Summary: With the New Year closing fast, we often think about what the New Year will bring. We get excited about a new year coming and makes resolutions for themselves. I feel though those resolutions are abused realities. We make jokes about them, such as, “My
Therefore, Be it Resolved
With the New Year closing fast, we often think about what the New Year will bring. We get excited about a new year coming and makes resolutions for themselves. I feel though those resolutions are abused realities. We make jokes about them, such as, “My only New Year’s resolution is to make no New Year’s resolutions.” That is a shame, because something important is at stake. How do we make commitments? Are we faithful to our commitments? How do we keep them?
The author of the epistle to the Hebrews builds a marvelous case for four resolutions that I commend to you today, to make for yourselves as well.
a. Whereas “we have confidence to enter the sanctuary….”
i. In Jewish theology the presence of God was to be feared.
ii. Quite naturally, then, in Jewish piety there was a shrinking back from the presence of God and even from speaking the holy name.
iii. The Holy of Holies, which represented the presence of God, was covered so that persons would neither enter nor see into it.
iv. Only once a year, after elaborate rites of purification and precautions (such as tying a rope around his body in order to pull him out in case of death in the presence of God), could a priest enter into the Holy of Holies, and then only in fear and trembling.
1. In contrast, Christians proclaim that God can be not only approached but approached with confidence.
2. We approach the presence of God not only unafraid, but with eager anticipation and joy.
3. Jesus spoke of God as “Father” with all of the connotations of intimacy and nearness.
b. Whereas “what blocked our entry into the presence of God has been torn in two…”
i. Outside the Holy of Holies was a veil.
ii. It covered the place that represented the presence of God.
iii. Its purpose was to keep people out.
iv. The Christian proclamation is that in the death of Jesus Christ, the curtain has been torn in two from top to bottom.
v. This symbolizes, first, that God did it.
vi. Christianity is not about what we can do for ourselves; it is not about our search for God.
vii. Rather, the emphasis is on what God has done for us and God’s search for us.
viii. We come to God not through moralism or mysticism, but through the death of the Son of God.
ix. The tearing of the veil from top to bottom symbolizes, second, that we can now enter into the presence of God.
x. Because of the redemptive work of Jesus, we can enter into God’s presence: the veil separating us and God has been torn apart.
c. Whereas Jesus is our great High Priest
i. The word priest means, “Bridge builder,” which adequately describes the work of Christ.
ii. The bold proclamation of the gospel is that Jesus builds bridges of trust and love between humans and the Father.
iii. He is the Door, the Rent Curtain, the Way into the presence of God.
1. In Jesus we now know how much God loves us and all that he will do to redeem us.
2. And it is Jesus’ great love for us that draws us to him.
3. The memory of his pierced hands pierces our hearts and draws us.
4. If the cross will not make you come, nothing will.
5. If the cross cannot make you feel welcome, nothing can.
II. Therefore, be it resolved.
The first parts of the resolutions are established: whereas “we have confidence to enter the sanctuary…” whereas “what blocked our entry into the presence of God has been torn in two…” whereas “Jesus is our great High Priest…” Now let us examine the endings.
a. Let us draw near to God (v. 22)
i. Here we are reminded of the “duty” of worship.
ii. As Augustine so eloquently and sufficiently put it, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”
iii. There is also a word about the “opportunity” of worship.
iv. It is mind boggling for a Jew to think that persons can boldly enter into the presence of God confidently and with joy.
v. This is indeed, a privilege we all too often take for granted.
1. Let us draw near to God “in full assurance of faith” v. 22
a. Often a boy will not ask a particular girl out for a date because of the feat of rejection.
b. This is a familiar fear for all.
c. We do not have to worry about that with God.
d. We can draw near to God in the full assurance of faith because Christmas is God’s invitation.