Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Sitting on the Right of the Throne: Hebrews 8
Our author (Luke, perhaps?) gets back to the "main point," as he says, in this chapter. That point? We have a high priest who has taken his seat. Or, to follow my style guide better, we have a High Priest who has taken His seat. That High Priest is Jesus.
This particular chapter works us through the idea that the Tabernacle (Exodus) was never intended to be the actual focus of worship. Instead, the earthly Tabernacle, and the Temples that followed it, was a "shadow and a copy" of a heavenly reality. This reality? That God is, is unchanging, and is not flawed in any way.
Further evidence of the disparity between the earthly and the heavenly is found in the quotations that make up the second half of this chapter. Jeremiah 31 is quoted and highlights the need for a new covenant. It is worth noting that this prophecy is given before the final fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple--that is, Jeremiah speaks the words of God about the need for a new covenant before the fall of the symbol of the old covenant.
Our author (Apollos, perhaps?) takes this promise of God, for what is a prophecy if not a promise to fulfill it? and runs with it as evidence that Jesus is the mediator of the promised new covenant. Given that Jesus invoked the phraseology of the "new covenant" specifically at the Last Supper.
What, then, would our author (Barnabas, perhaps?) have us see about Jesus here? That He, unlike the ordinary high priests, instituted a new covenant that is complete and unshadowed. Rather than the covenant pictured by the Tabernacle and Temples, which required constant maintenance, this covenant allowed the High Priest to sit down and call it done.
Which should remind us of another point in Scripture, namely Genesis 2:2-3. Just as God finished creation and ceased from His work, so the Son finished redemption and ceased from that work. There was no longer a need to offer continual sacrifices, no having to return to bring more blood on a further day.
In focus we should see the seated Christ, finished with His work of redemption.
Well, if Jesus is done with redemption, what is there for us to practice?
1. Faith, demonstrated in bold obedience. We should be bold in our walk with Jesus, knowing that He has finished saving us and that we not fear being cutoff over a slight misstep. While we should be in touch with the Word of God so that we obey rightly, inactivity in fear of decision making does not show that we trust our redemption is secure in Christ.
2. Humility, demonstrated in compassion. It's always hard to write about humility. The more I say about it, the more obvious it is I need more humility. But since we can be clear that our redemption is accomplished by Jesus without any help from us, there should never be arrogance in the servant of God. We are redeemed, yes, and we are part of God's people, yes, but not because we are more awesome than the next person. Show your humility by demonstrating compassion to all.
3. Faith, demonstrated in bold obedience. Faith precedes our obedience and empowers it. But there is no way to demonstrate a faith that is mere emotional assent. Instead, our faith is shown by action which shows we trust God--through obedience.
1. Nerd point A: our author (Paul, perhaps?) refers in v. 4 to the gifts being offered according to the Law. This causes me to date Hebrews prior to the destruction of the Temple (70 AD).
2. Nerd point B: our author (Barnabas, perhaps?) starts with "the main point..." as if he's getting a speech back on track. This is one of the reasons I think Hebrews is actually the record of an oral presentation. It was then bundled as a letter and sent--a sermon series delivered to one group of Hebrews and then written out and sent over to another group.
3. Nerd point C: the Septuagint (LXX, Greek translation of the Old Testament) is the source for the Jeremiah quotation. Not super critical, but tells us what was being used. It is likely that this helps us locate the composition of Hebrews to outside of Israel--but that's not required.
4. Nerd Point D: I find it very interesting that the reference here, and throughout Hebrews, focus on the Tabernacle and not the Temple. I wonder if this is because there is Scriptural support that the Tabernacle is designed by God (Exodus) while there is no such support for this view of the Temple? The Temple appears to have mainly copied the Tabernacle layout.
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