I can't quite believe it has been over a month since I blogged. Partly this is because it has been a pretty hectic month, but it's also partly because I got really bogged down and stuck in Hebrews 9.
Does that ever happen to you? At our home group last night several people were talking about how they felt bogged down in bits of the Bible, struggling with parts that seem alien and foreign to them. Actually Hebrews 9:5 has a really good tip for us when this happens. The writer is talking about all kinds of Old Covenant regulations, then he stops himself and says "but we can't discus these things in detail now." I think that's freeing. He said to me "OK Marcus, don't get bogged down. Read over this bit bit quickly, get to parts of God's word that are thrilling your heart, and come back some other time to figure this out."
I usually find that bits I don't understand are actually really important bits. Sometimes the bits where the whole meaning of a passage turn. In the case of Hebrews 9, I think it is the bit where the whole of history turns.
There is one overwhelming question that the passage answers: how do worshippers approach God to get a clean conscience? The passage might be full of alien and strange ideas to a 21st century mind, but this question is supremely relevant in all ages. The reason the writer talks so much about Old Covenant patterns of worship is v8: by these patterns the Holy Spirit was showing that entrance to God's presence hadn't yet been made possible and therefore the myriad sacrifices were not able to cleanse the conscience of the worshipper.
Old Covenant Worshippers didn't get a clean conscience through worshipping and sacrificing.
Jesus Christ, however, in the spilling and offering of his own blood, cleanses our consciences from acts that lead to death so that we can serve the living God (v14). The old worshipper could get ceremonial cleanness so that they weren't instantly obliterated by God for sin, but they couldn't get a clean conscience. But we can. Christians should not be labouring under unclean or guilty conscience, which weighs us down and stops us coming close to God. If that is you today then get on your knees, offer God your repentance and understand that Jesus cleanses you. You do not have to labour with an unclean conscience any more (that is not to say that you can now wilfully sin and keep a clean conscience - read Romans 6 & &).
So that's why all this obscure stuff about Old Covenant worship is here - to highlight the wonder of New Covenant access to God. They had a high priest who couldn't get them in and worship practices that couldn't cleanse consciences. We have a high priest who has gone in and takes us with him and whose cross deals with sin and guilt utterly and eternally.
Time, I think, to stop blogging, pray with thankfulness, put on a worship CD and express my delight to him.