The Book of Hebrews
Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.”
So we say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?”
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so. We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat.
The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.
Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.
Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way. I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon.
Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Brothers and sisters, I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, for in fact I have written to you quite briefly.
I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released. If he arrives soon, I will come with him to see you.
Greet all your leaders and all the Lord’s people. Those from Italy send you their greetings.
Grace be with you all.
In closing, the letter to the Hebrews offers up more exhortations but this time they are a short list of things that they can do that would be pleasing to God. Some of these they have already been practicing. The writer needed to connect these practices with all that he had just written about. The link is that these practices are not just acts of kindness or piety, but should be the result of part of the make up of faith i.e. they are pleasing to God. He mentions both the things which will help them to keep their focus on God, and the things which can cause them to lose focus.
He makes the final connection between the sacrifices of the old covenant and that of the new: Don’t concern yourselves with the teachings around you, which speak of ceremonial practices. These practices, often involving special foods, are of no spiritual or eternal value. They cannot strengthen you as God’s grace does. At our altar, those priests who practice sacrificial offerings at the temple cannot serve and have no right to serve because here a much greater sacrifice than they could ever provide was required and given on our behalf.
So the final connection is: moving from the sacrifice of animals to a life of sacrifice which is pleasing to God. In the old covenant, the Law was written on a stone tablet and adhering to it required obligatory acts. Repentance for breaking any part of it required a sacrifice to appease God. In the new covenant, through Jesus, God has placed the Law in our minds and written them on our hearts. Adhering to it is motivated by a desire to please Him because of His kindness and grace towards us. Repentance requires a life of sacrifice, which is pleasing to God. A life of sacrifice means surrendering our own desires in exchange for those that God has for us. This can only be done by faith.
Questions to ponder:
- Is your spiritual radar still tuned in to accomplishing “good” deeds more so than making God pleased?
- Does living a life of sacrifice to God frighten you? Why?