A Call to Persevere A Certain Promise Jesus, the Perfect High Priest Jesus, the Perfect Sacrifice
by Jack Wald | October 5th, 2000

Hebrews 6:13-10:18

Sermon 1 – A Call to Persevere

Hebrews 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, the table and the 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.

What is it you see when you step into RPF? There is an entry area when you first come in through the outer doors of the church. A place for greeting and printed announcements. Then when you pass through the inner doors you see rows of pews. You sit in the pews during the service. In front of the pews there is a reformed style pulpit which I have never used or seen used. This elevated pulpit places the emphasis in a worship service on the Word of God preached, the sermon. There is also this moveable pulpit behind which I am now standing and in back of me is the altar on the elevated section of the sanctuary where the communion elements and our weekly offering is placed..

Most Sundays, most of you probably do not come past where I am standing but on Communion Sundays, like today, you will walk forward, up to the altar to receive the elements of communion. There is really nowhere in this sanctuary that is off limits. There is no part of the sanctuary that is hidden from view.

But if instead of coming to RPF this morning, you were to come to the tabernacle that traveled with Israel in their forty years in the desert, or to the temple built by Solomon in Jerusalem, there is a place in the Tabernacle or temple you would not be allowed to see. There is a place you not would be able to see nor would you be allowed to enter and in fact, not even the priests were allowed to enter this place. Only once a year, on the Day of Atonement, was one priest selected to go into this place to offer a sacrifice for the atonement of the sins of Israel.

That place is the Holy of Holies, The Most Holy Place.

In your bulletin there is an insert that shows a picture of the Tabernacle that traveled with Israel in the desert. This structure led Israel on its journey. It was the first structure erected each night when camp was set.

We are taking a look at a wide section of Hebrews this morning, Chapter 6:13 through Chapter 10:18. Understanding this section of the letter of Hebrews relies on an understanding of the structure of the Tabernacle built by Israel under God’s command and the similar structure of the Temple built by Solomon in Jerusalem.

So in your bulletin is an insert with a drawing of the Tabernacle.
[Show size of Holy Place and Holy of Holies in relation to RPF’s sanctuary]
As people entered the gate they came to the burning altar where animal and grain sacrifices were made. There was also the Laver, a basin of water used by the priests for water purification rites. They washed their hands and feet before entering the Holy Place.

It took seven months to build the Tabernacle according to the instructions given to Moses. When the Tabernacle was finished, the cloud that had led Israel on its journey descended on the tent that contained the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies.

34 Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.  35 Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled upon it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.

The Holy Place was off limits to the people of Israel. Only the priests were permitted to enter and the priests were given many instructions about what they were to do and not do. There were no openings in the tent for light so there was a golden lampstand to give light. There was a table on which twelve loaves of bread were placed each Sabbath. And there was an altar of incense for offerings of incense made to the Lord.

How holy was the Holy Place? Two of Aaron’s sons were struck dead because they made an unauthorized offering of incense. The family of these men were permitted to mourn, but Moses instructed Aaron and his other two sons not to grieve or they too would die. The implication was that the sons deserved to die for treating the Holy Place too casually.

The people came into the courtyard but only the priests went into the tent and even the priests went into the tent with reverence. When Zechariah received a visit from the angel of the Lord to tell him his wife would bear a son he was to name John, he was in the Holy Place, chosen by lot by the other priests to burn an offering of incense. They were concerned because he was in there for such a long time but they could not go in to see what he was doing because of the holiness of that place.

Do you get the sense that this was a place that was viewed by Israel with awe and respect?

But that is only the Holy Place. Behind the Holy Place was the Holy of Holies. A beautifully decorated, elaborate veil was hung between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. Behind that veil was the Ark of the Covenant which contained Aaron’s staff which budded, a gold pot of manna and the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments.

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.

Once a year, the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement and made a sacrifice for the sins of himself and Israel. The regulations surrounding this day are elaborate. The priest wore bells on his robe so the other priests could hear him moving around and know he was not dead. To go in to check on the priest was unthinkable.

So Holy was the Holy of Holies that when the camp moved from place to place, the men assigned to carry the contents of the Tabernacle from place to place were forbidden to touch or look at the contents of the Tabernacle. Only the Levites were permitted to do this.

The Tent of Meeting was a holy and unapproachable place and the good, almost too good to be true news for us this morning is that we are invited to partake of communion in this once unapproachable place.

In Matthew’s account of Jesus, he gives us a detail about the veil that separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place.

Matthew 27
50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split.

When Jesus died, what was once forbidding and unapproachable became accessible for the followers of Jesus.

Hebrews 10
19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus,  20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body,  21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God,  22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.  23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

The fact that we are no longer distant from the Holy of Holies but are brought near to God through the work of Christ on our behalf  is the basis of the call of the writer of Hebrews for perseverance. He writes to Jewish Christians in Rome who were experiencing increasing discrimination and persecution for their faith. They were wavering between their Judaism and their new Christian faith and he calls them to persevere because of the supremacy of Jesus and what he has done for us.

Jesus has changed the unapproachable into the approachable. Jesus has changed what once was approached with fear and intimidation into what is approached boldly with confidence. When Jesus died our death, What was distant is now near.

We observe this morning a ritual meal that has been celebrated over and over for almost 2000 years. We come this morning to Holy Communion, The Lord’s Supper. This meal has been shared in times of peace and prosperity. It has been shared in times of poverty and suffering and persecution. It has been the meal taken before Christians were taken out to become martyrs. It has been the meal taken before Christians went out and denied their faith.

Sharing in this meal is no guarantee of anything. It is an invitation to remember what Christ has done for you. It is an invitation to remember that when you were under the sentence of death for your sins, Christ died in your place so you do not have to face eternal death. When you leave this earth, you will be raised to eternal life.

Holy Communion has been used and abused for almost 2000 years and yet its message and symbolism have been consistent throughout.

This meal has been a blessing to those who share in it as an act of obedience and reverence and it has been judgement against those who abuse it for their own purposes.

I invite all of God’s children who believe through faith in Christ to come to the table. This is not an exclusive table, it is an inclusive table welcoming all who believe.

Come to the holy of holies for our communion this morning

Sermon 2 – A Certain Promise
Hebrews 6
we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged.  19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain,  20 where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf.

I love this image of fleeing to take hold of hope. If we were to all stand up today and talk about how we came to experience the grace of Jesus in our lives, we would have many different stories. Some would say they cannot remember a time when they did not believe and follow Jesus. Others would tell a story of gradually over time drawing nearer and nearer to Christ. And some would tell of a dramatic time in their life when they knew they had to make the right choice.

But the image of fleeing works with us all, whether we have always believed, believed over time or made a sudden dramatic decision to follow Jesus. When the world around us races away from Christ, even when we do no more than hold on, we appear to be fleeing from the world.

So we flee to take hold of the hope offered to us. The hope that Jesus will save us, has saved us and is saving us. Therefore we are greatly encouraged.

The writer of Hebrews uses a wonderful image to tell us of the certainty of our hope. Several years ago, my family had a reunion on Lake Powell, a large lake in the southwest of the United States. Lake Powell was created by damming up the Colorado River and so being on a houseboat on the Lake allowed us to float along the canyon walls. It is a beautiful place to be. But each night, we would anchor our houseboats along the shore. We needed to find an anchorage so that if the water rose, we would not drift off our anchor during the night while we were sleeping and wreck the boat.

Just laying the anchor on the rock shore was worthless. With time the boat would drift out and the anchor would slide off the rock into the depths of the lake. Putting the anchor behind some rocks was good. That was secure. But even more secure was finding a little cave. To put the anchor in the cave meant that the anchor would have to drag around corners and up walls in order to come free and set the boat adrift. There is a lot of security in finding a place to set the anchor like that.

It is this picture of security that is painted.

19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain,  20 where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf.

The anchor of our salvation is not just planted in the Holy Place where there is security but where it is possible for the anchor to slide out. The anchor of our salvation has gone through the veil and has wrapped itself around the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies. It cannot be moved. The anchor is set. It is secure.

How sure was Paul of the security of his salvation? How strong was his anchor?

Romans 8
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

How secure did Peter feel about his faith?

I Peter 1
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you,  5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

We, as Christians, are not anchored in speculation. We are not anchored in a vague hope. We are not anchored in wishful thinking. We are not anchored in doubt and uncertainty.

We are anchored in the holy of holies. We are anchored in Jesus’ act in history when he went to the cross and died in our place. We are anchored in the reality that Jesus has caused the veil to be torn. We are anchored in Jesus who it says in Hebrews 4 is our high priest “who has gone through the heavens.”

Jesus has gone through the heavens, into the Holy of Holies, torn away the curtain that separates us from God and given us free access to our Father in heaven.

When you come forward for communion this morning, you will come forward to receive the bread and juice that symbolizes the body and blood of Jesus who died in our place. This is not to be done casually, without thinking.

[I Corinthians 11:27-28 – The Message]

You don’t have to have all the answers. You don’t have to be perfect. You simply have to be humble and come to the table for the spiritual food you desperately need.

Come to the Holy of Holies where your salvation has been securely anchored.

Sermon 3 – Jesus, the Perfect High Priest

Hebrews 9
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.
11 When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, 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, having obtained 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, so that we may serve the living God!
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.

Hebrews 7
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 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 who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.
The High Priest of a New Covenant
8    The 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 man.

There are three reasons why Jesus is the Great High Priest, superior to all others.

First: when the high priest entered the Holy of Holies, once a year on the Day of Atonement to make a sacrifice for the sins of Israel, he had also to offer sacrifice for himself to cleanse himself for his sins. Jesus, God in the flesh, was sinless and had no need for blood to be sacrificed for his sin.

Secondly: The blood of Jesus is superior to the blood of animals sacrificed.

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, so that we may serve the living God!

Year after year, the blood of an animal was sprinkled on the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies. But that blood that was shed did not deal with the inner person, the conscience and heart of a person. The animal sacrifice did not resolve the problem of being separated from God by sin.

Jesus’ blood sacrificed for us cleanses us in and out and tears the curtain that separates us from God so we can have free and open access to our Father in heaven.

Third: In the book of Job, Job cries out for a redeemer, one who would plead his cause before God. In the midst of his suffering he struggles with his inability to speak with God. He struggles with the fact that God is inaccessible. God is behind the curtain in the Holy of Holies and he has no way of getting to him to plead his case. In Chapter 9 of Job, Job says this:

32 “[God] is not a man like me that I might answer him,
that we might confront each other in court.
33 If only there were someone to arbitrate between us,
to lay his hand upon us both,
34 someone to remove God’s rod from me,
so that his terror would frighten me no more.
35 Then I would speak up without fear of him,
but as it now stands with me, I cannot.

That’s the problem. We know God. We know how great God is. But how do we plead our case with him when we are in need?

Jesus is the answer to Job’s agonizing plea. Jesus is the great high priest who has gone into the Holy of Holies and torn away the curtain that separates us from God so that we can approach God with boldness and confidence.

Jesus did not die like other high priest but lives eternally so he can continue to plea for us. We have a certain hope because Jesus has anchored our salvation in the Holy of Holies and stands as our arbitrator with God.

Jesus is our great high priest who died on the cross for us. When we break the bread of communion, we remember the fact that his body was broken for us. He died so we could live.

Sermon 4 – Jesus, the Perfect Sacrifice

Hebrews 9
24 For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary 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 Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.  27 Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,  28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
Hebrews 10
15 The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:
16 “This is the covenant I will make with them
after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds.”
17 Then he adds:
“Their sins and lawless acts
I will remember no more.”
18 And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.

We are called to persevere by the writer of Hebrews because of the certain promise that has been made to us. Our faith is anchored securely in what Jesus did in the Holy of Holies. We are called to persevere because Jesus is the perfect high priest who has broken through into heaven and torn the curtain that separates us from God. And we are to persevere because Jesus is the perfect sacrifice.

The high priest went into the Holy of Holies year after year to make a sacrifice for his sins and the sins of Israel. The sacrifice was made that day, but in the minutes that followed that sacrifice, there was already need in Israel for the sacrifice to be made again. Sin is an ongoing problem. All sin and fall short of the glory of God. We sin and we sin repeatedly. We are in need of a more permanent solution.

Christ was and is the perfect sacrifice. He died once for all sin for all time. He does not die over and over for us to take away our sin. He died once to save us and when he comes again, he will come to take us home to be with him for eternity.

The writer of Hebrews quotes Jeremiah 31 to remind the Jewish Christians of Rome of the new covenant that was promised by God and is now delivered through Jesus.

16 “This is the covenant I will make with them
after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds.”
17 Then he adds:
“Their sins and lawless acts
I will remember no more.”
18 And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.

Jesus is the perfect sacrifice because he has erased the memory of our sins. We come to the Lord’s table this morning clean and spotless, washed by his blood.

And so we end where we began.

19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus,  20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body,  21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God,  22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.  23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

Jesus has entered the Holy of Holies, he has broken through into heaven and torn away the curtain that separates us from God. Because Jesus died the death we deserve to die, we can approach God with boldness and confidence.

Come this morning to the table of the Lord. Come with awe and wonder. Come with gratitude for what Christ has done for you. Come knowing how much you are loved by God that he would die for you.