As we read about these Old Testament rituals and sacrifices, and the lengths people had to go to to approach a holy God, we must recognize what an incredible gift the access we have through Christ is. Through Jesus the Lamb and Jesus the High Priest, we draw near to God. And we don’t have to come like they did in the Old Testament. We come with reverence, but also boldly, wrapped in the righteousness of Christ and confident in His intercession.
As I read about this, I was struck by the fact that I don’t take advantage of this incredible access I have to God….
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 sixtimes: “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?
The Prodigal Son in Luke 15 is not only about things lost and found, it’s about open and hidden sin, and grace lavished on the least deserving. Isn’t it just like Jesus to offer hope even to those who have gone astray, who have chosen the wrong road? In this story, Jesus was saying “whoever you are, My grace is sufficient; wherever you’ve been, My truth will search you out, and whatever your sin, there is a Way home.”
The obvious sinner in this story – the son who demanded his inheritance then watched the gleaming gold coins flow like water through his fingers – was ultimately repentant. He’d lost all he’d been given and found himself face down in regret and despair, feeding pigs and abandoned by his “friends” in the far country. Yet, it wasn’t his dire circumstances that woke him up; it was the memory of his father’s goodness. It was the memory of the love his father showed even to his servants that righted his heart and set his sights on home…
About five years ago, I read Tim Keller’s Prodigal God and, for the first time, saw the parable of the prodigal in Luke 15 as a story of not one, but two lost sons. I learned more about the elder brother: how his “goodness” and striving, his bitterness and self-importance, kept him from a relationship with his loving father.
A few years later, I found myself struggling with “elder brother” anger and bitterness. We had moved many times - from Texas to China to Texas to California - trying to be faithful to God’s calling on our lives. When it became clear that another move was on the horizon, and things were not easy, I became angry with God. I didn’t necessarily say it out loud, but I was functionally thinking “God, we scratched your back, now you scratch ours! God, we have been faithful and have given up so much for you…Is this what we get?” It was pretty ugly.