FIEC NORTH MIDLANDS GROUP
Sunday 27th December 2020
Hebrews 10 v 19 – 24
2020 has been a very unusual and, for most people I suggest, a very difficult year. I don’t think anyone had any idea of the scale of the widespread disruption that would affect not only our nation but pretty well the whole world. Furthermore, it seems that the presence and effects of the Covid virus are set to remain with us well into the new year, despite the very welcome roll-out of a vaccine. Many people remain fearful for their employment and businesses, or worried for vulnerable loved ones.
Christians also face the same issues as everyone else. However, the question for followers of the Lord Jesus Christ is – how should we approach the start of 2021? I would suggest that Hebrews 10:19-24 can really help us. These verses were written to Christians who were facing challenging and threatening times. Later on in the same chapter we read that some had already – “endured in a great conflict full of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions” (v32-34); and we know that such hardships were likely to continue because they were told – “do not throw away your confidence…You need to persevere” (v35-36). This applies to us too going into 2021.
The book of Hebrews relates so much to the Old Testament and especially the God given patterns of its sacrificial system. This is because it was originally inspired and written for Jewish believers in particular and so we get references to – “the Most Holy Place…the curtain…priest” etc. It was all – “a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: ‘See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain” (8:5). The whole system pointed forward to the gift, coming and saving work of the Lord Jesus Christ; and it is to him that we are pointed as we look forward to living in this new year.
1. KEEP YOUR CONFIDENCE IN CHRIST v.19-20
“Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body” – is the start of a passage of application based firmly on the teaching of the book up to this point. The “Therefore” points us to what has gone before, which is really summed up for us in the words of the previous two verses – “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.’ And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.” The whole point of the book thus far has been to show that the once for all sacrifice of the Son of God is entirely sufficient for the forgiveness of all the sins of all who will be saved. Therefore any further sacrifices or earthly priestly ritual are rendered entirely and eternally redundant!
Because this is so, all who turn in faith to the, risen, exalted, living Lord Jesus Christ can have total confidence in him as they live the rest of their lives. That means we can, without hesitation, do what only the Old Testament high priest could do once a year – “enter the Most Holy Place”. For him, that meant going behind the curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place in the Tabernacle, and later the temple. That was where the Ark of the Covenant was kept with the Mercy Seat and cherubim on top and where the presence of Jehovah was especially manifested. The high priest entered only on the Day of Atonement after having washed, dressed in his priestly robes, sacrificed a bull and goat and collected their blood. He then took the blood and sprinkled it on the Mercy Seat.
That was a tremendous privilege for the high priest, but I also suspect it must have been a nerve racking experience. Knowing he too was a guilty sinner, going into the fearsome presence of the Almighty God must have been an extremely unsettling encounter! The question must have lingered in his mind as to whether he had prepared properly in every way and therefore would not be destroyed – “For the Lord your God is a consuming fire” (Deu 2:24; Heb 12:29).
By complete contrast true believers can go directly into the immediate presence of the same awesome God with absolute confidence because of the – “blood of Jesus”; and because – “He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, so obtaining eternal redemption” (9:12). We need have no fear in going to God because the blood of Jesus has paved the entirely safe way into “the Most Holy Place”.
This is – “by a new and living way”. It is “new” because it is a complete replacement of the old Old Testament ritualistic way. Then it is “living” because it is only available through the risen, exalted, living Saviour and no longer based on the blood of dead animals.
In being raised from the dead and exalted to heaven, the Lord Jesus removed the old temple curtain, which acted as a barrier to the Most Holy Place & was torn apart when he died, and replaced it with his resurrection – “body” – that is, he has become our one and only needed way into the immediate presence of his and our Father.
Another very wonderful thing about this way of entering God’s presence is that it is – “for us” – and not just restricted to the high priest alone, and that once a year. It does not matter who we are or what we have done, the entry into the presence of the Holy God is still open to us. There is no bolted gate across this pathway or ‘Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted’ notice. You and I are completely free to walk right into the presence of God.
It is just as Jesus told his disciples – “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6); and that is true whether we are coming to God for the very first time or time after time for the rest of our lives.
2. CONTINUE IN COMMUNION WITH GOD v.21-22
“since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings” Now that God’s people have their – “great priest” – representing them in heaven, let’s not hesitate to – “draw near to God”. That is to deliberately reach out to him who – “is not far from any one of us” (Acts 17:27); it is to think of him; speak to him, either audibly or silently; to express our love for and to him; share our joys, concerns and anxieties with him and confess our sins to him. To draw near is to worship, praise and pray to God. To put it plainly, it is consciously and deliberately turning to God about everything, anytime and anywhere!
If we have put our faith in the exalted Lord Jesus, we can go to God – “with a sincere heart” – one that is honest with itself; “with the full assurance that faith brings” – with the wonderful sense of a secure salvation that trusting in the Lord Jesus has brought us; “having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from guilty conscience” – a conscience that is no longer burdened with a sense of unpardoned sin and guilt; “having our bodies [or behaviour] washed with pure water” – or as Paul was inspired to put it – “saved through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).
The snag with this verse for every true Christian is that we know our hearts so often carry mixed motives; our faith ‘wobbles’ at times; our conscience regularly reminds of our sin and failures; and our behaviour is certainly not entirely virtuous! However, we can be so thankful that the verse does not say that we can only draw near to God if we have a perfect heart; a totally developed faith; an absolutely clear conscience and entirely holy lifestyle. The ground on which we draw near to God and enjoy communion with him is that the blood of Jesus has opened the way for us and he ever lives as – “the gate” – through whom we – “go out and come in and find pasture” (John 10:9).
As we go into 2021, let’s make drawing near to our great and loving God, even more the habit of the rest of our a lifetime! If someone asks us – ‘Where have you been today?’ – let’s be able to say – ‘I’ve been near my God and Saviour’!
3. RENEW COMMITMENT TO OUR PROFESSION v.23
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” Every true Christian has made a – “profession of hope” – at some time in some way. When we put our faith in Christ, we are given a whole plethora of promises for the rest of our life on earth and then for eternity – “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises” (2 Peter 1:3-4); on which we base and articulate our hope. We not only take the promises of God to heart, but acknowledge our reliance on them in our daily lives. How we live and speak shows that we confidently expect God to fulfil all that he has promised.
The marvellous reason we have for doing this is – “he who promised is faithful”. Our hope is centred on our absolutely – “faithful” – God, who – “has said, Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Heb 13:5). We have the confident hope that God will always be with us and bring us safely to our home in glory!
Just like those to whom this letter of Hebrews was first written, as we go into 2021, we too face difficult and, in some ways, threatening times. The philosophies of this world are increasingly more vocalised with what amounts to a message of hopelessness only focused on this life. At the end of November much of the western world indulged in ‘Black Friday’. It struck me that the basis for it was – ‘get what you can now’ – with the implication that there is nothing worth having beyond’! The world and the devil are continually tempting us to give up our faith and hope and that is why we are exhorted to – “hold unswervingly” to it; to keep a firm grip on it and be determined not to let it go.
Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to help us keep such a grip on our wonderful hope of salvation and not be afraid to profess it.
Just one other matter to take with us into the new year:-
4. CONSIDER ONE ANOTHER v.24
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds”. We are encouraged to think carefully how we can ‘stimulate’ each other to persevere in sharing the love of God and doing all the good we can. To put it simply – to live day by day, as much as we can, in the way the Lord Jesus lived here on earth. That is to live in communion with God our Father; committed to professing his word and promises; encouraging each other to show his love and do all the good we can.
He is the one in whom we can have complete confidence and solid hope for 2021 and whatever it holds; and then for evermore.
Mike Stringer; December 2020.