Wednesday, June 22, 2005

It's All About Him: Hebrews -- Lesson 34

To start at the beginning of this series, click here.

A Light which is a Shadow

What the Writer says next is interesting:

For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins? But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. (Hebrews 10:1-4, NASB 95)

The Writer describes the Law as "only a shadow." And yet the Law has a different view of itself:

  • Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)
  • For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching is light; And reproofs for discipline are the way of life (Proverbs 6:23)
  • The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. (Psalm 19:8)
  • For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light. (Psalm 36:9)

The point is that the Old Testament is a good and glorious thing--and not to be despised. The Writer of Hebrews has sought to establish the great superiority of the New Covenant over the Old, but this does not make the Old bad. If you light a candle in a dark room, you have light to see and read by. It will drive away the darkness and provide a sense of warmth and comfort. If you place this same candle in front of a projection screen and shine a flood lamp on it, the light of the candle is no longer significant--and you can see the shadow of the flame on the screen. This is one way to understand that the Law is "only a shadow." Of course, the Writer also means that the Law established symbolic structures, institutions, and practices that were mimics of heavenly realities.

  • The temple, priests, and offerings were reminders of our sin.
  • The commandments defined sin.

But they do not really cleanse and they do not remove sin.

The New Covenant, in Messiah's High Priestly Offering of Himself, is a shining beacon that makes a shadow of the earthly practices:

Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says,
"Sacrifice and offering You have not desired, But a body You have prepared for Me; In whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have taken no pleasure. Then I said, 'Behold, I have come (In the scroll of the book it is written of Me) To do Your will, O God.'"
After saying above, "Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have not desired, nor have You taken pleasure in them" (which are offered according to the Law), then He said, "Behold, I have come to do Your will." He takes away the first in order to establish the second. By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet. For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.

And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying, "This is the covenant that I will make with them After those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws upon their heart, And on their mind I will write them," He then says, "And their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more." Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin. (Hebrews 10:5-18)

And so Jesus offering takes away sin and provides a genuine cleansing and provides the means by which God writes His Law on our hearts. This aspect of salvation must be preached and taught more than it is. We have made the gospel a free pass into heaven and not the amazing source of power to live a new life by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. This is not to say at all that we achieve perfection in this life, but it does say that we can expect continual change. I like the way that Peter expresses this same principle:

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-8)

It is time that we learn to live in the realities that derive from our heavenly connections.

Test everything. Cling to what is good.

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