Tag Archives: Hebrews 8

“This Changes Everything”

By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.
Hebrews 8:13 (NIV)

Have you stopped to think how radically technology has changed in our lifetime? How clunky does a first generation iPhone seem to most of us today? Or a flip-phone? The first iPhone was just ten years ago. Think about your first personal computer. How different was it from what you use today? My first computer was an IBM PS1 and it didn’t even have a hard drive. I had to buy and install a 300 Mb hard drive and I thought that was all I would ever need! Oh my, how the landscape has changed on this life journey.

Yesterday over breakfast Wendy admitted to me that she doesn’t enjoy the book of Hebrews that we’re wading through on this chapter-a-day journey. Her sentiment is shared by many, I’m guessing. I understand it. We tend to love books like Proverbs with its simple wisdom, Psalms with its emotional poetry, or the Gospels with their fascinating take on Jesus’ story. Hebrews, however, rarely gets mentioned as a “favorite,” even by me. Perhaps that’s why it’s been five years since the last time I blogged through it.

One of the reasons I think we struggle with Hebrews is that the letter was written to a very specific audience for a very specific purpose. The author was writing to first century Jews in an effort to unpack the tectonic, theological paradigm shift  they were experiencing. For the original readers, this was life changing stuff. This was a rotary-dial, chorded phone to an iPhone 8 kind of shift in thinking about God. It’s hard for us to appreciate just how radical of a change this was for them.

In Jewish thought, the concept of “covenant” was/is an important one. Covenant means agreement, like an official binding contract. Throughout the Great Story there are a number of important covenants God makes with humanity. The most important of these covenants to the original readers of Hebrews was the covenant God made through Moses that included the ten commandments, the “law” along with an entire system of sacrifices, offerings, and feasts.

Jesus was a Hebrew as were all twelve of his inner circle. The early Christians were known simply as a Hebrew/Jewish sect before the teachings of Jesus spread through the Greco-Roman empire and “turned the world upside down.” Now, the author of Hebrews argues, God fulfilled what was prophetically foretold by Jeremiah 600 years prior. Like emerging technology is to us today, this was emerging theology for first century Hebrew believers. It’s just as the Apple ad for the first iPhone said: “This changes everything!” God is making a new covenant through Jesus that makes the covenant of Moses obsolete.

One of the overarching themes in the Great Story is rebirth, regeneration, renewal, and resurrection. Old things pass away, new things come. Death leads to life. The old covenant has given way to a new covenant. That’s the point the author of Hebrews is getting at.

This morning I’m sitting and pondering the many things that have “passed away” in my life across my own personal journey. I’m thinking about the many new things that I’ve experienced which were unthinkable to me in my earlier years. This is part of the fabric of creation. It’s part of any good story line. Few of us would read a book or watch a movie in which nothing happens.

In the quiet I find myself expressing to God my openness to embracing wherever it is this journey is leading. This includes being open to things that may need to pass away, and new things that may emerge unexpectedly…whatever those things may be.

Btw, I’m not talking about the iPhone 8 😉

 

Chapter-a-Day Hebrews 8

Magnetic compass.

And I will forgive their wickedness,
and I will never again remember their sins.
Hebrews 8:12 (NLT)

When I embrace a subtle misunderstanding of a core spiritual truth, my compass moves a degree or two off True North. It may not matter as I’m standing in place or for short distances, but over life’s journey it can result in me being completely off course.

I have observed in myself and in others a subtle misunderstanding of God’s teaching on forgiveness that makes a huge difference in the course of our spiritual trajectory. Without noticing it, we reject, misunderstand and ignore God’s truth about forgiveness.

God’s Message makes it clear that Jesus died once for all in sacrificial payment for our sins. In doing so He freely offers forgiveness for our sins past, present and future. As stated in today’s chapter, God remembers our sins no more. However, rather than embrace this forgiveness which was dearly bought and freely offered, we often choose to cling to the deep feelings of shame and guilt which have woven themselves into our thoughts, words and actions. We shackle ourselves to the shame of our wrongs past and present. We live under the dark cloud it spreads over our souls.

Having quietly rejected the gift of forgiveness Jesus paid for and offers, still living under the cloud of guilt and shame,  we set about to do something about it ourselves. We do good deeds, we clean ourselves up, we do nice things for others, and we give a little money to a good cause. We even go to church. The motivation for all of these altruistic actions, however, are not gratitude at what Jesus did in forgiving us (past tense) but in the subtle hope that they might eventually earn His forgiveness (it’s therefore not what Jesus did, but we are doing that makes forgiveness possible). I’m not motivated out of gratitude of what has been done for me but by hope that what I’m doing might pay off in the end. Any actor worth his salt knows that the motivation behind the action makes all the difference in the world.

We are now quietly going about to try to be good and earn our forgiveness on a set of internal scales we’ve created for ourselves. On these scales we weigh our sins and wrong doing against all of the good things we’ve been trying to do. This, in turn, affects how we deal with forgiving others who’ve wronged us. If my sins are freely and completely forgiven by Jesus and He is not holding any of my wrongs against me, how can I in good conscience turn and refuse to forgive another person for perpetrating an injury of some kind on me? I can’t. If, however, I am daily operating under the notion that I am working hard to be good and earn God’s forgiveness then the rules for how I treat others completely change. Now I can look at the perpetrator and weigh them out on the same scale I’m using for myself. I know that I’m working hard at being good and making God happy, but the only thing I see in them is that they have done bad and injured me. The scale is clearly tipped in my favor. I’m doing good and they have done bad. My resolute anger, my seething hatred, and my deep-set grudge are all perfectly justified when weighed out on my own internal scale of justice.

I refused to embrace the truth that I am truly and completely forgiven by God, not because of what I’ve done but because of what Jesus did for me. I’ve continued to try to overcome my feelings of guilt and shame with an endless stream of good deeds in the mistaken notion that I can somehow earn some kind of spiritual Eagle Scout badge and receive the accompanying reward of forgiveness. I’ve leveraged this false spiritual economy into justifying my own anger, hatred and grudges toward others.

How quickly being a degree or two off in my understanding of forgiveness can lead me far afield from where I should be in my relationship with God, myself and others.

Today, I’m embracing God’s forgiveness and giving up my mistaken notion that it has anything to do with what I have done, am doing, or will do. I’m re-evaluating my relationships with others and choosing to give up my self-righteous internal scales of justice… and forgive.