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.”
2 Peter 2
√ Re·new·al: the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken
2 Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.
4 For if God did not spare angels
5 if he did not spare the ancient world
6 if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah
7 and if he rescued Lot
9 if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment.
This is a convicting chapter filled with evidence of the reality of humanity. It’s undeniable evidence that makes it easy to jump to the wrong conclusion. It’s not about “them vs us. It’s about the undeniable separation between God and man. Anything else is a wrong comparison.
I felt a little twinge of mean-spirited satisfaction that I’m not “them” as I read. Having to admit to a mean-spirited attitude at all is bad enough but I read on to discover I have another issue; a kind of holier-than-thou satisfaction that “the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment” and God “rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless.” That’s the “us” I identified with. I liked it but then I realized I missed the point entirely.
The grim evidence of this chapter is only a reminder we aren’t rescued and renewed by the separation of “them vs us” but by this undeniable truth: God’s Divine justice is absolute, unlimited, unrestricted, unrestrained, unbounded, boundless, infinite, ultimate, total and unconditional.
2 Corinthians 3:7 The old way, with laws etched in stone, led to death, though it began with such glory that the people of Israel could not bear to look at Moses’ face. For his face shone with the glory of God, even though the brightness was already fading away. 8 Shouldn’t we expect far greater glory under the new way, now that the Holy Spirit is giving life? 9 If the old way, which brings condemnation, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new way, which makes us right with God! 10 In fact, that first glory was not glorious at all compared with the overwhelming glory of the new way. 11 So if the old way, which has been replaced, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new, which remains forever! [NLT]
God’s law was chiseled into those tablets of stone. What could be more permanent than stone? Those tablets were “new” then but they are lost today. God had something even more permanent in mind; the same truth reproducible in the hearts of transformed people. Truth that would be new not only in point of time, but also new in quality…for all time.
Etched in stone or etched in life is the difference between the law versus the Spirit and the bottom line of the new way. Now “the Holy Spirit is giving life.” God’s truth is not new but the “new” quality is truth being chiseled into our hearts. No wonder it sometimes hurts but it’s truth that will last for all eternity. We are the tablets the world sees today.
4. Matthew 6:9 “This, then, is how you should pray:…12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
• debt: something that is owed or due, a feeling of gratitude for a service or favor, obligation
• obligation: an act or course of action to which a person is morally or legally bound;
A dictionary definition can bring up a less commonly used word like “obligation” as part of “debt.” It’s a tool that helps me think about what I’m reading in a broader way. That one word “obligation” reminded me of Romans 8:12: “Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it.” That’s truth, right?
The terms of a debt are usually not ours to set but once agreed upon they are a contract. We owe…we pay…”we have an obligation.” What I’m pondering is why that truth is obviously grace when we pray Jesus’s words “forgive US our debts” but becomes an obligation to repay it when we add “as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
We recognize our indebtedness. We want his forgiveness. Our debt is too big to pay without it, but it’s easy to forget we’ve agreed to all the clauses of that contact. That obligation is where Jesus’s prayer model meshes together with Romans to become the confession he meant it to be for us. Lord help us to recognize your forgiveness of our debt has such an important relationship to our struggle to recognize our obligation to forgive.
Ephesians 2:3-5 NIV All of us also lived among them [our transgressions and sins] at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
I’m fascinated with the uniqueness of the Greek language to distinguish subtleties of words and meanings. In this scripture there is one word [hamartia] translated “sin” and another [paraptoma] the NIV translates as “transgressions.” What makes it interesting is not the way we might differentiate between those two words but how the Greeks did. These are my edited notes from William Barlclay’s study of Ephesians.
•Hamartia (Greek #266) is a shooting word that means to miss the target completely.
•Paraptoma (Greek #3900)…means taking the wrong road when we knew enough to take the right one.
Sin is a loaded word even for those of us who believe we are sinners saved by grace. The Greek definitions don’t impact the reality of the scripture but they do influence my courage to recognize and confess the truth of it.
What if I read this Scripture as:
I have also lived with missing the target completely and choosing the wrong road at one time, gratifying the cravings of flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like so many, I was by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for me, God, who is rich in mercy, made me alive with Christ when he saw the road I’d chosen was going nowhere—it is by grace I have been saved.