Understanding Hebrews

Understanding Hebrews

I truly love the book of Hebrews. In my opinion, it’s the book that ties the Old Testament into the New Testament with the most clarity. In fact, Hebrews has a higher quotation density of the OT than any other NT book. (Approximately 15% of the book is OT quotations.)

Hebrews chapters 7-10 especially point to the sacrificial work of Christ both as the priest offering the sacrifice and the sacrifice being offered. I think a study of Hebrews by studying the OT quotations in their context is an incredibly beneficial study for EVERY Christian and one that I would highly encourage you to consider.

Hebrews 7 explains Christ’s position as our priest, Hebrews 8 shows the importance of the heavenly priesthood. Chapter 9 gives us the differences between the Old Testament and the New Covenant while the tenth chapter shows us the parallels between the two.

While each chapter in this section shows the relevance of the Old Testament to our lives, Hebrews 10 directly shows us the “shadow of good things to come.” The law was not just given as a set of rules or a reason for us to obey God, but in reality, it was given in illustration of God’s plan. Like a good author painting a picture through foreshadowing, the Old Testament gives us a hint about what was going to come later on in the story. This is most profoundly summarized in verse 17, “And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.”

In the OT, sacrifices were a temporary remedy that had to be repeated over and over (vs. 3, 11) but Christ offered a far superior sacrifice that no longer has to be repeated.

After my dad passed away, my family was eligible for workman’s compensation but the form we were given had to be filled out each year and we had to go, with a representative from his company, to a judge and have the WC order reissued annually. One year though, the judge we had to see told us that there was another form that would eliminate the yearly requirement and would allow us to fill out one form that would not need renewed. It was a superior form that didn’t just replace the old form, it made it unnecessary. After filling out the new form, there was no reason to keep filling out the old one.

In a similar way, after Christ’s sacrifice, there is no more reason to offer the old sacrifices. They are irrelevant and unnecessary. Verses 10 and 12 show the importance of Christ’s sacrifice.

But the latter part of the chapter, from verse 19 to the end show our response to this far superior offering. Because of their sacrifices, the children of Israel had certain responses of commitment, but some see this new sacrifice and think that it doesn’t require the same amount of commitment. On the contrary! Christ’s sacrifice demands more serious investment of our lives in God’s plan. That investment doesn’t have any bearing on our salvation, it is a response TO our salvation.

As with anything, on one’s own, some things become more difficult, but as the body of Christ, we have a major advantage. We have a huge support system, we belong to a worldwide team. We can watch out for each other and push each other on to Christ-likeness and commitment to His cause. If you see a brother who needs encouragement to maintain that commitment, take it upon yourself to be that encouragement. It’s part of the response to His sacrifice.

I think Psalms 148-150 give us a proper summation of our response to Christ’s gift. Under the Old Covenant, Israel could look at God’s goodness and respond with unanimous, unrestricted praise. But they only had the shadow. We have the substance. If they could praise God so much with what they had, we ought to have a far greater, more joyous response because of what we have!

Bonus tidbit: Sometimes it’s a little boring to read through those genealogies but I saw something in today’s that I hadn’t seen before. The list that starts with Herman the singer and goes back to Levi includes the name of Shemuel (Samuel) son of Elkanah. In the story of Samuel, his mother gave him up to live a life in the temple (see 1 Samuel 1), but I had never seen that he was already a direct descendant of Levi, making him eligible to be a Levitical priest!