Hebrews: Jesus is Enough

I have great respect and appreciation for my pastor. He preaches the Word of God without compromise. He serves his church wholeheartedly. He has been a blessing to my family in times of need. He encourages me and cares about me. But he can’t save me. He can’t take on my sin and declare me righteous. He can’t bear my burdens and weaknesses. He can be my pastor, but he can’t be my high priest. But Jesus can. 

The author of Hebrews said, “we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God . . .” (4:14). That probably doesn’t mean much to us as twenty-first century Protestants, but context is important. The Jewish people, like all people, were a sinful bunch. God made provision for them through the high priest, who, once a year, entered the Holy of Holies in the Temple, the place where God dwelled and presented a sacrifice for the atonement for them. This was repeated every year because, as we’ll see later, the blood of animals was a temporary solution to an eternal problem.

Jesus is our “great high priest” who didn’t just enter the earthly dwelling place of God, but He went right into heaven, into God’s very presence to present Himself as our sacrifice of atonement. Once. But once was enough. He alone could do that for us because He is the Son of God. Remember that the original readers were Jews who depended on the yearly sacrifice and atonement. They needed to hold firmly to their confidence that what Jesus did for them once was enough to make them righteous – and keep them righteous before God.

What does that mean for you and me? The same thing. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, which He presented personally to His Father, we are righteous. We have to hold firmly to that as our defining truth. Not just in an ethereal way, but in practical ways every day. When we face choices we remember that we have been declared righteous, and we choose accordingly. When the flesh craves something ungodly, we remember that we have been declared righteous and we deny our flesh. When we would react out of anger or fear or discouragement we remember that we have been declared righteous and we respond as a child of God – with peace and trust and hope. Jesus did it all for you, Beloved. Now hold firmly to Him. He is enough.

Hebrews: Jesus is Greater

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Every nation has its heroes – men and women who left an indelible mark on history and are remembered for generations. Alexander the Great. William Wallace. George Washington. Winston Churchill. And the list goes on and on. The Jewish people also had a hero. His name was Moses and he is still revered and lauded by Jews. It was Moses who led the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage, across the Red Sea, through forty years in the wilderness, and to the edge of the Promised Land. It was Moses who delivered God’s Law to the people and built the tabernacle, the place where the Lord God dwelt among His people. He was a pretty big deal to the Jews. But the writer of Hebrews said there is someone who is an even bigger deal. Jesus.

Two points were raised about Jesus that exalted Him above their hero – He was faithful and He was worthy. “He was faithful to the one who appointed Him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house” (Hebrews 3:2). Both Moses and Jesus were faithful to their God-given tasks. Moses was faithful in His role as the leader of “God’s house” – the people of Israel. Jesus was faithful in His role as the redeemer of God’s creation. But, he noted, there is a significant difference between them. Jesus is “worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything” (vs. 3-4). Moses built the tabernacle, but Jesus is the Creator of everything that exists (John 1:3, 10).

The author then brings it all down to one main point: “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house, testifying to what would be said in the future. But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house” (vs. 5-6a). Moses was a servant, Jesus Christ is the Son. Moses served God’s people; Jesus redeemed God’s people.  The readers were contemplating giving up their faith because of persecution. If they abandoned Jesus and went back to Moses, they were turning away from the greater for the lesser.

But don’t we do the same? Don’t we trade Jesus for lesser things like pleasure, wealth, power, popularity, and fame? Don’t we give our affection and attention to temporal things that hold no worth? Jesus is greater than everything this world has to offer. Beloved, I implore you don’t trade Him away for anything.  

Advent Day 16 – Prince of Peace

“And He will be called . . . Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6)

I would guess that most of you reading this devotional are, like me, from the Western Christian tradition, that is, not a member of the Jewish faith.  Therefore, words and phrases in the Bible such as “Prince of Peace” don’t ring with the same significance to as they did to the descendants of the Hebrews.  Taken separately, these two words simply mean Prince as a ruler or leader of a nation and PeaceShalom – or in the ancient Hebrew – salom – means safety, prosperity, wellbeing, wholeness, and contentment. But when a Jew heard these words, they spoke volumes more – of the long oppression of the Hebrew people and their struggle to survive.  And they spoke to the hope of the promised Messiah.

The nation of Israel cycled in and out of oppression and blessing because of their hot-then-cold devotion to the Lord.  In 607 bc, after falling deeper and deeper into idolatry and disobedience, God took the nation of Israel away from the Jewish people and for seventy years exiled them in Babylon.  When they returned to Jerusalem, their homeland was under foreign rule; they were subjects of the Persians, Greeks, and, at the time of Jesus’ birth, the cruel Romans. They would continue under foreign rule until May 14, 1948 when they were once again recognized as an independent state.

The Jewish people longed for a descendant of the line of King David – the Prince of Peace –  who would free them from oppression and re-establish their nation.  He would reign on “the throne of His father David, and  . . . over the house of Jacob forever; His kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:32-33).  At the time of Jesus’ birth they expected a warrior-King who would defeat their enemy and restore the kingdom.

They were right about the Messiah’s mission – yet they were also wrong.  He did come to defeat their enemy.  But their enemy was not Rome – the real enemy that had enslaved them was the curse of death and sin – the same enemy that has oppressed every human being since Adam and Eve. The same enemy that has enslaved you and me.  The Prince of Peace – the Messiah – came to break the power of that curse.  His mission was much bigger than freeing a nation; He came to free all of humanity.

You may not trace a Jewish heritage, but you can proclaim Jesus Christ as your Prince of Peace, the One who set aside His crown in heaven to wear a crown of thorns on earth that you might be free and reconciled to your Creator.  The mission of Messiah was to rescue you and restore you to the family of His Father.  At the cross of Calvary Jesus accomplish that mission.  For you.

 

Read: Colossians 1:19-20