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More Than We Could Have Hoped

April 17, 2014Filed under theology#devotionsMarkdown source

I have made it my goal to write short posts reflecting on my devotional reading every day. These posts are composed off the cuff, in 30 minutes or less. The following is one such post. Before writing this post, I read: Psalm 75, Proverbs 17, and Hebrews 4:14–8:13.

The past week was something of a bumpy ride. I got sick—the kind of sick that makes you feel terrible and want to do nothing but sleep for days on end. The kind of sleep that makes you long for a resurrection body. Then my lovely wife got sick at the beginning of this week. Accordingly, I have not written these posts, nor (much worse) been as consistent in my readings as I would like. Still: here I am again, diving back in. The discipline of writing these posts continues to prove fruitful for me as an exercise in thinking rightly about God and in being consistent in my devotional reading. It also helps keep my wordsmithing at least a little fresh, even if I have noted that writing these little notes is a very different skill than writing academically or even longer-form blog posts. Still: much of four months in (and far too many days missed), this remains a valuable use of my time.

Reading in Hebrews is always a source of enormous spiritual encouragement to me. I am not sure I could picka favorite book in the Bible: every time I read a bok again, Ifind new depths and treasures in it. A few do stand out, though: Isaiah, several of the minor prophets, Colossians, and Hebrews tend to speak to me with particular force. Whatever the reason—some mix of my personality and temperament with the things God desires to accomplish in me—Hebrews simply delights me time and again.

Reading through these chapters, I am captured by the author’s emphasis on two realities. The first is the central thrust of the book: the supremacy of Jesus Christ over every would-be religious competitor, even the religious competitors of the tradition from which he came. For the author of this epistle, none of the trappings of Judaism—glorious and good though they were—could measure up to Jesus. But this is because of the second thing that always comes home in reading this letter: the author saw Jesus as the perfect fulfillment of all the things toward which Old Testament belief had pointed. The temple, the priesthood, the old kingship… all of these things were aiming for Jesus. When he came, there was no need for those old things: not because they were bad, but because they had been replaced by something impossibly better. The symbol had been supplanted by the reality.

It is easy to take that for granted, living this side of the incarnation of God and this side of the inauguration of his kingdom. But we ought not. We ought to look at the Old Testament with joy that we see clearly what the prophets longed to see but did not. We ought to read those pages of expectation and longing and exult that the longing has been satisified. Yes, we live still in the time between the times, when Christ has come but has yet to come again—but we live in the time between the times: Christ has come. All those pointers and prophecies and hints and hopes that ran from Adam through Noah down to Abraham and on past David’s kingdom into the words of the prophets and even in exile and return to the land—we see them clear as can be in God-the-Son who died on our behalf and lives on our behalf.

We have a high priest who never dies again, and who therefore never has to lay aside his priesthood, never has to cease his prayers. We have a priest who had no need to atone for his own sin, but in his own self atoned for all our sin once and for all. We need no further sacrifices. We have a perfect intercessor. We have Jesus, author and perfector of our faith. We have everything we need, and more than we ever could have hoped. Hallelujah.