In this episode, we find ourselves wrestling with some tricky passages in chapter Ten of The Book of Hebrews. They are tricky because of our cultural predisposition, the ways we think and understand the world. To help unlock their meaning, we have to step into the cultural context for which they were written. Jesus invites us into greatness. But we are often hard of hearing. We are being offered something excellent and yet we return to play in the mud. When we do our own thing we trample on the work Jesus has done and miss out on the opportunity for something more.
Our Cultural Background
So now let’s just look at some tricky things in chapter 10. They’re tricky because of our cultural background, I think, because most of us who grew up in church didn’t really grow up with this better sacrifice, better covenant written on your heart, better kingdom, better administration, better world type of a thing. We mostly grew up with: You are a pepperoni that God wants to put on a pizza and put in the oven and fry. And the whole goal of life is to get taken off the pizza so you don’t get thrown in the oven. And so we kind of get made like everything is about getting off the pizza.
So, we come to this verse, 10:26. “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will replay’ says the Lord. And again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of a living God.’”
Surely that’s not talking about us, is our first and natural reaction to that. But let’s just look over to the flow of where we’re headed.
Look at 12:3. “For consider him who endured such hostility from sinners against himself—” This is Jesus he’s talking about. “—lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as sons.” See, God wants us to grow up as sons. “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you’re rebuked by him; for whom the Lord loves he chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives.”
Now in this world of indulgent parenting, parent-centric families, and child-centric families, we’ve kind of lost this concept.
For some reason, one day I read a Dear Abby. I probably hadn’t read ten in ten years. But I read this one. And this teenage girl was writing in, and she said I know I’m too young to be a mother; but, you know, I have a boyfriend, and I thought I was pregnant. I know I shouldn’t be pregnant. But then I found out I wasn’t, and I was really disappointed. Is it wrong for me to really want to be pregnant? I need somebody to need me! I need somebody to love me.
How about that for motherhood. I’m going to have a child so someone needs me. Can you raise a child to be long-term dependent and needy? That’s actually not that hard to do, is it? And will that child—if you raise a child for the purpose of that child loving you, will they? No.
What you’re teaching them is to make life all about you. And they will.
Is that parent going to discipline their children? Never. Why? What does discipline risk if you’re a parent? They won’t like me! Rejection! I hate you; slam the door. I can’t let that happen. I just can’t risk it because I’m having this child to give me affirmation.
Have you ever been mad at God? Have you ever slammed the door at God and said, “I hate you”? Maybe I should ask how many times have you slammed the door at God and said, “I hate you”?
Do you think that he wrings his hands over that? Do you think they all get together and say, “Oh my gosh. John says he hates us. What are we going to do? We can’t have this happen! We need him to need us! We need him to love us!” No. Because he’s a perfect dad.
Verse 7 here, “If you endure chastening, God deals with you as sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?”
It’s a different world he’s writing into here. The Jewish world. This is not a problem.
“But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers—” OK, you’ve all been chastened. If it were the fact that you hadn’t been chastened, you would be a bastard. You wouldn’t be a real son. You’d be illegitimate.
12:9 “Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect.” Now, again, he’s writing into a Jewish culture where they still had fathers. “Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?”
See, he has our best interest at heart!
The Lord Will Judge His People
Let’s go back to chapter 10. Remember last week I showed you Deuteronomy 32. Deuteronomy 32 is where we saw vengeance is mine, I will repay. And again the Lord will judge his people.
That song was composed by Moses to remind the children of Israel that when you reject me—God speaking—and go serve other idols, I’m going to let the adversaries devour you. They’re going to eat you up because I’m going to create consequences for you. But when I see you have no strength left, I’m going to rescue you. That’s the the-Lord-will-judge-his-people part.
Why? Why am I going to rescue you? Because I have better things for you. I’m going to send you into exile with Babylon. Hundreds of thousands are going to die. It’s going to be excruciating to you. But I’ve got your best interest at heart.
And we would say, just like your child would when they get worn out, I will take a different path. I don’t like that best interest.
We had our four-year old grandson over the other night. And I got home, and everybody else had gotten down from dinner, and he was still sitting there staring at his chicken soup. We’re not talking about broccoli or brussel sprouts here. It was chicken soup.
And I was, hey, how’s it going. Kissed Terri. And she said, “Well Brady told me if I gave him another roll, he would eat his soup.” I said, “Ah, well that probably wasn’t a very good idea.” But now we have to have a stand off. He’s got to eat his soup. He promised.
So I sat with him for an hour and 15 minutes. I kinda played games and stuff. He tried everything under the book. I’m pretty experienced at this though, so none of it worked. He tried to figure out how he could get down without having to eat his chicken soup.
Now he actually did get down a couple of times. I gave him a little swat. But apparently my swatting is not all that motivational because about 15 minutes before they got home, Mimi says, “You know when he gets here, your dad might give you a spanking too.”
And he said, “Owie! Owie! Owie!” He picked up his spoon and started shoveling that chicken soup.
So, he got to play for about five minutes, and then his parents got home.
So we were telling Lee about that, and he said, “Ah well, I can probably tell you where that came from.”
In their family, lying is like the thing you do not do. If you get caught lying, you’re going to get busted bad. Most other things it’s just like, you know, let’s just make it right. He has kind of a restorative justice household. Unless you lie. And then it’s dire.
Well, why does Lee do that? He wants him to be truthful! There’s really nothing you can do for a child that is more helpful to them than help them to be truthful.
Look, most of the damage we do to ourselves is because we deceive ourselves, isn’t it? We tell ourselves that this is OK for us because… We exercise self-rationalization.
If you can teach a child to be truthful, you’re really doing them an incredible good. And you might treat them this way, and they might still be liars. As a matter of fact, they will still be liars. They’re human, right?
So this is the picture that we have of God.
Now if you were to ask Brady at that point in time is this the way you’d like your dad to treat you? What do you think he’d say? Of course not!
I can tell you first hand, he tried everything he could think of to get me to let him get down and get away with eating two rolls and no chicken soup. He—well, we don’t need to get into that. It’s all the things that you and I do to God is what he did.
Well, that’s it here.
The Old Law
10:28. “Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.” Which law is that, the old one or the better one? It’s the old one. The one written on tablets. Not the one written on our hearts.
So if the one written on tablets, if you disobey something in that law, is there a consequence to it? Yeah. And does God always make sure the consequence happens? Yeah.
So, now, if it’s written on your heart, does the standard go up or down? It goes up, right? So that’s the point. “How much more—?”
So what is this about how much worse punishment?
Well, let’s first look at “no longer remains a sacrifice.” I had a good question about this last week. I did a little more digging, and right under my nose—I didn’t even see it before.
Look at verse 18. “Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.” It’s the same phrase. Well, what’s the context there?
Look at verse 16. “‘This is the covenant I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,’ then he adds, ‘Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.’” Why will they be remembered no more? It’s one time. It’s all taken care of, right?
“Now where there’s a remission of these—” What’s he talking about these? The sins. There’s no longer an offering for sin. Here we are in the Old Testament. We’re doing offerings, offerings, offerings. What are we doing? We’re looking forward to the time when that’s not necessary anymore.
Now it still has a valid function. We saw that a little earlier. It gives us a reminder of sins, and that’s still valid. But it doesn’t give us any remission of sins. It’s not passing over until it’s taken care of. It’s taken care of!
10:26. “For if we sin willfully after we have knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.” Is the temple sacrifice going to do any good if we’re sinning willfully? It’s not going to do anything. Jesus already paid for that. Is Jesus going to come die again? No. Why? It’s accomplished. It’s one time. The sin’s paid for.
The only question is, what’s the consequence going to be?
And here’s the picture: You’ve got the Holy of Holies available to you at all times. And instead of going in there, what do you do? Eh, no thanks. I got this one.
Had another good question: What does it mean to sin willfully? Is there any other kind? Good question, huh?
Well, I think this word has a different connotation.
Let’s look at I Peter 5:2. I don’t think this word means, like, a voluntary reaction rather than an involuntary. “The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly.”
Same word. Willingly. Not by compulsion but willingly.
So he’s saying, don’t be an elder because somebody guilted you into it or you feel compelled to do it. Do it because you want to do it. Embrace it with gusto to be an elder to shepherd the flock. It’s hard to serve people that aren’t appreciative. That’s difficult. But embrace it! Do it gladly. You get the idea?
This is not like if we sin and your volition was involved somehow. It’s if you sin gladly because you want to. It’s not that, man, I lost my temper again so I’m going to go to the Holy of Holies. It wouldn’t even make any sense. Go to the Holy of Holies to have your conscience cleansed of evil works. Was does that imply? That you’ve got evil in your conscience, right? And you know it! So what are you doing? You’re saying, I don’t want this here! I want to be cleansed. So your contesting! You’re fighting! You’re trying to grow.
But if you go on sinning and you say, eh, I want to sin. This is my life. I’m just going to go this way. It’s OK, like the guy in 1 Corinthians, right? He had his father’s wife, and he’s like, look at me! I’ve got my father’s wife! Isn’t this cool? You have to put that guy out. He’s not even trying. He’s doing it willfully, gladly. He’s leaning into it.
Well, if you do that, then what are you doing with Jesus? You’re trampling him under foot. He died with a better sacrifice for me. And I’m saying, hey, thanks for that death, there, Jesus. I may need it someday, but right now, I’ve got this. And I’m just—I’m glad that you care, but right now, I’m just going to do my own thing.
Well, he says you’re trampling it underfoot, counting it a common thing. What does it mean to count something a common thing? If it’s common—If you’ve got stuff in your house—Let’s say the two-year old class is coming to your house. What are you going to leave out? The common stuff, right? The stuff you don’t put a lot of value on. If anything has a lot of value, you’re going to put it up.
And you’re saying to this high priest who has a better sacrifice, and a better covenant, and a better king, and a better inheritance, for a better world, you’re saying, nah, I’d rather have a bowl of soup right now.