – but Jesus has qualified us
– “enter” is such an important word — we are not supposed to live outside of God
• this entrance that we make is not physical
◦ in the same way that the holy places Jesus entered are not
earthly (9:1), or made with hands, or of this creation (9:11)
◦ this is where we go in prayer; we are present with God in spirit
• we need to understand that this is real
◦ it does not matter what you see or don’t see,
what you hear or don’t hear,
what you feel or don’t feel
◦ you are as close to God as Adam and Eve were in Eden

The writer explains how an entrance was opened for us
by the blood of Jesus – most powerful sacrifice was the cross of Jesus
• on the Day of Atonement: blood was taken into most holy place
• and there, purification was made for the people and the sanctuary
– Jesus opened a new and living way for us
(in Heb. 9:8, the way into the holy places had not yet opened)
• Old Testament worship was formed according to the law (Heb. 8:4)
◦ law is static–it doesn’t change; worship was static too, in that the same offerings were repeated every day, month, and year
◦ but the way Jesus walks us into God’s presence is dynamic
through the curtain

Try to visualize this curtain that separated the holy place of the sanctuary from the most holy place. It was from floor to ceiling fifteen feet high and from wall to wall fifteen feet wide. The room was mostly dark, because it had only seven lamps on one stand to light an area of thirty feet by fifteen feet. The fabric of the curtain was unusually thick and served as an effective barrier. God was just on the other side of the curtain. God and his priests shared the curtain, so even though it curtain separated them, it also connected them! It is not unlike the Western Wall in Jerusalem, which separates the people who come there to pray from the sanctuary of the temple that stood at one time on the other side of the wall.
When the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, Jesus’ body was like that curtain. God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself. This is what we mean by the incarnation. God was present, within that curtain of flesh.

It is not important for you to know that the Greek word translated “curtain” is katapetasma. I mention this only because the same word appears in Matthew, Mark, and Luke in connection with Jesus’ death, And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom (Mk. 15:38-39). The only other place in the New Testament where katapetasma occurs is in Hebrews (here and in 6:19). It occurs more frequently in the Greek translation of the Old Testament
And you shall make a veil of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen. It shall be made with cherubim skillfully worked into it (Ex. 26:31). My point is that this is a technical word. We are not talking about just any curtain, but specifically the curtain in the sanctuary. And like the entrance to Eden, angelic guards are represented here, barring the way into God’s immediate presence.
Through his death, Jesus takes us through the curtain and past the guards to God himself.

So first, we have confidence to enter, and second, we have a great priest
– Jesus is over the house of God
• in chapter 3, Moses was a servant in God’s house, Jesus is a Son over God’s house
• I don’t mean to be trivial or disrespectful,
◦ but Jesus gives us a backstage pass
– the high priest wore an apron with jeweled clasps on shoulders
• on those clasps, the names of the twelve tribes were engraved
◦ their names were also engraved on twelve stones set in a bib that covered his chest
◦ in the Hebrew Scriptures, shoulders represent bearing a burden
And Aaron shall bear their names before the LORD on his two shoulders (Ex. 28:9-10 & 12)
So Aaron shall bear the names of the sons of Israel . . . on his heart, when he goes into the Holy Place, to bring them to regular remembrance before the LORD (Ex. 28:21 & 29)
• the priests brought Israel into God’s presence symbolically
◦ Jesus takes us, on his shoulders and in his heart, into God’s presence for real
◦ in prayer, we are shrouded in transcendence

Based on what we have there are three things for us to do (Let us)
let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and ll the more as you see the Day drawing near Hebrews 10:22-25

G. Campbell Morgan divides this passage into “privileges and responsibilities”
“Privilege is only powerful as it is practiced. . . . It is not enough to know this. We must enter.”

The two words draw near tell us everything we need to know
– what we bring to the entrance:
a true heart – the “true” sanctuary is a heavenly one
◦ the true heart is one that has its treasures laid up in heaven (Mt. 6:19-21)
◦ it is genuine and it is pure – Blessed are the pure in heart (Mt. 5:8)
full assurance of faith
◦ Israel did not enter God’s rest because of their unbelieving hearts
◦ we do not construct faith by intellect or will (it is not “make-believe”);
we go to God for faith — the more often we go, the more faith grows
acts of faith are cumulative – they build up to trust
hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience
◦ to think of “conscience” as awareness of right and wrong is too limited
◦ the first meaning of the Greek word is consciousness
◦ we come to God with hearts that have no consciousness of guilt, animosity, anxiety, and so on
our bodies washed with pure water
◦ the writer is using these physiological terms as metaphors
◦ the reference to the body speaks of a total integration
◦ in hypocrisy, external appearance contradicts internal motivation
◦ to have heart and body integrated is wholeness and holiness

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope
– confession is a statement we make about our lives in God
• hope means we never stop looking toward the horizon
◦ and past the horizon!
without wavering – that’s the goal, a steady hope
◦ if we let hope slip out of our hands, we lose everything
for he who promised is faithful
God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord (1 Cor. 1:9)
• God called us into this partnership and he is always faithful on his end

And let us consider how to stir up one another
– our encounter with God is inseparable from our lives in community
we cannot love God without loving others (1 Jn. 4:20)
◦ and we love God in others (Mt. 25:36-40)
• the way “church” is described in the New Testament,
◦ looks like a spiritual community, with Jesus at the center
And they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers . . . . And all who believed were together and had all things in common. . . . And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people (Acts. 2:42-47).
– previously in chapter 3, the writer instructed us to consider Jesus (v. 1)
• now we’re told to consider each other – be curious, listen, pay attention to
◦ the Greek word translated “stir up” is the root of our English paroxysm
(a sudden spasm; physical or emotional — here the meaning is stimulate; we might think of “a stimulating conversation”)
◦ how do we do that? tell your stories – of blessings and God-encounters
to love and good works
◦ many Fundamentalist Xians have shut down good works (“social gospel”)
◦ they’ve used this slogan to justify hostility, insults, and doing nothing for others in need
Hanna Arendt, in The Human Condition wrote, “Goodness in an absolute sense, as distinguished from the ‘good for’ or the ‘excellent’ in Greek and Roman antiquity, became known in our civilization only with the rise of Christianity. Since then, we know of good works as one important variety of possible human action. . . . The one activity taught by Jesus in word and deed is the activity of goodness . . . .”

Two more instructions regarding the community – a negative and a positive
not neglecting to meet together – this does not mean “go to church”
• it refers to the interactions Christians regularly have with each other
◦ interactions that include the Scriptures, prayer, open sharing, and so on
• sometimes there are legitimate reasons for missing a meeting or two
◦ but our writer does not want that to become “habit”
encouraging one another
Gracious words are like a honeycomb,
sweetness to the soul and health to the bones (Pr. 16:24)
• encouragement is the work of God’s Spirit – “the Encourager”
all the more as you see the Day drawing near
◦ urgency grows with crises and catastrophes
◦ and especially in light of the Lord’s return

Conclusion: Reading in 1 Thessalonians yesterday, I came to this verse:
But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face (1 Th. 2:17)
– this pandemic has torn us away from each other
• suddenly I realized how much I have missed seeing your faces
◦ I felt Paul’s need to connect in person
– there are gifts Christians receive only from our interactions with each other
• it is together that we pray,
together that we listen to God,
and together that we draw near

But whether huddled together or spread out in our homes,
what I will leave you with is this:
Come up close to God
At some points in our week, in our day
we need to experience God
Practice “draw-near” intermissions
William Barclay advised, “In the morning as the day begins; in the evening as the day ends; ever and again in the [middle] of the day’s activities, we must turn aside, if only for a moment or a second, and enter into the presence of God.”
You can do this as easily as taking a slow, deep breath
You can do this wherever you are
You can do this right now!

Jul 27 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 26, 2020


For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Hebrews 10:1

Intro: The writer of Hebrews has been commenting on the “new covenant”

The first half of chapter ten is a continuation and conclusion of this theme
– he explains how God writes his will into our hearts and minds
• in order to clarify the way Jesus works on the inside of our lives,
• our writer has enumerated contrasts between the old and new covenants
◦ more contrasts appear here, all the way to verse 18
– again, he refers to the old as having only a shadowy existence
• I’m fascinated by this language that he uses:
◦ copy, shadow, pattern, symbol, earthly (versus heavenly)
◦ what seems real to us is a mere silhouette of reality
• a shadow entails a light source – a physical object – and a surface
◦ the physical object prevents light from reaching a specific area of the surface (of the ground, floor, wall, or whatever the surface may be)
◦ a shadow is a darkness that indicates the presence of something else

The shadow of Jesus falls across the surface of the Old Testament
. . . let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ (Col. 2:17)
– New Testament writers discerned the outline of Jesus in the Hebrew Scriptures
– even if a shadow is the absence of light, a shadow is not “nothing”
• a shadow is informative–it tells us there is a light and an object
◦ sometimes we notice the light – like the full moon on a clear night
◦ sometimes we notice the object, and may recognize what it is by its shadow
• shadows cannot sustain our lives – they have no substance
◦ but they point to everything that can support life
◦ the shadow of religion points us to Jesus

I’m going to ask a delicate but sincere question:
– Are we living in the shadows?
• religion is a shadow that some people never get beyond
• take worship, for example; it requires “forms” of expression
– the forms that embody worship include ritual, offering, prayer, song, etc.
• it’s a serious error to mistake the form of worship for worship itself
◦ to mistake the elements for the essentials
. . . this people draw near with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
while their hearts are far from me . . .
(Isa. 29:13)
◦ “we must distinguish praying from saying prayers,” David Steindl-Rast
• the essence of worship is to draw near (v. 1)
◦ the shadow is saying prayers
◦ the reality is our spirit drawing near to God’s Spirit
. . . the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth (Jn. 4:23-24 — not)

Are we living in the shadows?
– Israel’s worship was effective in changing their status with God
• from defiled to clean, from sinful to forgiven, from unholy to holy
• but their worship could not change them!
it could never . . . make perfect — that is, never bring them to completion

How does the writer know this?
Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Hebrews 10:2-4

Verse 2 is a question
– if the sacrifice worked, why did they have to offer it again and again?
• we’ve seen that worship according to law did not affect their consciousness
cannot perfect the consciousness of the worshiper (Heb. 9:9)
could not, like Jesus’ sacrifice, purify our consciousness (9:14)
• in fact, in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins
◦ if you memorize Bible verses, memorize this one:
For by the works of the law no human being will be justified in [God’s] sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin (Ro. 3:20)
◦ this tells us what the law cannot do and what it can do

Imagine a woman who is told she is in critical need of a specific surgery on her heart if she is to survive. The surgery will be painful and the period of rehab will be long and unpleasant. Once she accepts that she must undergo this procedure, the doctor tells her that she must have this same surgery every year. A natural question would be, “Isn’t there one surgery that could fix me for life?” Besides that, your annual surgeries would be an ongoing reminder of your condition and compromised health.
Or what about a medicine that relieved symptoms, but did not heal an infection, so that symptoms keep coming back? You would never have the confidence of your health being one hundred percent.
That was the nature of the sacrificial ritual. On the Day of Atonement Israel’s sins were covered for the past year and the sanctuary was purified for the next year, but then the whole ritual would have to be repeated. Their sins would never be fully resolved once and for all.

As Luke T. Johnson says, “This section concludes with a flat denial,” that is, it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins (v. 4)

I grew up in a religious subculture that was fixated on sin
– preachers and teachers talked more about sin than anything else
• it was constantly thrown in our faces
• our reminder of sins, was not every year, but every Sunday night!
◦ the sermons were designed to make us feel miserable with guilt
◦ and we’d have to make our way back to “altar: to get saved again
Are we sill living in religion’s shadows?

The writer introduces another quotation from scripture
Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,
“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body have you prepared for me;
in burnt offerings and sin offerings
you have taken no pleasure.
Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.'”

When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the blood of Jesus Christ once for all. Hebrews 10:5-10

But notice, the writer does not say the quote comes from scripture, but from Jesus
when Christ came into the world–that is, from birth this was his destiny
• the New Testament does not take aim at Old Testament religion
◦ the writers considered themselves to belong to the same faith
◦ only, in Jesus they had reached a new experience of God
• the critique of Israel’s sacrificial worship was already in the Old Testament
Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
as in obeying the voice of the LORD?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to listen than the fat of rams
(1 Sam. 15:22)
For I desire [mercy] and not sacrifice,
the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings
(Hos. 6:6)
– God did not send Jesus to perpetuate more of the same
• he gave him something different from repetitive sacrifices – a body
◦ if you read Psalm 40:6, you will see that it does not say
a body you have prepared for me
my ear you have opened
◦ a Hebrew idiom has been, in the Setuagint version of the Old Testament, translated into a Greek literalism
I have come to do your will, O God
◦ this is so much the life of Jesus in the Gospel of John
I can do nothing on my own . . . because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me (Jn. 5:30)
I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. . . . He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him (Jn. 8:28-29)
My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work (Jn. 4:32-34)

God prepared a body for Jesus, so Jesus could give it back to him

In verses 8-10, the writer interprets the quotation
– in these verses he discerns a two-stage development
• stage one: God’s rejection of sacrificial worship according to the law
• stage two: Jesus announces what he has come to do
– on the basis of this development, the writer concludes,
He does away with the first in order to establish the second
• that is – he does away with the old sacrificial system
◦ and he establishes the fulfillment of God’s will in the person of Jesus
• then in verse 10 the writer explains:
◦ in doing God’s will, and offering his body, Jesus Christ has made us holy
◦ and the offering of this sacrifice was effective, so he only had to offer it once for all time

The writer reiterates the point he has made
And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
Hebrews 10:11-14

The priest stands, because he always has more work to do
– Jesus sits, because his one single sacrifice was for all time
• and where he sits is in ultimate greatness and majesty

Kevin McCruden, in a well-researched essay entitled “The Concept of Perfection In the Epistle to the Hebrews,” examined how the word perfect (perfected, perfection) is used in the Book of Hebrews. He brought out dimensions of Jesus’ perfection, being perfectly human, our perfect high priest, and so on. Then he moves on to talk about the perfecting of Jesus’ followers, and how it is ultimately future (Heb. 12:23). But he also observes, “As experienced in the lives of the faithful . . . perfection also has a present dimension in Hebrews, since those who participate in Christ are pictured as already enjoying access to God in their earthly existence.” He adds, “In keeping with its strongly sacrificial assessment of the death of Jesus, Hebrews tends to relate the perfection of the faithful to the idea of sanctification.”
That is the exact connection that we see in verse 14, where Jesus has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. Notice how the conditions of our perfection (in salvation) are past tense, where as the process of sanctification (being made holy) is ongoing–we are being sanctified.

The writer returns to the Jeremiah quotation
(only here, it is now the Spirit who is speaking)
And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,
“This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
and write them on their minds,”
then he adds,
“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
Hebrews 10:15-18

This is a closer examination of new covenant, focusing on one clause
– the writer did not comment on the lines quoted here in verse 17
• in verse 3, the repeated sacrifices for sin under the old system were
a reminder of sins
◦ but now all sins can be forgotten, because God will
remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more
• and where these is forgiveness of these,
there is no longer and offering for sin (v. 18)

Conclusion: When hippies came to faith during the Jesus Movement

They brought their counter-culture values with them
– including peace, love, and a dislike for “the establishment”
• so it was not surprising that when they were asked,
“What religion are you?”
they answered,
“I don’t have a religion, I have a relationship!”

– “religion” refers to the externals of our relationship — the shadows
• you cannot create a relationship out of religion,
• you can only express the relationship you have through it
◦ otherwise, prayers, offerings, and sacrifices of praise are not acceptable
– “acceptance,” in fact, is a primary goal of worship
• so from the beginning, and all through scripture, acceptance is crucial
(see Gen. 4:7; Lev. 1:3; 22:19; Psa. 20:3; Isa. 56:7; Jer. 6:10; Rom. 12:2; Php. 4:18; Heb. 12:28; 1 Pe. 2:5)
• if the sacrifice is accepted by God, so is the worshiper who offers it
◦ the offering, even if otherwise perfect, is not better than the one who brings it
The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD,
but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him (Pr. 15:8)

Have I been living in the shadows?
Or am I walking in light as he is in the light?
Jesus leads – we follow;
that is how he does his work in us.
We miss a step, and he takes us back to try again.
We slow down,
and he picks up the pace.
Jesus came to do God’s will,
and in him we learn to do God’s will.
We learn to surrender to God’s will
until it becomes our own.
Describing her work in Calcutta, Mother Teresa said, “From the first [day] to this day—this my new vocation has been one prolonged ‘Yes’ to God . . . .”

It is not so much that we have to go and find God’s will;
God’s will finds us us–every day.
It finds us,
and we surrender to it when it comes.
And then we discover
God’s will has always been to love us
as his cherished children.
And through us,
to love the world.

Jul 20 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 19, 2020


Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. Hebrews 9:15

Intro: When we began our study in the Book of Hebrews, do you remember me telling you that I love this book?

That is because it is all about Jesus
– to me, it is like a fifth gospel, but it is different in this respect:
• the other four gospels follow Jesus from a human perspective
◦ we read about him from our view on earth
◦ Hebrews follows him from heaven’s perspective
• it’s as if we watch Jesus through the eyes of God’s angels

From heaven, Jesus is seen being made perfect through suffering (Heb. 2:10), taking on our flesh and blood existence (Heb. 2:14), suffering when tempted (Heb. 2:18), and in every respect . . . tempted as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15). Heaven watches as Jesus was appointed to be a high priest (Heb. 5:5) after the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 5:10), and when he offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears (Heb. 5:7). From heaven we see Jesus become the mediator of a better covenant (Heb. 8:6), as he entered the holy places of heaven (Heb. 9:12), and as he offered himself without blemish to God (Heb. 9:14), then raised from the dead, and exalted to the right hand of God (Heb. 1:3; 8:1).

– these are events in the story of Jesus never told in Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John
• Hebrews reveals the meaning of Jesus’ life in new depths and dimensions
• so, going through this passage I want you to see Jesus’ imprint on it
◦ and perhaps love him even more

I cut off our study last week at verse 14

There we learned that blood of Jesus does much more for us than Old Testament sacrifices
– that it washes the window of our mind and purifies our consciousness
from dead works to serve the living God (Heb. 9:14)
• dead works can refer to deeds from our worldly life or our religious life
• either way, dead works are not how we reach the living God

Verse 15 begins with Therefore, which indicates that the writer is going to tell us what all that Jesus has done makes him to us; namely,
the mediator of a new covenant
• a well-known role in the social world of the New Testament,
◦ was that of a middleman who worked out agreements between two parties
◦ typically it involved linking a wealthy sponsor for a poor person
(social scientists refer to this as a patron-client arrangement. In Luke 22:25, Jesus refers to patrons as benefactors)
• the broker would match a client to the specifications of a patron
Jerome Negrey suggested that Hebrews represents Jesus as a broker, and that brokers “. . . belong to the worlds of both patron and clients and so fairly represent the interests of both.”
◦ whether that’s so, Jesus is the intersection of heaven and earth
◦ in him deity is linked to humanity
– the new covenant has been the main subject of Hebrews since chapter 8
• what we learn here is that certain gifts come with the new covenant
◦ it contains the promise of an eternal inheritance
◦ to be “called,” in this context, is like receiving a notice from an attorney’s office announcing the reading of a will — we’re invited, because we are included in the will
• Paul also talks about the inheritance that belongs to God’s children
. . . having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe (Ep. 1:18-19; see also Ro. 8:15-17)
– the writer of Hebrews says a death has occurred, a death that redeems
• we know about Jesus’ death,
◦ and that as Paul says, Christ died for our sins (1 Cor. 15:1)
◦ our transgressions have been forgive and we are redeemed
• but what the writer of Hebrews says about death here is different
◦ in fact, because of what we’ve learned so far about covenant relationships,
◦ what he says next is confusing

The writer introduces a new significance to Jesus’ death
For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. Hebrews 9:16-17

The theme running through this section is the new covenant
– and we understand that as an agreement between two people
• it creates a relationship and forms a bond between them
• but what is he saying about the covenant here?
William Barclay, “Now up to verse 16 the writer to the Hebrews has been using [the Greek word] diatheke in the normal Christian sense of covenant, and then, suddenly with no explanation of what he is doing, he switches to the sense of [a] will.”
– there are two Greek words that can be translated covenant
suntheke, which is specifically a relational covenant like marriage
diatheke, which is more flexible, can also mean a formal contract
diatheke can be used in both senses – and can refer to a will
◦ the writer is playing on this flexibility of this word, now using its other meaning–a will
Luke Johnson, “The shift is not arbitrary, because the new covenant is precisely about the inheritance.”

Jesus’ death serves as a sacrifice,
– but now, on another level, it serves another function
• our covenant includes an inheritance
◦ but like a “Last Will and Testament,”
◦ the inheritance is given only when the one who made it dies
• Jesus’ death makes the covenant-will effective

It is because of passages like this that we first studied Leviticus
Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. Hebrews 9:18-22)

The sacrificial ritual of Israel’s worship involved basic elements
– fire, fuel (wood), water, an offering, and blood (the chief element)
• the primary concern of the ritual was to maintain Israel’s relationship with God
◦ this meant atonement, forgiveness, purification, restoration (fellowship offerings), thanksgiving, consecration, and rituals of renewal
• here, the main concern is purification
– the writer combines several different purification rites into one example
• everything having to do with the covenant had to be made sacred
◦ the Book of the Covenant (Ex. 24:7-8), the sanctuary, all the furnishings in sanctuary, and the people
• blood was the primary agent for accomplishing this

The ritual use of blood is outside our comfort zone for most of us
– it’s so foreign that we don’t get it and may even feel repulsed by it
• what we need to know is that in the Scriptures:
◦ nothing is more valuable than life (even animal life)
◦ that the life or soul of living creatures is in the blood
◦ all life belongs to God, and blood is therefore sacred
◦ in sacrifice, Israel offered a life that wasn’t theirs to give
For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life (Lev. 17:11)
• God provides a life in place of that of the worshiper

Because of its graphic violence, I cannot recommend that you see the movie, “Man On Fire.” However, to me it contained one of the most beautiful metaphors of salvation I have ever seen. Denzel Washington plays a burned-out ex-CIA agent. In the most dramatic scene in the movie, he saves a child’s life by giving his own. When the exchange is made, Denzel’s character crosses a bridge from one side and the child crosses from the middle. They meet in the middle, embrace, and spend a moment there before they continue across the bridge, the child running to life and Denzel’s character walking to his death. He had made this deal with a drug Lord, who told him the only way to redeem the child was “a life for a life.”

The prototype for Jesus offering himself as a sacrifice is found in Israel’s worship
and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins

Again the writer of Hebrews contrasts old covenant with the new
Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has entered, not the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sins by the sacrifice of himself. Hebrews 9:23-26

First he contrasts the copies of heavenly things to the realities
– Jesus’ death and resurrection produced effects on earth and in heaven simultaneously
• earth contained the four-dimensional space of sacrifice
◦ that is where purification, atonement and forgiveness were given
• heaven is the extra-dimensional realm
◦ there, in God’s presence, Jesus appeared on our behalf
◦ and the greater work of inner purification and sanctification becomes ours because of what he did there
– one event, Jesus’ death and resurrection, occurred in both realms
• Jesus, our mediator, belongs to both realms
• what he accomplished on the cross correlated to what he did in heaven

The second contrast is between what the priests did repeatedly and Jesus did once for all

The third contrast has to do with the blood offered by the high priest
• it was not his own, where as Jesus offered the sacrifice of himself

The writer jumps to the end of the road (our lives and the last days)
And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. Hebrews 9:27-28

The normal course of human life is that we die once and then face judgment
– Jesus went the normal course in regard to dying once,
• but his death was not followed by judgment,
◦ because his death was a judgmentto bear the sins of many
• and also unlike our experience, he will appear a second time
◦ and that will be to complete the salvation of his people

I want to add one thought. I am not one of those preachers who rummages through current events every day searching for evidence that we are in the last days, certain that Jesus will return within my lifetime. I have seen too much scripture twisting and failed predictions to take most of the literature on the “end times” seriously.
However, I urge you not to let go of the certainty of Jesus’ return or the possibility that it could occur at any moment, with the only “sign” of it, is that it is actually happening. Paul said that we are waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ . . . (Titus 2:13). Hebrews says we are eagerly waiting for him. We can still get up each morning and look toward the east to see whether this is the day of his return.

Conclusion: From the beginning of Hebrews the message has been,

God speaks to us through Jesus
– humans have always wanted to be religious, so God gave us a religion
• for hundreds of years we tried to do it on our own, and failed
• we worked at being right with God by following the rules
◦ but now we follow Jesus, and we are made right with God
◦ the old works of the law has been replaced by a life of love

This is the life we have in Jesus, and it is solid
It will never wear out, never collapse, or disappear
It is forever
eternal redemption (verse 12),
energized by the eternal Spirit (verse 14),
providing us with an eternal inheritance (verse 15)
Take it, enjoy it,
you can have it, it’s yours

Jul 13 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 12, 2020

Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. Hebrews 9:1


Intro: A historic decision was made this past week

It is linked to 1500 years of Christian history
– in 537, the Byzantine emperor, Justinian built the Hagia Sophia
• this was the largest church in world
◦ much later, in the eleventh century, Vladimir I sent emissaries from Russia
◦ their mission was to investigate the merits of different religions

In The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture, James Billington says that the emissaries were unimpressed with Islam and Western Christians, “But in Constantinople ‘the Greeks led us to the buildings where they worship their God, and we knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth. For on earth there is no such splendor or such beauty, and we are at a loss to describe it. We know only that God dwells there among men, and their service is fairer than the ceremonies of other nations. For we cannot forget that beauty.’”

• in 1453, Constantinople fell to Ottoman Empire
◦ at that time, the Hagia Sophia was converted to a mosque
◦ in 1934, pursuing his goal of modernizing Turkey, President Ataturk declared the Hagia Sophia a museum
– this week, President Erdogan declared the cathedral an Islamic mosque
• how upset should we be about this? – not at all (my opinion)
◦ God does not endorse religious brand names or buildings
◦ not even his own temple in Jerusalem (cf. Jeremiah 7:1-15
• buildings are provisional, but faithful devotion is not negotiable

The “first covenant” was supported by worship

We have seen that in Jesus we have a better covenant (Heb. 8:6)
– and this is the new covenant (Heb. 8:13) of Jeremiah’s prophecy
• the first covenant refers to the one God forged with Israel at Mount Sinai
• remember, the purpose of God’s law and Israel’s worship
◦ it was to maintain their covenant relationship with God

The writer explores Israel’s worship in two parts:
– “regulations for worship” and “an earthly place of holiness”
• in verses 2-5 he takes us through the tent
◦ which is in Luke Johnson’s words, “briefest possible tour”
• in verses 6-7 he provides a selective sketch of the regulations
– the place of worship must be holy for the presence of God to rest there
• so the place was sanctified and consecrated by sacred rituals
• from then on, the regulations served to preserve and renew its holiness

One other thought before moving on:
– the terms “Gods house” and “sanctuary” are not synonymous
• the tent or temple could serve as God’s sanctuary (sacred space)
◦ but God could also remove his sanctuary from the tent or temple
[David to Solomon] . . . the LORD has chosen you to build a house for his sanctuary (1 Chr. 28:10)
• and after Solomon’s temple was destroyed, God said,
and though I scattered them among the countries, yet I have been a sanctuary to them for a while in the countries where they have gone (Eze. 11:16)

First, we visit the earthly place
For a tent was prepared, the first section in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence. It is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail Hebrews 9:2-5

The writer doesn’t seem especially interested in the temple
(neither Solomon’s or the more recent one built by Herod)
– he goes all the way back to the prototype – the tent in the wilderness
• which was also called dwelling place, dwelling of testimony, and tent of meeting
• the blueprint for the tent and furnishings consists mostly of rectangles and squares (and a circle)
◦ sharp, well-defined lines
◦ a courtyard surrounded sacred tent, but our writer does not mention it
– the sacred tent was rectangular and divided into two rooms
• he presents the interior as if we had walked into the first room
◦ the label for this room was the Holy Place
◦ it took up seventy-five percent of the the tent
• in it stood the lampstand and the table of the bread of the Presence
◦ it was as if the presence of God shadowed the bread set out on the table
And you shall set the bread of the Presence on the table before me regularly (Ex. 25:30)

The second room was a cube, and the label for it was the Most Holy Place
– the writer locates the altar of incense in this room
(although in the Old Testament it was placed in front of the curtain in the Holy Place, not the Most Holy Place)
• perhaps because smoke from the incense was to obscure the high priest’s vision of God’s glory
And he shall . . . put the incense on the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is over the testimony (Lev. 16:13)
• this is also where the Ark of the Covenant was placed
◦ in it were the tablets of the covenant on which the commandments were engraved
(the Ark was therefore the physical heart of Israel’s relationship with God)
◦ over the Ark was a lid with sculpted cherubim above it, all of one piece
(the cherubim seem to be guardians of God’s presence–cf. Gen. 3:24)
– God caused his glory to rest in the Most Holy Place
• in it Israel’s most intimate encounter with God took place, on his own turf

The writer cuts off his comments here and provides no other details
– that’s because his main concern is not with the details of the sacred tent
• he is setting the stage on which the action is played out
• so he creates this visual backdrop that is easy for the reader to envision

After visiting the earthly place, he outlines the regulations
These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation Hebrews 9:6-10

The priests (plural) perform their duties in Holy Place, regularly
– every day, morning and evening, they would trim the lamps and offer incense
– but only the high priest (singular) would enter the Most Holy Place
• it was inaccessible to everyone else (even the other priests)
◦ and he did not go in “regularly,” but only one once a year
◦ the writer has the Day of Atonement in mind
and not without blood – just make a mental note of this for now

By this the Holy Spirit indicates . . .
– the writer tells us that this arrangement is a revelation
• what we are shown that the tent provided us no direct access to God
◦ each curtain was another barrier
• then he gives us an important key to all of this:
which is symbolic for present age
◦ again, just make another mental note of this
– the writer tells us what these regulations could not do
• they could not perfect the conscience
◦ “conscience” tends to have a moral tone
◦ the Greek word can refer to a consciousness of anything
• regulations could not yield a significant consciousness of God
◦ they could not awaken people to a full awareness of his Presence
– the target of worship is internal
• the regulations did work! They did what they were meant to do
◦ atone sin, purify uncleanness, restore fellowship
◦ but the people were not changed!
• the regulations worked externally, regulations for the body
◦ even Old Testament poets and prophets recognized this
◦ and John the Baptist knew also there was more the service he provided
I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire (Mt. 3:11)

Now writer points out contrast of the new covenant in Jesus
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once and for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Hebrews 9:11-14

A contrast in time: good things that have come
– time references – not yet (8) present age (9) until time of reformation (10)
– the past situation contrasted with the goodthings that have come
A contrast in the tent: Jesus entered the true sanctuary of God
– not a product of human construction
– a tent that does not belong to our four-dimensional universe
A contrast in the number of visits: once for all
– as opposed to “regularly” or “once a year”
A contrast in blood as a cleansing agent:
– Jesus was not turned to “ashes” (like the red heifer, Num. 19:1-22)
– the “eternal Spirit” — the Spirit is never past tense, but always “now”
A contrast of the external and internal: a purified consciousness
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Mt. 5:8)
A contrast between dead works and the living God
– we have a very different attitude about worship
– v. 12, Jesus has secured our eternal redemption
• there is nothing in your life he does not want to redeem
◦ no pain or heartache, no sin or trauma, no moment or season
• the “dead works” were like paying a debt, something done as an obligation
◦ have a greater consciousness of God, we offer service as an act of love

Conclusion: How did the writer imagine the tent Jesus entered?

As an actual structure in heaven? Probably not
– compare what Paul said regarding his vision of heaven:
And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—and he heard things that are not speakable and a man cannot lawfully tell (2 Cor. 12:3-4)
– it is not possible to describe heaven in human language
• we have never experienced anything like it
• the closest we can come to meaningful speech is by analogy
◦ the same reason Jesus used parables to describe kingdom of God
The kingdom of heaven can be compared to . . . . The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed . . . . The kingdom of heaven is like leaven . . . . (Mt. 13:24, 31, 33)
◦ “parable” appears many times in the synoptic gospels
◦ but nowhere else in the New Testament, except two times in
– here, in verse 9, the Greek parabole is translated symbolic
Kenneth Shenk refers to references to a heaven tent as “metaphors”
Howard Marshall explains that “things are described in spatial and material terms although they belong to a different sphere of reality.”

Heaven itself is most holy,
there is no need for a holy building or a holy chamber
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” . . . And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God, the Almighty and the Lamb (Re. 21:3, 22)
Jesus gives us this perfect access to God–no curtains or barriers
Jesus is now in the literal space that God’s being occupies,
in direct contact with God’s essence
(I don’t really know how to say this)
One day, he will bring us into that place,
for now, that is where we go in spirit when we pray

Being with God,
Jesus brings us to a new consciousness;
not of sin, but of Presence,
a presence closer than our breath

Jul 5 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 5, 2020


In the summer of 1992, a close friend asked me for a favor. After twenty-five years, Jack and his wife wanted to renew their marriage vows. I asked my daughter Jennifer to go with me–she was a teenager at the time and friends with Jack’s daughter. It was a Sunday afternoon and we were on our way up the coast to the home where the brief ceremony would be celebrated. Suddenly it occurred to me that I didn’t have anything prepared to say, not even the vows for them to recite. I asked Jenn to reach in the glove box, grab a pen, and look for something to write on. She found an old envelope, and as I began dictating she began writing. there were a few edits, words crossed out and replaced, but it was readable and I was rescued from embarrassment. Today I cannot remember a word of what was written on that envelope. But that’s okay, it was for them and no one else.
During reception that followed, Jack came over to our table and asked if I would give him the vows. He said they were perfect and he wanted to hang onto them. I promised that as soon as we got home I would type them out and email them to me. He said he wanted the vows exactly as they were. I explained the reason they were not presentable and he said, “I don’t care. I want them exactly as they are.” So I handed him that wrinkled envelope with Jenn’s scribbling on it. Jack was really pleased with it and said he was going to frame it as it was and hang it in his home as a reminder.

A renewal of vows mirrors one of most important themes in scripture
– God’s covenant
• there is a major division in the Christian Bible
◦ one part is the Old Testament (covenant) and the other part is the New
◦ our Bibles are one story told in two parts and both of them having to do with covenans
Walther Eichrodt, in his Theology of the Old Testament says that covenant
◦ “gave definitive expression to the binding of the people to God”
◦ and established from the start, expressed their particular “knowledge of him”
Eichrodt, “. . . the basis of the relationship with God can be regarded as embodied in a covenant from Mosaic times [on].”
William Dyrness wrote, “In the [Old Testament] the covenant rests on God’s promises and lies at the heart of the biblical notion of history. . . . It is the core of the Hebrew understanding of their relationship with God.”
– early on, God chose to use covenants in order to connect with people
• covenants were meant to help them feel secure in him and his promise

Our first idea of a covenant is that it is like a contract or treaty

An agreement is made between two parties, for the mutual benefit of both
– an agreement was reached, conditions were stipulated, and then the covenant was sealed
• making a covenant sometimes included a ritual – sometimes a shared meal
– a biblical covenant was more than a contract, because it forms a bond between the two parties
I will bring you into the bond of the covenant (Eze. 20:37)
• the bond of marriage, for example, was formed by a covenant
. . . the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant (Mal. 2:14)
◦ the seal (or sign) of a covenant was like a marriage license or wedding ring
• so the first remarkable thing about the big biblical covenants,
◦ it was God who formed this bond with human persons
Eichrodt, the covenant “was always regarded as a bilateral relationship; for even though the burden is most unequally distributed between the two contracting parties, this makes no difference to the fact that the relationship is still essentially two-sided.”
◦ God always does the heavy lifting

Three early covenants

Noah, after the flood
– God’s stipulation was simple, it was a reiteration of the original design
Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth (Gen. 1:27 & 9:1)
• for God’s part, the earth would never again be totally destroyed by a flood
• the seal or sign of the covenant? the rainbow (Gen. 9:12)

Abraham, in answer to his question, What will you give me for assurance?
– God’s stipulation was, Walk before me and be perfect (Gen. 17:1-2)
• God’s part: he would bless Abraham and his descendants
◦ and through them bless all the families of the earth
• sign of this covenant: circumcision (Gen. 17:10)

Moses, God’s proposed covenant with Israel when they came out of Egypt
. . . if you will indeed keep obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples (Ex. 19:5)
– God’s stipulation was that they would be his people and obey all the words of this law (Ex. 34:28)
• God’s part: he would be their God (in caring for them and blessing them)
• the sign of this covenant: the Sabbath (Ex. 31:12-17)
◦ God’s covenant resembles a marriage covenant
◦ it carries the promise of ultimate intimacy between God and Israel
I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God (Ex. 6:7)
(many times Israel will be reminded of this covenant goal)

On the day God’s covenant was confirmed,
– Moses offered a sacrifice and sprinkled its blood on the people, saying,
Behold the blood of the covenant (Ex. 24:8)

The course of Israel’s history was determined by their loyalty to the covenant
– it explains why the northern kingdom was conquered and carried into exile
The king of Assyria carried the Israelites away to Assyria . . . because they did not obey the voice of the LORD their God but transgressed his covenant, even all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded (2 Ki. 18:11-12; also 17:15, 35-39)
• this was exactly what Moses predicted would happen (De. 29:24-25)
◦ and it was exactly what Jeremiah witnessed (Jer. 22:8-9)

There was a weakness inherent in that first covenant with Israel
For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.
For he finds fault with them when he says:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah,
not like the covenant that I made with their fathers
on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of
For they did not continue in my covenant,
and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.”
Hebrews 8:7-9

The weakness was not in the covenants formulation, its terms, or conditions
– not even in the covenant concept
• Ezekiel 16 illustrates how beautiful Israel’s marriage to God could be
When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered [you] and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord GOD, and you became mine (Eze. 16:8)
• the weakness was that one of parties couldn’t fulfill their half
For he finds fault with them
– Israel was well aware, the covenant was good for them,
• but only if they kept their end

About the time that nation of Judah was conquered,
– God made this announcement through Jeremiah
the days are coming – this time reference begins in Jeremiah 30:1
◦ and continues all through chapters 30 and 31
(it is the promise of a future restoration)
◦ it highlights the promise in which all blessings are grounded
And you shall be my people,
and I will be your God
(Jer. 30:22)
• the writer continues his quote:
I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah
◦ the two kingdoms would be unified again
– how will this covenant be “new”?
• first, it will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers
◦ it would not be a repeat of a failed attempt at forging a bond
• second, two Greek words can be translated “new”
neos something that appears on the scene for the first time
kainos new in time, but also in substance–different
(the new will still be a covenant, but with a significant difference)

A new covenant was necessary, because the first did not produc what God wanted
– early in the Book of Jeremiah, we see God reminiscing
• I know I have a tendency here to be overly sentimental in my interpretation
◦ but it’s as if God were looking at wedding photos from Mount Sinai
I remember the devotion of your youth,
your love as a bride,
how you followed me in the wilderness,
in a land not sown (Jer. 2:2)
• what happened to that first covenant?
For they did not continue in my covenant
– compare verse 9 with Jeremiah 31:32, you will see that it reads differently
• that is because the writer is quoting the Greek translation, not the Hebrew
(the Hebrew text says, my covenant they broke though I was their husband)
◦ we have seen that this was the relationship as God viewed it
◦ a broken covenant, breaks the marriage (Jer. 11:10; Eze. 16:59)
• here, the point of the Greek translation,
◦ is that God treats Israel the way they treated him
◦ in Jeremiah and Isaiah, God divorced Israel (Jer. 3:8; Is. 50:1)

The conditions and benefits of the new covenant
“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor
and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord’;
for they shall all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
and I will remember their sins no more.”
Hebrews 8:10-12

The major differences between the first and new covenants:
the first covenant was placed in a box; i.e., the Ark of the Covenant
the new covenant will be placed in their minds
the first covenant was engraved in stone
the new covenant will be written on their hearts
– Israel needed not only a new covenant, but a new heart and spirit
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you (Eze. 36:26)
• finally, God would achieve his goal,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people

The benefits:
– the first, everyone will know the Lord
• the prophet Hosea had the frustrating job of trying to talk Israel into returning to Yahweh
Let us know, let us press on to know the LORD;
his going out is sure as the dawn;
he will come to us as the showers,
as the spring rains that water the earth”
(Hos. 6:3)
• but with the new covenant, this kind of message will be unnecessary
– second, God will be merciful toward their guilt and sins
• God’s covenant had always been backed by his mercy and faithfulness
(Hebrew: hesed and emeth)
• but there will be new dimensions to his mercy

The presence of a new covenant does something to the first
In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. Hebrews 8:13

When the new, young covenant arrives
– the first covenant will begin to show its age
Luke Timothy Johnson says that “obsolete” is too strong a translation
• in Hebrews 1:11, the same word is translated “worn out”
You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
and the heavens are the work of your hands;
they will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment,
like a robe you will roll them up,
like a garment they will be changed.
But you are the same,
and your years will have no end (Heb. 1:10-12)
– like old, worn out clothes, the time will come to get rid of the first covenant
• either destroying it, or changing it to something else, like a cleaning rag

Conclusion: Now will move from the promise in Jeremiah

To a quiet room in Jerusalem
– in the light that flickers from oil lamps,
• Jesus looks into the face of each disciple
– Paul makes a point of saying that this was the same night he was betrayed
• not only betrayed, but also deserted, arrested, interrogated, and beaten

Jesus has broken the bread and told the disciples it is his body
– now he fills a cup with wine and tells them,
This cup is the new covenant in my blood (1 Cor. 11:25)
• at that moment, the new covenant of Jeremiah’s prophecy arrived
• and that covenant is the one that wraps us in Jesus today

The new covenant does mean we are no longer able to sin,
because we no longer have a free will to make our own choices
It means, that if we say yes to Jesus
and drink from the cup he offers us,
the life of his Spirit enters us
and we are energized by him to stay on course
There is still room for us to make right and wrong choices,
but there is a new energy to choose and to do right,
because what we need is planted in us.

In the new covenant with Jesus,
we sing the song of lovers,
I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine (Song 6:3)
Continuing in this covenant,
we discover new levels of intimacy with God

Jun 29 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 28, 2020


Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. Hebrews 8:1-2

Intro: When my older sister, my brother and I were small children,

We would sometimes “play church”
– it was an easy game, because the basics were simple:
• prayer, song, scripture, and sermon
• for us, it was much like the real thing–only more fun
– in every formal Sunday morning Christian gathering,
• a certain percentage of what we do is playing church
◦ we act out a drama with physical elements and props,
◦ those things symbolize our spiritual engagement with God
• this is the nature of rituals; it’s how they work
◦ but the “play”part can also be misleading
◦ we can assume the play we enact is all there is

The writer of Hebrews is going to argue a crucial difference
– the difference between copy and original, between shadow and substance

The Book of Hebrews has been building up to this point
Now the point in what we are saying is this:

He began this book with an opening statement regarding Jesus
– that God has spoken through him, that he is the exact representation of God, and that after making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Heb. 1:1-3; notice the similar expression here in ch. 8 regarding Jesus being seated at the right hand . . . of the Majesty in heaven)
• in chapter 5, he started to present his case for Jesus as our high priest
◦ at the end of chapter 7, he wrote that it is fitting for us to have such a high priest as he described (who shares our weaknesses and temptations but not our sin, who is holy, innocent, unstained, and so on)
◦ now he says, we have such a high priest
Luke T. Johnson, “Jesus has all the qualities identified in 7:26-27, and ‘we have’ Jesus!”
– “we have” are powerful words when we put them together
• thousands of ads and commercials every day remind us of what we don’t have
◦ the market for products is driven by fear and discontent
• but in Jesus, all that we do have is infinite
◦ Jesus fits our most serious and significant needs perfectly

So, we are told, this sums up what we have learned so far
– now to the point – verse 2, Jesus, our high priest is a minister
• that is, someone who performs a service for others
holy places refer to God’s sanctuary (sanctuary as sanctified or holy place)
◦ the tent, in this context, is God’s sacred dwelling in the wilderness
• strangely, the writer refers to it as the “true” tent,
◦ why does he say this? What does it mean?
– true translates the Greek alethines – genuine, authentic, the real deal
• it’s used this way several times in John’s gospel
◦ Jesus is the true light (Jn. 1:9), the true bread (6:32), true vine (15:1)
◦ light, bread, a vine, a tent are assigned the role of analogies
• the true tent is one that God pitched, not the one Moses made
◦ God’s true dwelling transcends the material realm of our earth
◦ this is a mystery that requires (much) more explanation

What ministries does a high priest perform?
For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. Hebrews 8:3-4

The high priest was appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices
– so Jesus also must have something to offer
• but it seems like the writer doesn’t complete his thought
◦ we expect him to tell us what Jesus offers
• he doesn’t
◦ he lets that point slip for now, perhaps because:
1. he already told us in 7:27, Jesus offered up himself
2. he intends to elaborate more on Jesus’ offering later on
3. it is not the point he is eager to make here
if he were on earth – this phrase gives us the perspective we need
• the ministry that Jesus performs now is not here on earth
◦ if he were here now, he would not be a priest at all
◦ those gifts and sacrifices were already being handled by earthly priests
(in an earthly sanctuary)
according to the law — again, this is a difference between Levitical priests and Jesus
◦ it is the difference between the weakness of law and the vitality of life (Heb. 7:16)

Here is a clue to what the writer meant by the “true” tent
They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” Hebrews 8:5

The ministries of the priests a copy and shadow of the heavenly things

Mostly, our writer works with the basics of the Old Testament archetypes. In other words, he does not seem to be concerned that the sacred tent later became a temple, or that the duties of the priest evolved over time–as when King David added music and song to the regular liturgy. The focus of Hebrews is on the original plans for the sacred tent and the services of the priests as God delivered them to Moses (especially in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers).

– Moses’ specific instructions were,
. . . let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and all of its furniture, so you shall make it (Ex. 25:8-9)
• in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, “pattern” is paradeigma
◦ this is the root of our English word, paradigm
◦ it is pattern or model (in psychology, a mental model or “construct”)
• there is a phrase in Exodus 39-40 that repeats so many times you can’t miss it:
as the LORD had commanded Moses (at least eighteen times!)
◦ the reason for this attention to precise detail,
◦ is because the sacred tent was to parallel or reflect a heavenly reality
• what Moses was given was not a vision of God’s true dwelling,
◦ but a pattern or blue print from which Moses was to make a “copy”

The writer reminds us that Moses received the design on the mountain
– that was itself a place of divine encounter
• God’s presence there was manifested by his glory in the cloud
• at end of Exodus, when the sacred tent had been set up,
◦ the cloud left the summit of Mount Sinai
Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle (Ex. 40:34-35)
– the tent became God’s earthly dwelling place
• in it, there was a real merging of the reality with the model
◦ the model did not become the heavenly reality
◦ it still belonged to our material world, but was made holy
• God’s glory was truly present in the most holy place of the tent
• but the model was still only a symbol of the true, the heavenly real
◦ it was no more an accurate of the heavenly original,
◦ than a shadow accurately resembles the object that casts it

Again the writer makes an unexpected jump
But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. Hebrews 8:6-7

What we expect to hear is something like,
Christ has obtained a ministry that is better than the Levitical priests
– or perhaps he could begin to describe the heavenly sanctuary
• but he doesn’t push the contrast of true sanctuary and its copy
◦ though later he will have something to say about the spaces where Jesus conducts his heavenly ministry
• instead, the writer walks us into his next big idea
◦ he sets Jesus’ more excellent ministry side by side with two covenants
◦ Jesus mediates a covenant that is better than a previous covenant
• this does not come as a complete surprise
◦ we have already been told that Jesus is the guarantor of a better covenant (Heb. 7:22)
◦ but we have yet to learn what he means by this

Here again is one of our writer’s favorite words, better
– Jesus mediates a better covenant
• most of us have heard Paul’s famous statement,
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5)
• a mediator is someone who works out some sort of agreement between two parties
◦ to settle a dispute, sign a contract, or perhaps reconcile enemies
◦ I had always enjoyed the way the Good News Bible describes reconciliation
All this is done by God, who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends and gave us the task of making others his friends. Our message is that God was making all mankind his friends through Christ. . . . We plead on Christ’s behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends! (2 Cor. 5:18-20)
– Jesus is the mediator who reconciles us to God
• and in doing so, he creates a bond between us and God through a new covenant

Verse 7 provides a transition from the present thought to the next
– so we won’t linger over it today, but start with it next week

Conclusion: Most people could enjoy a counterfeit painting as much as real

In fact, the average person could mistake a forgery for the authentic piece
– but if we have seen both a real car and a plastic model,
• we would never mistake the one for the other
• nor could we ever mistake a shadow for the substance
◦ hopefully we know the difference between
◦ playing church and a real encounter with God

Many of you know about a book my friend, Michel Herbert wrote, entitled Caught Up to Paradise. In it he describes what he calls his “near-life experience” (others would refer to it a near-death experience). While unconscious, Michael remembers being escorted to heaven. However, he eventually had to return to earth when he regained consciousness. Something I enjoyed reading in his book is how insubstantial our four dimensional universe seemed to him after visiting heaven, which is much the same way C. S. Lewis described heaven in The Great Divorce. There was so much more depth to his experience of heaven than in the limits of our material experience of reality–more colors, more sounds, more life, and more joy in the experience of all these things.
I suppose that to fully appreciate the density of the dimension of reality in which God dwells, and to comprehend the comparative evanescence of our material world, we would need to have an experience like Michael’s.

Our universe isn’t bad or wrong–it is, in fact, “very good” (Gen. 1:31)
– in scripture, the earth and the world are not always the same thing
• the earth is God’s creation
◦ the world is the artificial product of humankind, our fabricated societies
◦ the world is imperfect and incomplete
• God has not left himself without witness, even in our world (Acts 14:16-17)
◦ there are signs and symbols that point to a transcendent dimension
◦ and that dimension completes the universe
– the symbols of the drama we replay in worship,
• are also doorways into the presence of God
• we have not yet seen the fullness of what Hebrews has to say about this
◦ but for now it is enough to know that we are nearer to God in Jesus, than we have ever imagined

Jesus is our mediator,
knowing both the world of our experience
and the reality of God
That means that we can look for signs in our world
that point to a greater reality than what is visible.
Perhaps it will be a leaf, a stone, a single star in the morning.
Or maybe a well, an abandoned house,
a road that runs straight ahead until it disappears in the distance.
But we can look for those signs and symbols
that were designed to point us to God;
prayer, scripture, worship, spiritual community,
Baptism, the Lord’s Supper,
silence and stillness.
This sacred moment.

Jun 22 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 21, 2020


The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:23-25

We all know someone–or we have been that someone–who powers through relationships, dating person after person looking for a perfect match. Not long after moving to Dana Point, I met a young man who fit that exact profile. I could not help but think of him when a few years later, reading St.
Augustine’s Confessions I came across this line, “I searched about for something to love, in love with loving . . . .”
I heard a psychiatrist once say, “Being in love is a powerful drug.” That sounds right to me, because I’m sure some people are addicted to the neurochemicals our brains produce that are associated with being in love.
I think many people do not know the difference between being in love and infatuation. Infatuation can be no more than enchantment with the idea of a person. Frequently, , people are infatuated with a fantasy they’ve created about someone for whom they have sincere admiration. They think they love someone they do not even know as a real person. But if they discover the real person and their fantasy is shattered, there is no problem. They can eventually move on to someone else on whom they can project their fantasy.

– years ago, I interviewed a Christian musician
• she had searched for truth in a number of different religions
• I asked her, “How do you know Christianity isn’t just one more religion on your quest for truth, and that someday you won’t move on to something else?”
◦ she answered, “Because when I found what I was looking for, I stopped looking.”

The writer of Hebrews has introduced us to Melchizedek
– his primary concern is to show us Jesus’ credentials
• in every way, Jesus outshines every other servant of God
• whether leader, prophet, priest, or judge
◦ in fact, Jesus is even better than the angels
– the writer tells us,
• “You may be infatuated with your priest, pastor, or preacher,
◦ but the person you want to fall in love with is Jesus!”
◦ when you’ve found Jesus, you can stop looking for anyone else

The writer continues contrasting Jesus to the Levitical priests

He wants us to know why Jesus is able to do for us,
– what they could not do–and were never meant to do
• there are two contrasts in verses 23-24:
1. first, the many priests who served in temple versus the one priest
2. second, the temporary service of the many, and permanence of the one
• the Greek word translated permanently is found in ancient legal documents
William Barclay translates it “non-transferable”
Timothy Johnson says it means “no going beyond”
◦ there is no priest or priesthood beyond Jesus,
◦ because, as the prophecy in Psalm 110 says, he continues forever

Parish priests and church pastors eventually move on, retire, or die
– their loss can be hard for people to take
(especially for those who love their leaders)
• but it’s not necessarily a bad thing for the church

Look at the situation this way: A pastor has a vision for ministry. That vision becomes the church’s mission, and a generation of church members become devoted to it. When that pastor is gone, usually the question comes up, “Who will take over and carry on the vision for the church?” I have come to believe that is the wrong question. With time culture changes, and as culture changes so do the needs and interests of people within the culture. Those changes require a new vision of ministry.
Besides, the leader who had the vision is the only person who knows it inside and out. When that person is gone, the essence of the vision is lost. The residue of that vision is preserved in values, methods, protocols and policies. So a church can continue doing same things it did when the former visionary was present, but no one remembers why they do those things. Furthermore, questions regarding how to handle new or difficult situations arise for which no one has right answer. The visionary would instinctively know the right answer, but that person is gone.
There is no single vision that covers every need for all time. One season’s of a church’s life may be directed by a vision for cross-cultural missions, another season by evangelism, another for intense (“in depth”) Bible study, and yet another for prayer. We need the multiple visions of Christian leadership, because Christians need to expand their horizon and churches, like their members, need greater depth through spiritual growth.

• what the writer sees clearly–and we need to see clearly:
◦ Jesus Christ is always everything
◦ there never needs to be a “changing of the guard”
◦ the vision Jesus has for his church encompasses everything

Consequently – or, in other words, “here the conclusion we can draw”
able to save – “save” has to do with the whole person, now and for eternity
uttermost – can refer to measurement; totally, completely
◦ but can also refer to time – for all time, forever, to the end of time
◦ I don’t think we miss the point if we take it both ways
• who benefits from the ministry of Jesus?
those who draw near to God through him
Timothy Johnson, “God’s gift to humans comes through Jesus, and likewise their access to God passes through him.”
draw near – in Hebrews, this is the heart of the Christian experience
– the Latin word for priest is pontifex – “bridge-builder”
• Jesus makes certain that God’s door is always open to us
◦ so at any time we can draw near
◦ and Jesus is always keeping the door open
• specifically, he maintains our access to God by intercession
◦ to intercede is to meet up with someone to make a request or petition
◦ and to do this on behalf of someone else
• Paul, in Romans 8 says,
. . . the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words (Ro. 8:26)
Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us (Ro. 8:34)
• the Spirit intercedes in our own hearts; Jesus intercedes at the right hand of God
◦ so whether it is a matter of God being for us,
◦ or of us not being able to find our way in prayer,
“. . . the believer may know that he [or she] is not left in helpless isolation. There is an [intercessor] for him [and her] which reaches up to the very top.” (TDNT)

Jesus meets our need for a priest, perfectly
For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. Hebrews 7:26

I am going to mention something we’re all aware of,
– but I will not overemphasize it
• the Roman Catholic Church is still settling cases in court,
◦ paying millions of dollars in compensation for misconduct of priests
◦ in the Scriptures there are multiple examples of immoral and self-serving priests
• if you were to know all that could be known of any person
◦ you would be disappointed
◦ that is nothing more than our shared human weakness
– although he was also human, Jesus does not disappoint
• it is fitting that we should have a priest like him
Timothy Johnson, fitting does not mean he “is ‘what we have deserved,’ but rather ‘what we truly needed’ . . . .”
holy – Jesus is, by nature, what God is
(he can handle all the operations that requires holiness)
innocent – this may sound crass, no one will ever dig up any dirt on him
unstained – nothing of our wickedness rubbed off on him
separated from sinners – not by “social distance,”
Jesus did not stay clear of sinners! (e.g., Lk. 15:1-2)
but he did not participate in their sinfulness
he did not share that human trait
exalted above the heavens – a status that was his by nature, but also that he earned (Heb. 1:1-3; Php. 2:5-11)
his exaltation is for our benefit
he is where he can do us the most good

What can we say about a person like this?
He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever Hebrews 7:27-28

The writer has more contrasts to point out
– first, Jesus does not have to offer sacrifices daily
• he offered a once for all sacrifice
◦ here is a twist the writer will explore further
◦ Jesus is both the priest who makes offering and the sacrifice offered
– second, he doesn’t have to make any sacrifice for his own sin

The next contrast: high priests were men appointed in their weakness
– and their appointment was by the law
– the Son does not have those weaknesses,
• but has been made perfect forever
◦ and he was not appointed by the law, but by the word of the oath (cf. v. 20)
which came later than the law
◦ God’s oath to Abraham came prior to law, indicating it is foundational
◦ God’s oath to the Messiah, came after, indicating a change in the law (v. 12)
– look again, the Son has been made perfect forever
• he does all that is necessary for relationship with God and our wholeness,
• and he does it perfectly

Conclusion: I began this talk with a couple of remarks re: love

Gerald May said, “Falling in love often feels choiceless; it seems to break through our defenses . . . Being in love, however is something we say yes to. It is a willing yielding into love’s presence.”
– being in love generates a wonderful, pleasurable energy
• but again, everything depends on being in love with right person
St. Augustine expressed regret for the years he spent loving the wrong things, “Too late did I love Thee, O Fairness, so ancient, and yet so new! Too late did I love Thee! For behold, Thou wert within, and I without, and there did I seek Thee; I, unlovely, rushed heedlessly among the things of beauty Thou madest. Thou wert with me, but I was not with Thee.”
– had he fallen in love with God sooner, he could have spared himself
• a lot of nonsense and heartache

God tells us, “I’ve removed every obstacle between us from My side.
Now you remove every obstacle from your side.”
Most of the obstacles I have to overcome
are in my head;
either from the poor instruction I received about God
or from the dark thoughts I invented about myself.
But even that, God helps us with by his Spirit
who sanctifies us (Titus 3:4-5)

The next time you’re outside, look up
and notice how there is nothing between you and the sky.
Then see if you can feel that same closeness to God.
Nothing between you and his presence.
You have the perfect priest, minister,
counselor, pastor, and spiritual director.
Jesus is all this and infinitely more.
Say yes to falling in love with him.

Jun 16 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Celebrate the Lord’s Supper

Reflexion will be observing the Lord’s Supper on our Facebook page this Thursday evening, June 18. Have bread and wine prepared and join us at 7:00 pm. (Search: Reflexion, a spiritual community.)

In these strange days, Communion is one important way to anchor our souls in Jesus. Though we observe this sacred ritual as a community, at the same time our experience is personal, as each of us encounter Jesus as if alone with him.

If Thursday evening does not work for you, we will leave the post up for several days to give you opportunity to share this experience with us.

Until Thursday, grace and peace.

Jun 15 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 14, 2020


Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? Hebrews 7:11

Intro: Are you familiar with the name Dietrich Bonhoeffer?

He was a twentieth century martyr – imprisoned for opposing Hitler
– he gave a great deal of thought to what it means to be a Christian
• also, to what a true church, not compromised by the world would look like
• one conclusion he drew was that a Christian meditates on the Scriptures
◦ that got him asking questions like:
◦ “Why do I meditate?” “How do I meditate?”
Bonhoeffer,What do I expect from meditation? In any case, we want to rise from meditation different from what we were when we sat down to it. We want to meet Christ in his Word. We go to the text curious to hear what he wants to let us know and to give us through his Word.”
– yes, it is possible to have this kind of vivid encounter with God
• the writer of Hebrews explains how this has been made possible
• and, once again, he invites us to draw near to God

In building his case for Christian faith and endurance,
– our writer’s argument will stress two key words
another, which occurs three times (vv. 11, 13, & 15)
better–occurs two times (vv. 19 & 22)
◦ two Greek words can be translated another
allos means “another of the same kind” (comparing apples to apples)
heteros means, “another of a different kind” (apples to oranges)
◦ the word used in this passage is heteros
Jesus is another kind of priest belonging to another kind of tribe

The writer points out the inadequacy of the Levitical priesthood

Dissecting one verse (Ps. 110:4), the writer examines closely each part of it
– you know what I mean when I refer to a “religious order”
• there are many monastic orders within the Roman Catholic Church
◦ for instance, the Benedictines, the Franciscans, the Carmelites, etc.
◦ in Israel, there was one religious order; namely, the tribe of Levi
• last week we were taken back in time to when Abraham met Melchizedek
◦ we learned that Melchizedek was greater than Abraham
◦ which means Melchizedek’s priestly order was greater than Israel’s
– in Psalm 110 God announced that the Messiah
is a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek
• so now the writer asks, why would that be necessary?
◦ why is another priest from a different order than Levi be needed?
• the answer: perfection wasn’t attainable through the Levitical priesthood
◦ we must take a closer look at this

The writer tells us that under the Levitical priesthood,
the people received law
– Moses entrusted the law to the Levites (De. 31:9, 24-26)
• the Levites instructed Israel in the law (Le. 10:10-11; De. 17:11; 33:10)
• and the Levites judged people according to the law (De. 17:10)
◦ it was in the law, that tribe of Levi was set aside for God (Nu. 3:5-9)
◦ so there is a strong connection between the tribe of Levi and the law
– there was something the Levitical priests could not do for people
• and the same was true for the law–something that it could not do
• but still, I think it’s important that we have a correct understanding of what this means

The beginning and end of the writer’s argument is marked by a word
– the perfection that was not attainable through the Levitical priesthood
– and then the law that “made nothing perfect
• this might look to us like both the priesthood and the law were failures
◦ but that is not what the writer is saying
The law and priests were established for one purpose:
– to maintain God’s covenant relationship with Israel
• this was like a marriage covenant
◦ Mt. Sinai was the altar, and the law’s commandments were Israel’s vows

From early on, God stated his intention for choosing Israel. He told Moses, I will take you as my people, and I will be your God (Ex. 6:7). This will be reiterated many times in the Old Testament, and especially in the prophets. For now, we want to notice this especially in the prophecy of Jeremiah regarding the new covenant, and that God says that as a result of its formation, “I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jer. 31:33).

• in time, the law and priests could not hold the covenant together
◦ that doesn’t mean they failed,
◦ because they were designed to hold the covenant together

The purpose of the law was not to make people righteous
– nor was it meant to empower them to be righteous,
• but it was to show them what righteousness is
• the priests were there to secure forgiveness when people sinned
◦ no one could keep all of God’s commandments
◦ so there had to be a means of forgiveness and atonement
Howard Marshall, “The author must have assumed that the old system did do something, since it was of divine ordination and God cannot have created an empty institution.”
– the weakness of the law and priest was revealed,
• only when asked to do something they were not designed to do
◦ they did not perfect the people, because they were not meant to do that
◦ the crux of the issue is revealed in Hebrews chapter 8
For if the first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. For he finds fault with them [when he presents to them a new covenant] (vv. 7-8)
◦ the law and priests were effective in fulfilling their purpose
• when God presented the law to Israel, they promised to keep it
All that the LORD has spoken we will do (Ex. 19:8)
◦ many years later, Moses informed the people of Israel,
. . . the LORD heard your words, when you spoke to me. And the LORD said to me, “I have heard the words of this people, which they have spoken to you. They are right in all that they have spoken. Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments (De. 5:28-29)
◦ if they could have lived up to their words, they would have never broken God’s covenant

What did the Levitical priests and law not do for the people?
1. Did not transform them – change their hearts
2. Did not empower them to be righteous
3. Did give them unrestricted access to God

With a change in priestly order, writer sees change in law
For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests
Hebrews 7:12-14

The law established the priesthood, and it belonged to the tribe of Levi
– so a change in the priesthood involved something not covered by the law
William Barclay, “Under Jewish law a man could not under any circumstances become a priest unless he could produce an unbroken and certified pedigree going back to Aaron.”
– this actually became an issue for the Jewish migration home from exile
• it had to do with one particular clan that had served in Solomon’s temple
. . . they could not prove their fathers’ houses or their descent, whether they belonged to Israel . . . .
These sought their registration among those enrolled in the genealogies, but they were not found there, and so they were excluded from the priesthood as unclean
(Ezra 2:59 and 62)
• here’s the problem (v. 13) – Jesus did not belong to the tribe of Levi
◦ he had no right or authority to serve as a priest in Israel’s sanctuary
For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests

The writer argues that this is not a disqualification, but a revelation
This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. For it is witnessed of him,
“You are a priest forever,
after the order of Melchizedek.”
Hebrews 7:15-17

What is “even more evident”?
– that neither is the Messiah of the order of Levi!
• Jesus did not meet the law’s requirement to be a priest
◦ he did not belong to order the order of Levi
• however, Jesus surpassed both the law and the priestly order
◦ because, as we have seen, the order of Melchizedek is superior to the Levitical order
– the order of Melchizedek was not established by the law
legal requirement is more literally legal commandment
◦ Jesus did not need to be qualified through the law
◦ his qualification was based on something that predated the law
• nor did Jesus need to be qualified by his DNA
◦ in the the term bodily descent, “bodily” could better be translated “fleshly”
◦ it refers to that which is “merely human”
Luke T. Johnson, says fleshly “. . . means it lacks the power to communicate God’s own life. Only life can generate life”
• compare this with statement to what Jesus’ told Nicodemus,
That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (Jn. 3:6)
• the contrast between Jesus qualification for priesthood and the Levites,
◦ is a contrast between law and life,
◦ and between a legal command and power

God has provided us something beyond the law
For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God Hebrews 7:18-19

Again, “the former commandment” was weak and useless,
– not because the law was flawed,
• but because it was given to people, who were flawed
◦ this was Paul’s horrific struggle in Romans chapter 7
So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good (Ro. 7:12)
• the problem is that the power that the law does exert, works against us
For by the works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin (Ro. 3:20)
– now, in Jesus, we have a better hope
• and through it, and not the law or Israel’s priesthood, we draw near to God
• this is Hebrews’ most characteristic description of the Christian experience
◦ we are allowed to approach God, up close
◦ we have access to his presence that not even the high priest enjoyed
– it’s a better hope, because it depends on who Jesus is and what he has done
• and not on our ability to, on our own, keep all the commandments

Conclusion: We cannot leave this passage without the following verses
And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath, but this one was made a priest with an oath by the one who said to him:
“The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind,
You are a priest forever.”

This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant Hebrews 7:20-22

Notice that the for the first time, the writer quotes the full verse
– until now he has left of the opening line:
The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind

• not even the Levites had this going for them
• they were made priests legally
◦ Jesus was made a priest personally — God swore an oath to him
This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant
– you see, we had to include these verses
• they are nothing less than the total assurance we need
God has sworn an oath
He will not change his mind
And Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant
• the guarantor of our relationship with God

Now what?
Let’s draw near to God!
How do we live this?
By practice
We train ourselves to focus awareness on God himself
By doing this, we draw near to him in this present moment
We meet with Jesus like this every day,
so that we constantly renew this better hope,
and enjoy the rich intimacy of this better covenant