One of the joys of reading the Scriptures from cover to cover (and I encourage you to do this every year!), is that we can begin to see the astounding unity of this entire library of God’s word. Every part feeds every other part. The Bible is its own commentary on itself! Case in point. Today I’ve included three passages: one from the OT writings, one from the psalms, and a New Testament epistle. I wanted us to see the relationship. (Yes, it will take you a little longer to read today!)
Reader: “Christ was offered once for all time . . .”
Response: “as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people.”
Scripture: Hebrews 9:23-28; Psalm 84; 2 Chronicles 29:1-11, 16-19
That is why the Tabernacle and everything in it, which were copies of things in heaven, had to be purified by the blood of animals. But the real things in heaven had to be purified with far better sacrifices than the blood of animals. For Christ did not enter into a holy place made with human hands, which was only a copy of the true one in heaven. He entered into heaven itself to appear now before God on our behalf. And he did not enter heaven to offer himself again and again, like the high priest here on earth who enters the Most Holy Place year after year with the blood of an animal. If that had been necessary, Christ would have had to die again and again, ever since the world began. But now, once for all time, he has appeared at the end of the age to remove sin by his own death as a sacrifice.
And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ was offered once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.
How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
I long, yes, I faint with longing
to enter the courts of the Lord.
With my whole being, body and soul,
I will shout joyfully to the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow builds her nest and raises her young
at a place near your altar,
O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, my King and my God!
What joy for those who can live in your house,
always singing your praises. Interlude
What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord,
who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
When they walk through the Valley of Weeping,
it will become a place of refreshing springs.
The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings.
They will continue to grow stronger,
and each of them will appear before God in Jerusalem.
O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies, hear my prayer.
Listen, O God of Jacob. Interlude
O God, look with favor upon the king, our shield!
Show favor to the one you have anointed.
A single day in your courts
is better than a thousand anywhere else!
I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God
than live the good life in the homes of the wicked.
For the Lord God is our sun and our shield.
He gives us grace and glory.
The Lord will withhold no good thing
from those who do what is right.
O Lord of Heaven’s Armies,
what joy for those who trust in you.
2 Chronicles 29:1-11, 16-19
Hezekiah was twenty-five years old when he became the king of Judah, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother was Abijah, the daughter of Zechariah. He did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight, just as his ancestor David had done.
In the very first month of the first year of his reign, Hezekiah reopened the doors of the Temple of the Lord and repaired them. He summoned the priests and Levites to meet him at the courtyard east of the Temple. He said to them, “Listen to me, you Levites! Purify yourselves, and purify the Temple of the Lord, the God of your ancestors. Remove all the defiled things from the sanctuary. Our ancestors were unfaithful and did what was evil in the sight of the Lord our God. They abandoned the Lord and his dwelling place; they turned their backs on him. They also shut the doors to the Temple’s entry room, and they snuffed out the lamps. They stopped burning incense and presenting burnt offerings at the sanctuary of the God of Israel.
“That is why the Lord’s anger has fallen upon Judah and Jerusalem. He has made them an object of dread, horror, and ridicule, as you can see with your own eyes. Because of this, our fathers have been killed in battle, and our sons and daughters and wives have been captured. But now I will make a covenant with the Lord, the God of Israel, so that his fierce anger will turn away from us. My sons, do not neglect your duties any longer! The Lord has chosen you to stand in his presence, to minister to him, and to lead the people in worship and present offerings to him.The priests went into the sanctuary of the Temple of the Lord to cleanse it, and they took out to the Temple courtyard all the defiled things they found. From there the Levites carted it all out to the Kidron Valley.
They began the work in early spring, on the first day of the new year, and in eight days they had reached the entry room of the Lord’s Temple. Then they purified the Temple of the Lord itself, which took another eight days. So the entire task was completed in sixteen days.
Then the Levites went to King Hezekiah and gave him this report: “We have cleansed the entire Temple of the Lord, the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the table of the Bread of the Presence with all its utensils. We have also recovered all the items discarded by King Ahaz when he was unfaithful and closed the Temple. They are now in front of the altar of the Lord, purified and ready for use.”
Reader: This is the word of the Lord.
Response: Thanks be to God.
To gain the full impact of the Hebrews passage, it is important to know the history of the Tabernacle which later became more permanent with the Temple in Jerusalem. Their function was identical. In looking at the psalm, we are reminded that the observant Jew made three pilgrimages a year to Jerusalem to observe Passover, Pentecost and the Feast of Tabernacles. Being physically present in the courts of the Temple was a joy, giving a sense of “here is where I belong forever! I don’t ever want to leave.” The reason was the pilgrim was near the presence of the Lord who dwelt in a cloud in the Holy of Holies behind the curtain. The pilgrim was envious of the birds whose nests were at the Temple, plus the priests got to live there. This Temple in Jerusalem was God’s dwelling place on earth and the lover of God wanted to be as close to him as possible and that place was at the Temple.
In looking at the Chronicles passage we find a good king, Hezekiah, wanting to repair and restore this Temple which had fallen into disrepair and closed under the godless king Ahaz. Note that only Levites and priests, those directly descended from the line of Aaron, were able to do the repairs in accordance with God’s directive. They purified themselves and all the utensils used in the Temple according to the law because it was the earthly place of purity, holiness, and worship. But we learn in the Hebrews passage that the earthly sanctuaries were but a shadow, a copy, of things in heaven which is why God was so specific in giving Moses and David instructions on how to build both the Tabernacle in the wilderness and the Temple in Jerusalem.
While the priests purified the earthly Temple with the blood of unblemished animals, the heavenly realm was purified once and for all with the blood of God’s Son, the eternal High Priest. The fact that God tore the veil opening the way into the Holy of Holies is evidence that God accepted this sacrifice as payment for our sin and the sin of the whole world since the beginning of time. As a result, God’s people had become a kingdom of priests! At that moment, the sin of Adam and Eve was atoned for and every sin since then. (In passing, the writer of Hebrews notes that human beings die but once; there is no reincarnation! Following death comes judgment, but not a judgment regarding salvation since trusting in Christ has already secured eternal life for the believer.) Little did Hezekiah realize in his efforts to restore the Temple, that another would come later to model in an ultimate way true worship in spirit and in truth and that the temple would be God’s own people filled with his Holy Spirit. When the Son comes again, he will bring the full completion of salvation to all who are eagerly awaiting his return.
In these three passages we see once again the unity of the whole of Scripture, God’s one glorious plan of which he has chosen us to be a part.
Music: “The Sign of the Son” Simon Khorolskiy in Russian with English translation
Simon has produced many videos proclaiming the gospel in unique ways to the Russian people. There are some in English as well. Check out “O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus.”
Prayer: Lord Jesus, our Sustainer and Provider, help us to be your hands and feet to those in need. You have given to us so lavishly in so many varied ways. Tune our hearts to your own generous heart that we may more and more see as you see and do something about it. May the gradual transformation of our being into your likeness lead to the transformation of our doing and your doing through us lead to a transformation of the world around us. Thank you for coming to us in our great need. You are our only hope and salvation. May we bring hope, the hope found in you, to those around us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.