“Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.” Hebrews 9:15
New Year’s resolutions are so easy to make, and so hard to keep. Old habits die hard. Old desires still burn within. Chocolate seems all the more tempting in January than it was in December, especially when you resolve to lose weight. Many of us make a resolution to start good habits, eating healthy, exercising, and reading the Bible every day. These are good, life-affecting habits, but all too often we get sidetracked and let our good resolutions fall by the wayside. I would like to encourage you in one particular good resolution, that of reading the Bible daily.
I love the Word of God. It is my passion and my calling. I am both a teacher and a student of the Bible. I have been reading and studying the Bible for many years, getting up early every morning to spend time in prayer and to soak my spirit in God’s Holy and perfect Word, to study and dig deeper for understanding and nuggets of wisdom and truth. God’s Word has changed my life – it has changed me from the inside out. And it will do the same for you, if you don’t give up.
When we determine to read the Bible, we start off well, Genesis and Exodus are exciting books, filled with personal stories and great wonders of God from Creation, the Flood, to the calling of Abraham, and this family that God declares will be a great nation. Exodus offers us the awesome burning bush of Moses and the plagues that brought freedom for the enslaved Hebrews, the parting of the sea, the people’s wanderings because of their disobedience, and the beauty of the Tabernacle of the Lord.
Then we start on the book of Leviticus, and all of the sudden we are bogged down in the mire of sacrifices and offerings and rules and regulations. And our resolve weakens. The book closes and the dust starts to build. And Satan claps his evil hands in delight. What is the point of reading this archaic account of sacrifices and things that have no bearing on us as New Testament Christians? Why do we need to read about dead kings and prophets and people who are so wishy-washy towards God? But – aren’t we being wishy-washy in giving up on this marvelous book about the God we have claimed our allegiance to?
One reason I love the Old Testament so much is that everything written in those “archaic” books points toward the One who is their perfect fulfillment – Jesus Christ. For instance, Jesus Christ is the Passover Lamb, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (see 1 Corinthians 5:7; John 1:29). The Old Testament is rich with evidences of Jesus Christ, a subject I will be studying and writing about more in the coming year.
The study of the Old Testament sacrificial system gives us all the more reason to rejoice and celebrate our salvation through Jesus Christ. When we read of the severity of these sacrifices, and consider the weight of the rituals and regulations that the Old Testament Jews had to endure to be in relationship with the Lord God, it should tell us that 1) sin is a serious offense to God, 2) the price that had to be paid to cover man’s sin was extreme, and 3) our salvation came at the highest price – the life and blood of God’s Son.
A passage from the book of Hebrews isthe perfect example of why the study of the Old Testament is vital to understanding our redemption through Jesus Christ. Look with me at Hebrews 9: 12-14:
“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, thus obtaining eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death,so that we may serve the living God!”
In these verses we see the juxtaposition of the Old Testament against the New. Before Christ, the blood of sacrificed animals was an external, or outward, cleansing of the people’s sin, and this only applied to unintentional sin (sins committed in ignorance-see Hebrews 8:7). Levitical law stated that “If a person sins and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord’s commands, even though he does not know it, he is guilty and will be held responsible” (Lev. 5:17). But the Lord made it clear, there was no provision under the Old Testament sacrificial system for intentional sin. Listen to Numbers 15:30-31: “But anyone who sins defiantly…blasphemes the Lord, and that person must be cut off from his people. Because he has despised the Lord’s Word and broken his commands… his guilt remains on him.” That is a chilling thought. How many of your sins and mine were committed with the full knowledge that we were disobeying God’s Word? Under the Old Testament law, we would remain forever guilty.
Now look back at Hebrews 9:12-14 and rejoice with me that the blood of Jesus cleanses – “once for all.” All sins – intentional and unintentional, every act of rebellion and disobedience, every stumble and fall – is covered by the precious blood of the Lamb of God. Oh I can hardly keep from shouting (and waking my family at this early hour)! While the blood of animals cleansed the Jew outwardly and only from unintentional sin, the blood of Christ cleanses all of our sins – and cleanses us from the inside out. Verse 14 says that Jesus’ blood will “cleanse our conscience from acts that lead to death.” In other words, Jesus blood cleanses us from the guilt of sin and from the desire for sin. Jesus cleanses us from within, where man’s sinful nature lives, the root of our passions and the impulse that drives our actions. The blood of animals had no effect on man’s inner nature, on his heart. But the blood of Jesus Christ changes not just our outward condition, but our very heart, soul and spirit. When we surrender to this transforming power we will find that our sinful desires are replaced with a passion to know God and to live for Him in all we say, do, and think.
Oh how I love the Word of God. It shows me who I am, who God is, and the price He paid to redeem me for His own, to change my heart and my life. My ministry is to encourage you in the study of God’s Holy and Living Word – because it is life and light and nourishment to our very souls. Don’t give up my fellow Bible student – there are riches waiting for you beyond your wildest imagination.
Holy Father, God of the Living Word – my heart is overwhelmed by the joy of Your salvation and the beauty of Your Holy Word. Etch it deeply into my heart and let it always be ready on my lips. Thank You for Your Life-giving Word. Amen