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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

September 5, 2012

Hebrews 13:9-19

  1. Verse 13:9. We will continue our discussion of Chapter 13 where we left off last week. The writer is encouraging his audience to reject teaching that deviates from sound doctrine. This, too, is a strong safeguard against apostasy (falling away/backsliding). The writer uses the word that describes a variety of false positions. Rather than accepting these ideas we should receive strength by taking in God's grace that comes through His Word (Heb. 4:12-13; 1 Pet. 2:2). This strength comes from spiritual rather than material food. Just as some avoided physical food which had no real spiritual value, we should be careful about eating just any kind of spiritual food.. i.e. teaching. Evidently one of the strange teachings prevalent when this letter originated was that certain foods or abstinence from certain foods resulted in greater godliness (cf. Col. 2:16; 1 Tim. 4:1-5). This was, of course, what Judaism taught too. Judaism taught that eating food strengthened the heart in the sense that when the Jews ate they gave thanks to God and thus brought Him into their experience (cf. Ps. 104:14-15). However, Jesus' death on the cross is the source of both the saving and sustaining grace of God by which we experience strengthening. Jesus is the only bread that brings us new life and a closer walk with the Lord.

  2. Verse 13:10.The entire system of worship that God appointed for Israel was of a symbolic character, and the reality and substance of it is now found in Christ. The Lord Jesus is Himself the reality of "the altar of burnt offering." The writer knows that his Hebrew friends were tempted to direct their attention fully to the natural, physical altar in the tabernacle. A description of it is supplied in Exodus 27:1-8. This altar occupied a place of first importance among the seven pieces of the furniture in the tabernacle, for it was not only the largest of them all—being almost big enough to hold the others—but it was placed "before the door" (Ex. 40:6), just inside the outer court (Ex. 40:33), and would thus be the first object to meet the eye of the worshipper as he entered the sacred place. To it the sinner came with his Divinely-appointed sacrifice, and the high priest officiated on the great Day of Atonement (Lev. 16). This altar was really the basis of the whole Levitical system, for on it the burnt offering, meal offering, peace offering, and sin offering were presented to God. Blood was put upon its horns, sprinkled upon it, round about it, and poured out at its base. It was the chief connecting-link between the people and God, they being so identified with it that certain parts of the offerings there presented to Him were eaten by them, and hence we read "Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?" (1 Cor. 10:18). But the special aspect in which our text sets forth Christ as "the altar" of His people, is to present Him as the One who furnishes them with that spiritual meat which is needed for nourishment and sustenance in their worship and service. We have in Christ the true altar, which supplies us with "grace," that better food which really establishes the heart before God. In other words, the Holy Spirit here explains and declares the fulfillment of those words of Christ in John 6:55, 56.

  3. Of many of the offerings which were laid on the tabernacle altar only parts of them were consumed by the fire, the remaining portions being reserved as food for the priests, or for the offerer and his friends—this food being regarded as particularly sacred, and the eating of it as a great religious privilege. (Lev. 6:14-16 Lev. 7:1,6,15 Num. 18:8-10). But the Christian has spiritual food far more holy and precious than any Israelite ever had, or even Aaron the high priest was permitted to taste. Christ is our food, the "Bread of life" to our souls. He is not only our sacrifice but our sustenance; He has not only paid the price of God’s judgment, but He is the nourishment of His people. It is true that we should by faith, feed upon Him when remembering His death in the way appointed, yet there is no reference in our text to "the Lord’s supper," nor is "the Lord’s table" ever called an "altar" in Scripture. Moreover it is our blessed privilege to feed upon Christ not only at "Communion services," but constantly feed on the grace of his sacrifice. And herein appears again the immeasurable superiority of Christianity over Judaism. Israel according to the flesh partook only of the symbols, whereas we have the Reality. They had only certain parts of the offerings—as it were the crumbs from God’s table; whereas we feed with Him on the fatted calf itself. They ate of the sacrifices only occasionally, whereas Christ is our daily food. "We have an altar," namely, Christ, and He is the only altar which God owns, and the only one which must be recognized by us.

  4. Verses 13:11-13. The writer wants to point out to the reader that the Old Testament sacrifice had to be taken outside the camp. Here the writer compared Jesus to the sin offering that the Jewish high priest offered on the Day of Atonement (cf. Lev. 16:27). Jesus' death outside Jerusalem fulfilled the Day of Atonement ritual in that the high priest burned the remains of the two sacrificial animals outside the precincts of the wilderness camp. It also fulfilled the ritual of that day in that Jesus' execution outside the city involved the shame of exclusion from the sacred precincts. It symbolized His rejection by the Jewish authorities. Believers bear Jesus' reproach when we identify with Him. He suffered reproach, and so do we, when we identify with Him. This was especially true of the original Jewish recipients of this epistle. They needed to cut their emotional and religious ties to Judaism. Jerusalem was no longer their special city (cf. v. 14). There is nothing wrong with Jewish Christians maintaining Jewish customs provided they do not rely on them for favor with God. "The exhortation to leave the camp [i.e., official Judaism] and to identify fully with Jesus introduces a distinctive understanding of discipleship." Jesus' action in going 'outside the camp' (v 12) set a precedent for others to follow. The task of the community is to emulate Jesus, leaving behind the security, congeniality, and respectability of the sacred enclosure [cf. the Israelites' camp in the wilderness wanderings], risking the reproach that fell upon him. Christian identity is a matter of 'going out' now to him. It entails the costly commitment to follow him resolutely, despite suffering.

  5. Verse 13:14. The city we seek is the heavenly Jerusalem. Our present habitation on earth is only temporary ( 2 Cor. 5:1-8).

  6. Verses 13:15-16. Even though God does not require periodic animal and vegetable sacrifices from us, we should offer other sacrifices to Him. These sacrifices include praise (cf. Hos. 14:2), good works, and (even, especially) sharing what we have with others (as well as giving Him ourselves, Rom. 12:1). We should offer these sacrifices of the New Covenant continually. In Judaism, sacrifices were offered at set times, but under the new covenant praises(sacrifices) go up all the time.

  7. Verse 13:17. The leaders in view are church elders (pastors; cf. vv. 7, 24). These shepherds will have to give account to God one day for their stewardship over us. We should make their work now easier for them by being obedient and submissive to them. Will the leaders of your church be able to tell God that leading you was a pleasure when they stand before Him?

  8. Verses 13:18-19 The writer confessed to needing the prayers of his brothers and sisters in the faith. He faced the same pressure to depart from the Lord that they faced. He longed to return to them again wherever they may have been living. He believed their prayers could affect God's timing of his return to them. Hebrews was not originally anonymous since the writer and the readers knew each other.

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