Does God have a Middleman?

Every high priest is a man chosen to represent other people in their dealings with God. He presents their gifts to God and offers sacrifices for their sins. [Hebrews 5:1 NLT]

This verse presents us with questions? Like how does God interact with humans? Are there things that only certain people can do? These questions deal with words like clergy, laity, sacred and secular. The questions hit to the heart of why Jesus came and how the Holy Spirit works in us.

The topics of priests and sacred work is one that goes back to early times. Ancient ones felt unworthy or unable to interact with God so they appointed priests. Their mindset was that only certain people had what it took to talk to God. This idea was destroyed when God came in the flesh.

Jesus did not appoint religiously trained, or particularly holy, people to represent him on earth. In doing so he made sacred the the unsacred and he qualified the unqualified. Christ removed the middleman. The notion of priests vanished. Everyone is a priest. Each is called to ministry.

Help us Lord to discover what we are called to do (be it plumber or pastor) and do it well.

... this devotion is part of a series about the book of Hebrews.

the throne of grace

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. [Hebrews 4:16 ESV]

What comes to mind when you hear the word grace? Perhaps you think of mercy or compassion? Maybe the concept of unearned favor? Interesting that God's throne is described with this word. Why do you think that it is? Why is it a place where one can find mercy instead of judgment?

I believe that the character of God's throne and God himself are the same. We have confidence when we pray for mercy because that is God's character. We trust that he will help us because his very nature is compassionate. We draw near according to God's character and not ours.

We come Lord know that you will have mercy. Believing that you will help us. We praise you.

... this devotion is part of a series about the book of Hebrews.

touched with the feeling of our infirmities

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. [Hebrews 4:15 KJV]

Throughout the gospels we read about how Jesus was moved by compassion. How do you think those around him knew that? I think that they saw Jesus moved to tears. The image I find in the gospel accounts is of a Messiah who is touched deeply by the things that cause us pain.

I love that messianic image. And in a very real sense, only a sinless Messiah is able to help us. Only One who stands outside of the quicksand of sin is able to stretch his arm forth and pull us out. This is the image of God that I most see. Touched by our sin but in a position to rescue us from it.

Teach us compassion Lord. Use us to rescue others from the quicksand of sin.

... this devotion is part of a series about the book of Hebrews.

the last high priest

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. [Hebrews 4:14 ESV]

What comes to mind when your hear the title High Priest? I think of the person who was designated to enter the Holy of Holies, the inner sanctuary of the Jewish Tabernacle where God dwelt. To get there the priest had to pass through other rooms. This seems to be what is referenced here.

The High Priest was the one who interceded, before God, on behalf of the Jews. He made offerings and prayers for himself and for them. In that sense Jesus is presented as a great high priest. One who has, metaphorically, passed through the outer rooms and entered God's presence.

The metaphor breaks down, all of them do, if one tries to read it literally. The central point is that Jesus, one not qualified by Mosaic law to be a priest (he was not a Levite), became the last High Priest. This is what we confess. We no longer need a human priest. Our priest is in heaven.

Heaven, the holiest of holies, is accessible because of you Jesus. We give you thanks.

... this devotion is part of a series about the book of Hebrews.

naked and exposed

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable. [Hebrews 4:13 NLT]

This verse conjures up words like omnipresence (the presence of God everywhere at the same time) and omniscience (the idea that God knows all that there is to know). The psalmist tells us so beautifully that wherever we go, God is there. There is no place in the universe where we can hide.

Reading "naked and exposed" reminds me of Eden. The garden where life began. The scriptures tell us that, before they sinned, "the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame". The story of Eden tells us that from the very beginning humankind has been accountable to our Creator.

I want my accountability to God to be only what I do. Not that I always do good things. Yet my accountability to him is much deeper. He sees my heart. My motives. The deepest part of me is exposed before him. And that is why I believe that he is the One who can help me in ways that no other can.

Come Holy Spirit. Expose our inner infections and heal them as none other can.

... this devotion is part of a series about the book of Hebrews.

the word: living; active; sharp; discerning.

The word of God is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword. It cuts all the way through, to where soul and spirit meet, to where joints and marrow come together. It judges the desires and thoughts of the heart. [Hebrews 4:12 GNT]

I love this description. In context it is referring to the idea that we must not harden our hearts to God's voice. I think that many mistakenly apply this to the bible. In doing so they limit divine communication to words written many years ago. This presents us with an incomplete image of God's Word.

In my experience God has spoken to me in many ways. I have felt his voice pierce me. Separating my voice from his. My thoughts and desires from his. These experiences lead me to believe that when God speaks it is like a surgeon operating with a scalpel. Precise. Helpful. Healing. And skilled.

The words alive and active tell me how relevant his voice is to me. He uses what I read and hear to transform me on a daily basis. His words to me can do things that nothing else can do. He is not constrained by my ability to hear but can, and does, communicate to me as I walk with him.

Help me to keep my heart open, and not hard, to your word Lord.

... this devotion is part of a series about the book of Hebrews.

his voice. our hearts.

“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” [Hebrews 4:7 ESV]

I remember reading a quote by an English author in 2008. His words rocked my world. I could not escape the impact and the application it had on my life. It went like this:
"Why be something to everybody when you can be everything to somebody?"
I cannot describe the power that this sentence had on me. I wrestled with it for months. It led me to retire from pastoral ministry and care for my wife full time. I believed that I had heard God's voice.

My message is to simply say that God speaks to us. Sometimes through others. Often through the scriptures. The issue is how we will respond. Will we soften or harden ourselves to what he says? Will we wrestle with what we hear? Will we dismiss it? Or will we be changed by it?

Lord God help us. Teach us. To keep our hearts soft. And be open to your voice.

... this devotion is part of a series about the book of Hebrews.