NIV Hebrews 5:1 Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. 3 This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people.
Reading this book backwards has resulted in an interesting observation: The truth of Hebrews is becoming more complex as I get closer to it’s beginning. Sacrifices seem pretty straightforward until I read this by William Barclay “…the Jew was always quite clear, when thinking at his highest, that the sins for which sacrifice could atone were sins of ignorance. The deliberate sin did not find its atonement in sacrifice.”
There were two sacrifices demanded by the Lord; one for satisfaction of the sins of ignorance and another for the guilt of deliberate sin. None of the diligent and and rigid rules of sacrifice had the power to deal with the full capacity of a broken human being to choose to sin on purpose. Jesus was “appointed by God to represent the people in matters related to God” in place of those sacrifices. He became God’s deliberate Sacrifice that could remove the deliberate guilt of all sin when He “became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”
Hebrews 6:1 So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing our faith in God. 2 You don’t need further instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And so, God willing, we will move forward to further understanding.
A very important concept of faith every believer has to learn is renewal is not repetition. Surely that’s the beginning of a whole new direction that leads us to “become mature in our understanding.” Maturity and understanding have their ups and downs but God has a plan for that. He’s built that plan into us with this expectation: redemption through Jesus has made possible a consistent sense of direction through the moral compass of the Holy Spirit.
Welcome to my spiritual science lesson. A compass has a small magnetic pin suspended inside it’s casing so that it’s free to move and respond to true north. In between that magnetic pin and true north lies a magnetic field that is impacted by local disturbances. Those dips and undulations can affect the compass needle’s ability to point to true north. Users of a navigational compass have charts that help them recalibrate their compass as needed to compensate for those variations in the magnetic field and keep them heading in the desired direction. Does this sound at all familiar to you?
God is true north. The Holy Spirit is the small magnetic pin. We are the casing. Faith is our compass. The inconsistent magnetic field is our world. The local disturbances are the up and down experiences of life. God’s Word is the chart that recalibrates those up and down experiences as needed to keep us heading in the desired direction. “And so, God willing, we will move forward to further understanding.”
Hebrews 8:10 This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.[NIV]
Trusting your heart and mind really are under God’s control has to become one of the main disciplines of experience for the believer. There are other experiences we have a better handle on: gathering information from the Bible, the Church, Godly people, prayer and service in the Lord’s name. OK, got it, now what?
That answer to “now what?” is so simple…and yet so much harder because the reality is even those disciplines are not our own. They certainly express our faith, but where did that faith come from? They’re certainly the evidence of experience that proves the reality of our desire to please God, but where did that come from? Faith and desire both came from the simple acceptance of what God promised at the day of our salvation. Simple right?
Just as faithfully as we practice those other disciplines of experience we need to learn to practice this simple truth…“I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Simple acceptance is what makes this discipline of trust so much harder. Can you believe God intends you to trust His presence in your mind and heart even when you fail, even when you don’t know which choice to make, or even worse, when you’ve made the wrong one?
Dare to trust living with God’s real promise for your life and believe: “I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.” All it requires is simple acceptance…but it’s hard evidence of real trust in God.
Hebrews 13 – 9
Throughout the book, we are also challenged to remain faithful to Jesus and follow great models of faith from the Old Testament despite hardships and persecution. These challenges will make us uncomfortable but instead of fearing them, remember that rejecting Jesus is foolish. Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God’s love and mercy and is worthy of all our trust and devotion.
[The Bible Project]
All of Scripture is God letting us look into the past to show us how to build our life of faith today. Usually I read as if chapters are layers that pile up one after another to result in the truth of the book. Reading Hebrews backwards is like peeling those layers back, one a time, to discover for myself truth that can be built into everyday life AND the future. So these are cliff notes from my writings on chapters [13 – 9] each numbered and listed without further editing in that same “backwards” order. My goal is to discover confirmed evidence the Holy Spirit is working through these layers of God’s word to teach me exactly what I need to learn.
 Outside” is where Christ receives your brokenness and disgrace and makes them his own. It’s the plan of God that we who are outsiders can go to where “new” begins, the Cross.  God has saved the unmerited favor of His Grace IN us. Living with the reality of that forgiveness is the discipline of Grace that turns faith into action.
 Those ancestors made it into this “By Faith” chapter because their faith reached into the future of US. That past and their faith has reached beyond time to strengthen our present with the promise of completion for US all as the future unfolds. US is God’s version of “outreach” at it’s most creative.  Today we have God’s incredible exception to those annual sacrifices. The blood of Jesus and the Grace of God have provided a way to remove the guilt of our sin from God’s memory forever…but our memory is still a natural consequence of sin.  Circumstances are where God begins. Right from the beginning God desired to be present with us because of love. Right from the beginning when circumstances might have denied that truth, God began.
NIV Hebrews 9: 1 Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary…23 It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.
Truth: God is Sovereign and human’s are willful. I don’t know where I found this quotation but it’s inserted itself into my thinking about Hebrews 9. “Circumstances are where God begins.” Those three sentences led me back to the very beginning. I’m going to assume the fall of Adam and Eve was not a surprise to God. Right from the beginning He desired to be present in their lives. I think it’s possible those first two people were created to be God’s dwelling place but instead temptation and circumstances resulted in the first broken relationships. Those circumstances were where God set into motion the plan He’d always had to save His relationship with the people he loved. Jesus was NOT plan B.
Right from the beginning God desired to be present with us because of love. Right from the beginning when our circumstances might have denied that truth, God began to work within us. The same lives that could be broken by temptation and circumstance could now become His earthly sanctuary and a dwelling place for His own Spirit through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. “For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.”
Hebrews 10 NIV
• 3 But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins.
•14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
• 18 And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.
These Hebrew worshipper’s sacrifices were an annual reminder for them of the guilt of their sin. They counted on sacrifice for relief from the penalty of sin and to temporarily remove the sin from God’s memory as well as their own. Today we have God’s incredible exception to those annual sacrifices. The blood of Jesus and the Grace of God have provided a way to remove the guilt of our sin from God’s memory forever…but our memory is still a natural consequence of sin.
The memories of confessed and forgiven sins can still hurt when they pop up but they are only meant to remind us to give thanks in that moment for our renewed awareness of the permanence and purpose of His forgiveness and Grace at work in us. “He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” and “where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.”
Hebrews 11:39 & 40 [NLT]
39 All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. 40 For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.
Hebrews 11 turned out to be a literal page turner for me. I read it in different versions of the Bible and then I read more about these two verses in several commentaries all because of one word – US.
US? Yes…it’s “us!” We have become part of the history of these people from the past because of God’s completed work in Jesus. Those ancestors made it into this “By Faith” chapter because their faith reached into the future of US. That past and their faith has reached beyond time to strengthen our present with the promise of completion for US all as the future unfolds. US is God’s version of “outreach” at it’s most creative. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to imagine the past, present and future as a triangle. The triangle is also the identity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit and they are the reality of the Field of Hope for our daily life, past, present and future..
Triangles are the strongest shape. When a force is added to a triangle it is spread evenly through all three sides. They work together like a building truss and make a structure that is extremely strong and stable. That strength is the promise of God. It’s the field of hope that includes all of US.
NLT Hebrews 12 and James 1 & 2 [NLT]
Hebrews 12:2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy [or instead of the joy] awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame…23 You have come to the assembly of God’s firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God himself, who is the judge over all things. You have come to the spirits of the righteous ones in heaven who have now been made perfect. 24 You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which `speaks of forgiveness instead of crying out for vengeance like the blood of Abel. 25 Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking…
You have come…. x4 to the place that “speaks of forgiveness.” When we ask God to forgive our behavior His response is the unmerited favor of His Grace. Forgiveness is the foundation of our faith that becomes this specific discipline of Grace; “Keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith” and “mediates the new covenant between God and people.”
Hebrews urges “Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking.” The first words I heard as I listened were; “forgiveness” [what only God can do] and “discipline” [what I can do]. Then I heard a familiar echo of those words with these from James 1 and 2 – “faith” and “actions.” They’re copied below for you to read with ‘forgiveness’ substituted for the word [faith], ‘discipline’ for the word [endurance] and ‘Grace’ as the verb that replaces [actions].
James 1:3 For you know that when your forgiveness [faith] is tested, your discipline [endurance] has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your discipline [endurance] is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing…2:14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have forgiveness [faith] but don’t show it by your Grace [actions]? Can that kind of forgiveness [faith] save anyone?
This post has become a perfect example for me of these truths:
ALL the books of the Bible work together for our good. The Spirit really does link truths from different Scriptures in new and meaningful ways. Forgiveness and discipline do help explain faith and actions AND faith and actions do help explain forgiveness and discipline.
AND finally the most important truth of all: God has saved the unmerited favor of His Grace IN us. Living with the reality of that forgiveness is the discipline of Grace that turns faith into action.