Hebrews 10:1-25, The Way to God, part 1

[1]For the law, having a shadow of the good things come and not the very image of the things, could never with those same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.  [2]For then would they not have ceased to be offered?  For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins.  [3]But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year.  [4]For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.  [5]Therefore, when He came into the world, He said, “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me.  [6]In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure.  [7]Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come – in the volume of the book it is written of Me – to do Your will, O God’.”  [8]Previously saying, “Sacrifices and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them” (which are offered according to the law), [9]Then He said, “Behold, I come to do Your will, O God.”  He takes away the first that He may establish the second.  [10]By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.  [11]And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.  [12]But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, [13]from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.  [14]For by one offering he has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.
[15]But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, [16]“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord:  I will put My laws in their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,” [17]then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”  [18]Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.
[19]Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, [20]by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, [21]and having a High Priest over the house of God, [22]let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  [23]Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.  [24]And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, [25]not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.  (NKJV)

In our last post, we noted the absolute contrast between the Old and the New Testaments, which are much more that just the respective collections of books that we know by those names.  As we saw, the Old Testament, or Covenant, was a two-fold revelation from God:  1) what was required if one were to come to God on his own merit, and 2) what was required since no one has such merit.

In other words, the Old Testament showed in the Law the absolute and inviolable perfection required by the nature and character of God.  The sacrificial system showed that no one ever had, or has, such perfection.  It also demonstrated the twin principles of substitution and sacrifice, principles shown from every sacrifice from that given for Adam and Eve down to the last one animal slain before the death of Christ.  His was the final sacrifice, and the only one that ever effectively dealt with sin.  Perhaps too simply put, “substitution” means that an animal died in the sinner’s place, and “sacrifice” means that the sinner lived in the animal’s place.  So with Christ:  He died in our place, and we live through Him.  Paul put it like this, For He [God] made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him, 2 Corinthians 5:21.  You see, the issue isn’t simply about “life” and “death,” but about “sin” and “righteousness”.

Though we’ll only look at part of these verses in this post, there are two things in our text:

1.  Preparation of the way to God, vs. 1-18.
2.  Participation in the way to God, vs. 19-25.

1. Preparation for the Way to God, 10:1-18

Giving of the Law, 10:1-4.  As we noted in earlier lessons, the Law was not given in order to provide a way of salvation, but to show that salvation was needed.

1. The Law was “the shadow of good things to come,” v. 1.  The Tabernacle and the sacrifices foreshadowed two things.
a. the sacrifices foreshadowed forgiveness.
b. the Tabernacle foreshadowed fellowship with God.
The purpose of redemption isn’t just so that we can go to Heaven, but that we may enjoy it when we get there.  Think about it.  If a person has no time for church or Scripture or spiritual things, but spends his time submerged in the things of this world, he would have nothing in common with the inhabitants of Heaven.  If he lives only to fulfill the desires and goals of the flesh, what will he do when these things are no longer important, or even possible?  If he knows only to curse God, how will he praise Him?  It isn’t just “streets of gold,” or “mansions” that will occupy us in heaven, but God Himself and the Lord Jesus.

And that’s not just for the future, but for this life, as well.  Death won’t be some magic transformation that changes us from what we are here to what we will be there.  The work is begun in this life, else there is nothing good in the next life.  Apart from the Lord Jesus Christ, there is only a “lake of fire” awaiting the lost, Revelation 20:15.  Redemption is the resumption of what was begun – and lost – in the Garden of Eden.  The Fall of man no more messed up God’s original purpose for mankind than the rejection of Jesus by the Jews messed up God’s plan for the Kingdom.

2. The Law was powerless to “take away sins,” vs. 2-4.  Why then was it given?  To drive home the truth about sin.  “By the law is the knowledge of sin,” Romans 3:20.  “The wages of sin is death,” Romans 6:23.  “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire,” Revelation 20:15, which v. 14 refers to as “the second death.”  Sin isn’t just some momentary foible or weakness; it has enormous, and eternal, repercussions.  After all, it was a “minor” sin, as we judge such things, that plunged the race into the misery it suffers now.  “Hell” may only a swear-word to many folks, but they will find out when it is too late that Hell is an awful and eternal reality.

Generating ofa body,” vs. 5-8.
1. desirability, vs. 5, 6.  “Wherefore” – the sacrifices weren’t just for the sake of sacrifices – God had “no pleasure” in them – but to teach salvation by substitution and sacrifice, the two cardinal truths of the Gospel.  There is no other way that God saves sinners.
2. declaration, vs. 7, 8.  This is a quote from Psalm 40:6-8.  “I come” is the prophecy of the One Who would “do your will, O God.” – Who would keep the Law perfectly and satisfy its penalty completely.  This was typified but never accomplished by the sacrifices.

Giving of the Sacrifice, vs. 9, 10.

These verses clearly tell us that we are neither justified nor sanctified by the Law, but by the sacrifice of Christ, also v. 14.  Verse 9 tells us what Christ meant in Matthew 5:17-20 about “fulfilling” the Law.
1. He came to clear away the traditions of men and to present the Law as it really was.
2. He came to satisfy all its requirements so that it has no claim on Him as a human being, and, therefore, no claim on those for whom He came as Substitute.

The New Covenant removes the necessity of the First Covenant, v. 9.  It accomplishes what the First Covenant required – perfect obedience and righteousness, but could never provide.

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Glimpses in Genesis: The Call of Abraham, Genesis 11:31-12:20.

It’s been a while since we visited Glimpses in Genesis.  Other subjects keep popping up, even in Genesis!  (Not a bad thing!  There’s always lots in the Bible treasury!)

Our study begins with Seth: one of the three sons of Noah.  From these three have come all the nations of the world.  These three, with Noah, had experienced the Flood and its aftermath.  They knew the God of heaven, at least in this way.  Scripture doesn’t give us any real indication of their spiritual condition.

As we’ve indicated elsewhere, we believe there was a general knowledge of God long before the giving of the Law at Sinai.  Even though man continually and repeatedly rebelled against his Creator, there are indications of this general knowledge and revelation throughout Genesis.  It is here we begin, with

The background of the call, Romans 1:18-32

We believe Paul starts with a description of early man and his rebellion against God.  Even though they knew Him, not just as some sort of “doctrine,” but in reality, they didn’t want to acknowledge Him, and they weren’t thankful for His continued patience with them.  But it isn’t just about them.  Note the change between vs. 28 and 29 (ESV):  They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness….  They are full of envy, murder, strife…(emphasis added).  This isn’t just about “them” – early man; it’s about “us” – man today.

In the space of a few verses, Paul wrote three times that God gave them up or over, vs.24, 26, 28.  This doesn’t mean He gave up; He gave them up.  It means He gave them what they wanted:  He let them go.  He turned them over to the desires of their fallen natures.

From this polluted river of mankind, God drew a slender rivulet, through which He will eventually purify the whole.

Abraham.

The beginning of the call, Genesis 12:1; Acts 7:2, 3.

Stephen gives us the additional detail that the God of glory appeared to Abraham before he left his native land.

There’s an interesting Jewish tradition about Abraham.  According to this tradition, Abraham’s father Terah had a shop that sold idols.  One day, Terah came into the shop after leaving his son in charge and found all the idols except the largest lying shattered in pieces on the floor.  Terah immediately wanted to know what happened.  Abraham replied, “Well, a worshiper came in with an offering for the gods and they began to fight over it.  This one” – pointing to the survivor – “won.”  “That’s ridiculous,” scoffed Terah.  “These idols can’t do anything!”  Abraham’s quiet response:  “Why then do we worship them?”

It’s unlikely that is what happened when the true God introduced Himself to Abraham.

In Genesis 11:27-32 (NKJV), the conclusion of Shem’s genealogy beginning in v. 10, indicates that Terah took his family, including Abraham and Sarai, as far as Haran, which was more or less on the northern border of Canaan.  We have no idea why, though there is conjecture.  Regardless, it wasn’t what God told Abraham to do.

God told Abraham to leave his family, his father’s house and his native country.  Taking Terah and Lot along wasn’t supposed to be part of it.  Terah caused a delay, perhaps of several years, till he died, and Abraham finally entered the land.  The delay was long enough for them to acquire “possessions,” and “people,” v. 5.  And Abraham allowed his nephew Lot to go with him, 12:3.  Perhaps he felt he couldn’t “abandon” his younger relative; perhaps he saw no harm in Lot’s tagging along.  Whatever the reason, these acts of partial obedience caused him trouble later on, and the inclusion of Lot plagued Israel centuries later.

The provisions of the call, Genesis 12:1-3.

1.  God would show him a land, v.1.  Cf. Hebrews 11:8, he went out, not knowing where he was going.

Have you ever thought about that?  Abraham comes home one day and says to his wife, “Sarai, start packing.  We’re moving.”

“Oh?  Where are we going?”

“I don’t know.”

He might not have known, but he knew that God knew, and that was enough.  Note also that there’s nothing said at this time about him ever owning the land.  God just said He would show it to him.

2.  God would make of him a great nation, v. 2.

By this time, Abraham and Sarah had been married long enough for it to become evident that Sarah was barren, Genesis 11:30.  This comes into play, both happily and unhappily, later on.

3.  God would make his name great, v. 2.

There was nothing special about Abraham to induce God to appear to him and give him all these promises.  As a Kentucky preacher friend used to say, “It’s all amazing grace.”  Abraham’s name is revered by three of the “world’s religions:” Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  Only two of these have a legitimate claim.  The third rejects Abraham’s son Isaac in favor of Ishmael, whom God rejected.

4.  God would make him a blessing – to all the families of the earth, vs. 2, 3.

How God would do that isn’t fully revealed until the completion of the NT.  Abraham left his own family and his native country, but will gain an entirely new and much larger “family,” out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, Revelation 5:9.  Paul wrote that he would be heir of the world, Romans 4:13.  And Hebrews 11:10 says that he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.  Ur of the Chaldees, though a great city in its time, was built on a marsh.  Abraham was looking for something sure and stable.  This doesn’t mean, as some make it, that he wasn’t also expecting God to do something in this life.

Our Lord put it like this:  “…there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or sisters or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life,” Luke 18:29, 30 (emphasis added).

Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean “abandon.”  Though Peter’s remark about “leaving all” in v. 28 brought about our Lord’s response, his house and his wife’s mother are mentioned in Luke 4:38, where, presumably, his wife also lived.  If it is objected that this was before Luke 18, Paul specifically refers to Peter’s wife in 1 Corinthians 9:5:  Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas [Peter)?  This was certainly years after Luke 4 and 18.

These verses simply mean that nothing, not even the closest human relationships, should be allowed to get in the way of our serving the Lord.

In the case of Abraham, God had told him to leave his family behind.  He wouldn’t be the loser for doing that.

5.  God would deal with others as they dealt with Abraham (and his descendants, natural and spiritual).

It may not be apparent, at least with believers, but God will eventually see to it that His children are blessed.  This blessing may not be what the world considers “blessing,” but God’s children will know it as that.  The same may be said of the “curse.”  It may not be in this life, which really is just the preparation for the next, but it will happen sooner or later.  Cf. Matthew 25:31-46.  (This, BTW, has nothing to do with caring for the homeless or feeding the hungry, as the social reformers teach, though that may be a part of it in some cases.  And certainly, we are commanded to take care of the poor and needy throughout Scripture.  James 1:27, Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.  I found it telling that the word processing program I use to type these posts didn’t know “undefiled” or “unspotted.”  Such concepts are altogether foreign to this world’s thinking.)

The ones to whom our Lord refers in Matthew 25 are His brethren, vs. 40, 45.  Cf. Joel 3:2, where the LORD says, “I will …gather all nations, and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; And I will enter into judgment with them there on account of My people, My heritage Israel….”  This valley is nowhere else named except in v. 12, where the LORD says, “There I will sit [cf. He will sit on the throne of His glory, Matthew 25:31] to judge all the surrounding nations,…”   This “judgment of the nations” will be part of the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham.

NOTE:  this judgment cannot be identified with the “White Throne Judgment” or “Final Judgment” though many do so.  This judgment occurs in a “valley;” that judgment occurs when heaven and the earth have disappeared, And there was found no place for them, Revelation 20:11b. 

Abraham’s imperfections and the call, 12:1-20.

The Bible never covers over the imperfections and sins of its “heroes.”  Never does it “glorify” them as better than they really are.  It just simply shows them, warts and all!

Regardless of what thoughts may have gone through Abraham’s mind as he approached Egypt, when he apparently was concerned that he might be killed by the Egyptians over his beautiful wife [who, by then, was in her late 60s], though he didn’t know it, he was endangering the very one through whom all the promised blessings would come.  When Abraham trusted God, he did well; when he looked at his “situation” or circumstances, he messed up, sometimes royally.  In this case, except for God’s intervention, Genesis 12:17, who knows what tragedy might have happened?

It’s not without reason that the Lord taught His disciples to pray, “Lead us not into temptation [that is, circumstances which test us and make us fail, or even sin], Matthew 6:13.  This does not mean that God tempts us to sin, James 1:13.  It means that there is no situation in life which the devil or our own inherent sinfulness cannot turn into a temptation to sin.  I wonder if we will ever know how the Lord has intervened to keep us from making tragic mistakes.  We mess up enough as it is.  What are we kept from?

The Bible emphasizes the faith of Abraham.  This wasn’t just some academic thing.  It wasn’t just about “religion” or “church.”  [Yes, we know.  He didn’t have “church.”]  His whole life was centered on obedience to God, expecting Him to fulfill what He had promised.  While he saw the beginnings of that fulfillment and experienced several miraculous things, he never received a complete fulfillment of what God promised.  Writing of him and his descendants, the writer to the Hebrews put it like this:  And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us, Hebrews 11:39, 40.

Part of the Abrahamic Covenant was that through him all nations of the earth would be blessed.  Though the Old Testament never specifically spells out how this would be accomplished, the New Testament gives additional details.  Part of this is the fact, as we just read, that the Old Testament saints will not “be made perfect apart from us.”  The word translated “perfect” refers to a goal, an objective.  God’s objective in all this is to have a pure, righteous world, cf. 2 Peter 3:13.  We’re going to be part of that.  When God made His promises to Abraham, He had us in mind as well.

It doesn’t mean, as some teach, that the NT church somehow replaces the nation of Israel as God’s covenant people and takes over her blessings.  The curses, of course, remain hers.  It means that we are a complement to her, that from these two entities the Lord Jesus will make one new man, Ephesians 2:15, having reconciled them both to God in one body through the cross, v. 16.  We are fellow-citizens with them and members of the household of God, not they with us.  We Gentiles have no claim on God, having been given up in the judgment of God because of our depravity, Romans 1.  It’s only by the grace of God through the Lord Jesus that we have the blessings of salvation.  But it all goes back to God’s promise to bless all nations through Abraham.

I think Hebrews 11:13-16 might also speak of these “faith-worthies:”  These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.  For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland.  And truly if they had been mindful of that country from which they had come, they would have had opportunity to return.  But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country.  Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.

This imperfect, fallen world is not the final chapter in human history.  Though there might be, and are, multiplied blessings along the way, as the song goes, “this world is not my home, I’m just a-passin’ through.”

I’m homesick.  Are you?