"We Draw Near (Hebrews)" Devotional, by Jill Barlow

Read: Hebrews 4, 9, 10

The overall theme of the book of Hebrews is the superiority and preeminence of Jesus Christ. Those big words mean that Jesus is better than anything that was before or anything that is to come. He is better than any person, institution, ritual or sacrifice in the Old Testament. Jesus is the “once for all” better!

To make sure we don’t miss this point, every chapter of Hebrews either alludes to an Old Testament person or concept, or quotes directly from it. Perhaps the most obvious are the references to the tabernacle, the Old Covenant, and the blood sacrifices. As the author unfolds this Old Testament history lesson, his exhortation is clear, for he mentions it six times: draw near.” For he says, “…the law made nothing perfect; but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God (7:19).” 

But is drawing near to a holy God even possible? And practically, how do we do it?

Jesus, the Complete Sacrifice:
The first sentence on the American Red Cross’ “Blood Type” webpage reads, “Although all blood is made of the same basic elements, not all blood is alike.” This could not be more true of Jesus’ blood, and the author of Hebrews knows it. He’s very concerned that we understand the significance of blood; he mentions it twelve times in chapter nine! 

Only Jesus provides the one comprehensive, unblemished, voluntary sacrifice that provides the forgiveness of sins and eternal redemption.
— Jill Barlow

Under the Old Covenant, the animal sacrifices were temporal (performed each year), ineffective (i.e. not salvific) and involuntary. The animals’ blood sanctified so that people became outwardly clean and restored to fellowship with God. But under the New Covenant, the blood of Jesus cleanses our conscience and purifies us from sin! Only Jesus provides the one comprehensive, unblemished, voluntary sacrifice that provides the forgiveness of sins and eternal redemption. 

Likewise, on the Day of Atonement, only the high priest entered the holy place with fear and trembling, but now, every believer can enter with boldness and confidence. We not only have access, we go in boldly because of Jesus’ blood! Jesus entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption, allowing us to draw near. “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many (Mt 26:28).”

We not only have access, we go in boldly because of Jesus’ blood!
— Jill Barlow

Jesus, the Perfect Example:
But practically, how do we draw near to God? As you may have guessed, Jesus is our example. His disciples tell us two very important things about Jesus’ life: 1) He pursued alone time with God (Mark 1:35) and 2) He spoke and did everything that God told Him to say and do (John 12:49-50, 14:10, 31). After a lot of activity in Mark 1, Jesus pauses his teaching, his friendships and his ministry to go away and be with his Father. Jesus needed time alone with God. That’s the model. That’s how we draw near.  

Jesus needed alone time with God. That’s the model. That’s how we draw near.
— Jill Barlow

Time with God and spiritual disciplines like reading the Bible, prayer, rest and solitude cultivate love for God and obedience to Him. Jesus's submission to God's will had its ultimate fulfillment in His obedience to death on the cross. For Jesus died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18). Jesus is the only way to God, and He is alive as our great high priest. He lives to intercede for us and act as our mediator in the presence of God. Therefore, let us draw near!

We were once far off and enemies of God. But now, through Jesus’ sacrifice, the mercy promised under the New Covenant is given. The problem of  sin has been settled. A perfect high priest has been determined. Access to God has been granted. A holy God made a way for us to draw near to Him, and His name is Jesus. In Him, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins (Eph 1:7). So, let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful (10:23)!


FOR REFLECTION:

  1. List the words that follow the “let us” in Hebrews 4:16, 10:19-25, and 12:28-29. What do these words tell us about God?

  2. What confidence does the New Covenant give us that the Old Covenant could not? (10:19-22)

  3. What are some specific ways you can draw near to God this week?