Exhortations from the Sanctuary

(system) #1

Scripture: Heb 10:19-25

Leading Question: What would happen to our understanding of God and our responsibilities before him if the book of Hebrews were simply to disappear from our Bibles?

1. The Special Content of the Book of Hebrews. The book of Hebrews brings us a thorough mix of theology and practical applications. The official study guide has chosen to focus on Hebrews 10:19-25 for the summarizing lesson for this quarter’s study of the sanctuary. If we didn’t have the book of Hebrews, could we find the same teachings and exhortations elsewhere in Scripture?

It is worth pondering some of the unique features of various books in the Bible and some of the things that are surprisingly absent from certain parts of Scripture. Here is a partial list to ponder:

Old Testament

A. Day of Atonement. In the historical narratives of the Old Testament, the Day of Atonement is not mentioned even once. It only appears in Leviticus 16 and in Leviticus 23: 26-32.

B. Passover Lamb. There is no evidence in the Old Testament that the Passover lamb was seen as pointing forward to the coming Messiah.

C. Death Penalty for Adultery. The Old Testament doesn’t give us even one example of the death penalty for adultery. Numbers 15:32-36 describes death by stoning – at God’s command – for the man who picked up sticks on the Sabbath. But there is no comparable example for adultery.

D. Ecclesiastes. There is no reference to prayer or praise of God in the book of Ecclesiastes. The closest thing to an explanation is in Eccl. 5:2: “Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.”

New Testament:

A. Gospel of John. There is no reference to “forgiveness” anywhere in the Gospel of John.

B. Philippians. In Philippians Paul doesn’t quote the Old Testament even once.

C. James. The book of James never refers to the death and resurrection of Christ and contributes nothing to our understanding of the doctrine of the Atonement.

Question: Given such a remarkable pattern in Scripture, shouldn’t we be cautious about imposing our favorite book on others?

A remarkable emphasis on diversity from Ellen White appears is this quotation from Counsels to Parents and Teachers, 431-32, a call for a variety of teachers in our schools. Note how she links that call for diversity among teachers with the diversity among the Bible writers:

In our schools the work of teaching the Scriptures to the youth is not to be left wholly with one teacher for a long series of years. The Bible teacher may be well able to present the truth, and yet it is not the best experience for the students that their study of the word of God should be directed by one man only, term after term and year after year. Different teachers should have a part in the work, even though they may not all have so full an understanding of the Scriptures. If several in our larger schools unite in the work of teaching the Scriptures, the students may thus have the benefit of the talents of several. {CT 432.1}

Why do we need a Matthew, a Mark, a Luke, a John, a Paul, and all the writers who have borne testimony in regard to the life and ministry of the Saviour? Why could not one of the disciples have written a complete record and thus have given us a connected account of Christ's earthly life? Why does one writer bring in points that another does not mention? Why, if these points are essential, did not all these writers mention them? It is because the minds of men differ. Not all comprehend things in exactly the same way. Certain Scripture truths appeal much more strongly to the minds of some than of others. {CT 432.2}

The same principle applies to speakers. One dwells at considerable length on points that others would pass by quickly or not mention at all. The whole truth is presented more clearly by several than by one. The Gospels differ, but the records of all blend in one harmonious whole. {CT 432.3}

So today the Lord does not impress all minds in the [432/433] same way. Often through unusual experiences, under special circumstances, He gives to some Bible students views of truth that others do not grasp. It is possible for the most learned teacher to fall far short of teaching all that should be taught. {CT 432.4}

It would greatly benefit our schools if regular meetings were held frequently in which all the teachers could unite in the study of the word of God. They should search the Scriptures as did the noble Bereans. They should subordinate all preconceived opinions, and taking the Bible as their lesson book, comparing scripture with scripture, they should learn what to teach their students, and how to train them for acceptable service. {CT 433.1}

2. Last Words from Hebrews 10: Entering the Most Holy. In Hebrews 10:19 we are told that in Jesus we can actually enter the Most Holy Place. What does this tell us about the change that Jesus brings? In the Old Testament, only the High Priest was allowed to enter the Most Holy Place, and then only once a year. Any deviation from that plan meant death for the high priest.

3. Last Words from Hebrews 10: Drawing Near to God. In Hebrews 10:22 states that we can now draw near to God through Jesus. A similar message is told in 1 John 1:1-4 where the author emphasizes that human beings have actually seen and touched the incarnate God.

4. Last Words from Hebrews 10: Meeting Together. The author of Hebrews knew nothing about the modern discipline of the Sociology of Knowledge which tells us that much of what we consider reasonable is the consensus of the people around us. But Hebrews tells us a truth which sociologists would later identify. In short, if we want to keep our faith alive, we need to meet together. That’s the word from Hebrews 10:23-25:

23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching (NIV)

In that connection, another author who never claimed to know anything about sociology of knowledge is C. S. Lewis. From his practical observations, he spoke the same “truth”: “The society of unbelievers makes Faith harder even when they are people whose opinions, on any other subject, are known to be worthless.” – C. S. Lewis, “Religion: Reality or Substitute?” Christian Reflections (Eerdmans, 1967), 42.

So let us worship together and keep alive the blessed hope.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/5728