google-site-verification: google3e8cc4742c5fd8a2.html

Archive for the 'Highlights in Hebrew' Category

Highlights in Hebrews
Highlights in Hebrews
(with Roger Kirby)

Hebrews 11:32-40 - Ups and Downs

How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. Women received their loved ones back again from death.

But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.

All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.

This is a long section to be described as a highlight but it is difficult to know where to cut it off. Up to this point this chapter has all been positive. We have been looking at the great heroes of the faith who accomplished much for God. Now we are looking at lesser heroes. Some of them not so small - Gideon, David and Samuel. But then we get to a list, not of names, but of troubles, pain and martyrdom. Why some of us will live largely trouble free Christian lives and some of us will have a difficult, dangerous and even fatal time in following the Lord we will never know. In simplistic terms it depends where we live. Those who live in the Muslim lands of west Asia can expect trouble! Those who live in the Western world can expect to largely avoid it - though things are deteriorating in many lands with the rise of militant secularism.

And then there are the problems that seem to strike so haphazardly in even the calmest environments. One person is healthy and well all their days; the next person struggles with ill health most of their days. One has cancer; the next does not. Once again we note that becoming a Christian is no guarantee that we shall escape the worst parts of the chaos of this life. It can be very hard to accept the premature death of a loved one, but that is what we have to do. There is no point in blaming God, as so many people do in those sorts of circumstances. We do not know what his purposes are. We do not know why he has allowed the world to be the way it is.

Paul knew all about suffering for the Lord. he said, “Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. With eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us …. the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved…. we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Romans 8: 18 - 28).

Isaiah did not say on behalf of the Lord: I will let you avoid deep waters, you will not have to go through rivers of difficulty, or walk through the fire of oppression.

What he did say was: When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.
(Isaiah 43: 2)

We are to walk, hand in hand with the Lord through all the difficulties and dangers that may come our way.

Click or Tap here to listen to or save this as an audio mp3 file

~

Please do click or tap here to visit our Amazon site!

Click or tap on the appropriate link below to subscribe, share or download our iPhone App!

Subscribe in podnovaI heart FeedBurneritunes_logo.giffacebook.giftwitter.gifAdd to Google Reader or Homepage

Read Full Post »

Highlights in Hebrews
Highlights in Hebrews
(with Roger Kirby)

Hebrews 11:23-28 - One like Moses

By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.


Moses said that, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— just as you desired of the Lord your God .... And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.” (Deuteronomy 18: 15, 18, 19)
On the basis of that saying there was a common expectation of a great prophet - like Moses.
Jesus was not very much like Moses! One of the defining factors about Moses was the way he was able to talk to the Pharaoh of Egypt because, in the amazing providence of God, he had been brought up as a prince of Egypt. The average, ordinary Jewish slave would have had no chance of securing an audience with the Emperor and, even if he had, would not have known what to say. The Jewish nation, the Israelites, looked back to those days as the founding events of their nation. Our writer says he preferred to suffer for the sake of Christ. Of course, he did not know who the Christ = Messiah would be. Instead he will have had a vision of an eventual Kingdom of God. That came with Jesus.

Mentions of the Passover and the sprinkled blood are interesting. Jesus chose to bring his ministry to its climax at the feast of Passover, not the Day of Atonement. He was setting his ministry firmly into a historical perspective, not one of a more doctrinal nature. It is yet another reminder that we are on a journey, a Way, as we seek to follow him. We too are bound for a promised land. We are to be careful not to ‘harden our hearts’ as they did, and suffered by so doing.

When we use the word ‘follow’ in relation to us and Jesus, we are implying that we will be on a journey. It is not the sort of ‘following’ that is implied in talking about following a sports team, which is a purely passive occupation. No, we are to up and go wherever he wants us to go. There is no greater or more exciting prospect in this life for any but to follow the Lord of Glory - wherever he may take us.

Click or Tap here to listen to or save this as an audio mp3 file

~

Please do click or tap here to visit our Amazon site!

Click or tap on the appropriate link below to subscribe, share or download our iPhone App!

Subscribe in podnovaI heart FeedBurneritunes_logo.giffacebook.giftwitter.gifAdd to Google Reader or Homepage

Read Full Post »

Highlights in Hebrews
Highlights in Hebrews
(with Roger Kirby)
Part 32 - Hebrews11:17–19 Ultimate obedience.

It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, even though God had told him, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.” Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead.

It is impossible to miss out the event referenced in 11:17-19, known as the ‘Binding of Isaac’ or the Aqedar, but very hard to say anything sensible about it. There are references in the Old Testament to child sacrifice (including the awful mistake of Jephthah in promising to sacrifice the first thing he saw when he got home which turned out to be his daughter, Judges 11:29-40) but never in a positive sense. Presumably the lack of comment means that it was a practice regarded with so much distaste in Israel that it did not need comment upon. It was not such an uncommon practice amongst the surrounding tribes.

The clear teaching of this episode is simply that true faith demands obedience. Which was fine for Abraham who seems to have had a hotline to and from God. We struggle much more to know what we should do as a matter of obedience.

We need to be careful. But if the Lord does really want us to do something unusual, something we would naturally not think of doing ourselves then he does make it quite plain to us. (That has happened to my wife and myself at least three times in an otherwise unremarkable Christian life.) Most of our decisions as Christians are ones that we have to take for ourselves. Dont believe people who think the Lord directed them to a particular spot in the local car park! They are trying to make themselves sound very holy and spiritual. But we have been given wonderful minds that enable us to sort out for ourselves where we can park our car and a myriad other everyday decisions.

Abraham was tested far beyond anything he might have expected the Lord to require of him. And I wonder what the effect on Isaac was. Probably a strong young teenager with all his life in front of him he must have been shocked to his very core when he realised what was to happen to him. I wonder did his mother, Sarah, know what was happening. If so, how terrible it would have been for her. Abraham seems to have assumed that the Lord would give him a way out. He had been told, by the Lord, that he would have an infinite number of descendants, which this command seemed to put at huge risk - could Sarah have another son when she was even older? We are not told whether Isaac knew of the great promise of untold numbers of descendants, or not.

The aqedar , potentially at least, lies on the middle of the spectrum of Biblical father-son problems. Better in a way are the situations of the deaths of Saul’s son, Jonathan, fighting the Philistines beside his father and of the death of David’s son, Absalom, when he challenged his father for the throne of Israel. In neither of those cases was the son actually killed by the father, so they are a little easier.

The situation which was far worse was what happened to Jesus on the cross. There he not only died, not quite at the actual hands of the Father, but with his full knowledge, agreement and ability to intervene - not used. Think on that. Meditate on that. Jesus died, as Isaac did not, for you and for me, as the one true and all sufficient sacrifice.

Click or Tap here to listen to or save this as an audio mp3 file

~
Click or tap on the appropriate link below to subscribe, share or download our iPhone App!

Subscribe in podnovaI heart FeedBurneritunes_logo.giffacebook.giftwitter.gifAdd to Google Reader or Homepage

Read Full Post »

Highlights in Hebrews
Highlights in Hebrews
(with Roger Kirby)

Part 31 - Hebrews 11:13-16 Faith in the dark


All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. NLT.

Church can be very boring, can’t it! (That’s a statement you wont often see.) Perhaps you have been going to church for many years, decades even. Every pastor has a cycle length, that is, after a certain length of time they have said all they know and are really just repeating themselves even when the scripture being preached from is different. A weak pastor may only last for a few months before the repetition starts. Most pastors can only manage a few years. Only those who spend a lot of time studying can keep going beyond the memory of their congregation.

Then the songs or hymns may have become too well known and the tempo of the singing may be so slow it is boring. If the church follows a liturgy it may become increasingly difficult to focus on the liturgy and not what you have got to do in the garden next, or what would be best for the next meal. Perhaps, if the truth were known, most people are turning up in church not for the service but to meet their friends afterwards.

Oh, dear - you will be thinking this is a very jaundiced view of church. Yes, it is. Fortunately we are all people of habit and once the idea is firmly planted in our brains we tend to turn up every week in the hope that things may have changed.

Life will have been very boring for Abraham and family too. Ur to Haran would have been more than 800 miles. Guessing more than a bit - they would have been able to move only about every third day. They would need to send a scouting party ahead to find water and agree where they could pasture their animals. When they did move they would only cover about 8 miles a day with a mixed family party. The net result is that they would have taken about a year to cover the ground that far and they would have to put up and take down their tents about 100 times. All that would be very difficult and rather boring.

Going from Haran to Egypt - they did not stop where they should have done because of famine - is about the same distance. So that would have been a second year of travelling. It’s no wonder that the writer says they did not receive the things promised but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

That was the sort of stickability they showed. Our writer has described that because he thinks we, helped by the Holy Spirit and our knowledge of what Jesus did for us, should show the same sort of stickability.

Click or Tap here to listen to or save this as an audio mp3 file

~

Please do click or tap here to visit our Amazon site!

Click or tap on the appropriate link below to subscribe, share or download our iPhone App!

Subscribe in podnovaI heart FeedBurneritunes_logo.giffacebook.giftwitter.gifAdd to Google Reader or Homepage

Read Full Post »

Highlights in Hebrews
Highlights in Hebrews
(with Roger Kirby)

Part 30 - Hebrews 11:8-19 The obedience of Abraham

 


The obedience of Abraham It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. 9 And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise. 10 Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God. Hebrews 11:8-19 (NLT)


A few daft people (like my wife and I used to) love to go trekking and sleep on the ground in a small mountain tent. But that is not most people’s idea of an enjoyable way to spend their holidays. The amazing thing about Abraham is that he not only set out on a long trek, sleeping in tents himself but also persuaded all his family, including his father, to do so. It was, of course, the senior male who was expected to decide what should happen. It seems that Abraham was such a strong and forceful character that he was able to determine what happened. It was a quite remarkable thing to do.

They lived in Ur, one of the greatest and best cities of the ancient world, where they would enjoy all the luxuries that were going. In some way, that is not explained, the Lord spoke to Abraham and instructed him to set out with his whole family on a journey to somewhere - he wasn’t told where. They journeyed north, then west, then south round what is known as the fertile crescent, a great arc of land round the deserts to the south. It proved too much for his father Terah, who gave up halfway and settled in the city of Haran. We can only imagine the big arguments that there must have been between Abraham who had received the direct instructions from the Lord about what they were to do and Terah, who hadn’t. Abraham will have been stuck there until his father died and he had complete control of the family.

It was probably in Haran, when the family was stuck there that he received his great commission from the Lord. He, and his descendants, were given the task of bringing blessing to all the world (Genesis 12: 1 – 3). So much had gone wrong. Adam and Eve had disobeyed the Lord, one of their sons had killed the other, the world had become such an evil place the flood was sent to sort it out and finally the tower of Babel had indicated the arrogance and conceit of mankind. To bring blessing to all that sort of thing was an immense task. In fact Abraham and his descendants, the people of Israel failed. Only when Jesus came as the ideal Israelite was any progress possible. But Abraham was not to know that. His job was simply to obey - as he did. We will probably never get as clear and startling a call as Abraham. Which, you may think, is just as well given how comparatively weak I am! But don’t get too comfortable. My wife and I were into our 50s before we got a call to go to Pakistan. We didn’t hear a voice, but received such an amazing sequence of events that it was quite clear what we were being asked - or was it told - to do. We did not realise that the best years of our lives were in front of us. Abraham can scarcely have enjoyed the call he received as much as we did ours.
If the Lord calls you to some surprising and unexpected venture - do not hesitate, GO

Click or Tap here to listen to or save this as an audio mp3 file

~

You can now purchase our Partakers books including Roger's latest - The Puzzle of Living - A fresh look at the story of Job!

Please do click or tap here to visit our Amazon site!

Click or tap on the appropriate link below to subscribe, share or download our iPhone App!

Subscribe in podnovaI heart FeedBurneritunes_logo.giffacebook.giftwitter.gifAdd to Google Reader or Homepage

Read Full Post »

Highlights in Hebrews
Highlights in Hebrews
(with Roger Kirby)

Part 29 - Hebrews 10:32-39 - The power of faith!


Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see. NLT

With chapter 11 we start into the writer’s great gallery of Old Testament saints. The introductory verse starts off with 2, or is it 3, great words. The most important one is ‘hope’, then to support ‘hope’ we have ‘faith’ but that is not sufficient as just one other word. ‘Faith’ in common usage is often thought to be the same as ‘believe’ but believing all takes place in our heads. The following list of people of faith clearly shows that there is more to it than just what happens between our ears! There is a great deal of activity involved as well. We can call this either ‘endurance’ (10: 36), ‘trustworthiness’ or ‘faithfulness’. Let’s settle for the last of those - which is part of the meaning of the Greek word, which also means ‘faith’ in the more restricted sense.

To see what ‘faith’ has to do with ‘hope’ we must think a bit about what we mean by hope. It comes in three basic varieties. There is the hope of most people that they will be able to live a good and satisfying life. Some people, I suppose, just drift through life without thinking about where it is going and without any long term ambitions - but they are not us, or you wouldn’t be bothering to read these notes! The second sort of hope is our hope for what will happen to us when we die. Have we then a hope? The third and final sort of hope is the small hopes that we have every day. ‘I hope I will soon be rid of this cold’ we say. Or ‘I hope I get such and such a Christmas present’.

Our writer is not at all interested in that third sort of hope, but he is very interested n the first two. In his thinking the two of them are closely woven together. He talks about the way in which Enoch was taken up to God, about how Abraham was looking forward to ‘a city that has foundations’, and how they, and many others, were ‘seeking a homeland’. All these things are closely connected to their lives in this world and particularly their faith and faithfulness. They did not really understand where they were going. We, living after the life, death and resurrection of Jesus have a much better idea of what we are doing, where we are going and what the effects are going to be. We, if we put our trust in the Lord, thus having faith in him, can expect to be accepted by the Lord in the day of judgement and, filled with that knowledge, will strive to live a life of faithfulness throughout our time in this world. Our good and gracious God will accept us on the basis of our faith in Jesus but has also promised to reward us according to our faithfulness in our lives with him, ‘ For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ. Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.’ (1 Corinthians 3: 11 – 16, NLT).

We are sure that this is the way life works because we have read the scriptures, seen how Jesus lived and died, and wondered at the great illustrations of warriors of the faith that we read about in this chapter. We may not have seen these things. But Jesus himself said, ‘Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.’ The people of old were accepted that way - so shall we be! Build for yourself a good foundation so that you will not be ashamed when you appear before the Lord on the day of judgement.

Click or Tap here to listen to or save this as an audio mp3 file

~

You can now purchase our Partakers books including Roger's latest - The Puzzle of Living - A fresh look at the story of Job!

Please do click or tap here to visit our Amazon site!

Click or tap on the appropriate link below to subscribe, share or download our iPhone App!

Subscribe in podnovaI heart FeedBurneritunes_logo.giffacebook.giftwitter.gifAdd to Google Reader or Homepage

Read Full Post »

Highlights in Hebrews
Highlights in Hebrews
(with Roger Kirby)

Part 28 - Hebrews 10:32-39 Not everything goes well!

We are holy!

… 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. For, “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 10:32-39)

There seems to be a strong tendency, at least in this country, to think that becoming a Christian and setting out to follow Jesus is a cure for all the problems we may otherwise have. That is not the way it works! Life for us is not likely to be as difficult as it was for the people this book is written to. We do not know exactly where they lived or what their background was ,but it is clear from this passage that not everything had been easy for them. They were probably Jews, since the book is called ‘to the Hebrews’ so they may well have had a lot of trouble from other Jews who did not believe in Jesus. Very soon after the foundation of the Christian church there was a lot of conflict between Jews and Christians, Paul being one of the chief culprits. Before long the Christians were thrown out of the synagogues all together. Then the ordinary citizens of the Roman empire will not have liked being shown up for the self centred and unpleasant people many of them were. It sounds as though the early Christians had a ministry to prisoners, which was not well received by other people. They had things stolen from their houses and could get no support from any judicial powers to recover what was stolen. Since this is going out all over the world some things like those may be your experience but that is not all that likely.

Our problems may be much more ordinary and personal. Perhaps they are physical, we simply are not well, or are suffering the products of old age and their tendency to drag us down. They may be social as we struggle with family, friends and enemies. They may be psychological and mental – there is no guarantee we will avoid such things by following Jesus. We should be better off as Christians as we turn away from bad habits of drinking or drugs and seek to follow a generally better life style. But following Jesus is not a general cure for all ills.

Why then should we follow Jesus? If not for our personal improvement, why? The answer is simple and devastating: because he is who he is. He is the Lord. He is the King of the Kingdom. He is the Lord of creation and of this world’s continuing existence. We should set out to follow Jesus because of who he is and not because of who we are. If, indeed, we did start to follow him from purely selfish motives he is a good and loving Saviour who will allow you to learn what your motives should have been and slowly, as you come to understand more, change your motives to those that they should have been in the first place. We can still ‘have faith and preserve our souls’ (10: 39) and receive a ‘better possession and an abiding one’ (10: 34) and receive the ‘great reward’ that ‘is promised’ (10: 35, 36). The necessary ‘endurance’ (10: 36) can be ours even if we did not really start for the best and right motives.

Click or Tap here to listen to or save this as an audio mp3 file

~

You can now purchase our Partakers books including Roger's latest - The Puzzle of Living - A fresh look at the story of Job!

Please do click or tap here to visit our Amazon site!

Click or tap on the appropriate link below to subscribe, share or download our iPhone App!

Subscribe in podnovaI heart FeedBurneritunes_logo.giffacebook.giftwitter.gifAdd to Google Reader or Homepage

Read Full Post »

Highlights in Hebrews
Highlights in Hebrews
(with Roger Kirby)

Part 27 - Hebrews 10:26–31

A word of warning

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)

Many countries require a person to have a visa before they are allowed into the country. The visa will often say how long they can stay in the country. If, after entering the country, they sneak back out of the country before the visa is up where there is no entry/exit point and then present themselves to re-enter the country at a proper entry point they would be likely to be in serious trouble.


That is something like what the writer is thinking about here. We received a visa to let us into the Kingdom of God when we first started to follow Jesus. Our writer says we simply cannot leave the kingdom for a while; live in the kingdom of the world; and then return to the kingdom. There is a very important and strong reason why this is so. We may belong to all sorts of clubs: golf, football, book reading or cookery etc., leave the club, cancelling our subscription, and return to it later. But unlike all these clubs the other factor in the kingdom is God himself. On entry to the kingdom we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. He cannot be accepted one minute and returned months or years later just because we want to do something else.

We effectively do that if we continue in deliberate sin. The Old Testament is very definite about this. There are two sorts of sin: unintended and ‘with a high hand’, that is defiantly, quite deliberately and intentionally (Numbers 15: 27 - 31).. The former can be remedied by offering repentance and sacrifice, but for the second there is no such remedy.

Unfortunately there seems to be a great deal of teaching around in this Western world in which God is a kind of benevolent grandfather figure who will accept almost anything from his grand-children merely patting them on the head and saying ‘don’t do that again - it is not nice’ or some such comment. We must not forget that we are dealing with the Creator and Sustainer of this world of ours and all the universe. He is a holy God who does not like - will not accept - impurity.

Click or Tap here to listen to or save this as an audio mp3 file

~

You can now purchase our Partakers books including Roger's latest - The Puzzle of Living - A fresh look at the story of Job!

Please do click or tap here to visit our Amazon site!

Click or tap on the appropriate link below to subscribe, share or download our iPhone App!

Subscribe in podnovaI heart FeedBurneritunes_logo.giffacebook.giftwitter.gifAdd to Google Reader or Homepage

Read Full Post »

Highlights in Hebrews
Highlights in Hebrews
(with Roger Kirby)

Part 26 - Hebrews 10:19–25

Our confident approach to the Lord

Therefore, brothers and sisters,] 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, 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 all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

The old pun on the word ‘therefore’ was that we should always ask what it is there for. That was never more true than the ‘therefore’ we have here in 10:19. In our last study we noted two things: that Jesus sat down at the right hand of Father God thus indicating his superiority over all; and that this is based on the new covenant, the newly declared purpose and will of God towards his people.

For our writer this was all brilliantly pictured in the way that, as Jesus died on the cross, the veil of the temple was torn from top to bottom (Matthew 27: 51). This was the work of God; if a man had been responsible it would have been done from bottom to top. The purpose of the veil had been to keep everyone out of the Most Holy Place, where God was. Only the High Priest went into this presence of God once a year on the day of atonement. That was now redundant. Everyone, or at least all the Lord’s people, now had clear unlimited access to the most holy place, which was Jesus. It is hard to see how the flesh of Jesus can be a way through the curtain. It was his blood shed which was effective. The Jerusalem temple was where God was, more than anywhere else on earth. No longer. Now it was in Jesus that God was to be found and, in the person of the Holy Spirit of Jesus, in every believing person. We have, so to speak, not to travel to Jerusalem to find God, but to reach down into ourselves. That must be counted both a huge privilege and a huge responsibility.

However we need to be careful. The next few verses say, “ 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.” Of those four things keeping our bodies washed would be by far the easiest if it didn’t really mean keeping our souls and spirits clean - nothing to do with soap, I’m afraid!

More significantly, note how the quotation starts with our faith and ends with the faithfulness of the Lord. This is our confidence. It does not have to rest solely on us but draws continuous strength from one who is a great deal more reliable than we tend to be.

When we get to 10:24, 25 we have “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 all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” To give a picture of this: you can have a good going fire with many pieces of coal on it. But if you take one red-hot piece out of the fire and place it on the hearth all by itself it will very soon darken, cool, and lose all its heat. So it is with us if we remove ourselves from the company of other followers of Jesus.

Click or Tap here to listen to or save this as an audio mp3 file

~

You can now purchase our Partakers books including Roger's latest - The Puzzle of Living - A fresh look at the story of Job!

Please do click or tap here to visit our Amazon site!

Click or tap on the appropriate link below to subscribe, share or download our iPhone App!

Subscribe in podnovaI heart FeedBurneritunes_logo.giffacebook.giftwitter.gifAdd to Google Reader or Homepage

Read Full Post »

Highlights in Hebrews
Highlights in Hebrews
(with Roger Kirby)

Part 25 - Hebrews 10:11–18 Jesus sat down
We are holy!

Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest, Jesus, had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”

Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.

Our writer likes to make sure we have heard and understood what he has said. So he repeats himself. Here he repeatstwo things in particular he has already said: that Jesus sat down and that the covenant had been renewed in its new form.

These days a great many people sit down to work and only stand up when it is finished. It was the other way round for them. Nearly everybody stood up most of the time when they were working. It was only at the end of the day, when the work was done, that they were able to sit down. Jesus sat down at the right hand of God - the place of privilege - because his work was done and would never need to be done again 10:12. Unlike the previous sacrifices carried out in the temple every day his sacrifice was complete, perfect, finished. The sacrifices of animals had been but small tokens of the repentance of the person sacrificing and the forgiveness received from God in response to that repentance. The sacrifice of Jesus, the very Son of God himself, had been so far more effective than those it would never need to be repeated. In fact, how could it possibly be repeated? Any further sacrifice could only be the tiniest reflection of what Jesus had accomplished, not really worth the bother!

The sign of the new covenant, the new way in which God was choosing to deal with people, was not to be a sacrifice but a memorial of that one great sacrifice. The sacrifice could not be repeated; only our memory of it could be, and should be, repeated. So Luke says: “he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. (Luke 22:19-20).

Sadly it is not always the case that this is how our memory of him is presented. If we call people ‘priests’ we need something for them to do so we invent altars and a sacrifice for them to do on it. There is no beginning hint that that is the right thing to do here in the New Testament and, in particular, in this book of Hebrews.

If you belong to one of the churches where this is the way things are thought about it may not be possible for you to withdraw. If so then you have to attend that sort of service but you need to say to yourself very clearly every time that what you are doing is remembering that great moment of sacrifice when Christ cried ‘it is finished’, a moment never to be repeated, only remembered.
And that is true for all of us.
What is the effect? We are made holy, made acceptable to appear before the Lord God now and at the end of days.

Click or Tap here to listen to or save this as an audio mp3 file

~

You can now purchase our Partakers books including Roger's latest - The Puzzle of Living - A fresh look at the story of Job!

Please do click or tap here to visit our Amazon site!

Click or tap on the appropriate link below to subscribe, share or download our iPhone App!

Subscribe in podnovaI heart FeedBurneritunes_logo.giffacebook.giftwitter.gifAdd to Google Reader or Homepage

Read Full Post »

Highlights in Hebrews
Highlights in Hebrews
(with Roger Kirby)
Part 24 - Hebrews 10:10–14
We are holy!
 

“… we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."
 

Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”

The dominant word here is ‘holy’, appearing twice. That is difficult because ‘holy’ is one of those words which tends to mean something rather different in our everyday usage from what it means in scripture. Holiness in common usage tends to mean something like being ‘so heavenly minded as to be no earthly use’! That is far away from scripture usage.

‘Holy’ is the prime attribute of God. He is pure; he is perfect love; he is true justice; he is different from everything else; he is wholly other and above and beyond all else. When the word ‘holy’ is applied to somebody or something on the earth it means they, or it. are so close to God that some of that holiness has ‘rubbed off’ onto them.

We need to put together what our writer says here with what Paul says in Romans 12:1-2. To take what Paul says first he is interested in the practical effects of being holy. He says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

There is no beginning suggestion there, or anywhere else in scripture, that holiness requires withdrawal from every day life. It might be easier if it did! But it doesn’t. We have to live in the world but not in the way of the world. We have to have a different mindset, a different worldview, a different focus of all our endeavours. A different Lord.. We have to please God; we have to let as much of the holiness of God rub off on us as we can. That can only happen if we live in close proximity to him as much as possible. Or, to put it another way, we are to walk hand in hand with the Holy Spirit.

That is Paul’s emphasis. But what about our writer here? He is more concerned with how this can possibly have happened. It is all because of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. This is the positive aspect of what Jesus achieved. We probably, rightly, think more of the negative, of what he did as securing forgiveness of sin for us, sin past, present and future. Positively he set us on a way, a pathway, which we are to walk with the Spirit. He has perfected us! Perfected us in the sense that we cannot, could not, be any more acceptable to the Lord of All than we are through Jesus. We have reached an end a completion of our lives and characters. Wow!

Click or Tap here to listen to or save this as an audio mp3 file

~

You can now purchase our Partakers books including Roger's latest - The Puzzle of Living - A fresh look at the story of Job!

Please do click or tap here to visit our Amazon site!

Click or tap on the appropriate link below to subscribe, share or download our iPhone App!

Subscribe in podnovaI heart FeedBurneritunes_logo.giffacebook.giftwitter.gifAdd to Google Reader or Homepage

Read Full Post »

Highlights in Hebrews
Highlights in Hebrews
(with Roger Kirby)

Part 23 - Hebrews 9:22

Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

If we have been brought up in a Christian environment it is very easy to overlook the fact that our faith is founded on a human sacrifice! So we cheerfully talk about the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. For those who have not got that sort of background it can be a real stumbling block to them thinking of Christian faith. Paul recognised that when he said “we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles”. Even when we think about that verse we may well concentrate on the crucified bit and not think that this means the death of a human being. In almost all the world human sacrifice has been rejected from the beginning even where there is no necessary connection to Christian or Jewish thought. Once we have accepted the idea of sacrifice it is not difficult to see meaning in it as we did in our last highlight from Hebrews.

But why sacrifice in the first place? Animal sacrifice comes into the Bible very early. Animal death is necessary for God to clothe Adam and Eve in ‘garments of skin’ in Genesis 3: 21. It is probable that Abel’s sacrifice was accepted by God and Cain’s was rejected because Abel was a herder and brought animal parts as an offering while Cain was a farmer and brought fruits (Genesis 4: 2 – 5; Hebrews 11: 4). Sacrifice was by no means limited to the nation of Israel.

It was commonplace in all the surrounding nations. The crucial difference was that the line of Abraham had a strong and well defined sense of sin and that the purpose of sacrifice was to cover that problem. Other peoples thought of sacrifice basically as an appeasement of capricious gods to try and improve their tempers and get on the right side of them. Biblically sacrifice was about human shortcomings whereas most other thinking was about the gods. Sin in the early chapters of the Bible is all about the breaking of relationships, particularly those with God, rather than with any infringement of a law. In a way nothing much has changed. We still sin because we break relationships with each other or with God. Even the original sin of Adam and Eve was not really about the eating of the fruit so much as disobeying God. it was more a matter of a relationship broken than a wrong action. The penalty for the broken relationship with God was death. Not physical death immediately in the garden of Eden but spiritual death - the death of an unblemished relationship with God. The same principle still applies. How could immediate death be averted? Only by a substitute death - that of an animal substituting for the human being. So throughout the Old Testament animal after animal died to carry the many sins of human beings.

Was there any way that continual death could be averted? Only if something or somebody of eternal worth could die in their stead. And so Jesus went, voluntarily, to his death so that you and I could be forgiven our sins, particularly our sins of breaking relationship with God.

Was there any way that continual death could be averted? Only if something or somebody of eternal worth could die in their stead. And so Jesus went, voluntarily, to his death so that you and I could be forgiven our sins, particularly our sins of breaking relationship with God. People have sometimes died for other people. Like the firefighters who went into the Twin Towers in `New York in 2001 to try to rescue other people. The difference between their action and that of Jesus is that they went in hoping to live even as they took the enormous risk of going back into the towers. Jesus knew he was going to die. He could have walked away from the squad sent to arrest him as he did from the lynch mob in Nazareth (Luke 4: 28 – 30), but he did not. He could have used his superior power over Pilate, but he did not. He could have walked away from the terrible scourging and the mocking of the soldiers, but he did not. He could have nailed the execution squad to the cross in his place, but he did not. Jesus, not just man but also God, died for you and for me, deliberately a human sacrifice for sin. “He did not use his equality with God to his own advantage … he was obedient to death” (Philippians 2: 6, 8) . We are forgiven as a result. Worship him.

Click or Tap here to listen to or save this as an audio mp3 file

~

You can now purchase our Partakers books including Roger's latest - The Puzzle of Living - A fresh look at the story of Job!

Please do click or tap here to visit our Amazon site!

Click or tap on the appropriate link below to subscribe, share or download our iPhone App!

Subscribe in podnovaI heart FeedBurneritunes_logo.giffacebook.giftwitter.gifAdd to Google Reader or Homepage

Read Full Post »