I encourage everyone to read the Scriptures for yourselves from the Bible. It is never a good thing to take someone else’s word for it. We must all come to our convictions based on personal study of the Word of God. If you are already familiar with the Scriptures, please try to approach them as if for the very first time. Read it for yourself in the Bible and try to read with fresh eyes, placing yourself into the story as it unfolds. In our last study through the Book of John, we came away amazed out how much our preconceived notions and past teachings effected how we thought of Jesus. Once we were able to approach the Scriptures as if for the very first time, we were shocked to see a very different Jesus that the one frequently portrayed in paintings or bumper stickers. Though commentaries and books may have their place in Bible study, I have found that all too often, we rely on or take for granted that which others tell us to be the truth. Please pray that the Lord would lead you as you seek to find the truth for yourself from His Word.
Some background: The book of Hebrews was written around 60-70 AD to the Jews who had converted to Christianity. It was written to encourage them during a time of intense trials and persecution. It was around this time that Nero had burned Jerusalem to the ground and many horrific atrocities were committed against the Christians.
Delving in: Hebrews 10:19 talks about entering the holy places because of the blood of Jesus. Before Jesus shed his blood, the presence of God remained shielded from man behind a thick curtain during the history of Israel. Within the Holy Place of the tabernacle, there was an inner room called the Holy of Holies, or the Most Holy Place. It was a sacred room, a place no ordinary person could enter.
Whoever entered into the Holy of Holies was entering the very presence of God. In fact, anyone except the high priest who entered the Holy of Holies would die. Even the high priest, God’s chosen mediator with His people, could only pass through the veil and enter this sacred dwelling once a year, on a prescribed day called the Day of Atonement.
Even as the high priest entered the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement, he had to make some meticulous preparations: he had to wash himself, put on special clothing, bring burning incense to let the smoke cover his eyes from a direct view of God, and bring blood with him to make atonement for sins. Exodus 28 and 39 tells of the clothes he had to wear and the bells that were on his clothing so that as long the bells could be heard, others would know that he was still alive and that he had been accepted by God. It was an incredibly fearful thing to approach the presence of God and some even suggest, though this is not found in Scripture, that a rope was tied around the ankle of the High Priest so that if he was struck down, then his body could be pulled out of the Most Holy Place.
However, Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross changed all of that. When He died, the curtain in the Jerusalem temple was torn in half, from the top to the bottom. (Matthew 27:51) As the veil was torn, the Holy of Holies was exposed. and God’s presence was now made accessible to everyone. Because of Jesus, those who have been washed in the waters of baptism and made clean by His blood, can now with confidence enter into God’s presence. Jesus’ sacrifice opened the way to have an intimate relationship with our Creator.
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh …let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.” (Hebrews 10:19-22)
Verses 22, 23 and 24 call us then to do certain things in view of this relationship – “Let us draw near, ” “let us hold fast,” and “let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” These are imperatives! We should do these things together “Let us!” Because we get to enter into the presence of God, let us consider (in Greek= kataoomen), let us ponder to a precise level of detail how to “stir up one another.” Stir up in Greek = paroxysimon, which means to provoke, to incite, to jab in such a way as to cause a response. One translation of the Bible says to “spur one another on.” Have you ever considered that this is what our relationships in Christ should be characterized by? Spuring on, provoking, inciting…… to agape love and good deeds?
Give thought to what a spur is used for on a horse. What do you think about the fact that this is what we are called to be for one another? Is this how you would characterize your relationships with other believers? Is this what you have experienced in relationships within the church?
Verse 25 calls the believers to not neglect meeting together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, all the more as the end draws near. So it is not just about coming together to meetings. Rather we are called to come together thinking about what we can do to provoke our brothers and sisters to greater love, “agape” love, which is love in its highest form and greater works.
Isn’t it interesting that there is emphasis placed on doing these things all the more as the Day draws near? This is referring to the Day of Judgement. We could think of this too as the time when we are nearing our Day of judgement. It’s as if we are being told, don’t get lazy as you get older. Don’t have the attitude that you can’t do anything anymore because of your age. No, instead, you should do these things all the more as the end draws near. Keep encouraging, keep spurring each other on, keep holding fast to faith, keep loving and working in greater and greater measure.
If these are not the kinds of relationships we have with other believers, we must change. The Lord calls us to this depth of relationship with one another. I pray that this is what we desire and what we will each strive for.
The next Scripture I will look at in more detail is Colossians 1:15-18. I will always give the next Scripture I will be writing more about in the days to come so you can study along with me.
-April 15, 2016-
I was raised to be an independent, strong-willed woman. My earthly father prepared me for life by sending me to the best schools. I attended Wellesley College, the same school Hillary Clinton and a host of prominent women attended. Gloria Steinem spoke at my graduation. I was a Fulbright Scholar. I went to Harvard Graduate School. My father meant well, but his plans stemmed from worldly wisdom.
"Church" was an event I put into my schedule, not the fabric of who I was. Amidst many successes that left me feeling empty, I began searching for meaning. My life was turned upside down when I realized how wrong I had been about God and the Church. I had accepted a diluted, unrecognizable version of both. Earnestly studying my Bible and realizing my need for repentance, I committed myself to a relationship with Christ, following his plan for salvation. That was the easy part.
Then began the process of peeling away layer upon layer of religiosity.
Now 23 years later, He is still stripping away layers of erroneous thinking and revealing to me how to bring greater glory and honor to Him through my thoughts, my actions, my speech, my life.
Though I have been blessed in many ways and have a wonderful family, the desire to obey the Lord's commands has led me to a very different path in life than I would have ever imagined. Following Him has not been easy. In fact, it is harder than any of my studies at the best name schools, ever was.
Jesus never promises a life of ease. In fact, He calls me to walk counter to the teachings of this society. But in trading in worldly wisdom for His, I have gained full confidence that Jesus Christ is truly the only treasure worth chasing.