The Pursuit of God

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Applying Hebrews 10: Old vs. New

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This is a continuation of Applying Hebrews 9: Refusing to Let Go.

The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship. If they could have provided perfect cleansing, the sacrifices would have stopped, for the worshipers would have been purified once for all time, and their feelings of guilt would have disappeared. But instead, those sacrifices actually reminded them of their sins year after year. For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. (Heb. 10:1-4)

Where does the author of Hebrews (who we’re calling Rabbi) get off declaring that the blood of bulls and goats could not take away sins under the Old Covenant? Yahweh said they did. Is Rabbi now a higher authority than Yahweh? Yahweh never suggested that His Old Covenant sacrificial system was insufficient in any way. He said that when sacrifices were done properly, they provided complete atonement for past sins. It was because those sacrifices only provided past atonement that they had to be repeated, for humans sin continuously. But the fact that a man has to provide new sacrifices to Yahweh for his sins this year doesn’t mean that his sins for the previous years weren’t fully forgiven. Yahweh said that atonement sacrifices were sufficient to take away sins. Rabbi is totally out of line to try and depict the Old Covenant as a broken, insufficient system.

If you eat Italian food one night, then you have Chinese food the next night, does the fact that you changed cuisines indicate that you found the Italian food unsatisfying? We’d have to ask you to find out your motivations for changing. And when we ask you, if you say, “I really enjoyed the Italian food, but I was just in the mood for something different,” should we then say you’re a liar and pretend we know your mind better than you do? Rabbi is being obnoxious here. Yahweh totally approved of the Old Covenant while it was in operation. He threw it out because He was in the mood to do something different, not because He thought the old system wasn’t working.

One of the big differences in the New Covenant is that Christ gives us complete atonement for all of our sins. The moment we become saved, we receive atonement for past, present and future sins. This is why we don’t have to keep asking God to forgive us over and over again. But because Rabbi has never heard of future atonement, he’s got us all perpetually asking God for forgiveness and imagining Christ up there constantly atoning for our new sins as they come up. No, this is not at all how it works. Christ is not some ultimate high priest who is on the job 24/7. Yahweh has come up with a whole new way of dealing with sin—one that is shockingly simple.

Humans have always been saved by grace, yet under the New Covenant, our Gods extend Their grace even further. Instead of focusing on atonement for sins, Christ says that if we believe in Him and submit to Him as our God and Savior, we receive eternal life.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (Jn. 5:24)

What is required here? Works or faith? Only faith. Jesus is saying that our soul’s response to Him is what our salvation is based on, not our continuous striving or our continuous repenting and pleading for forgiveness.

“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” (Jn. 10:28)

Does Jesus give you temporary forgiveness? Does He just give you conditional admission to Heaven? No, He gives you eternal life. And once He gives it to you, and you have it forever. The Old Covenant focused on an ongoing re-earning of Yahweh’s acceptance, whereas the New Covenant is a one time adoption which permanently changes your status with your Makers. There is no concept of “losing your salvation” under this Covenant because that would require Jesus casting you out. Jesus says He will not cast us out.

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live.” (Jn. 11:25)

“For Yahweh so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn. 3:16)

Sincere soul submission has always been the prerequisite for salvation.  Why does Jesus say that belief in Him is so important?  Because Jesus is claiming to be a second God, and this is a very shocking idea for the Jews of His time.  Pay close attention to who Jesus is talking to in the Gospel books and you’ll find that most of the time, He’s talking to Jews who understood that Yahweh claimed to be the only real God. For these Jews to accept that Jesus is who He says He is would be an act of soul submission.

Then they asked Him, “What must we do to do the works Yahweh requires?”

Jesus answered, “The work of Yahweh is this: to believe in the One He has sent.” (Jn. 6:28-29)

Now does Jesus also tell us to obey Him? Absolutely. And He tells us that if we do a lousy job of obeying Him, we will suffer consequences in eternity. He tells us that eternal rewards and assignments will vary based on how well we served God on earth. But pleasing your father and having a father are two different concepts. Under the Old Covenant, if you failed to keep pleasing Yahweh, He disowned you. Under the New Covenant, God does not disown you, even if you displease Him. Jesus says:

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me I will never cast out.” (Jn. 6:37)

Under the Old Covenant, Yahweh says, “Once you come to Me, I will keep you as long as you stay faithful.  But if you turn away from Me, I will cast you out.”  Under the New Covenant, Yahweh says, “Once you come to Me through Jesus, We will never cast you out.”  This is a critical difference. Under the New Covenant, Yahweh extends the bounds of His incredible grace even farther. He’s making it possible for more souls to get saved—souls who would have been condemned under the Old Covenant for not maintaining their love for God. This is a shocking idea, and one that outrages many Christians today. There are many who despise this notion of “slackers” and “carnal Christians” getting to keep their salvation. Usually the folks who get so angry about this have a pretty high opinion of their own righteousness, and they tend to think they’re doing better than the majority. Yet no one is being saved by good works under the New Covenant. No one has ever been saved by good works, for acquiring salvation has always been a matter of soul attitude. If Yahweh wants to be gracious towards those who develop rotten soul attitudes after salvation, He gets to. If we have a problem with this, we need to ask the Holy Spirit to help us do a better job of submitting to His Authority.

God delights in being gracious. If He didn’t, we’d all be in Hell, so it’s more than a little obnoxious for us to beef about God forgiving people. Instead of chafing over who else gets to go to Heaven, we need to focus on our own walks and give God the gratitude He deserves for saving our own wretched selves. God didn’t have to be so gracious about this salvation business. He could have raised the bar and required that we come up with some perfect behavior to go along with our internal desire to please Him. But instead, all He has ever required is a right soul attitude. If we really want to be in a right place with God, He’ll make sure we get there. If we really want to be pleasing in His sight, He’ll show us the way and empower us to do what we need to do. But let’s not do what Rabbi’s doing and try to edit Yahweh’s Covenant for Him. This New Covenant is radically different than the Old. Once Christ accepts you, you are permanently accepted by all three of your Creators and you never have to fear being cast out.

That is why, when Christ came into the world, He said to Yahweh: “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings. [Ps. 40:6]  But You have given Me a body to offer. You were not pleased with burnt offerings or other offerings for sin. Then I said, ‘Look, I have come to do Your will, O Yahweh—as is written about Me in the Scriptures.’” [Ps. 40:6-8] (Heb. 10:1-7)

Notice how Rabbi is trying to say that the words of Psalm 40—which were written centuries before Christ came to the world—were spoken by Christ when He first arrived here. We know this is ridiculous before we even look the psalm up. This is like you opening up Genesis, pointing out something Abraham said, and then saying, “This is really me talking to my mother in Genesis.” No, it’s really Abraham talking thousands of years before you or your mother were even born. You aren’t being quoted in Genesis, and Christ isn’t being quoted in Psalms. But Rabbi just won’t give it a rest. He keeps trying to turn the psalms into Messianic passages.

Psalm 40 was written by David and he starts off sounding like he’s reflecting back on a time when he was in trouble but Yahweh saved him. He begins his poem by saying:

I waited patiently for Yahweh, and He turned to me and heard my cry for help. He brought me up from a desolate pit, out of the muddy clay, and set my feet on a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. (Ps. 40:1-3)

David is filled with gratitude for the help Yahweh has given him, and he’s expressing that gratitude in this psalm. After praising God for past rescues, David acknowledges that Yahweh has given instructions for how men ought to please Him in the Torah (the first five books of the Bible). He says:

You do not want sacrifices and offerings; You do not ask for animals burned whole on the altar or for sacrifices to take away sins. Instead, You have given me ears to hear You, and so I answered, “Here I am; Your instructions for me are in the Book of the Law. How I love to do Your will, my God! I keep Your teaching in my heart.” (Ps. 40:6-8)

This is the passage Rabbi is quoting. Now let’s think about this. Why does David—a man who is living under the Old Covenant—say that Yahweh does not require sacrifices to take away sin? Why does he say that Yahweh doesn’t want offerings? Of course Yahweh does, doesn’t He? On paper, yes. But in reality, what Yahweh really cares about is soul attitude and David understands this. Yahweh wants souls who are eager to obey Him—that’s what really pleases Him. David gets it, and he is claiming to be one of those souls by saying:

“Here I am; Your instructions for me are in the Book of the Law. How I love to do Your will, my God! I keep Your teaching in my heart.” (Ps. 40:6-8)

Various Bible translations word this passage differently. The version we’re using does the best at getting the sentiment across. But Rabbi then takes these words and tries to twist the meaning, saying that Christ is speaking to Yahweh and that Christ is referring to Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament when He speaks of things being written about Him in the Book of Law. No, this is ridiculous. First of all, we can’t find much about Christ in the Torah, and those are the only books David and all other ancient Jews are referring to when they talk about Yahweh’s “Book of Law”. Secondly, if Christ is supposed to be the One speaking in this psalm, how does Rabbi explain these verses:

Yahweh, do not withhold Your compassion from me; Your constant love and truth will always guard me. For troubles without number have surrounded me; my sins have overtaken me; I am unable to see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my courage leaves me. (Ps. 40:11-12)

So we’re supposed to believe that Christ is saying that His sins have overtaken Him? We’re supposed to believe Christ is cowering in some corner feeling overwhelmed by His depravity and earthly troubles? No, this doesn’t work for Christ at all. But how like Rabbi to isolate a few words from David’s psalm and totally mangle the meaning.

First, Christ said, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings or burnt offerings or other offerings for sin, nor were you pleased with them” (though they are required by the Law of Moses). Then He said, “Look, I have come to do Your will.” He cancels the first Covenant in order to put the second into effect. For Yahweh’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time. (Heb. 10:8-10)

If only Rabbi would stop trying to back up his statements with inapplicable passages of Scripture, we could respect him more. It’s quite true that Christ came to make us holy once for all time—so why is Rabbi threatening Jewish Christians with being cast out? Rabbi does a lot of doubletalk in his letters.

Under the Old Covenant, the priest stands and ministers before the altar day after day, offering the same sacrifices again and again, which can never take away sins. But our High Priest offered Himself to Yahweh as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then He sat down in the place of honor at Yahweh’s right hand. There He waits until His enemies are humbled and made a footstool under His feet. For by that one offering He forever made perfect those who are being made holy. (Heb. 10:11-14)

In Hebrews 7:24, Rabbi said that “Christ lives forever to intercede with Yahweh” on our behalf. In Hebrews 8:2, he said “There He ministers in the heavenly Tabernacle, the true place of worship that was built by Yahweh and not by human hands.” Now he makes it sound like Christ is kicking back on His throne, considering all of His work accomplished. Clearly Rabbi can’t make up his mind about what Christ is doing.

Notice how Rabbi keeps hinting that Christ isn’t quite equal to Yahweh. Instead of depicting Christ as being a King of equal status, it’s always Christ sitting in the honored position on one side of the great Yahweh. It really should be two glorious Monarchs sitting on Their glorious thrones. And this bit about Christ having to wait for His enemies to be conquered for Him is quite irreverent. Rabbi makes Christ out to be some kind of incompetent who needs Yahweh to fix His problems for Him. But this is because Rabbi is deluding himself by ripping off all these lines from Psalms that Christ never even said. When foolishness is uncorrected, it always leads to more foolishness.

And the Holy Spirit also testifies that this is so. For He says: “This is the New Covenant I will make with My people on that day, says Yahweh: I will put My laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” [Jer. 31:33] Then He says: “I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds.” [Jer. 31:34] And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices. And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By His death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over Yahweh’s House, let us go right into the Presence of Yahweh with sincere hearts fully trusting Him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. (Heb. 10:15-22)

We unpacked this Jeremiah reference in Chapter 8. If no more sacrifices are needed, then why do we need priestly intercessors? If the Most Holy Place is standing wide open, what do we need with a High Priest? There should be great joy and rest as we realize that our Gods are inviting us to commune with Them directly. But Rabbi doesn’t talk about the joy very long before he gets back into fear.

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for Yahweh can be trusted to keep His promise. (Heb. 10:23)

Certainly Yahweh can be counted on to keep His promise…unless He decides to change Covenants again. If He does, we’ll all have to adjust to whatever new instructions He gives us.

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near. (Heb. 10:24-25)

Jesus taught the New Testament Jews to believe that they were living in the last days. Rabbi thinks Christ is coming back any minute and he wants believers to stay strong in the faith, which is why he encourages them to keep meeting together. But in real life, is fellowshipping with other believers essential for you to stay close to God? Not at all. Churches today are filled with faithful attenders who are on their way to Hell. It isn’t going to church that’s going to keep you close to God—it’s your soul’s response to the Holy Spirit (see Fellowship in Perspective).

Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins. There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume His enemies. For anyone who refused to obey the Law of Moses was put to death without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Just think how much worse the punishment will be for those who have trampled on the Son of God, and have treated the Blood of the Covenant, which made us holy, as if it were common and unholy, and have insulted and disdained the Holy Spirit who brings God’s mercy to us. For we know the One who said: “I will take revenge. I will pay them back.” [Deut. 32:35]  He also said: “Yahweh will judge His own people.” [Deut. 32:36]  It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God! (Heb. 10:26-31)

The more illumination we receive from the Holy Spirit, the worse our punishment will be in eternity if we refuse to submit to Christ (see Understanding God’s Justice: Inequality in Hell). It’s quite true that being exposed to the truth about Christ and then refusing to submit to Him can result in some horrific consequences. But if Rabbi believes he’s speaking to Jewish Christians, then he should not be threatening these people with eternal damnation, nor should he say that we can end up in Hell “if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth”. Every Christian continues to sin after salvation and plenty of those sins are deliberate. But what did Christ atone for? Our sins. Why can’t Rabbi get this? One minute we’re all forgiven and cleansed by that glorious one time sacrifice through Christ. The next minute we’re all going to be thrown into Hell if we have a faith crisis or slip into rebellion. But no, this is Old Covenant teaching again. It was under the Old Covenant that Yahweh said:

“When a righteous person turns from his righteousness and practices iniquity, he will die for this. He will die because of the iniquity he has practiced. But if a wicked person turns from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he will preserve his life. He will certainly live because he thought it over and turned from all the transgressions he had committed; he will not die.” (Eze. 18:26-28)

The living and dying Yahweh is talking about here are references to eternal judgment. If a righteous man turned away from God under the Old Covenant and refused to repent, he ended up eternally damned. If a wicked man repented and aligned with God, he was saved. Here in Hebrews, the threats Rabbi is doling out only apply to the unsaved. If we hear about Christ and refuse to submit to Him, then yes, we will certainly end up in Hell. But if we do submit to Him and He accepts us, then He will not cast us out, even if we’re defiant little twerps later on. We need to get this right: Jesus saves us from ever experiencing the full brunt of our Gods’ wrath. There will still be consequences for our defiance in Heaven, but those consequences will be a whole lot better than ending up in Hell.

Think back on those early days when you first learned about Christ. Remember how you remained faithful even though it meant terrible suffering. Sometimes you were exposed to public ridicule and were beaten, and sometimes you helped others who were suffering the same things. You suffered along with those who were thrown into jail, and when all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy. You knew there were better things waiting for you that will last forever. (Heb. 10:32-34)

We know that the biggest issue Rabbi is panicking about is that these Jewish believers are rejecting Christ as Yahweh’s Messiah.  Well, this is a very reasonable faith crisis for converts from Judaism to be having.  Don’t let Rabbi mislead you here—our Gods are very compassionate and They understand how long it takes for our faith to grow strong. Yahweh is certainly not going to come down on Jews who are panicking that they’ve made a wrong turn—especially if their reason for panicking is that they’re afraid of displeasing Him.

In the Church we hear a lot about how the Christians were persecuted by the Roman Empire. Well, the Jews were terribly persecuted as well. The Jews and Romans clashed in many arenas: politics, national pride, religious beliefs, cultural customs. The Jews and Romans had many brutal clashes with each other and the constant rebellion of the Jews finally culminated in the Romans destroying both the Temple and Jerusalem in 70 AD. So to be a Jew and a Christian was a double negative. These Hebrews who Rabbi is writing to had serious pluck for ever aligning with Christ. Does their courage mean nothing to God? Does He just blow off their earnest effort to align with Him now that they’re getting worn down by all the persecution? Certainly not! God is compassionate and gracious. When He knows we sincerely care about pleasing Him, He helps us.

This sermon of Rabbi’s is not so helpful. One minute he’s putting forth very weak, unsubstantiated statements about Christ that he backs up with mangled Scriptures, and the next minute he’s terrifying these Jewish believers with threats that Yahweh will cast them out.

So do not throw away this confident trust in Yahweh. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do Yahweh’s will. Then you will receive all that He has promised. “For in just a little while, the Coming One will come and not delay. And My righteous ones will live by faith. [Hab. 2:3-4] But I will take no pleasure in anyone who turns away.”

But we are not like those who turn away from Yahweh to their own destruction. We are the faithful ones, whose souls will be saved. (Heb. 10:35-39)

Yes, these believers do need encouragement to not throw away their confidence, but Rabbi is doing a really lousy job of pep talking them. And when he tosses in this quote from Habakkuk, it’s just painful.

Here’s the book of Habakkuk in a nutshell. Habakkuk was a Jew living in Judah. He’s been complaining to Yahweh about the wicked state of his country for quite a while and Yahweh hasn’t done anything to solve the problem. Habakkuk is mad. He complains some more. Yahweh finally answers and says that His solution to Israel’s wickedness is to bring in the mighty Babylonians to come and stomp all over her. Habakkuk doesn’t like this solution at all. The Babylonians are wicked pagans—why should they get to trash Israel? Habakkuk unloads a new volley of complaints about Yahweh being unfair. Yahweh tells Habakkuk to suck it up, because He’s going to do what He’s going to do. But then He assures the prophet that in time, the Babylonians will get theirs. Habakkuk decides to be content.

In this line that Rabbi borrows from Habakkuk 2, Yahweh is telling the prophet that the vision of all the destruction He’s given might seem to take a long time to happen, but it’s going to happen right on schedule.

“It may seem like a long time, but be patient and wait for it, because it will surely come; it will not be delayed.” (Hab. 2:3)

Then Yahweh says of Judah:

“The evil nation is very proud of itself; it is not living as it should. But those who are right with God will live by faith.” (Hab. 2:4)

What does this have to do with Christ? Nothing. Does Rabbi ever quote a relevant passage of Scripture? Yes, but those occurrences are rare.

Rabbi finally concludes this chapter by urging his believing audience to stay faithful and not be like those doubters that Yahweh is going to get hacked off at and throw into Hell. Good grief.

UP NEXT: Applying Hebrews 11: The Faith Hall of Fame

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