March 21 March, 2018

Hebrews 10:1-10

10 The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. 2 Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. 3 But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. 4 It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; 6 with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. 7 Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll— I have come to do your will, my God.’” 8 First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. 9 Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Year after year, festival after festival, faithful worshippers of the one true God would sacrifice valuable animals and agriculture. But when would it be enough? When would God be satisfied, when could I be confident that God and I were on good terms? I couldn’t.

But this is why the arrival of Jesus is good news. The rituals were only announcements, signs that God was going to do something better and complete. Jesus offers himself, the perfectly obedient Son of God, as a sacrifice once for all.

God is satisfied, we can be confident we are on good terms with him. Jesus was the final sacrifice, and three days later he proved it by raising from the dead.

God, you and I are good, because I don’t bear the weight of my sin. Jesus bore it for me once and for all.

Written by Andrew Mellor

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Tuesday 20 March, 2018

Hebrews 9:23-28

23 It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25 Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26 Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

I grew up going to church my whole life, but looking back I can see that as a child and teenager, I really didn’t understand much of what the Old Testament was about. When I heard about the ancient priests offering animal blood sacrifices to deal with sin, I was left wondering what that was all about.

As I grew older and left school, I was fortunate enough to do some focussed study to learn more about the Bible. I learned about how amazing and intricate were these rituals and the specific imagery that was designed to point us to the ultimate blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ, dealing with the penalties of sin once and for all.

More recently I completed the C3 Bible College online course, and found the subject on the Old Testament to be especially helpful to further my understanding. Right throughout the Old Testament, God has deposited messages and narratives preparing the world for the coming of Jesus to help us understand what His sacrifice and death means for us.

I’m impressed with how far in advance God worked to prepare us for the coming of Jesus, and with the level of detail involved in bringing about His plan of saving the world. This gives me great confidence in a) God’s planning abilities, and b) in how much He loves us that He would go to so much trouble!

Thank You God, that we matter so much to you, that You would put in so much effort and ultimately so much personal pain to restore us to relationship with You.  And thank You that I can rest in your amazing planning abilities.

Written by Shelley Witt

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Monday 19 March, 2018

Hebrews 9:15-22

15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. 16 In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, 17 because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. 18 This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. 19 When Moses had proclaimed every command of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. 20 He said, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.” 21 In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. 22 In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

Jesus has brokered a new deal for all people. Whatever the Old Testament may say, Jesus has reshaped and renegotiated the ultimate terms of salvation in the world. In many ways, same as it ever was (eg. it requires serious stuff like blood shedding and sacrifice), but is changed now that Jesus’ sacrifice was a perfect human sacrifice – the most extreme kind of sacrifice crossed with an innocent sacrifice.

The layers of metaphor are numerous and the descriptions complex – but I am encouraged not to be put off by this density. I capture in my imagination the key images, ‘ransom’, ‘sacrifice’, ‘inheritance’, ‘covenant’ and ‘forgiveness’ and let them dance in my mind. Perhaps instead of logic, our natural capacity for poetry is better suited to absorb the significance of this passage in it’s first reading? The fuller, systematic, importance of this passage can come to me later, but for now Jesus is reshaping the very structure of forgiveness in my imagination just as it is eternally shaped in my heart.

Jesus forever!

My Jesus. Thank you for turning the universe upside down with the most wonderful and at the same time strangest of happenings with Jesus as the sacrifice to end all sacrificing. I am free of debt too because of you Jesus. Debt free forever!

Written by Sam Stewart

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Sunday 18 March, 2018

Hebrews 9:11-14

11 But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here,[a] he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining[b] eternal redemption. 13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death,[c] so that we may serve the living God!

For most of us today the rules and regulations of the Old Testament seem out of place and without relevance. These sometimes-peculiar rules were part of a contractual arrangement God established with the Jews. People who have studied the laws of the Old Testament in detail have found sound practical reason for these rules to exist however as verse 9 indicates some rules were ‘illustrations pointing to this present time’.

More than any other book of the Bible Hebrews links the Old Testament to the New Testament. It was written to Jewish believers to help them understand the New Covenant and Christ’s fundamental role in its creation.

What I find most interesting about historical covenants is they were often established between two ‘vastly unequal’ parties to give the weaker party confidence the agreement would be upheld. So is the case for Christians under the New Covenant with God. Christ’s crucifixion on the cross guaranteed the penalty for our misdeeds is ’payed in full’ result in us having a clear conscience before God. Without a clear conscience it is impossible for us the serve the living God with ‘pure motives’.

James 3:2 says ‘We all stumble in many ways’.

So today is a great opportunity to consider ‘do I have a clear conscience before God’ and if not take the time to meditate on the sacrifice Christ made for you. A truly thankful heart has the power to unlock the depths of God’s love for you!

Written by David Newton

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Saturday 17 March, 2018

Hebrews 9:1-10

9 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 lampstand 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.

Paul’s audience was very familiar with the system that was in place for the Jews to worship God. I know that we come to our faith experience with different cultural eyes to those original readers, but I am challenged as to whether or not I treat my faith experience as if I am really part of a new agreement between God and mankind, or whether I act as if it is the same old system the Jews embraced.

What I mean is this – when I come to be in the presence of God, am I letting others do all the work for me? Do I participate only as an observer, happily letting those I think are more spiritual or more in tune with God, or whose ‘job it is’ to do all the connecting? Or am I engaged in worship. Do I actively seek out the Presence of God, knowing Jesus has made it possible for me to connect directly with Him? Do I do this every day or do I just save it up for Sunday?

We are so blessed to be living out our faith in a time when we are able to freely and directly come before the Father because of the sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf. We have direct access to God 24/7, not just once or twice a year when someone else does something on our behalf. The cost for the spiritual freedom we have was great indeed. I want to embrace that freedom to worship as often and as fully as I can.

Father God I thank you for the freedom you have given us to worship and to know you. I am sorry Lord if I have taken our relationship for granted. Thank you Jesus for all you have done for me. Help me Lord to reflect your glory in all that I do and in who I am. Amen

Written by Christine Knight

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Friday 16 March, 2018

Hebrews 8:8-13

8 But God found fault with the people and said: “The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. 9 It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord. 10 This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 11 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. 12 For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” 13 By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.

I heard someone say recently that reading the Book of Hebrews is a great way to understand the fulfilment of the Old Testament in the New Testament. Reading this passage, I can certainly see how this is true. Here we see that God has thrown out the Old Covenant that He had made with His people, replacing it with a New Covenant. The Old Covenant was a series of laws, written on tablets, that were so thorough and in depth that they were essentially impossible to keep. In fact the very purpose of these laws was to show the people that they weren’t able to save themselves through their own actions – they needed a saviour, Jesus.

This still holds true for us today. Even as I have followed Christ for many years, I find that it can be very easy to slip into the habit of trying to do or be ‘good enough’ in order to feel like I am doing my part as a ‘good Christian’. Of course, ultimately I can’t ever be good enough on my own, no matter how hard I try – like the Israelites in the Old Testament, all my efforts do is point to my need for a bigger, perfect saviour. I love that verse 10 tells us that in this New Covenant, God has written His laws on our hearts and our minds. No longer are they etched on cold stone tablets, rather they are written into us that we would know who God is and what He has called us to, and we can have faith that He will enable us to live obedient lives towards Him. It is this obedience to what He has called us to that is far greater than our feeble attempts at being good enough for Him.

God, thank you that you provided a way for us to know you and that you desire to know us. Help us to rely on you for our salvation, never getting caught up in the trap of trying to be ‘good enough’’. Thank you that you help us to be obedient to all that you have called us to. Amen.

Written by Ps. Madelaine Tarasenko

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Thursday 15 March, 2018

Hebrews 8:1-7

8 Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being. 3 Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. 4 If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already priests who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. 5 They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” 6 But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises. 7 For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another.

Dressmakers use a paper pattern to make a dress, so that all the bits will go together in just the right way.

God gave Moses a pattern for the tabernacle, so that it could be built in just the right way. And the tabernacle was just a pattern for what exists in Heaven (Hebrews 9:23). It was full of a rich set of symbols to help us build the right concepts.

The priesthood and the system of sacrifices were a pattern to help us understand who Jesus is (the ultimate bridge builder between God and us) and what he did when he died (the ultimate sacrifice which really does cancel out my sin).

The pattern of sacrifice by the earthly priesthood is hopelessly inadequate at dealing with real sin and restoring relationship. (Like a paper dress pattern would be hopelessly inadequate to wear to a party.) But Jesus achieved what the law never could. (Romans 3:20)

God gave that pattern to help us to understand Jesus and what he did more than a thousand years ahead of time. That’s a long time.

But it seems to have taken that long to even begin to understand – enough to accept the gift he bought for us. Even with an eternity with Jesus in Heaven, I suspect I won’t be able to fully understand how great he is, the enormity of what he did, and the unfathomably huge love that caused him to do it. (Ephesians 3:18)

Jesus, I just stand in awe at even the little I know about who you are. I love what you did for me. I’m so glad that you and your love are so much greater than anything I can conceive. And yet you make yourself known to me. You make the way into relationship with you so easy, even I could receive it.

Written by David Cornell

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Wednesday 14 March, 2018

Hebrews 7:23-28

23 Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; 24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. 26 Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27 Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.

The writer of Hebrews is continuing to show us that Jesus is superior in every way to the old covenant. He alone has brought in a new covenant, He was the sacrifice for our sin, once only and for all time, He only was holy, blameless and pure. Jesus is the new high priest who in himself meet the requirements of sacrifice, so that we can all draw near to God forever and eternally.

Lord Jesus I am more than aware of my weaknesses, failings, re-occurring issues, short-comings … Sin. Thank you for your never-ending sacrifice for me.

Written by Suzie Hodgson

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Tuesday 13 March, 2018

Hebrews 7:11-22

11 If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood—and indeed the law given to the people established that priesthood—why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? 12 For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also. 13 He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar. 14 For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. 15 And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, 16 one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. 17 For it is declared: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” 18 The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless 19 (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God. 20 And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, 21 but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: ‘You are a priest forever.’” 22 Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant.

“The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless 19 (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.”

What a profound couple of verses.  What was previously used to appease the guilt of our souls had proven to be too weak, incompetent to do the job so God inaugurated another way, a better way was introduced – Jesus – by which we draw near to God.

The longing for God is universal – if you study every civilisation from the beginning of time you will see the quest for the eternal – to know and experience God’s love.  Most of these result in religion where we make our best efforts to appease the deity of our choosing.  Jesus turns this on its head – he is the all sufficient sacrifice in whom we need to place faith for our acceptance by God to be real – to be transformative.  Christianity is such a better hope – we don’t have to work to appease God, Christ has paid that price, we now live in love with Him a totally different take of life itself – thank you Jesus!

Father help me to live as you would have me to live – in your grace and mercy not in effort to appease or be approved but in love with You.

Written by Ps. Richard Botta

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Monday 12 March, 2018

Hebrews 7:1-10

7 This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, 2 and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, the name Melchizedek means “king of righteousness”; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.” 3 Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever. 4 Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder! 5 Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people—that is, from their fellow Israelites—even though they also are descended from Abraham. 6 This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. 7 And without doubt the lesser is blessed by the greater. 8 In the one case, the tenth is collected by people who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living. 9 One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, 10 because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.

This seems to be written to some people who were having trouble fitting Jesus into what they knew (or thought they knew) about God. He had given them a priesthood as intermediaries between them and God. So how could Jesus bring them to God if he isn’t a priest?

It’s so easy to do the same thing: How do God’s miracles fit into my rational world? How does God as creator fit with the evolution I was taught? How does God as healer fit with what I know about medicine?

My understanding needs to fit around God, not God fitting into my limited understanding. God would be entitled to say to these Hebrews “If I make my son a priest and a king, that’s what he is.” But in His typical loving grace, he makes provision for their stubbornness thousands of years before.

Abraham only meets Melchizedek once (in Genesis 14). Even though he has just defeated 5 kings, Abraham recognises that he should submit and give a tithe to this priest king, this king of justice and king of peace, this picture of Jesus. And in his submission, he frees these Hebrews from the prison of their thinking to see the truth of who Jesus is. (You have to love Abraham!)

So where am I prevented by my “understanding” from seeing the truth about Jesus? Like Abraham, I need the humility to submit when I unexpectedly find God’s provision to set my thinking free.

Father, give my mind the humility and freedom to see you as you are.

Written by David Connell

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