Monday, November 9, 2020
Letters of Light
Hebrews Ch 9 and 10
The theme of this section is the superiority of Jesus’ one sacrifice to the many sacrifices of the First Covenant. There are many references to specific customs of Hebrew worship. For the more adventurous, read Exodus chapter 25-27 to learn about the Holy Place and Holy of Holies and Leviticus chapter 16 to learn about the rituals of the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur); this will help in navigating our way through Hebrews chaps 9-10.
The general points are:
- A) the sacrifices of old had to be repeated over and over again (10.1-3) while Jesus’ sacrifice was once and for all (10.10) (remember: Our Liturgy is not the repeating over and over again of His One Sacrifice. It is our immersion into that One Sacrifice through the power of the Holy Spirit.)
- B) the ineffectiveness of the blood of animals (10.4) and the reconciling power of the Blood of Christ (10.19). Let’s take a look at some of the particulars.
The contents of the Ark of the Covenant are noted in 9.4 (despite what the movie “Raiders of the Lost Ark” suggested). Blood (9.7 + 12) are presented as elements of both the First and the New Covenant; in both, blood is used to cleanse; but it is only Christ’s Blood that truly cleanses us (9.14). Paul’s influence on the author is clear in 10.1 which insists that the law of old was only a shadow/precursor of the New Covenant. The chapter continues the comparison between the sacrifices of old and the sacrifice of Christ. His offering of Himself (10.10) consecrates us (sets us apart as belonging to God). This offering makes us who are consecrated perfect (10.14). (But we don’t feel perfect, do we? The word “perfect” in the original language of the letter carries the connotation of “having obtained a purpose.” The point is that through the Mystery of the Lord’s dying and rising, we have been fully reconciled to God and received the Spirit, something that the old law could not accomplish.) The letter gathers many of the preceding themes in 10.19-23: blood, confidence, the veil, priest, house of God, sprinkled clean, washed (Baptism), hope… The author was an expert, transitioning from point to point and summarizing previous points.
The letter sounds a note of judgement in 10.26-30. It isn’t speaking about sin in the sense of breaking a commandment, but sin in the sense of abandoning the faith. Keep in mind the purpose of the letter- to encourage those who were flagging in their clinging to Christ.
The remainder of chapter 10 balances the judgment nature of 26-30 by inviting the readers/listeners/us to bear in mind the trials and sufferings they/we have already passed through as reason to keep the faith and live in hope. The author quotes a little quoted Bible book- Habakkuk (2.4) to emphasize the point.
Something to consider:
This section of Hebrews shows Jesus to be both the Priest (Who offers the sacrifice) and the Victim (The Sacrifice He offers- Himself).
There is a hymn that calls Jesus by these titles and sings about many of the themes in Hebrews. It’s called “At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing.” Google it and give a listen.
Read Hebrews chapters 11 + 12