December 4

Hebrews 7-8, Psalm 28

In our world of political correctness, many would like to consider Jesus to be a good man, a good option, someone who you can admire, but certainly not the only way. This exclusive stance bothers people. C.S. Lewis tried to prevent people from saying that Jesus could be accepted as just a great moral teacher. Because of His claims of being God, in fact, that was what He was crucified for, Jesus left us with only 3 options: He was either a lunatic, a liar, or what He truly is, our Lord. We see 2 interesting passages in the Talmud, the Jewish commentary on the Mishnah (the oldest biblical collection and codification of the Jewish Oral Laws). In the Babylonian Talmud (Yoma 39b) we read, "Our rabbis taught: During the last forty years before the destruction of the temple the lot ('For the Lord') did not come up in the right hand; nor did the crimson-colored strap become white; nor did the western most light shine; and the doors of the Hekel (Temple) would open by themselves." A similar passage was also written in the Jerusalem or Yerushalmi Talmud. Without getting into too much detail , these occurences would be looked for to see if God accepted the sacrifice on Yom Kippur as atonement for the sins of the people. Forty years before the destruction of the Temple, in 70 AD, our Lord Jesus died on the cross, becoming the one and only way for forgiveness of sins. He didn't become a different option, but The Only Option.

The author of Hebrews quotes the prophet, Jeremiah, in illustrating the New Covenant fulfilled in Jesus. We read in Jeremiah 31:31-34, "Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah-not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God and they shall be My people....For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more." So, this New covenant described in Hebrew 8:7-13, is not a New Testament, Christian concept but a fulfillment of the prophecies made over 600 years before by the prophet Jeremiah, as well as 550 years previously by the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 36:25-27). When Jesus died and ascended into Heaven, as stated in Hebrews 8:10, He left us with the Holy Spirit who literally lives inside us believers. Because of this, God is working on our hearts, changing our desires from within. We now long for the things of the Spirit, rather than the things of the world. This New Covenant results in a genuine, intimate, personal relationship with God. We read in Hebrews 8:13, "In that He says, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away." It is believed that the book of Hebrews was written in 64 AD, which is 6 years before Jerusalem and it's Temple was destroyed. With this, it was all gone: the temple, the Holy of Holies, the priesthood, and the blood sacrifices. There is no longer a necessity for it, because God, through Jesus, has established a New and better covenant with us.

So, what are we to take from this? We realize that we have moved from a system of works and duties to please God, to a system in which Jesus did it all on the cross. We have moved from a responsibility to a response. Yes, we are to serve and do good works unto the Lord, but not to earn our salvation or appease our God. We do so in love and in a spirit of thankfulness in response to what He unselfishly did for us. This New Covenant is so much superior to the Old Covenant. In the Old Covenant, being that we are all sinners, how does one know whether we are good enough or not. In the New Covenant, we have confidence, knowing that His love for us is unconditional, and He could not possibly love us any more or less than He already does. It is so freeing, to know that our hope rests on Him, not ourselves. Though as we read from the Talmud above that the red strap no longer turned white, indicating that the Yom Kippur sacrifice was no longer accepted, we trust in Jesus to fulfill the words of Isaiah 1:18, "Come now, and let us reason together," says the Lord, "Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be white as snow; Thought they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool."

Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley:

Marj Lancaster