Hebrews 9:1-15, Leviticus 16:6-19, 2 Corinthians 1:10
Bill loved baseball. It was one of the few things I shared in common with the man who was fifty years my elder. Because of our age gap, Bill could tell me stories about growing up in Detroit and going to the old Tiger Stadium at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull avenues. His eyes would light up when he told me about the character of the stadium and the historic events he’d witnessed there. He would say that, in some ways, Tiger Stadium was a sacred place to him. When we would talk about the modern-era Tigers and the new Comerica Park, Bill’s eyes didn’t light up in that same way. For Bill, there was something special about the old park that retained its grandeur even after its glory had long passed.
The first recipients of the sermonic letter we call Hebrews seemed to have a similarly nostalgic perspective on the ministry of the priests at the temple. To them, the temple was the prescribed place of worship, and the priests were responsible servants to help them clear their consciences. But the writer of Hebrews contends that the old temple, and the old practices of the temple, were just a “symbol” (Hebrews 9:9) that pointed to the more glorious and better ministry of Christ.
While the priests of the old order had to offer sacrifices on an annual basis to cleanse the consciences of sinful people, Jesus’s ministry as a priest is far greater. Instead of having to offer a sacrifice once a year before God, Christ has entered the presence of God by His own cross to obtain eternal redemption, purification, and life, so that we can serve God faithfully (vv.12–14). He stands as the one who, by His sacrificial death, perfectly represents us before God so that we receive all the blessings of God in Him.
And yet, there still can be times when we’re tempted to go back to some of the things we did before we came to know Christ. We look at the supposed freedom we had before following Christ and long for easier days. Like the first readers of Hebrews, we can be deceived into thinking that the hardships that come with following Christ validate our stepping back into our former way of life. There are all kinds of pulls for our hearts to believe that the old way, the old place, the old worship was better than what we have now.
Brothers, let it sink into your heart that “the good things that have come” (v.11)—the good life—is only found in Christ. So let’s fix our eyes on Him and not turn back.
Written by Jeremy Writebol