Our Glorious High Priest: 24 Audio Lessons on Hebrews

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Over the course of 2018–19 I taught through the book of Hebrews at our church on Tuesday Nights. You can find the audio and notes below.

My approach: With an interest in Christ’s priesthood as the fulfillment of the whole Bible, and with a conviction that Hebrews models for us how to interpret the Old Testament, I attempted to show how Jesus is the Son of God and Our Glorious High Priest. At the same time, as the title of my previous series on the priesthood suggests, I believe the book also shows how new covenant believers become a family of priests in the kingdom Christ is bringing.

For those who read the whole book of Hebrews, you will notice that what is said of Christ (sonship, priesthood, and kingship) in Hebrews 1 is applied to all those in Christ in Hebrews 12–13. In short, Hebrews teaches us how God makes his people a family of royal priests. Often this emphasis on union in Christ with respect to the priesthood is not appreciated, but I believe a faithful reading of the book demonstrates how Christ is the great hight priest and how all those in him become new covenant Levites, so to speak.

One last note, I also attempted to show throughout much of the book how the literary structure is seen in chiastic structures. I am sure I haven’t been right in every case and that I’ve missed plenty, but in the notes you can at least see my attempt at putting the book together. If you have time, and especially if you disagree with a literary structure, let me know. I’d love to see how you put the book together.

All in all, few books in the Bible—maybe no book in the Bible—is more resplendent in its glory of Christ and his royal priesthood. Our class delighted in this truth throughout the year and found much personal encouragement in Hebrews. May you do the same. And may these notes help you in that journey.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

Our Glorious High Priest: 24 Audio Lessons on Hebrews

Fall 2018

  1. Hebrews Overview [audionotes]
  2. Hebrews 1:1–4 [audionotes ]
  3. Hebrews 1:5–2:4 [audionotes ]
  4. Hebrews 2:5–18 [audionotes]
  5. Hebrews 3:1–6 [audionotes ]
  6. Hebrews 3:7–19 [audionotes]
  7. Hebrews 4:1–13 [audionotes]
  8. Hebrews 4:14–5:10 [audionotes]
  9. Hebrews 5:11–6:12 [audionotes]
  10. Hebrews 6:13–20 [audionotes]
  11. Hebrews 7:1–10 [audionotes] – Guest Teacher (Jonathan Matías)
  12. Hebrews 7:11-28 [audio]

Spring 2019

  1. Hebrews 8:1-13 [audionotes]
  2. Hebrews 8:7–13 [audionotes]
  3. Hebrews 9:1–10 [audio, notes]
  4. Hebrews 9:11–22 [audio, notes]
  5. Hebrews 9:23–28 [audio, notes]
  6. Hebrews 10:1–18 [audionotes]
  7. Hebrews 10:19–25 [audionotes]
  8. Hebrews 10:26–39 [audionotes]
  9. Hebrews 11:1–40 [audio, notes]
  10. Hebrews 12:1–17 [audionotes]
  11. Hebrews 12:18–29 [audio] – Guest Teacher (Ron Comoglio)
  12. Hebrews 13:1–21 [audionotes]

Christ is a Superior High Priest: Three Reasons Why Jesus Is Greater Than Aaron

jason-betz-274375-unsplashIt has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. 
— Hebrews 2:6–9 —

The key idea in Hebrews is priesthood. However, I believe sonship is equally important to understanding the flow of the book, not to mention the nature of Christ’s priesthood. In other words, Jesus is a greater priest because he is a greater son (see 4:14; 7:28).

Making a similar point, B. B. Warfield once commented on Hebrews 2:6–9:

The emphasis is upon the completeness of the identification of the Son of God with the sons of men . . . The perfection of His identification with us consisted just in this, that He did not . . .  assume merely the appearance of man or even merely that position and destiny of man, but the reality of humanity. (The Power of God Unto Salvation, 5, 10; cited in Zaspel, The Theology of B.B. Warfield, 256).

Highlighting the personal nature of Christ’s union with his people, Warfield touches on the very weakness of the priesthood of Aaron. And in so doing, he highlights three ways Christ’s priesthood is greater than that of Aaron. Continue reading

Our Great High Priest (Exodus 28–30)

priestcolorSermon Audio: Our Great High Priest (Exodus 28–30)

Last week we celebrated the Reformation Day (October 31) and the recovery of the gospel brought about by men and women like Martin Luther and Katherine von Bora. Both of these Reformers fled the monastic life in order to follow Christ. Yet, in departing the Roman Catholic system of priesthood, they did not abandon the priesthood of Christ nor the priesthood of believers.

In fact, Martin Luther was one of the most prolific exponents of the biblical teaching that all followers of Christs are saints—a priesthood by faith in Jesus Christ. Thus, in a very real sense any Protestant view of the Bible that denies the place of priesthood actually denies the very gospel which the Reformation recovered. Jesus Christ is our great high priest, one whose sacrifice for sin and priestly intercession makes faith possible.

Thinking again, therefore, about what Scripture says about priesthood, we considered in Sunday’s sermon the necessity of a high priest, and what means that Jesus is our great high priest. Going back to Exodus 28–30, we considered the original purpose of the high priest in Israel and how Jesus came to both fulfill and exceed those original expectations.

If the priesthood is something you care about, or if its something you don’t care about, this sermon is for you. You can listen to it online. Response questions are below as are a few additional resources. Continue reading

The Cost of Discipleship: How the Historical Context of Hebrews Teaches Us How to Read This Book

hebrewsTonight we begin our verse-by-verse study of Hebrews in our weekly Bible study. Last week we looked at the book as a whole. You can find the audio and introductory notes here.

This week we will consider the first four verses, which introduce Hebrew’s “word of exhortation” (13:25) to a people suffering oppression (10:32–34) and tempted to shrink back from their Great High Priest. Indeed, as the book unfolds we become quite aware that the author of this book has a great concern for the enduring faith of these afflicted disciples. To understand, therefore, the pastoral intent of Hebrews we need to know something of the historical context.

And while many particulars about Hebrews are impossible to discern (like who wrote the book), we can put together a fairly accurate picture of who is addressed, where, and when. In fact, in his short commentary on Hebrews (A Call to Commitment), William Lane provides a clear picture of the letter’s background from the available content of Hebrews and the history of Rome in the first century. Here’s what he finds, Continue reading

“I Will Shake the Earth”: Reading Haggai in Canonical Context

jay-dantinne-199087-unsplash.jpgHow should we understand the earth-shaking, temple-making promises of Haggai 2?

Twice in this short book, “Haggai the prophet” announces that heaven and earth will be shaken by the Lord (2:6–7 and 2:21) and that on the other side of this cosmos-shaking event (or events), the Lord will establish a greater temple (2:9) and restore hope for David’s throne (2:22–23). Because of the apocalyptic nature of these words, some have seen in them a prediction for a future millennial temple. For instance, Mark Rooker says when addressing the temple in Ezekiel 40–48, “Similar references to a temple in the messianic kingdom include Isaiah 2:2–4 and Haggai 2:9” (A Case for Premillenialism, 130–31). Likewise, David Turner writes,

The prophet Haggai alludes to the fact that this temple was unimpressive when compared with the first. However, the word of the Lord confirms to Zerubbabel the promise that God is with the nation. With words that anticipate Revelation 21:24–26 and 22:2, Haggai 2:6–9 promises that God’s judgment of heaven and earth (cf. Heb. 12:26) will result in the nations’ bringing their glory to the temple. Thus its latter end will be characterized by a greater peace and glory than that of the first temple. (David L. Turner, “The New Jerusalem in Revelation 21:1–22:5,” in Dispensationalism, Israel, and the Church, 269).

Interestingly, none of the big books of dispensational eschatology that I have on my shelf (e.g., Millennialism: The Two Major Views by Charles L. Feinberg; Things to Come by J. Dwight Pentecost; Christ’s Prophetic Plans by John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue; The Case for Progressive Dispensationalism by Robert Saucy) address Haggai exegetically. Pentecost lists Haggai 2:1–9 as one of the passages he will later expound on the concept of God’s kingdom in the Old Testament (442), but he never returns to this passage. In fact, the most comprehensive exegetical statement I’ve found on Haggai is contained in the MacArthur Study Biblewhere the comments interpret Haggai as testimony to a millennial kingdom with a rebuilt temple. Here are two examples.

2:6, 7 I will shake. The shaking of the cosmic bodies and the nations goes beyond the historical removal of kingdoms and the establishment of others, such as the defeat of Persia by Greece (Dan. 7). Rather, the text looks to the cataclysm in the universe described in Rev. 6–19, the subjugation of the nations by the Messiah, and the setting up of His kingdom which will never be destroyed (cf. Dan. 2:44; 7:27; Zech. 14:16–21; Matt. 25:32; Luke 21:26; Heb. 12:26; Rev. 19:19–21). (1334)

2:9 this latter temple. The Jews viewed the temple in Jerusalem as one temple existing in different forms at different times. The rebuilt temple was considered a continuation of Solomon’s temple (cf. v. 3). However, the eschatological glory of the millennial temple, i.e., the latter temple, will far surpass even the grandeur of Solomon’s temple (the former temple). I will give peace. This peace is not limited to that peace which He gives to believers (e.g., Rom 5:1), but looks ahead to that ultimate peace when He returns to rule as the Prince of Peace upon the throne of David in Jerusalem (Is. 9:6–7; Zech 6:13; Acts 2:30). (1335)

From these comments, we get a clear perspective of a dispensational reading of this passage. But is that the best reading? Should we conclude that Haggai, dated to 520 BC in the second year of the reign of Darius (1:1), is talking to the people of Israel about a future kingdom and temple that comes on the other side of the messiah, whose kingdom they have not yet seen or understood? I don’t think so, and in what follows I will aim to provide an interpretation of Haggai 2 that pays closer attention to the historical context of his message and the canonical message of the kingdom of God come in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

In other words, instead of constructing a brick and mortar temple in the future with the words of Haggai, we should see how his words speak to the remnant addressed in his book (1:12, 14; 2:2) and then how they speak to the people on whom the end of the ages has come (1 Corinthians 10:11). Continue reading

The Need for Expositional Preaching (pt. 4): Apostolic Preaching is Expositional

pulpit2I recently shared this article with our deacons. This post which focuses on the pattern of preaching in the New Testament is part four of four. (Parts onetwo, three).

Not surprisingly, from the pattern of Old Testament priests and prophets to the teaching ministry of Jesus, the church continues a pattern of expositional preaching. This is most evident in the book of Acts.

The Expositional Acts of the Apostles

In Acts, Luke gives a selection of exemplary sermons by Peter (Acts 3-4), Stephen (Acts 7), and Paul (Acts 13-14, 17). In these sermons, the Spirit-filled preachers are regularly appealing to the Old Testament, retelling the history of Israel, and explaining how Jesus Christ fulfills the Old Testament patterns, promises, and prophecies.

For instance, in Acts 13:15 Paul and Barnabas are invited to give a word of exhortation (a sermon?) “after reading from the Law and the Prophets.” It is easy to see the pattern of exposition here: read the word, preach about the same word. Paul paid attention to his audience, but he faithfully proclaimed God’s Word according to the pattern of sound words that was found in the Old Testament.

Of course, from the terse details in Acts, we cannot replicate the form of the apostle’s exposition, but we can see their commitment to explaining the Old Testament Scriptures: They showed how the Old Testament related to Jesus, and called their audiences to repent and believe.

Moreover, when Paul handed off his ministry to the Ephesians elders, he said to them, “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (vv. 26-27). His reference to blood harkens back to the watchman’s role in Ezekiel (ch. 3, 33); he likens the preacher’s task of protecting the flock to the watchman’s task of warning the city, and the way he tells the Ephesians elders to guard the flock is by means of teaching the whole counsel of Scripture.

Therefore, from the book of Acts, we can discern a flexible pattern of exposition intended to proclaim Christ from all the Scriptures. Still, there is one more place in the New Testament that demonstrates the validity and vitality of expositional preaching. And this final illustration is arguably the most convincing, as it is the only sermon full-length sermon in Scripture—Hebrews.

Hebrews: An Expositional Sermon

While we read Hebrews today as a letter, it has every indication that this epistle was a sermon first, and a letter second. On that point Dennis Johnson observes a number of sermonic features ( Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures, 167-78):

  1. The book closes with the words, “my word of exhortation,” which in other contexts including Acts 13 indicate a sermon;
  2. Hebrews regularly exalts in God’s spoken word (1:1-2; 2:1-4; 12:25-29);
  3. the Scripture citations are introduced as words spoken, not just written (3:7, 15; 5:6; 10:15);
  4. the author of Hebrews twice abbreviates his comments in order shorten his sermon (9:5; 11:32);
  5. unlike other letters that begin with doctrine and transition to application, Hebrews unites exposition and application, such that in each section of the sermon there is biblical quotation, explanation, and exhortation;
  6. there is a discernible outline to the sermon—Jesus is better than angels (1:4-2:28); better than Moses (3:1-4:13); better than Aaron (4:14-7:28); better than old covenant sacrifices (8:1-10:31); better than the patriarchs (10:32-12:17); better than Moses as the mediator of worship (12:18-29);
  7. the length of Hebrews read aloud totals about 55 minutes, which is in the ballpark for a sermon.

In this outline, it becomes clear that the content of Hebrews is a series of biblical expositions. Specifically, the author cites, explains, and applies Psalm 8:4-6 (Hebrews 2), Psalm 95:7-11 (Hebrews 3-4); Psalm 110:1, 4 (Hebrews 5-7); Jeremiah 31:31-34 (Hebrews 8-10); Habakkuk 2:2-4 (Hebrews 10-11); Exodus 19:16-23 (Hebrews 12). By citing, explaining, and applying these six passages (plus drawing attention to other Old Testament persons and passages), the author models a kind of biblical exposition that is loaded with Scripture, well-illustrated, and filled with application. For this reason, it serves as conclusive support that the kind of preaching modeled by Scripture is expositional preaching.

The Pastoral Epistles

But Scripture goes even further. God’s word not only models exposition; it also commands it. If we take seriously the words of Paul to Timothy as words of instruction for the church, we find that Paul actually commands pastors to preach expositionally. In his first letter to Timothy Paul writes,

Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Tim 4:11-16)

Stressing Timothy’s role of teaching (mentioned 3x, plus “commanding” and “exhortation”), Paul tells his son in the faith: “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.” Like the priests of old (who functioned as pastors in their own right), Paul instructs Timothy to read the Scripture and teach the Scripture with exhortation. In short, to turn back the false teachers and the false teaching in the Ephesian church, Timothy is to herald the truth of the gospel, trusting that the word of God will sufficiently equip the saints, expose the wolves, and build up the church.

A Final Plea for Expositional Preaching

The same is true today. Pastors do not build true churches by managerial excellence, neither do they comfort souls with modern psychology. Rather, pastors are to lead the flock of God to read the Scriptures, understand the Scriptures, and apply the Scriptures.

When pastors are faithful to do that, churches will grow and be built up in the doctrines of the faith. When they fail to do that, they are left to the most popular strategies and psychologies that the world has to offer. In our Southern Baptist context, expositional preaching has been out of fashion in local churches for too long. Only by returning to it, will the word of God be given room to purify the church, sanctify the saints, and convert the lost.

May God be pleased to give us ears to hear the whole counsel of God word preached and heard from faithful expositors of God’s word.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

 

Christ, Our Willing Sacrifice

Hebrews 10:4 states that the blood of bulls and goats cannot atone for sin. To those familiar with the argument of Hebrews or the typology of sacrifice in the Bible, it will come as no surprise that an animal cannot atone for the sins of a human. The Old Testament sacrifice can only purify the flesh, and only for a time. The value of an animal is insufficient for ransoming men made in the image of God. Only another man can do that, but then only if that man is unblemished in body and will.

Writing about the mind of Christ in Philippians 2, Alec Motyer makes this point extremely well (see his commentary, The Message of Philippians, 117). Continue reading

Sermon Notes: Christ’s Consecration is Our Confidence (NT)

Picking up where we left off, the New Testament comes in looking backward, looking at God’s covenantal promises, and then it begins to show how Christ fulfills them all.  So we move from prophetic anticipation, to Christotelic (Christ in the end) fulfillment.

4. Christ fulfills Zechariah 3.  Not simply by being a perfect Levitical priest, Jesus far exceeds the old system.  Hebrews records that he is a priest not because of genealogy, but because of living a perfect life.  He is called a priest after the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 7:1-9. Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. For it is witnessed of him, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek” [Psalm 110].  For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.

But even more to the point, in connection with the consecration of the high priest, is Hebrews 10. There, the priest it says is not acceptable to God on the basis of a sacrifice or sacrifices made for him.  He doesn’t need a sacrifice.  Christ is accepted because of his perfect obedience.

Hebrews 10:1-10. For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins?  But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year.  For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

 “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.'”

When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

The beauty of Hebrews 10, in relation to Exodus 29, is that Christ does not need to be cleansed of sin.  He is clean.  Thus, his consecration does not depend on the blood of animals; his purity emits from a life that has displayed perfect obedience to the father.  God accepts Christ’s priestly sacrifice and representation, because he is His Son, in whom he is well-pleased.  This is far better than the Levitical system.

 5. The Gospel: We have a priest that is acceptable to God and sympathetic to us.  The promises and invitations to approach the Lord in Hebrews about this are astounding.  Hebrews 7:25, “He lives to intercede for us.”  What does that mean?  Consider how he prays in John 17.

(1) He prays for our protection from the world (17:15)
(2) He prays for our sanctification (17:17)
(3) He prays for the effectiveness of our evangelism (17:20)… which means
(4) He prays for the salvation of those given to him
(5) He prays for the unity of the church (17:23)
(6) He prays for his saints to know his love (17:26)

6. The Application: Draw Near With Confidence.  The New Testament calls us to draw near to God (James 4:8), but such a command would have been absolutely terrifying to the Old Testament people (and maybe even the priests).  Entering God’s presence in any unclean manner resulted in death (cf. Lev 10:1-3).  However, Christ takes away that threat.  Through his perfect consecration, he stands at God’s right hand and bids us come.  He clothes us, who trust in him, with his righteousness and makes us acceptable in God’s sight. Thus, Christian have full access and assurance that our prayers, petitions, and confessions will be heard and received.  This is great news, and one that comes at the end of the line that begins in Exodus 29 passes through the OT and finds fulfillment in Christ in the NT.

May we draw near to God in Christ today, because of his perfect consecration.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Sermon Notes: Christ’s Consecration is Our Confidence (OT)

TEST CASE # 1 :: Exodus 29: Consecration of the Priests

Following the five-fold model (Law, Prophets 1 &2, Christ, Gospel, Christian Application) presented in the last few days, I will today try to give a “test case” for getting from the consecration of the high priest in Exodus 29 to Christ to Christians today.

1. Exodus 29 gives explicit laws for consecrating the priest. 

Exodus 29 is an exposition of Exodus 28:41, “And your shall put them”—that is the priestly garments— “on Aaron your brother, and on his sons with him, and shall anoint them and ordain them and consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests.”  The point of the chapter is to explain how the high priest might be received into the presence of the Lord.  And it is an incredible process. To begin with, verses 4-9 give a point by point process for cleansing the priest.

Verses 4-9: Five Steps for Consecration

Verse 4. The priests are washed.  In a hot, dusty desert, these men needed a bath. This would not be sufficient, but it was a necessary beginning.

Verse 5. The priest is clothed.  All the garments made for “dignity and honor,” or “beauty and glory” were put on the priest.

Verse 6. The priest is crowned. The most significant element of the apparel was the turban.  It was put on last, and it essentially crowned the priest (Zech 6).

Verse 7. The priest is anointed.  With the anointing oil, the priest is ordained, as God’s chosen vessel to represent the people before him.  This anointing is defined with greater detail in Hebrews 5, where it says that the priest did not appoint and anoint himself.  As one commentator has said, this anointing basically stamped the priest with heavenly approval.

Verse 8-9. The priest is supported. Each of the priests are dressed and ready to serve him, in the service of the temple.

Verses 10-28: Six Atoning Sacrifices

Now everything was ready for the offerings.  In verses 10-28, Moses lists six different kinds of offerings that were involved in the priests ordination.  Most of these would be further explained in Leviticus 1-7, but let’s take a short survey here to simply mention the complexity of all the sacrifices involved.

Sin offering.  Unclean sections of the animal are taken outside the camp and burned.

Burnt Offering. First ram is completely consumed, symbolizing the priest’s total devotion

Ram of Ordination.  Only for the priests, this lamb was slaughtered and the blood applied to their ear lobes, thumbs, and big toes.  All the exposed parts of the priest are cleansed by the blood.

Wave Offering.  Taking the cooked meat and bread, the offering was waved before the Lord. Walter Kaiser describe them like this: “The waving was not from side to side but toward the altar and back, showing that the sacrifice was given to God and then received back by the priest for his use” (Exodus, 470). This food is then burned up on the altar as a Food Offering.

Peace Offerings.  Included in the consecration was the eating of the food before the Lord.  This ‘portion’ to eat represented the kind of peace the priests (and Israel) had with God through the atoning sacrifices.

Verses 29-42: Further Priestly Instructions

After the offerings came another round of detailed instructions.  Everything from how to boil the food that the priest would eat with God to directions on the daily offerings.

Verse 29-30.  God gives instructions concerning the garments, and how they are to be passed down from one generation to the next.

Verse 31-35.  The priests have instructions for boiling the meat and eating it.

Verse 35-37.  This ordination takes 7 days, again showing how weak the sacrifices were and how great was the need for cleansing.

Verse 38-42. On top of the ordination service, there is the morning and evening sacrifice, which twice a day provided atonement for the holy place.

This elaborate system, along with everything else in Exodus 25-40, was put in place to teach Israel about the holiness of God, the sinfulness of man, and what it takes to get into God’s presence.  In one sentence, the message was this: You need a priest who will represent you before God, and that priest needs the highest degree of cleansing.  Now the question becomes, “How did Israel do with this?”  Let’s see.

2. Malachi 2:1-9 shows how the priests failed to keep covenant with God. Reciting the covenant God had with Levi, Malachi indicts the sons of Levi for their corrupted service.

 And now, O priests, this command is for you. If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honor to my name, says the LORD of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart. Behold, I will rebuke your offspring, and spread dung on your faces, the dung of your offerings, and you shall be taken away with it. So shall you know that I have sent this command to you, that my covenant with Levi may stand, says the LORD of hosts. My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him. It was a covenant of fear, and he feared me. He stood in awe of my name. True instruction was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity. For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the LORD of hosts, and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you do not keep my ways but show partiality in your instruction.

3. Zechariah 3 promises a new priest who will be pure and devoted to God. In a book full of Messianic promises, the hope of a royal priest who will cleanse the people is especially prominent, because God’s dwelling with his people depended on the people’s purity.  Verses 6-10 read,

Thus says the LORD of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here. Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for they are men who are a sign: behold, I will bring my servant the Branch. For behold, on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven eyes, I will engrave its inscription, declares the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day. In that day, declares the LORD of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree.

At this point in redemptive-history, the people of God wait for a pure priest.  God’s promise is sure, but the fulfillment is still future.  The flow of the narrative builds anticipation for the arrival of the Messiah.

Following the lead of the inter-testamental period, we will pause here too, and come back in our next post.

dss

The Wisdom of God is Seen in Intended Obsolescence

If God is the architect of the Old Covenant, and the Bible says that the Old Covenant failed (Hebrews 8), the question may rightly be asked: Did God create something that did not work?  Did the sovereign, omnipotent God make a lemon?  Was the New Covenant (Jer 31:31-34; Heb 8:8-13) a repair job?

Hardly!

The relationship of the Old Covenant to the New Covenant, shows the unfathomable riches of God’s wisdom! (Rom 11:33-36).

On this challenging subject of covenantal relations, Barry Joslin gives an inspiring (but not inspired) vision of the way God wisely designed the first covenant with “purposed insufficiency.”  God’s plan did not fail.  It was designed to break down, so that Christ’s better covenant could be installed for eternity.  Professor Joslin explains,

The inadequacy of the first covenant espoused in verse 7 centers on the inabilities of its sacrificial system to deal with sin and in the “rebellious hearts” and “stiff necks” of the people (recall [Hebrews] 3:7-4:13 and the indictment of Ps 95).  The criticism here [Heb 8] comes from God, the speaker.  This is significant given that he was responsible for making the first covenant.  God, the covenant-maker, established a covenant which he knew to be anticipatory and limited in its abilities.  He knew that it would be insufficient and that its sacrificial system would ultimately not be acceptable to him in order to take away sin (9:1-10:18). Therefore one must pause and make the assertion that God had, in this manner, always planned for a [New Covenant] that would be superior to the old, and one that would consist of the blessings both to take away sin as well as to make obedience a hallmark of the NC People.  Thus [Hebrews] 8:7 reinforces the point that the first covenant was not a failure, but was insufficient due to its built-in insufficiencies that anticipated a new arrangement.  Therefore the [Old Covenant] fulfilled its divinely-ordained anticipatory purpose (Barry Joslin, Hebrews, Christ, and the Law: The Theology of the Mosaic Law in Hebrews 7:1-10:18, 183-185).

From before the foundation of the world, God had planned the salvation of his people, and from Genesis 1:1 until the cross of Jesus Christ, God’s history was being worked out according to his sovereign and wise plan.  The intended obsolescence of the Old Covenant is just one feature of God’s perfect wisdom refracted through redemptive history.  It is for this reason that all the redeemed should study the works of God (Ps 111:2), so that they may praise with Paul,

Oh, the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!
Who has know the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?
Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.

Amazed at the wisdom of God in redemptive history, dss