Thursday, July 18, 2013

the big problem

I have really enjoyed listening to the book of Hebrews being played on my electronic tablet as I exercise in the mornings lately.  There has been great benefit in hearing the same passages more than one time.  Today I listened to chapters 7-13.  Several themes moved me but one, in particular, seemed important to mention.  The "old system" of sacrifices which God gave the people of Israel through Moses has always seemed so messy and so complicated and so repetitive to me.  There are hundreds of commands and instructions that had to be followed to construct the apparatus for sacrifice, set up the priesthood to carry it out, and perform many different kinds of sacrifice for many different purposes.  I don't think any other people in history have had such an elaborate process to try to make themselves acceptable.  Certainly, today, in our culture we don't see a lot of emphasis on sacrifice or elaborate procedures to be made right.  It occurred to me that today we tend to forget what the main thing is and what the big problem is that blocks us from the main thing.  For the people of Israel, God took care of their worries about finding food and finding direction in life by directly providing their food each day (manna) and by leading them by the cloud by day and pillar of fire by night.  Really they were left with only one major issue or problem.  They had a problem with a blockage in their relationship with God.  They were a sinful people who went their own ways in their personal attitudes and actions.  At the core of their lives there was an ongoing rebellion toward God.  This morning I realized that the complicated, and intensive, system that God put in place for a time for sacrifices was necessary as an ongoing reminder to the people of Israel and also to us that we really only have one big problem.  We still have the big problem of a blockage in our relationship with God.  The old sacrifice system couldn't solve that problem... it could only remind all of us of the ongoing nature of the issue and provide a picture of what needed to be done about it.  

Today, we have a permanent solution to this ongoing problem.  Hebrews tells us that Jesus was the perfect and permanent sacrifice as well as the perfect High Priest.  If we can grasp the bigness of the problem, as illustrated by the original system of sacrifices, perhaps we can begin to appreciate the bigness of God's solution.

Hebrews 1The 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......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. 10 For God's will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.

Rob Smith

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