Priesthood

After instructing Moses about Aaron and his sons, God concludes with the following:

“Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the door of the tabernacle of meeting and wash them with water.  You shall put the holy garments on Aaron, and anoint him and consecrate him, that he may minister to Me as priest.  And you shall bring his sons and clothe them with tunics.  You shall anoint them, as you anointed their father, that they may minister to Me as priests; for their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations.”

Thus Moses did; according to all that the LORD had commanded him, so he did, Exodus 40:12-16.

There’s a great deal more about Moses and Aaron in Exodus than these few verses, but they are a concise account of Aaron and his sons being consecrated as and beginning their responsibilities as priests.  I’m not so much interested in this priesthood, though I have a few thoughts, as I am about the priesthood to which it pointed and that succeeded it:  the priesthood of the Lord Jesus.

One thing that has struck me in view of the importance of these men all throughout the Old Testament is the fact that there is no “office” of priest listed for the New Testament church.  Pastors and deacons, yes and only; “priests”, not at all.  Historically, the idea has come from those religious organizations who have attempted to mold the New Testament church using Old Testament patterns.  Hence, we have world-wide organizations with a “headquarters” in some earthly city, hierarchies of officials over and above a local pastor, fancy buildings, Bible colleges and seminaries, and all sorts of “programs.” The local church, the local assembly, is all but irrelevant, except to pay the salary of the hierarchy and for all the other stuff.

Yes, they protest, but we need all these things!

The early church did alright without them.

God intended the local church to be all that believers needed for fellowship and teaching, 1 Timothy 3:2; 2 Timothy 2:2, 24.

You might answer, “You went to Bible college!”

Yes, I did.

And I’m thankful for it, as I’ve said elsewhere.  The thing is, and only God knows, what could the godly pastor of the church where the Lord Jesus brought me to Himself have taught an ignorant and wayward young man?  And Claude Young, to keep at least the memory of his name alive, was a godly old man.  What blessing could I have been to that church, to which I never returned except a couple to times to visit?  What mutual blessing could there have been?  As I said, only God knows.

But churches lose their young people – their future – to some far-away place, and it’s thought this is ok.

On the other side of this, we knew a pastor in one of these organizations, a good man, a godly man, who loved his people and they loved him.  The organization to which he belonged decided he would be more useful translating the works of some obscure scholar of theirs whom no one had ever heard of.  Never mind what his people or he thought about it or might want.  He must leave his church.  His people were heartbroken and so was he.

In answer to all this, the New Testament knows nothing of anything beyond or over a local assembly, free to associate with other assemblies, but also free from their interference and control.  it’s true that the church at Jerusalem was the “important” church in its time, but it seems to have been replaced, as it were, by the church at Antioch, which itself is long gone.  In any event, there is no Scriptural authority for the man-made organizations which have sprung up throughout church history which obscure and minimize the local assembly.

Having said all this about the New Testament, it’s not that I think the Old Testament isn’t important.  Those of you who’ve followed this blog for any time as it enters its seventh year – thank you, Lord Jesus – know that I do.  It’s just that we’re to be guided by the New Testament, – without ever forgetting the lessons of the Old.  Cf. 1 Corinthians 10:1-11.

The Old Testament priest was the intermediary between the ordinary Israelite and God.  Even he, though, was limited in this.  He couldn’t just go into the tabernacle when he felt like it.  The ordinary Israelite dare not!

The Old Testament priest had continually to offer animal sacrifices because, in the words of Hebrews 10:11, these sacrifices could never take away sins.

The office of Old Testament priest was hereditary, strictly limited to the family and descendants of Aaron.

The office of Old Testament priest, therefore, was “off-limits” to the average Israelite.  Even a king could get into trouble for interfering, and did, 2 Chronicles 26:16-20.

The OT priest could not forgive sin nor do anything to correct the nature of the one bringing the sacrifice.

There’s only ever been One about whom it can truthfully be said that He forgives sin:  “That you may know that the Son of Man has power [authority] on earth to forgive sin,” – then [Jesus] said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed and go to your house.”   Matthew 9:5, 6.  This incident is also recorded in Mark 2:10 and Luke 5:24.

The religious authorities of His time thought the Lord Jesus committed blasphemy because He dared to forgive sin, Matthew 9:3.  We recorded part of our Lord’s response to that in the paragraph above, but in the verses before that, we read, knowing their thoughts, [He] said to them, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?  For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you.’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’?” emphasis added.  One is as easy to say as the other, but only the Lord Jesus has the power and authority actually to doactually to forgive sin.

No man-made priest or any earthly religious organization has that power or that authority  – no matter what they claim.

The reason that there is no “office” of priest in the New Testament church is that it isn’t necessary.  Believers themselves are considered “priests” in the New Testament.

1 Peter 2:5, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 2:9, But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; (emphases added)

Through the Holy Spirit, every believer has access to the presence of God.  We don’t need a priest, the church, Mary, saints…. The list goes on and on.

For through Him we both [that is, Jew or Gentile] have access by one Spirit to the Father, Ephesians 2:18.

Nor do we need for them to pray for us – at the hour of our death or any other time.

There’s only One to whom we need turn – in death or in life:  the Lord Jesus Christ, Hebrews 3:1.  He, and He alone, is our “High Priest.”  We need no other.

He is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them, Hebrews 7:25.

 

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Revelation 8:1-6, The Sound of Silence.

1] When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.  2]  And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets.  3] Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar.  He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which is before the throne.  4] And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand.  5] The the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth.  And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake.

6] So the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.  (NKJV)

This title has nothing to do with the song originally put out by Simon and Garfunkel in the 60’s, which I remember, and later versions, which I do not know or remember.  I’d forgotten about the song when I decided on the title for the post.

So, why this title?

How can “silence” have “sound”?  Isn’t silence the absence of sound?

Let me tell you a story.  I had a friend in Bible College whose family I would visit every so often.  One time in particular I remember.  The room they put me up in had the air conditioner in the window.  It gets hot in Tennessee.  Anyway, this one time it was running, very noisily.  As morning drew near, someone turned it off.  That was what woke me up, that sudden, deafening, silence.

As we come to our text in Revelation, remember the scene John has set:  chorus after chorus, anthem after anthem, shout after shout, of praise, adoration and worship continually being voiced by the multitudes gathered around the throne.  Then, suddenly,

there was silence in heaven….

Perhaps for the first time ever.

The sound of silence….

No “background music” to set the scene.

Just utter, complete silence.

Then…

Seven angels are given trumpets.

Another angel holding a golden censer approaches the golden altar in front of the throne.  He’s given “much incense” to offer “with the prayers of all the saints” on the altar.    Then he takes the censer, fills it with fire from the altar and hurls it to the earth, which results in noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake.

The seven angels prepare to sound their trumpets.

We don’t often think of heaven as having an altar or censers, but Hebrews tells us that the OT tabernacle was modeled on things in heaven, Hebrews 9:24.

It’s interesting that the prayers of the saints are mentioned twice.  And by “prayers,” I don’t think John meant those repetitive, formal prayers recited during church services or repeated during quiet times.  To be sure, they can be heart-felt and fervent, but I’m afraid that too often our mouths are saying one thing and our mind is thinking of something else.

When the Lord wanted to convince Ananias that it was safe to go find Saul of Tarsus, He said, [B]ehold, he is praying,”  Acts 9:11.  Now, Saul had been a zealous Pharisee before his conversion and, no doubt, like that Pharisee mentioned in Luke 18:11, had often “stood and prayed…with himself,” telling God what a great guy he, Saul, was.

What was the difference?  Before, he had simply “said” prayers.  Now, he was “praying.”  He wasn’t just going through the motions; he had literally been stopped in his tracks.

“The prayers of the saints.”  Those prayers themselves are described as “incense” in Revelation 5:8.

Without getting into the typology of the Tabernacle and offerings, the incense offered with the prayers of the saints refers to the merit of the Lord Jesus.  It is He who makes them presentable to a holy, righteous and just God.  That’s why, in Colossians 3:17, we’re told, Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

John brings up a subject we don’t really think about, don’t even like to think about, apparently.  Paul mentioned it in Romans 11:22:  consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness.  Otherwise you also will be cut off.

Our society and culture is all over the idea of “the goodness of God.”  “God is love” is apparently all the theology many people have.  And we are thankful that “God is love,” else we’d all be in trouble.

There is more to God than “love.”  That same book that mentioned the love of God also said of God, This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all, 1 John 1:5.  “This is the message” – not that “God is love,” but that “God is light,” that is, that He is holy, righteous and just.  That is the God with whom we have to do, not this sentimental, grandfatherly type that we seem to have today that chuckles over the foibles and folly of His children.  Apart from the Lord Jesus, we ARE NOT His children, in spite of what is commonly believed today.  We are His subjects, He is our God and King, against whom we are traitorous rebels who are doing everything we can to dethrone Him.  We are the subjects of His wrath.  There is coming a time when that will be plain to all, when the inhabitants of the earth will have to acknowledge that wrath, Revelation 6:17.

The truth is, apart from the Lord Jesus there is nothing but wrath and condemnation for the unbeliever:  He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. … He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him, John 3:18, 36, emphases added.

That’s true of nations, as well.  Psalm 9:17 says, The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.  History is littered with the ruins of nations that have come and gone.  This country will not be exempt.  I’m encouraged by recent events that perhaps God has given us a breather, so to speak, but still, there is abundant evidence that the voice of the enemy has not been silenced, only muted a little.  Indeed, those same events may stir the enemy up.

Heaven may seem to be silent for the time being.  Life goes on.  But there is coming a time, sooner or later, when it will speak loudly and clearly, and finally, to the inhabitants of this world.

We do not rejoice in the idea of judgment.  God Himself has no pleasure in judgment.  Ezekiel 33:11 says, “Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.’  And Isaiah 28:21 calls judgment, His unusual work.

Indeed, God has gone to great lengths to make a way of escape from the judgment rightfully due us.

Seeing a mankind that would universally reject Him, He chose from among these rebels a vast number to be saved.  For those who object to such an idea, for Him to have chosen only one to be saved would be more than any of us deserve, let alone the countless multitudes that He has chosen.

Having chosen these otherwise condemned sinners to be saved, God sent His Son to take their place under His wrath.  The Lord Jesus suffered what we should suffer, who are by nature children of wrath, just as the others, Ephesians 2:3.  Because He suffered, there is no more wrath for us, those for whom He died, Romans 5:9.

But there was still something that needed to be done.  Because we were dead in trespasses and sins, Ephesians 2:1, because we once were alienated from the life of God, Ephesians 4:18, and were alienated and enemies of God, Colossians 1:21, God sent the Holy Spirit:  God has revealed them to us through his Spirit, 1 Corinthians 2:10.

Our Lord referred to this work of the Spirit in John 3 as the new birth, a birth not of flesh and blood, but of or by the Holy Spirit.  Without this birth, we are unable either to see or to enter into the things of God, John 3:3, 5.  Without His work, there is no understanding at all of spiritual truth.  Religion, yes, spiritual truth, no.

Oh, there is so much more we could say about this.  It’s enough for now to say that judgment is coming.

Only those who have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ will be spared that judgment.

Have you believed on Him?

Hebrews 13:7-19, Some Things to Remember

[7]Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct.  [8]Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  [9]Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines.  For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods, which have not profited those who have been occupied with them.
[10]We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat.  [11]For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp.  [12]Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate.  [13]Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach.  [14]For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.  [15]Therefore by Him let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.  [16]But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
[17]Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account.  Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.
[18]Pray for us; for we are confident that we have a good conscience, in all things desiring to live honorably.  [19]But I especially you to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner. (NKJV)

As the writer begins to close up his thoughts, he reminds them of some things to keep in mind.

1. Remember the message, vs. 7-9.  While it’s true he starts off referring to those who rule over you, his emphasis here is on what they preached:  the word of God.  This “word” focus is on the Word, John 1:1, that is, Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Then he warns them against being carried about with various and strange doctrines.
Many in our day seem to think it’s right and necessary to throw out the old doctrines, the old beliefs, and substitute new ones in their place.  This may be from social convention or political maneuvering.  It may be from something else.  Regardless, the old paths, Jeremiah 6:16, of divine revelation are neglected, overgrown, and forgotten in preference to the broad way of unbelief and “reason” and “science”.
In contrast to this, the writer warns his readers that the object of our faith, the Lord Jesus Christ, is eternal and unchanging.  While it’s true that our understanding of Him has developed throughout the ages of the church, the truth about Him has not.  What was true 2000 years is still true, and will be true 2000 years from now.  There will be no new revelation, no change in the truth.  And it’s true regardless of who disagrees with it or denies it or tries to substitute something else in its place.  It’s true even if nobody believes it.
In a world of constant change and increasing chaos, this unchanging truth is the one thing we can hold on to with assurance.
Among other things, the first century church was troubled with controversies about diet.  What one could or could not eat had been an important part of Jewish culture in the Old Testament.  When first century Jews were converted to Christ, they brought a lot of this view with them.  Hence, our writer’s comment about the heart being established by grace and not by diet, which has not profited those who have been occupied with it.  Paul had to deal with this problem, as well.  Cf. Romans 14; 1 Corinthians 6:13.  Even our Lord had to deal with this problem.  Cf. Matthew 15; Mark 7:1-23.

2. Remember the Master, vs. 10-16.  Thinking of food perhaps led the writer to think about the Old Testament sacrificial system.  Without getting too deeply into it, many of the sacrificial animals weren’t completely consumed on the altar.  Part of the sacrifice was eaten by the priest and/or by the one offering it.  The most notable example of this was the Passover, Exodus 12:8-10.
This leads into a difficult saying of our Lord found in John 6, starting with v. 41.  We’ll pick up His thought in v. 53.  His audience was questioning what He was saying, quarreling among themselves about it, v. 52.  In answer, our Lord said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise Him up at the last day.  For My flesh is food indeed and My blood is drink indeed.”
This Scripture has led some to believe that the Lord was referring to actual flesh and blood, so the elements of Communion, bread and wine, are really transformed into the flesh and blood of our Lord by the words of a priest.
A close reading of John 6 dispels this notion.  Earlier in the chapter, the Lord spoke of believing in Him, vs. 29, 35-40, 45, 47.  In v. 63, He told His disciples, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing.”
When our Lord instituted the Lord’s Supper, or Communion, using things from the Passover meal He and His disciples had just eaten, He said of the bread, “Take, eat; this is My body.”  Of the cup, He said, “Drink from it, all of you.  For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sin,” Matthew 26:26, 27.  See also Mark 14:22, 23; Luke 22:19, 20.  Pay close attention to the fact, though, that after the Lord said this, He was careful to call the wine, “the fruit of the vine,” Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:25.  It had not been changed into something radically different, not been changed into real blood.  Our Lord was saying that the bread and the cup represent His body and blood, not that they had or would become them.
The Lord Jesus died once for sin, Hebrews 9:26-28.  It isn’t necessary to offer some man-made “unbloody sacrifice” around the world millions of times a day for salvation.  His life, as represented by the bread, and His death, as represented by the cup, are the only things which bring salvation.  All else brings only death, regardless of what is said about them.
In remembering the Master, we mustn’t forget that the writer said that He suffered outside the gate, v. 13.  Jesus wasn’t “popular” in any sense, but was despised and rejected by men, Isaiah 53:3.  He suffered reproach and rejection, especially by the religious leaders of His day.  It was they who were foremost in demanding He be put to death, cf. Matthew 27:11, 20.  If we would follow the Lord Jesus, it must be outside the camp, v. 13, because that’s where He is.
In our last post, we wrote of the danger of being possessed by things.  That’s because this world isn’t our final home.  In the words of v. 14, here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.
Through the Lord Jesus, we’re to continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, v.15.  That’s because we have a hope that this world isn’t all there is to life, that all the trouble and difficulty we face will one day be gone, and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.  There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away, Revelation 21:4.
At the same time, the writer reminds us that we still have responsibility in this world: But do not forget to do good and to share, v. 16.  As someone has put it, we’re not to be so heavenly-minded that we’re no earthly good.  We’re here to please God, not just ourselves, and to sacrifice our own interests in service to others is well-pleasing to Him.  God has left us here to be salt and light in a dark and corrupt world, not just to serve ourselves.

3. Remember the ministers, v. 17.  V. 7 speaks of the message of those who preach.  V. 17 speaks of their responsibility – and ours.  The word translated “rule over” simply refers to leaders, not to kings on a throne.  There are some preachers like that.  Such men fail to realize the responsibility that they have.  Spurgeon used to say that the idea of facing thousands of people in preaching the Gospel was enough to crush him into the dust.  He understood that the Gospel, church, Scripture – these all deal with eternal things and how we treat them in this life has a lot to do with the next one.  He knew that he would give an account of his ministry one day, and it wouldn’t be about how popular he was, though he preached to thousands and his sermons circled the world (long before the internet and instant messaging), but how faithful he was to the Word and to God.
As listeners, we, too, have a responsibility to faithful ministers – not to be a burden to them, but to listen to them and give them honor due them as ministers of God.  To do otherwise is unprofitable, v. 17.

4. Remember me, vs. 18, 19.  The writer recognized his own need of prayer, even though he desired to live honorably, v. 18.  But even though he had a good conscience, he knew that his own strength wasn’t enough for this.  Further, he wanted to be restored to them, and prayer was a means to this.  We don’t know if he were in jail or what it was that was preventing him from being with them, but God knew.
Praying is an essential part of the Christian life.  By prayer, we don’t mean some rote petition said while we think about something else, or some formula given out by a priest, but the outpouring of a heart burdened with this life and/or thankful for God’s grace and blessing through it all.  When Saul of Tarsus was converted and people would have trouble believing that he was no longer their enemy, what was the evidence of his new life?  “Behold, he is praying,” Acts 9:11.  Now, as a Pharisee, no doubt, Saul had said many a prayer.  But he had never prayed.  There is a difference.  It’s one thing to “say a prayer,” as I’ve occasionally had folks ask me to do; it’s an entirely different matter simply to “pray.”

Hebrews 4:15-5:10, Our Great High Priest, part 2.

In our previous post, we saw that the writer had briefly mentioned the priesthood of Christ in an earlier passage.  In the next several chapters of Hebrews, he will expand on that teaching.  We saw last time the general responsibility of the High Priest, which was, once a year on the Day of Atonement, to enter the Holy of Holies in order to sprinkle blood on the mercy seat.  This would atone for the sins of the nation for that year, though each individual Israelite was also responsible to bring gifts and offerings to God for his own sins.

Having laid that groundwork, the writer now moves in the fifth chapter to the priesthood of Christ.

1.  The origin of the priesthood of Christ, vs. 1-3.
There are some who deny even the existence of the Lord Jesus, and say that He’s a complete figment of the imagination.  It just seems to me, for someone who doesn’t exist, that He’s had a tremendous effect of history and society.  There are others who say that He just decided to become the Messiah on His own.  A noted Muslim scholar, who spoke some time ago at a local Catholic university, teaches that Jesus was just one of a number of self-proclaimed, self-deluded Jews who claimed to be the Messiah and who wound up being executed by the Romans.  It’s true that there were a number of false Messiahs around that time, but the writer to the Hebrews says that Jesus wasn’t one of them:  He did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, v. 5.  See also v. 4.  Even the OT priesthood wasn’t self-originated, but God singled out a single family to fulfill that office.  There were even those who were disqualified from being priests because they couldn’t prove their genealogy from Aaron, from that family, cf. Ezra 2:62; Nehemiah 7:64, an event so important that it’s mentioned twice in the OT.

In v. 5 and 6, the writer quotes two OT Scriptures:  Psalm 2:7 and Psalm 110:4 to show that even the OT prophesied such a Person.  Verse 6 introduces Melchizedek, about whom the writer has a great deal to say in 6:20-7:28.

We don’t know for certain when Jesus became aware of His destiny, humanly speaking, but we do know that by the age of twelve, He was aware of it, Luke 2:41-50.  Later on, in His ministry, He said, “I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me,” John 6:38.  Even His message wasn’t “His”:  “…I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things,” Jphn 8:28. (NKJV)  There are a number of other Scriptures, especially in John, which teach the same thing.  Jesus was sent by the Father.

2. The outcome of Christ’s priesthood, vs. 4-6.
a.  for Himself, vs. 7, 8.
Cf. 2:10, 17; 4:15.  Also see Isaiah 53:3, 4:  He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.  We can’t begin to imagine what it must have been like for the Lord to assume humanity.  He never complained about it, but there are indications that He felt it greatly.  In Luke 12:50, He said, “I have a baptism to be baptized with [His suffering on the Cross], and how distressed I am till it is accomplished!”  He didn’t come to be praised and petted.  His birth was largely ignored in the events of the day – much like it is today – even at Christmas!  His life was spent in a troublesome province in the Roman Empire, and His death was just another of many deaths in that time.  He was despised and rejected, Isaiah 53:3.  He still is – even by many who claim to believe in Him.
There are a couple of other things.  Some who knock on your door will tell you that Jesus was only a creature of God.  He wasn’t God. They misuse several Scriptures to try to prove that.  Hebrews 5:8 disproves their claim:  He learned obedience by the things He suffered.  If He were just a creature in Heaven, wouldn’t He have “learned obedience” there, instead of having to learn it here?
Further, v. 7 says, in the days of His flesh,…He…offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear.
This is another of those things far beyond our understanding and experience.  When was the last time you – or I – prayed with “vehement cries and tears”?  I’m afraid that too often prayer is just part of some “liturgy” or a certain number of forms prescribed by a religious official.  It isn’t real prayer at all.
I suppose part of the reason for that is the prevailing view that “God has done all He can do and now it’s up to” us.  After all, if He’s already done all He can do, what’s the point is asking Him to do any more?
I think another reason the Lord prayed so fervently was that He missed His Father.  After all, He had spent eternity in perfect fellowship with Him.  Now that was hindered by the Lord’s humanity.  I don’t understand the Incarnation at all, but it must have been difficult for our Lord – to get tired, hungry, to have to walk from here to there, to be around people, even His own family, who didn’t understand Him or His message.  He no doubt had an awareness of the Father we know nothing about, but still, it wasn’t the same – and He missed it.
b.  for His people, vs. 9, 10, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.
There’s quite the discussion about the place of “work” in our salvation.  On the one hand, there are those who insist that we must have works in addition to our faith in order to be saved.  We have to keep the Mosaic Law, or the edicts of some “church.”  “Faith” seems almost optional in this view.  We must have “works.”
On the other hand, there are those who insist that we’re “saved by faith alone.”  Works has nothing to do with it.  As long as you’ve made a profession of faith, that’s all that’s required.
The truth lies between these two extremes.  Paul puts it quite clearly in Galatians 5:6:  …in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.  We might translate that last part: “faith energized by love”.
Make no mistake on this!  Paul isn’t saying that we’re saved by faith and works.  Neither are we.  There is nothing to be added to faith:  baptism, agreement with some statement of faith or catechism, as good as some of these may be, church membership, doing good works, etc. etc.
The issue lies around the character of faith:  what is “saving faith.”  There are those who deny that there are different “kinds” of faith, and say that all faith is the same.  I believe this is incorrect.  There is what may be called “a historical faith,” that is, it’s simply about the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord.  There is a “doctrinal” faith, which simply agrees with a particular statement of doctrine.  There is a “natural” faith, which I heard about a lot when I was in Fundamentalism.  This is the faith that expects the car to start when you turn the key or push the button, or for a chair to hold you up when you sit on it.  There is even a “devilish” faith, James 2:19.  Are demons saved?  Though they might have their place, except for the last one, none of these “faiths” saves us.
Saving faith doesn’t come from us.  It isn’t just the “exercise of our wills.”  It come from God’s grace, Ephesians 2:8: Acts 18:27.  Saving faith “obeys” God.  This is the whole essence of James, and it’s the essence of Hebrews 5:9.

3. Obstacles to the priesthood, vs. 11-14.
These verse start the introduction to 6:4-6, about which we’ll have more to say.  According to the writer, there were two obstacles standing in the way of his readers understanding what he was saying.
a.  their dullness, v. 11.
Even the OT lamented this.  In Matthew 13:15, our Lord quoted Isaiah 6:9, “For the hearts of this people have become dull.”  In our day, we might call it “Gospel-hardened,” that is, we’ve become so familiar with what we believe the Bible says that we don’t really think about it.  As it were, we’ve gotten used to it.  The readers of Hebrews had “gotten used” to Moses, and had a hard time learning something different.
b.  their “immaturity,” v. 12-14.
They had been believers long enough that they should have been able to teach others, but they themselves hadn’t even mastered the basic principles of the faith.  They still needed the “milk of the Word,” and couldn’t digest what Peter wrote of some of Paul’s writings:  things hard to understand, 2 Peter 3:16.  Sadly, many of their descendants are with us today.

March Memories: A Kitchen Prayer.

This poem was written many years ago by a 19-year-old girl in domestic service in England.  It was read by Dr. G. Campbell Morgan during one of his services at Westminster Chapel, London.

Lord of all pots and pans and things,
Since I’ve no time to be
A saint by doing lovely deeds
Or watching late with Thee
Or dreaming in the dawnlight
Or storming heaven’s gates,
Make me a saint by getting meals
And washing up the plates!

Although I must have Martha’s hands
I have a Mary mind,
And when I black the boots and shoes,
Thy sandals, Lord, I find!
I think of how they trod the earth,
What time I scrub the floor;
Accept this meditation, Lord,
I haven’t time for more!

Warm all the kitchen with Thy love,
And light it with Thy peace!
Forgive me all my worrying
And make all grumbling cease!
Thou Who didst love to give men food
In a room or by the sea,
Accept this service that I do –
I do in unto Thee!
_______________

(originally published March 15, 2013).  I hope the people this young lady worked for appreciated what a treasure they had in her!

A Girl Named Rhoda.

In our reading Sunday, my wife and I were in Acts 11 and 12.  When we read Acts 12, I had to chuckle at what happened, and yet also reflected how often what happened then happens now.

In ch. 12, Herod had decided to persecute the church at Jerusalem.  He put to death James, the brother of John.  Because this greatly pleased the Jews, with whom the Herods pretty much always had uneasy relationships, he also imprisoned Peter.  V. 5 tells us that constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.  What happens next always impresses me:  on the night before Peter was to be brought out, probably to be executed, that night Peter was sleeping…. (!)

“Sleeping”….

I wonder what you and I would do under similar circumstances.

Well, Peter is miraculously released, which ultimately cost the lives of 16 Roman soldiers and went to where many was gathered together for prayer.  This is where Rhoda comes in.

So excited was she to hear Peter’s voice on the other side of the door that she didn’t open it, but ran and told the others, “Peter’s outside the door!  Peter’s outside the door!”

Their response? –

In the vernacular of our day, “You’re out of your mind!”

“No!  He’s outside, he’s outside!”

“No way!”

“Way!”

“It must be his angel.”  This from one of the more spiritual brothers.

Well – finally – they opened the door, and the Word says that they were…

…”astonished”(!)

Oh, my!

(Looking in the mirror) – how often we are “astonished” when the Lord answers prayer unexpectedly, as He did here.  I don’t know exactly what the believers were praying for when they prayed for him, but it evidently wasn’t that he would just show up at the door!

How often – too often – we’re like the man in Mark 9, who came to the Lord about his son and said, “…if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”  I think the Lord was very emphatic in the first part of His reply when He said, “If you can believe – all things are possible to him who believes.” 

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” Mark 9:17-24.

Aye, there’s a prayer for us poor believers!

“Lord, we believe.  Help our unbelief!”

When We Pray, “Thy Kingdom Come”…

…what are we praying for?

Is it just a rote prayer recited during a certain part of the liturgy?

What are we praying for?

Is it just another portion of Scripture we’ve memorized without much thought?

What are we praying for?

Doesn’t the next phrase amplify what we’re praying for?

Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. 

How is “God’s will” done in heaven?

Fully.  Willingly.  Joyfully.  A lot of other adjectives.

Is that how it’s done “on earth”?

Anywhere?

What are we praying for?