Meditations from the book of Hebrews

I’m having my Quiet Time through the book of Hebrews, and the Holy Spirit set me to think about some recurring ideas. A good part of the book contrasts the Old Covenant where the High Priest had to bring sacrifices to atone for the sins of the Jews and himself (Hebrews 5:3) and the New Covenant where Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest without sin, is our atoning sacrifice for our sins. Previously, the High Priest had to make sacrifices annually, but Jesus Christ has sacrificed for our sin once for all. So important was this fact that the writer of Hebrews repeated this phrase five times in Hebrews 7:27, 9:12, 9:26, 10:2 and 10:10.

So I was thinking, since Jesus Christ has offered Himself as the atoning sacrifice for our sin once for all, do we still have to bring sacrifice to God? At the back of my mind, the answer is yes, but what sacrifice according to the New Covenant? Here is what a search in the New Testament yielded:

1. Love for God and people

To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices. (Mark 12:33)

2. Our bodies

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. (Rom 12:1)

The word ‘body’ seems to refer to the physical body, and The Message interprets it as ‘everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life’.

3. Gifts and good deeds

I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. (Philippians 4:18)

And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (Hebrews 13:16)

In context for the Philippians passage, Paul mentioned the gifts that the Philippians sent him in support of him. So the love offerings presented to Paul were seen as sacrifices to God as well.

4. Praise

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name. (Hebrews 13:15)

And the amazing thing is that, now we are priests ourselves, because we can now directly enter into God’s presence to present these sacrifices to Him:

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place [where God’s presence is] by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:19-22)

you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ… But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:5, 9)

As much as I’m thankful to God that I can approach Him directly through Jesus Christ, I think that my gratitude would be nothing compared to the sense of wonderment and thrill the readers of the book of Hebrews would have experienced. All but the High Priest were not allowed to approach God in the Most Holy Place. They would come to the temple yearly to present sin offerings to God through the Priest. Now, they can come to God themselves through Jesus Christ, not for presenting sin offerings, but sacrifices of worship to express their adoration and awe. How great is that!

Abba, please grow in me a greater wonder for the work Your Son has done so that my worship can be deeper.

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