Daily Thoughts from Hebrews: Big Kingdom Living

By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them. (Hebrews 11:23-28, ESV)

Moses’ faith is so interesting because he, more than most, had an incredibly attractive world made by human hands that he could have enjoyed with power and wealth most will never see.  If this world is it, his slice of the pie was extraordinary and an irresistible lure to forget the kingdom of God.  But he resisted the lure.  He did not bite.

His parents began the legacy of his faith, trusting that God had something special for Moses, a deduction they made based on his beauty.  We know what is extraordinary beauty and they knew it was a gift from God.

Grown up Moses exercised his own faith when he acknowledged his Hebrew identity and forsook the fleeting pleasures of sin.  Even the enormous wealth of Egypt could not compare to the treasure of knowing Christ.  Yes, he foresaw the coming of God’s anointed one, the Messiah.  Though he fled Egypt the first time he did not fear the anger of the king the second time he left Egypt.  And he believed God’s promise of protection from the Destroyer by applying the blood of the sacrificed lamb on the doorposts.

Where do you believe your greatest wealth lies — in the world or in the Lord?  That’s the key.  There are temporary pleasures available to us.  Will you give up your birthright for a bowl of porridge?

Little kingdom living is an endless search for earthly treasure and unending focus on personal need; Grace calls you to a bigger kingdom.  [Paul D Tripp]

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Daily Thoughts on Hebrews: Faith Tested

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones. (Hebrews 11:17-22, ESV)

In rapid succession the author of Hebrews continues his hall of faith, finishing up his remarks about Abraham’s faith, then touching on Isaac’s faith, Jacob’s faith and Joseph’s faith.  Abraham gave the ultimate proof of his faith in God’s promises by being willing to offer up the one aspect of these promises that he had physically received, his son Isaac.  His faith was so strong that God was going to make good on His promise that he conceived of God raising Isaac from the dead once he sacrificed him.  How could the Hebrews do any less by remaining true to Christianity instead of going back to Judaism!

Isaac’s faith looked to the future promises of God concerning his sons Jacob and Esau.  Jacob did the same with his 12 sons, prophesying over each of them in regard to God’s future kingdom (Genesis 49).  And Joseph so counted on God’s promise of return to the land promised Abraham that he left specific instructions about carrying his bones to Canaan, an instruction that Moses and the people followed 400 years later.

The Hebrews had suffered persecution and had no doubt heard many persuasive arguments from their Jewish relatives and friends who did not embrace Jesus as Messiah.  But Jesus was and is the fulfillment of all God’s promises.  These yet await a future realization when Jesus returns to finally establish his authority over all the earth.  Are you really willing to throw all that away just because you can’t see the end yet?  Don’t you feel the need of a future kingdom swelling in your soul?  You are being tested.

Few are skilled at holding themselves in a state of listening to heaven’s music.  Ordinary things – like kitchen pots clattering, telephones ringing, and TV commercials about frozen food and dishwashing detergent – drown out the song.  It is too delicate to compete against mundane things…It’s a song we never quite forget and recognize immediately whenever we catch its echo.  We recognize it because it is so full of heartbreaking beauty. (Joni Eareckson Tada, Heaven:Your Real Home)

Daily Thoughts from Hebrews: We Need a Master Builder

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore. (Hebrews 11:8-12, ESV)

Has God ever instructed you to do something, the outcome of which you could not predict?  You want to know what will happen.  You want some guarantee that it will be good.  Maybe fear of it not being good moves you to disobey God or question whether it was really Him telling you to do something.  Surely He wouldn’t ask you to do something that could turn out bad.

The Hebrew congregation had embraced Jesus as Messiah but had experienced persecution for that.  This, and other sufferings, made them wonder if they had made a mistake.  But our author recalls for them the long journey of Abraham and Sarah toward the fulfillment of God’s promise.  They left Ur of the Chaldees but stopped in Haran before finally making their way to the land of promise, to Canaan.  They lived as nomads on land that was supposed to be theirs one day.  They waited until it was impossible for them to have a child of their own even though that was promised them.  They had a long time of not seeing the fulfillment of God’s promise but did not forsake the Lord.

And even when Isaac was born the promise that God had given them was not complete.  They did not see the innumerable offspring God had promised.  And they were still looking for a permanent abode, a city, beyond what they could conceive or experience in their lifetime.  And so are we, the author of Hebrews is telling us.

God has designed a city for us.  Like Abraham we are still looking for it.  Life does not now provide the kind of shelter and stability we long for.  The foundations of all we build are as feeble and fragile as our own lives are.  We cannot compete with God when it comes to being a master builder.  We can’t see it yet, but our hearts were made for this city and by faith we wait in expectation of its coming.  Faith and hope have merged.

Hope is patience with the lamp lit.

[Tertullian, early Christian leader, A.D. 155-240]

Daily Thoughts on Hebrews: Legacy

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. (Hebrews 11:4, ESV)

What will make your life story a legacy of blessing to your children and grandchildren?  How can you ensure that your voice will continue to be heard, not as a voice of discouragement but one that fortifies the ones you love?  Believe God’s promises!  Live for the kingdom and pray for its coming.  Don’t give up trusting that what Jesus did for us is only the beginning of restoring all things to the pristine glory of the garden of Eden.

Abel and Cain were of that generation whose parents lived in the garden and who saw the introduction of rebellion into God’s kingdom on earth.  But each of them took a different path in light of that reality.  Abel brought an offering to God in faith that God was in the process of restoring all things and was repentant for his own rebellious heart.  He was trusting in God’s promise that He would raise up a seed who would eventually crush the head of the serpent who tempted his parents to desert the Living God.

Cain, on the other hand, took the path of demanding that God make his life one of comfort and joy.  He couldn’t wait for the restoration.  And when his brother was commended by God and his offering was not, his jealousy took a lethal turn.  Abel’s faith spoke as his blood cried out from the ground.  Abel still speaks as one who lost his life in the service of God’s promise.  He did not believe life was to be found in the things of this world, but in God’s promise alone.

If you were the Hebrews and reading or hearing this account you couldn’t help but think of how one of the reasons you felt like leaving Christianity was the suffering you had experienced in life.  This in fact is the cause of many who profess faith in Christ to give up on Christianity.  They think it is their merit badge that should bring God’s unmitigated blessing on their lives and suffering should be a thing of the past.  It is not.

Your children and grandchildren won’t look back on your life and say, weren’t grandpa and grandma so cool the way they gave up on God, got bitter about life, and gave us an example of those who don’t believe.

Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you. —Shannon L. Alder

Daily Thoughts from Hebrews: The Senility of the Law

For he finds fault with them when he says:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.  For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.  For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord:  I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.  For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”

In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. (Hebrews 8:8-13, ESV)

The Law of Moses is an old covenant in doddering senility.  Just as Aaron’s priesthood was never meant to be the final priesthood (Jesus is a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek), so the covenant that give’s Aaron’s priesthood life was never meant to be the final form of the covenant.  From the very beginning God was committed to bringing a new phase to His covenant that is implied in Genesis 15, mentioned in Deuteronomy 30 and Ezekiel 37, and most clearly delineated in Jeremiah 31.  And that is where our author goes to make his next point, that the old covenant is obsolete.

He merely quotes Jeremiah 31:31-34.  Yahweh declares that He will establish a new covenant with Israel and Judah that is different from the old one in that it does not depend on the sinful hearts of people to keep it but instead puts His laws in their minds and hearts to enable them to keep them.  And, He promises forgiveness of sins forever.  These are the two provisions of the New Covenant, a new heart and total forgiveness.

If God only forgave us but did not give us the ability to keep His commands, we would continue in sin.  If He only gave us new hearts but not forgiveness, we would continue in guilt.  Just giving us a law does not enable us to keep it.  In fact, Paul found the law to be death to him because of his inability to keep it (Romans 7).

When the temple was destroyed in A.D. 70 the old covenant in essence vanished away.  Though Jews still celebrate the festivals there is no provision for the sacrifices required because there is no place they are allowed to offer them.  Messianic Jews, on the other hand, who still celebrate the festivals, know that Jesus has provided the sacrifice.  One day all Israel will recognize what Christ has offered and repent and be saved (Romans 11).  The New Covenant’s other provisions, a land for Israel in which God dwells and Israel leads the nations, will also be fulfilled.

Our author is demonstrating that in Christ we have become partakers of the New Covenant.  There is no benefit in returning to life under the old covenant.  It is obsolete.  For Gentile believers who are in Christ, we, by virtue of our relationship to Jesus, have been brought under the New Covenant as well.  We have been given new hearts and forgiveness.  Our covenant relationship with God can never be broken because He has made it unbreakable.  True believers will persevere in faith because of God’s Spirit within us.

Daily Thoughts from Hebrews: New Wine

Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. (Hebrews 8:1-7)

When Moses is on Mt. Sinai with Yahweh he is told, according to Exodus 25:40, to make a tent, the Tabernacle, according to the pattern God shows him on the mountain.  The word “pattern” in Hebrew is tavnit and is used in 2 Kings 16:10 of king Ahaz making a model or perhaps sketch of an altar he saw in Damascus that he wanted to reproduce for the Temple of Yahweh.  The word in Greek is tupos or type with a similar meaning.  The author of Hebrews is arguing that Moses saw a heavenly tent on which he modeled the Tabernacle with its two chambers, holy place and most holy place, and its furniture.

He calls the ritual they enacted in the Tabernacle a “copy” and “shadow” of the heavenly things.  By nature the copy is inferior to the original, and a shadow is an imprecise representation of that which blocks the light and casts the shadow.  And since Christ has obtained a ministry that is more, indeed much more, excellent than that of the old covenant, the priesthood of Melchizedek built on better promises (the oath), then it only stands to reason that the first covenant had faults that the second was meant to correct.

When Jesus ministered in Israel he was often accused of doing things it was not lawful to do (letting his disciples eat grain they gathered on the Sabbath) or that were seemingly required but that he did not do (keep certain fasts).  At one point Jesus used an illustration as an answer, saying, “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins” (Luke 5:37-38, ESV).

The point of the illustration seems to be that with the coming of the new covenant and Jesus’ adoption as high priest after the order of Melchizedek, the old format or system can no longer “contain” the new way of doing things.  Are you still using old wine skins?  Having come to Christ are you still living like you are under the old covenant, working as if you needed to overcome your deserved condemnation?  Rest is the mark of the new wine and wine skin.

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: The Glory of God in Us

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “On the first day of the first month you shall erect the tabernacle of the tent of meeting…Then you shall take the anointing oil and anoint the tabernacle and all that is in it, and consecrate it and all its furniture, so that it may become holy…Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the tent of meeting and shall wash them with water and put on Aaron the holy garments. And you shall anoint him and consecrate him, that he may serve me as priest.

This Moses did; according to all that the LORD commanded him, so he did. In the first month in the second year, on the first day of the month, the tabernacle was erected…Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys. (Exodus 40, ESV)

Can you imagine getting up in the middle of the night in your encampment in the wilderness, walking outside your tent and seeing a burning fire in and around the Tabernacle, or during the day seeing a cloud emanating from it?  From the first day that the glory of Yahweh filled the Tabernacle there was powerful evidence that God was with His people in demonstrative form.  If the cloud was lifted off of the Tabernacle it was the signal that it was time to move and you packed up all your belongings and your tent, while the Levites attended to dismantling the Tabernacle and preparing it for transport.  Perhaps you hoped you could stay longer rather than shorter.

God showed in the way He displayed His glory in the Tabernacle that He really did want to dwell with His people and that His dwelling with them was not going to be a passive one.  He is always about pursuing the purpose of restoring His kingdom in this fallen world.  He went after a nation that He would use to be a witness to all nations of His greatness.  He is leading this nation through the wilderness after having judged Egypt for its wickedness and with a judgment for the nations of Canaan who have filled up their iniquity to the fullest (Genesis 15:16).

We are to pray daily for His kingdom to come (Matthew 6:10).  We are to move when He moves and stay when He stays as we look for opportunities to redeem the time because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:16).  We are the Tabernacle of God on earth today, His temple, His people, from whom He wants to demonstrate His glory.  People ought to see an evidence of His glory permeating our lives, fire and cloud.  The most obvious evidence of that glory, according to Jesus, will be our love for one another and for our neighbors (John 13:35).

How are we doing?