I have really been afraid that in the recent days of this devotional writing project I’ve gone a bit too academic on everyone – I have somehow gained a reputation for that. So, to balance it out a little bit, let me begin today with a quote from my boys’ and my favorite movie of all time – “Dumb and Dumber.” We contend that there is a quote from that 1994 classic that fits just about every life scenario, so let me prove it today! Harry and Lloyd have come into possession of a briefcase filled with money, and over the course of the movie they spend it all, keeping track of it with slips of papers – I.O.U.’s. And at the end, when the briefcase gets back to the rightful owner’s hands and he opens it to find nothing but hundreds of slips of paper, he says, “What is this? What is this? Where’s all the money?” And Lloyd answers seriously, “That’s as good as money, sir. Those are I.O.U.’s. Go ahead and add it up, every cent’s accounted for. Look, see this? That’s a car. $275 thousand. Might wanna hang onto that one!”
We have come to understand paying for things on credit. From Wimpy in the comic strip Popeye telling everyone “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today,” to our federal government running up a spending debt of $16,000,000,000,000. Perhaps charging things to another account and another day is innate, as last week my three-year-old granddaughter quietly downloaded $380 worth of books on her mommy’s Kindle reader.
Credit cards are convenient; they work long enough to successfully purchase something in the short term, but a day of final payment is inevitably going to come.
The last three days we have read Leviticus chapter 16 which detailed the institution of the Day of Atonement. It was a single day of the year of salvation for the nation of Israel – as the blood of a goat was sprinkled over the broken law and the scapegoat was sent off to the wilderness to symbolize the removal of sin. But as we have already spoken of in this series of devotionals, a final payment to truly and fully forever remove sin would have to be made by one of the same substance – man … that the blood of bulls and goats was insufficient. In essence, the Old Testament payment was like a credit card charge – good for the moment, but ultimately in need of a final payment by the real thing.
So in today’s reading, the writer to the Hebrews begins to tell his readers how the work of Christ is greater than this long-standing Day of Atonement thing that had been going on year after year. In fact, his main point is that since it had been going on repeatedly, that very repetition illustrated that it was a weak system of credit … as it says in verse 9 “the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper.” And the following verse makes it clear that they were temporary things until a new order could be established – the new covenant in Christ, expressed in the message of the Gospel.
These readers of the book of Hebrews were mostly Jewish people who had come to recently trust in Christ; they were getting beat up for their faith; and they were beginning to doubt to the extent of going back to a system where at least they could see and talk to an earthly priest. And the writer is combating this by saying, “No, don’t go back to a lesser, temporary system. The new system has now come through the work of Christ. You have a better high priest who is in a better place – in God’s presence.” Understanding this helps us understand why the same writer said to the same people: “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (4:14-16)
9:1 Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. 2 A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lamp stand and the table with its consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. 3 Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, 4 which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered Ark of the Covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. 5 Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover. But we cannot discuss these things in detail now.
6 When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. 7 But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. 8 The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still functioning. 9 This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. 10 They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order.
More “cross words” on the puzzle …
Sin – Yes, the issue that made the mess that made the cross necessary.
Truth – The message and work of the cross is the #1 truth in the world. That is why Christ is so hated and why the cross is such a symbol of fury to people around the world who are enslaved by Satan’s lies.