God Can Use Reading Plans
It’s March, and though I recently changed jobs and have been a little under the weather, I've been striving for consistency in my Bible reading plan. This week I finished the book of Hebrews and I’m working my way through Numbers. I’ve been blessed by working my way through the great biblical history of the creation, fall, flood, and the Patriarchs, and it has been great to read of God’s providential work, especially the climactic parting of the Red Sea to rescue His people. I’ve seen (or heard on some days) our Holy God’s plans for dwelling with the sinful people of Israel who are more like me than the Bible superheroes I envisioned growing up. It has been a joy and blessing to follow the old paths and see God’s work among His people in the Old Testament.
In all honesty, at times it was difficult to get through some of it. Living in a world of instant gratification and entertainment doesn’t lend itself very well to 27 chapters of detailed laws, sacrifices, and bloody purification ceremonies that seem so foreign to the world I live in. There were some days that I didn’t fully grasp what I was hearing. On other days, it seemed like I kept hearing the same things over and over again. I was tempted to give up and ask: “What’s the big deal about the priest’s clothing and all these details? It’s not like I need to know or do any of this stuff since I’m not a Jew or a priest.” God knows what I need, though.
Now, I can honestly say I’m glad I read Leviticus last month. More specifically, I’m glad I read Genesis through Leviticus within 60 days of reading the book of Hebrews because I’ve always been told that I needed to know the law in order to grasp Hebrews. Though I don’t fully understand the law or the book of Hebrews, there is so much that I would have glossed over or missed in my reading had I not walked through the first three books of the Bible. In fact, there’s a ton I want to go back and study with greater depth because I can start to trace God’s argument in Hebrews.
God Opened My Eyes
It would be far beyond the scope of this post if I pointed out everything I’ve seen in Hebrews. In a brief reading of the book, you’ll notice angels, Abraham, Moses, Melchizedek, Aaron, the priesthood, Old Testament sacrifices, and much more, but I want to show you a few things I noticed while reading through Hebrews 9:
The tabernacle was only a copy of the heavenly dwelling place of God. The ordinances of the old covenant took place in a tent otherwise known as the tabernacle. Exodus 40 and Leviticus 1 will help to see the background information on this. Basically, the tabernacle was an earthly (and imperfect) shadow of the beauty of God’s presence in heaven. This is not something to take lightly—God gave the Israelites a taste of heaven on earth by dwelling among them! Through Jesus (who “set up tabernacle” or “dwelt” among us according to John 1:14), we also have access to heaven while on earth by “drawing near to God”.
This points us to the value of the prayer, where we draw near to God and experience His presence. It also points us to the local church, the people of God, where Christ dwells by the Spirit. Ultimately, it points us to our heavenly hope in eternity where we will dwell in God’s physical presence with no possibility of sin or death to separate us from Him.
Earthly purification and sacrifices were not enough. The people of God were physically purified from uncleanness through the sprinkling of the blood and ashes of a heifer. There were daily and yearly sacrifices on behalf of God’s people (including the priests) that served as a reminder of their guilt from sin and temporary atonement from that sin. This reminder pointed the Israelites to Jesus because only His blood was enough to justify and make people holy for eternity. His sacrifice was of much greater significance.
We need to remember that God doesn’t desire empty sacrifices of formal worship or our attempts to justify ourselves before Him. The only sacrifice that is good for our souls is Jesus’ payment for sin on the cross.
The high priest entered the holy of holies once a year. The second and most holy area of the tent, where God’s presence dwelt on earth, was the holy of holies. The high priest could only enter it once a year, and it was a fearful place that was not to be entered haphazardly or foolishly. They had to bring blood to purify themselves and the people they represented before God each time. In contrast, Jesus entered into heaven once for all to represent His people before God, and He entered by means of His own blood. This can only happen because Jesus, our great High Priest, is completely pure and free from any sin. He put away sin completely by the sacrifice of Himself and allows us to draw near to God in full confidence. Through Christ, we get to be in a relationship with God that no Israelite or believer prior to Jesus ever experienced.
We shouldn’t take this lightly, but we also should take advantage of the fact that we can approach God, our Father, with the confidence of a child speaking to his loving father. When you feel that you can’t come to God, preach the gospel to yourself! In Christ, your sins are paid for and you’re welcomed to the throne of God!
These observations and meditations don’t even scratch the surface of the depth of truth found in Hebrews, but if I had given up on my bible reading plan, three things probably would not have happened:
Keep pressing on. Keep reading your Bible, even when you don’t feel like it. Keep reading the Bible even when it seems boring and useless—the Old Testament too! God will work in ways you could never imagine!