7 Don't forget about your leaders who taught you God's message. Remember what kind of lives they lived and try to have faith like theirs. 8 Jesus Christ never changes! He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. 9 Don't be fooled by any kind of strange teachings. It is better to receive strength from God's gift of undeserved grace than to depend on certain foods. After all, these foods don't really help the people who eat them. 10 But we have an altar where even the priests who serve in the place of worship have no right to eat. ~ Hebrews 13:7-10
Today, we return to our study of Hebrews 13. These young Hebrews Christians to whom this book was written, had long lived their lives according to the Law of Moses. Under the Old Covenant, there were many rules. In fact, there were so many rules that it became very difficult not to break some of them just by virtue of the volume of them. Many of them were man-made. And, they became so absorbed in legalism that they went way further than God ever intended. In fact, their trek down the road of legalism steered them away from God.
Then comes the Lord Jesus and the New Covenant with that one ingredient that best changes the human heart: grace. And, of course, this blew the minds of the Jews. They were so locked into legalism that they thought this was some kind of horrifying heresy. And even when Jews became Christians, they found it extremely difficult to let go of all of their religion. When the heart gets disengaged, we spiral out of the control of God's grace.
But, as we have seen, the New Covenant releases the believer in Christ from the requirements of the Law. All of those little, minute, legalistic standards were absorbed by the Lord Jesus when He said, "Tetelestai," it is finished. He did it all, and all we have to do is believe in Him. To depend upon Him. But, this was very difficult for these young Jewish Christians to process and to live by.
In v.7 of today's passage we read, "Don't forget about your leaders who taught you God's message. Remember what kind of lives they lived and try to have faith like theirs."
Now that these young believers had been introduced to grace through the Lord Jesus, they now were free to live their lives in the way they saw fit. Of course, as they grew to see the heart of God for themselves they would have wanted to be pleasing to Him. The emphasis in this verse is placed on the faith of these young believers. More importantly the object of their faith. And, here, the writer of Hebrews is imploring them to emulate those who lived by faith in the God of the Bible.
As is insinuated here, we teach the truth to others best by living it. I like the story of the day when St. Francis of Assisi took one of his disciples to go preaching in the city. The young apprentice was so excited. And, from the first of the day to its end, St. Francis and his young disciple went from business to business and house to house visiting with the people and serving them in a variety of ways. At the end of the day the young disciple asked St. Francis, "I thought we were going to preach today to the people." To which St. Francis responded, "We did! I say preach the gospel and sometimes use words." St. Francis taught that young man a very valuable lesson that day, and it is this: More is caught than is taught. And, this is what the writer of Hebrews is subtly teaching here in v.7.
In v.8 of today's passage we read, "Jesus Christ never changes! He is the same yesterday, today, and forever."
One of the tests to the veracity of something is found in its consistency. What the Lord Jesus was to those of the past, He is to us today. It is this changeless Christ who is the great refuge of the Christian in an ever changing world. Therefore, as we look back to those of faith in the God of the Bible from the past, we are to imitate their faith which was fixed upon the changeless Christ.
In v.9 of today's passage we read, "Don't be fooled by any kind of strange teachings. It is better to receive strength from God's gift of undeserved grace than to depend on certain foods. After all, these foods don't really help the people who eat them."
Here, the writer of Hebrews, warns against strange teachings which are linked to certain food restrictions and external religious demands. These were those who insisted on Judaistic restrictions of diet as having spiritual value. All through this letter the writer has told us again and again that such observances are simply empty shadows; they are pointing toward something, but the something they point toward is the real value, not the shadows.
One of Satan’s most subtle approaches to the Christian is to move us away from sound doctrine, to get us wrapped up in some kind of doctrine that happens to be blowing about in the wind at any given point. Christ has not changed, our godly forefathers have not changed, and the word of God is clear about what godliness looks like.
The word "fooled" in v.9 carries with it the idea of being carried away. We must be careful to know the word of God for ourselves in such a way that when the false comes along, we are able to recognize it quickly. Finding our moorings in the word of God only happens as we respond to it in such a way that it defines us. It is when we ignore His word and we fail to give it safe haven in our souls that we are in the greatest danger of going astray.
In v.10 of today's passage we read, "But we have an altar where even the priests who serve in the place of worship have no right to eat."
In Hebrews 10:1 we read, "The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason, it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship."
The altar of the New Covenant is the cross of the Lord Jesus through whom God has lavished His grace upon the willing of heart. The priests who serve in the place of worship were the Jews who do not accept Christ. The idea that Christians have to offer a "sacrifice" on an "altar" weekly is blasphemy. It implies that the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus was not sufficient for our salvation.
Back in the days when the sin offerings were brought into the tabernacle the priests were forbidden to eat them, so they were taken outside the camp of the people and burned. The priest could eat the meat of all of the other offerings, but not the sin offering.
The cross of Christ is the fulfillment of all of those Old Testament sacrifices, and it is through His crucifixion that we have been granted the forgiveness of God. The Old Testament Tabernacle was a shadow of the real. We cannot have both the shadow and the real; it is either one or the other. We cannot feed on the reality of Christ if we place value on the mere picture. And, when we try to feed our hearts on empty religious ordinances, it is then that we will fail to realize the many powerful expressions of God's grace in and through our lives!