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Hebrews

Transitions

Hebrews  8

Paul, whether the Spirit had revealed it to him or not, is preparing the Jewish Christians for the fact that the Temple is about to be destroyed. The worship ceremonies with which they were so familiar would be gone. They themselves would be scattered over the earth. So that they might understand that they did not need the Temple any longer, Paul makes the argument we see today.

To us the Temple is an ancient landmark, no longer of great significance. But the kind of transition the Jewish Christians were about to make is still with us. Let us see if we can glean from this argument a few points which we can still use today.

1The 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, 2and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man.

3Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. 4If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already men who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. 5They 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.”£ 6But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises.

7For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. 8But God found fault with the people and said£:

“The time is coming, declares the Lord,

when I will make a new covenant

with the house of Israel

and with the house of Judah.

9 It will not be like the covenant

I made with their forefathers

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 make with the house 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 a man teach his neighbor,

or a man his brother, saying, ‘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.ӣ

13By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear

Transitions

All of us at one time or another undergo major transitions in our lives. For example, my mother is contemplating moving into an assisted living apartment complex. That’s a major transition after having lived the last forty years in her own house. Getting that house was a transition too, because for twenty years before that she traveled from place to place with my dad, a career soldier. So how do we go about making such a transition?

Some things you want to keep

If my mother moves into such an apartment, it’s likely that she will bring with her many of the items from her house. Some of this will be simply utilitarian: you need a coffee pot. But other items will serve a different purpose.

  • She will bring with her good things with good memories. Pictures, souvenirs, even trivial items that remind her of good times. She will bring things that she hopes will help her in this new life.
  • She will also bring a lifetime of lessons learned. Just because you’re now in assisted living doesn’t mean you forgot how to make coffee. She may throw away the skillet for the fried chicken, but she still knows what to do in a kitchen.
  • Most of all she will keep with her the principles that have worked before. This transition does not change the good things about her; there is no need to change everything. She will keep the things that she considers good.
Some things you want to make better

Another great transition in life is getting married. I’m told that some people still get married in the old fashioned way: you remember, where sex is God’s wedding gift? Instead of “we’ve been sleeping together for seven years, we finally decided to make it legal?” You make that transition because you believe that being married to that woman is better than being single.[1]

  • Sometimes you make such a transition when all you want are superior results. You buy the new car to get better gas mileage or a faster run on the freeway. No great difference, just better in kind.
  • More often, though, major transitions are made to bring you closer to some goal. You change jobs to move up in the world, for example.
  • Sometimes you make such a major transition to solve a problem. My mother lives alone; she is frail; we are far away. So she might move to an apartment complex (people around); where help is quickly available and we are much closer.
The transition is costly

The important things in life usually have clear transitions. One reason for this is that such a transition points out the faults of the old way of doing things. Such a transition is called a “boundary layer” in physics. There is a curious phenomenon which is common to physics and to life: the price is paid at the boundary layer. The change from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant was at the price of the Cross. You leave things behind when you move out; you forsake all others when you get married. The price is paid at the edge.

The Great Transition

We may now apply this analysis to the great transition of the Bible: the change from the Old Testament (or covenant) to the New Testament.

Some things remain the same

God is eternal and unchanging; therefore, that which is a reflection of his character cannot change. Only the things resulting from his plan may change. What are some of these unchanging things?

  • Right and wrong – that’s one good example. Adultery did not transmute into a “romantic affair” because of this. It was wrong in the Old Testament, and Christ confirms that it’s still wrong.
  • The very nature of God himself has not changed – and therefore the reflections of his character in the Old Testament have lost none of their validity. The Lord is still my shepherd; therefore I take comfort in the Psalms. This is true of many sections of the Old Testament.
  • The great lessons of the Old Testament have lost none of their validity. Indeed, Jesus frequently quotes them. That shows us that these examples are still before us.
  • There is much prophecy in the Old Testament which relates to the second coming of Christ, and is therefore unfulfilled. It is just as valid as it ever was.
Some things are better
  • The tabernacle – the Old Testament predecessor of the Temple – was but a copy of the vision of the real thing Moses had seen in heaven. The Temple itself is now replaced by the real thing in heaven.
  • We have a better covenant. In the old one, the law ruled over us, and every sin needed its atonement. In the new one, the blood of Christ covers all. Grace and mercy replace law and order.
  • We have a greater promise in prophecy – since the first coming has been fulfilled, we now can be more sure of the rest. Indeed, our Lord adds such prophecy that gives us a glimpse of wonderful things to come.
The transition is costly

Costly? In the extreme:

  • It cost Jesus the painful, humiliating death on the Cross. Is there a greater price that a human being could pay than such a death? Is there a greater price to God than the transition to being human?
  • We too must pay the price. If we are to be his disciples, we are to deny ourselves and take up the Cross.

The Transition to Maturity in Christ

Remember what Paul is doing here. He is trying to get these Jewish Christians to move on to maturity in Christ. It would seem that we can apply the principles of transition in this instance too.

Keep the good things

As a beginner, you learned many good things which are still very useful:

  • You learned ethics and morality. These still have their place in your life.
  • You should have learned the defense of the faith – still useful.
  • You should have learned the art of repentance – always needed.
  • You should know the joy of the Lord – ever desired.

Keep the memories of your early days in Christ, remembering the joy. Keep the lessons of your early days, they never grow obsolete. Keep the principles you learned, they will serve you well.

 

Embrace the new things

How do you do that?

  • Put the Word into your mind. Study the Scriptures! You will find that each time you do, the Spirit will bring to your attention those things which are profitable for you – now. But you must do the studying for this to happen.
  • Put the Word into your heart. Train your emotions and feelings to God’s will. Don’t be callous and jaded; rather weep. Don’t be flighty; rather, feel the surge of the Spirit in your heart.
  • Put the church in your life. It is Christ’s body on earth, and you need to be in close communion with him. The more you work in his body, the closer to him you will become.

Some of us grow because we see the goal – being mature in Christ. Some of us grow because we have a problem to solve. The important thing is to grow in Christ.

Pay the price

Even maturity has its boundary layer. Remember the rich young ruler? Remember the tax collector and the Pharisee at the Temple?

  • Pay the price in your pride. Accept God’s forgiveness for what you have done without grumbling. Do not justify your sins to him; rather, thank him for his mercy to you.
  • Take up the Cross – and follow him. Put Jesus first in all things, whatever the price. You will then be on the right road, the narrow way.

The payment is at the boundary. He paid at the boundary between the old and new covenants – at the Cross. Follow his example, consider this the boundary between young and mature Christian – pay the price, take up the Cross, and follow Him.


[1] For the record: in my case, this is most certainly true.

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