HEBREWS 10:19-25

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

(New American Standard Version, 1995)

Someone once told me, “Salty, if you don’t feel particularly close to the Lord today, guess who moved!”  Hummmm… yeah, I don’t have to guess for very long, do I?  Today, after spending some time in the book of Hebrews, Chapter 10,  I’m meditating on my “relationship” with my Lord.  And I will confess that there are days when I do not feel particularly close to Him.  And, usually, the reason for that feeling is because I am aware of something that I’ve said, or something that I’ve done, or the way that I’ve treated someone else, that, I know, my Lord does not approve of.  And I’m thinking, He’s probably not too happy with me right now. You know, how it is, when you’ve said something to someone, or done something to someone, or maybe didn’t say or do what someone else expected of you and you know that they’re upset with you; maybe even quite angry with you.  So, you find yourself slinking around, walking on eggshells, trying not to draw too much attention to yourself, trying to not give them a reason to just totally unload on you.

Yeah, it kinda has to do with that whole “guilt” issue that we’ve been contemplating in our prior devotionals.  But it just seems like, whenever I am all too aware of my own failures and shortcomings, that’s when I don’t really feel like communicating intimately with my Lord.  Kinda like Adam and Eve in the garden, when the Lord came looking for them in the cool of the evening: “Adam, Adam, where are you?” And what had Adam and Eve done?  They had hidden themselves from the Lord’s presence, or tried to, anyway.  They had sinned.  They were naked and embarrassed; and they tried to hide!  That’s me, sometimes!

But then I find these crazy beautiful words of encouragement coming to me from the Book of Hebrews in the New Testament: “…since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus… and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith…” Wow!  You mean, I don’t have to hide?  I don’t have to slink around?  I don’t have to walk on eggshells before the Lord, in fear that I may just get squished like a bug (spiritually speaking), or worse… that God will turn His back on me and I’ll get “iced” or be “ghosted.”  The written word tells me, No, Salty… the Lord isn’t into “icing” people, or “ghosting” them; and He doesn’t want to squish you like a bug, either. Rather, the word says that, despite my fears and failures, I can have confidence to walk right on into the very presence of God. He invites me to “draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith!”

But I make mistakes, I stumble and fall along the way, I get selfish and rebellious and deliberately do what I know is wrong; or leave undone the things I know I should and could be doing. And, well, I know how things work, at least with people here on earth, anyway. Because of my shortcomings and weakness, because of my failures, because of “humanness” (if you will), people judge me and criticize me; people regard me with contempt and suspicion; people even withhold their friendship from me and want to ostracize me.

But while that’s people for you, that’s certainly not God. The book of Hebrews is informing me that, regardless of man’s criticism, Jesus my Lord has flung open the gates and invites me in… He longs for me to “draw near” unto Him. The message from this passage in Hebrews is that the way into the very presence of God has now been made available to me through the sacrifice of Jesus so that I can actually LIVE continually, perpetually, every single moment of every single day in that very place where, at one time—back in old covenant days—only the high priest was allowed to enter; and he only entered once a year, and with blood, and with fear and trembling.  But I get to LIVE every day in that place.  I get to continually dwell in the very presence of God.

You see, the Bible says that the interior of the tabernacle—the temple—had been divided in two.  There was the outer tabernacle where the priests came to minister before the Lord daily.  And then, of course, there was the inner tabernacle where the Ark of the Covenant was kept, which signified the very presence of God.  Into this place, only the high priest could enter on the Day of Atonement.  Dividing these two sanctuaries was the veil of sin, woven of  heavy, purple, linen fabric that was so thick and strong that it is said two team of oxen could not have torn it in two.  And woven into that heavy purple fabric, in strands of pure gold, were figures of the cherubim, God’s warrior angels.  You may remember reading in Hebrews chapter 9 how that, “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” (verse 8). People who lived under the old covenant that God had made with Israel as a nation were strictly forbidden to enter that Most Holy Place where God dwelled.  They could not have an intimate, personal relationship with God. 

But on that day when Jesus died on the cross, the Bible says that that heavy veil of sin “was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matthew 27:51). So, there is now no longer an outer sanctuary—holy place—and an inner sanctuary—most holy place.  Now, there is only the Holy Place where God Himself, not simply symbolically, but in actuality, dwells.  And the sacrifice of Jesus—His blood, His body—is the only veil through which we must enter into that Holy Place.

So, on that when I finally came to God and surrendered my heart and life to Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, expressing my faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ through my own death to self, burial with Him in the watery grave of baptism, and resurrection to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-7)… the cherubim were told once again to “stand down!” Stand down… you mighty, heavenly warriors—you defenders of God’s holiness—stand aside, now, as yet one more unworthy, but faithful, soul passes through the veil, the barrier, the great divide—that veil being the very flesh of the Lord Jesus Christ, offered as a sacrifice for sin once and for all! Yes, stand down as yet one more precious soul enters into the very presence of the Lord God, their Creator and the Lover of their soul!

According to scripture, I made that journey from this old material world, through the veil, and into “the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation” (Hebrews 9:11) the very moment I was “buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). And now I get to live, breath, eat, sleep, and walk daily in the very presence of God. If the knowledge of this fact isn’t enough to lift my spirits, brighten my day, and encourage me to get my eyes off of people and all their goofiness and just focus on Jesus and draw near Him… well, what in all of heaven or earth would?

So now I might ask, “What does He want of me? What is God looking for from me?” Well, according to this passage in Hebrews 10, what God wants from me now is my “sincere heart” (Hebrews 10: 22).  I may not be able to give Him a perfect track record, but I know what I can give Him that… I can give Him my “sincere heart.”

The Apostle Paul once said, “For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members” (Romans 7:22-23). I learn from this passage of scripture that, despite the fact that I often stumble and fall, still, I can joyfully concur with the law of God in my inner man. That means that I want to do the right thing!  I strive to do the right thing!  I may wrestle with temptation and battle against sin. But I don’t try to justify it!  I don’t try to make excuses for it!  Rather, I agree with heaven’s judgement that I am a sinner and in need of the constant cleansing of the blood of the Lamb.  My heart is there. My faith is real. I’m not just playing some kind of a religious game or trying to “turn the grace of God into licentiousness” (Jude 1:4), as certain religious but ungodly persons are prone to do. This is life or death for me, and I know that very well.  And so, I want to give to God what He wants most from me—my sincere heart; a heart devoted to Him.  And when I sincerely surrender my heart to Him, I can enjoy that “full assurance of faith” (Hebrews 10:22).  I am assured through my faith, by my faith, because of my faith, and because I am “saved by grace through faith,” (Ephesians 2:8), that God accepts me and wants me with Him.  And herein I find the strength, the courage, and the motivation to “hold fast the confession of my hope without wavering” (Hebrews 1:23).

But there is one more thing in this passage that the Hebrew writer says God desires of me, and that is that don’t just make it all about me. Rather, He want me to look for ways to “stimulate” my brothers and sisters “to love and good deeds” (verse 24). Wow—that’s so awesome, I love that.  God wants us to share our lives with one another.  He doesn’t want us to attempt to “go it alone” in this world.  He knows we need one another’s companionship as we journey along this trail of life.  So, the Hebrew writer tells us not to forsake “our own assembling together, as is the habit of some,” but rather to be, “encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (verse 25).

We get busy and life gets crazy.  So, then we get lazy. And we’re tempted to exchange the eternal for the temporal. Or maybe, given the dire circumstances of the Christians to whom the writer of the book of Hebrews was addressing, it’s even far graver than that. For us, attending or skipping the assembling together of God’s children may only be a matter of convenience. But the Hebrew writer was speaking, initially, to people who were facing some pretty terrible persecutions—they were literally suffering both socially and physically for their faith in Christ.  And, due to the hardships that confronted them, there was a huge temptation for people not to want to risk being seen together. If it became known that you and I were believers in Christ, and that we hung out regularly with those Christians, well, the consequences could be quite severe—it could cost us our livelihood, and maybe even our very lives.  And yet, it was to these very people, people living under great threat, people who might face severe consequences if they were discovered together, to whom the writer says not to forsake our assembling together.

Hmmmmm… So, I’m thinking to myself, given the historical context of this passage of scripture, “How dare I turn my fellowship with God’s people into a mere matter of personal convenience.” And also can’t help but wonder to myself, “Have I, at times, maybe not wanted to be seen as being too closely associated with God’s people merely because of some perceived social stigma?”

From these very brief—seemingly almost “off the cuff”—statements made by the Hebrew writer, I learn that my relationship with God is meant to be a shared relationship with other people. It is not enough for me to draw near to God all by myself and enjoy an intimate, personal relationship with Him that does not include others.  It is not enough for me to hold fast the confession of my hope deep down in my heart, but never reveal it or share it with others. Furthermore, I need to remember that, ultimately, my own source of strength and encouragement, as well as any encouragement that I may be able to provide to my brothers and sisters in Christ, is NOT rooted and grounded in how awesome, cool, contemporary, or fashionable we my think we are, or how progressive or dynamic our little fellowship portends to be; but rather, in both our individual and collective relationship with God, the fact that we are His forever family, and that we all have an important place in the midst of His holy presence.

Oh Lord God, divine Maker of heaven and earth, Giver and Sustainer of my life, and all life, humbly I come before You in prayer thanking You for my place in Your true heavenly tabernacle, for my place in the midst of Your holy presence, for my place among Your forever family.  And, Lord, even when I don’t feel as close to You because of my own frailty, weaknesses, and sin, I thank You that You still love me and that You still want me to enjoy that close, personal, intimate relationship with You that You’ve made possible through the gift of Your Son.  If I’m feeling estranged, Oh Lord, it is not You who have moved, for You have promised never to leave me or forsake me, and You continue to welcome me right back into Your presence.  Thank You for that, Lord, and may I always approach You with a sincere heart as I seek Your tender mercies and lift my praise up unto You. By the power and authority of Your only begotten Son, my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, whose sacrificial body has become the veil through which I may always find my way home to You, I pray… Amen!

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