A Gift for All Times

Living on this country hill, it’s easy to feel as if I’m a throw back to an earlier time.  My clothesline and my garden; the rows of canning jars full of colorful vegetables and homemade spaghetti sauce in the furnace room; the daily task of sweeping the bark and wood chips off the floor around the wood stove all tend to keep me well-grounded in the past.

However, a quick reading of the first seven verses of Hebrews 9 lets me know that I am not as comfortable in the past as I might imagine.  The author describes the Tabernacle, it’s furnishings and fittings, the sacred relics in the Ark of the Covenant, and the priestly activities that were part and parcel of relating to God under the Old Covenant.  The words that come to my mind when I picture the scene have nothing to do with worship: foreign, distant, and even frightening seem more descriptive.

I can just barely imagine the priest entering the Most Holy Place, cringing over his own sinful condition, his hands carrying the blood of an animal.  It gives the words “forgive my hidden faults” a whole new urgency, doesn’t it?

I’m learning all sorts of unexpected things on this journey of raising four sons, and one of them is welding practices — not that I’m actually doing the welding myself, but with two sons who weld, I overhear conversations between them about the importance of a welder “achieving good penetration” with his torch.  He doesn’t just move it in a straight line along the seam, but makes tiny circles very close together so that the metal he is laying down actually looks like a stack of dimes that has been laid on its side.  The Holy Spirit has inspired this sort of approach to communication in the book of Hebrews as the author circles back around again and again, being certain that the truth of what Jesus has done (and what he has done away with or fulfilled) in His death and resurrection fully penetrates our understanding.  There is even a weld called a “multi-pass,” and with each pass over his material, our author seems to emphasize a different aspect or provision of the New Covenant:

  • We are invited into His rest;
  • Our eternal High Priest makes intercession with God so that we can draw near;
  • My continual holding fast to faith is a work of God.

Now, Hebrews 9 brings to light a truth that transcends all time.   The Old Covenant pointed up — toward a reality in Heaven —  and ahead — toward a reality that would occur in history, an event that would make it possible for human beings to experience a clear conscience:

12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, 14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

The animal sacrifices were sufficient for ceremonial cleansing, but they didn’t begin to deal with conscience cleansing.  In fact, since that time, no invention, no medical or psychological breakthrough, no technological advance has even begun to touch the clearing of a conscience, and I expect that we will travel to Mars and even cure cancer without getting any closer to resolving the problem of guilt that alienates loved ones from each other, that triggers countless creative methods of self-medication, that hinders worship, and that robs our hearts of peace.  People have donated millions of dollars, cut their skin, and volunteered their time at soup kitchens in an effort to balance out the weightiness of their own known darkness — only to wake in the night to the sound of lack roaring in their ears.

Hebrews 9:14 is a path toward a living God that has been cleared by the One who offered absolution to a thief as both hung dying.  It is a message of relief to the guilty that God will do what we cannot do on our own.  It is the whispered reassurance:  “You will be with me in paradise.”

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Thanks for joining us in our study of The Epistle to the Hebrews, a letter to a congregation of struggling Jewish Christians written by an unknown author sometime before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.  My Sunday school class and I will be landing on a few verses in each chapter with the goal of getting an overview of this fascinating and complex book.  These mid-week reflections and observations are intended to initiate a deeper pondering of the week’s assignment in preparation for our discussion the following Sunday. This is the seventh week in the series, and if you’re interested, here’s last week’s blog post.

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Michele Morin

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for over 25 years, and their four children are growing up at an alarming rate. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” She blogs at Living Our Days, and you can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

41 thoughts on “A Gift for All Times”

  1. Michele, your study of this book enriches the depth of the passages and your examples are excellent. Thanks so much for sharing this and your communication gifts and skill. Blessings on your day!

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  2. I often think that living back in the prairie days does sound neat to experience, I mean I love shows like ‘When the Heart Calls’ that are set in those time periods. But I don’t think I could back as far as the animal sacrificing days either. It is amazing to read of all of their rituals. I’m a big fan of the book of Hebrews, great study!

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    1. I love that welding image–it’s a great picture of how the author of Hebrews keeps circling back around and looking at topics from a different angle. And I’m so thankful that Jesus’ blood is sufficient for us!

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  3. I love reading your thoughts on Hebrews. And your home sounds so inviting and homey! I am so thankful we live in the dispensation of grace and that we have this wonderful opportunity to come boldly to God’s throne anytime we need or want to. What a privilege to be born after Jesus died and made the all-time atonement for our sins! To God be the glory!

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  4. Michele, this was so good to read. It really reminds me just how amazing the freedom is that we are gifted in Christ: a freedom this parched and famished world is yearning for.

    Fascinating also to look at Hebrews in the light of what you shared about welding, of returning over and over to the Truth. This is really what God does in our lives too: cutting us open, over and over again through the Truth of His Word to usher in greater and greater freedom. Thank you for this beautiful encouragement.

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  5. It wasn’t until after I visited our local county museum and walked through the old homestead houses that have been restored when I realized my thinking of being able to live here 100-150 years ago was just a fantasy. That tarpaper house with nothing to keep the winter winds and temperature out is amazing to realize just how tough the people were back then. One diary entry of a lady said she could not sleep at night for fear her children’s noses would be frost biten during the night. She continuously kept checking on them to make sure their heads were covered. I love my modern day heat!
    I’m enjoying your study in Hebrews, Michele. Thank you for sharing with Thankful Thursdays.

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  6. Wow what vivid pictures you are drawing for us her Michele! I feel like i learned a little about welding too! I am humbled and thankful for Christ’s intercession. I am so not deserving of His love but i will rest in and trust Him. Thanks for sharing what God has laid on your heart. Have a wonderful weekend and God bless.

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  7. Awesome, Michele! We just started studying 1st Corinthians in my SS class but I hope I can remember all this great stuff you shared when we get to Hebrews – whenever that will be.

    I do love your welding illustration! Circling back – so many times truths are mentioned more than once in scripture – reinforcing principles just so they penetrate our “thick noggins!” Man, that is so good!

    I also loved this line of yours: “People have donated millions of dollars, cut their skin, and volunteered their time at soup kitchens in an effort to balance out the weightiness of their own known darkness — only to wake in the night to the sound of lack roaring in their ears.” In the middle of the night is when the enemy loves to shout of our shortcomings in our ears. I know he’s tried that on me many times. What if I didn’t have Jesus, my High Priest, to advocate for me!

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    1. Don’t you just wish our brains were a little stickier? I need constant review and reinforcement in order to remember anything at all! Thank you for your reminder that our High Priest represents us even in the middle of the night!

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  8. Your words are so timely for me, Michele. I’m studying Hebrews and Leviticus together as part of First 5 (Proverbs 31 Ministries). As you say, even their constant sacrificing couldn’t erase a guilty conscience. Without understanding the weight of our sin, we can’t appreciate the freedom in Christ. Only He is enough to save us.
    Sweet blessings to you, friend. : )

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  9. Your first paragraph took me back to my childhood farm in Vermont, Michele! Your home sounds lovely and inviting! I enJOYed reading your insights into Hebrews. It’s such an inspiring book. Looking forward to following along with your study! Blessings on your weekend!

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  10. Oh, this post is so good! I appreciate the book of Hebrews – the teachings are beautifully explained, the message clear, the meaning so powerful, it leaves me weak in the knees. Thank you for sharing, Michele! Your words always touch me.

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    1. Carrie, it helps me to know when something is coming through clearly. Frankly, I’m overwhelmed by the depth and complexity of the teaching in Hebrews — and at the same time very thankful that the writer actually repeats himself. Maybe those first century Christians were slow learners like me!

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  11. Thank you for this deeper look into Hebrews. I do not know anything about welding but love the analogy of circling back over a topic that we struggle with to try to gain a deeper understanding. Thank you for these words today. I am blessed by being here today.

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  12. Michele this was timely. I’m studying Leviticus and Hebrews right now with the First 5 App at Proverbs 31. Like you I can imagine that High Priest and the sacrifices and the altar fire never going out. It all used to be boring, but reading about the sin and sacrifices and looking at our sin I shudder to think how many animals I would have had to sacrifice.

    Loved the welding stories. HA!

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  13. The image of animals being sacrificed is powerful and really brings home the seriousness of sin. At the same time I’m so grateful that we don’t need to do that any more because Jesus’ death achieved something so much greater. I like how you point out that the writer of Hebrews keeps circling back round and looking at different aspect of what Jesus did for us.

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  14. How wonderful to know that we will be with Him in paradise. Interesting how Hebrews does return back to the same themes. I guess a lot of the longer epistles have their themes. I’ve enjoyed so much the First 5 App, which is currently doing a devotional/study on Hebrews and Leviticus. Looking at Hebrews helps us understand Leviticus and vice versa!

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  15. Michele, I love how you said, “I expect that we will travel to Mars and even cure cancer without getting any closer to resolving the problem of guilt that alienates loved ones from each other, that triggers countless creative methods of self-medication, that hinders worship, and that robs our hearts of peace. People have donated millions of dollars, cut their skin, and volunteered their time at soup kitchens in an effort to balance out the weightiness of their own known darkness — only to wake in the night to the sound of lack roaring in their ears.” But Jesus offers us heaven. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

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  16. This is deep stuff here, Michele. I love the way you’ve pointed out the weight of guilt and the only One who can take it away. I’m so grateful for Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for me and I’m glad you are too!

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