THIS WEEK'S LESSON

LONGING FOR MORE

A visit to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem is well worth it. The museum has many fascinating ancient artifacts on display, and visitors from all over the world come to enjoy the exhibits.  Strangely enough, one of the most popular displays is a fairly modern large model of ancient Jerusalem.  The 221,520 square-foot outdoor model depicts Jerusalem in the second temple period.  It was built to a 1:50 scale, which means that a person would be about 1.37 inches tall.  Hans Koch began the building on the grounds of his hotel.  In 2006, the model was brought to the Israel Museum in a thousand pieces and reassembled with the help of historians and archaeologist in order to make the model as accurate as possible.  Great attention has been paid to detail.  The gold-trimmed second temple, with its large courtyard, first draws visitors’ attention. Herod’s palace can be identified easily.  Visitors slowly walk around the perimeter of the model while listening to a guide explain the various buildings.

Why do visitors like looking at a model of the city of Jerusalem when they are in the actual city of Jerusalem?  Walking around the second temple model is a wonderful visual aid, which helps visitors get a better perspective of Jerusalem’s archaeological sites.  While no one will mistake this model for the real thing, it helps illustrate ancient realities that are hard to visualize.  The Bible, too, is full of miniature models of activities and institutions that all point to larger heavenly realities.

Baptized into Moses – Read 1 Corinthians 10:1-11.  The Greek term used in 1 Corinthians 10:6 translated as “example” in most English translations is tupos.  In English, the word type is based on this Greek nount.  A type (or example) is never the original but some kind of symbol or representation of it.  It is a model of something else. 

It is important to realize that typology should never be confused with allegory.  Allegory is imaginative; it does not reflect the historical sense of the text but treats it with unbridled freedom.  Typology, on the contrary, is based on historical connections and is bound to the historical sense of Scripture.

Hebrews 8:5 offers a good example of this kind of relationship.  “They (the priests of the Old Testament temple service) serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things.  For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, ‘See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.’”

This passage in Hebrews highlights the direct link between heavenly and earthly realities, and then it quotes Exodus 25:9 where God told Moses to build the wilderness sanctuary, “according to the pattern” that he had seen on the mountain.  The point is that the earthly sanctuary with all its rituals and procedures, were “examples,” symbols, and models of what is going on in heaven, with Jesus as our High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary.

With this in mind, we can better understand what Paul was talking about in 1 Corinthians 10.  In these verses Paul revisits some of the key experiences of God’s people in the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land.  “Our fathers” refers to their Jewish ancestors who left Egypt, were under the cloud, passed through the sea, and, thus, were all baptized into a new life of freedom from slavery.

Paul considers these important stations of the wilderness journey a type, or an example, of individual baptism.  In the footsteps of Paul’s logic, the reference to “spiritual food” must refer to manna.  Israel drank from the rock, which Paul identifies as Christ.  Think of Jesus, for example, as the “bread of life,” and as the “living water,” and this all makes perfect sense.  Thus, what we see here is Paul’s use of Old Testament history as an example of revealing spiritual truths that can be applied to individual Christians today.

Ritual and Sacrifices – The Old Testament systems of ritual and sacrifices, such as found in Leviticus, offers more examples of what we have previously seen – Old Testament symbols pointing to New Testament truths.  Though modern readers of the Bible often pass over these rituals, they do contain many important spiritual truths that can be of great value to those who study them.

Read the instructions for the sin offering for a regular Israelite in Leviticus 4:32-35.  What can we learn from this ritual, even though we don’t have a sanctuary or temple with an altar where we can offer sacrifices for our sins?

A ritual is an excellent communicator of important values and information, and it needs to be understood in its context.  It usually requires a specific time, a particular location, and a predetermined sequence of actions to be efficacious.  Indeed, when we read through the biblical injunctions in the Old Testament regarding sacrifice, it becomes clear tat God gave very specific details about what could be sacrificed – and about when, where, and what ritual and procedure to follow.

Central to many of the rituals, of course, was blood and the spilling and the sprinkling of blood.  This was not pretty, nor was it supposed to be, because it was dealing with the ugliest thing in the universe, and that is sin.

What exact role did the blood play, and why did it have to be put on the horns of the altar?  While most of the rituals associated with the sanctuary appear in prescriptive forms, that is, they gave instructions on how to do it, they do not always include all the explanations.  Perhaps that’s because the people already understood what it all meant.  After all, people in Israel understood the significance of blood.

The example taken from Leviticus 4:32-35, however, contains an important explanation in Leviticus 4:35. “So the priest shall make atonement for his sin that he has committed, and it shall be forgiven him.”  Thus, blood was the key to the whole process of atonement, the means by which we sinners can be made right with a Holy God.  What we see with these sacrifices, then, is a type, a model, of Christ’s death and ministry on our behalf. 

Patterns and models are designed to help us understand the big picture.  The sacrifices and offerings were never meant as a solution to the sin problem affecting individuals and God’s entire creation.  Rather, they pointed to God’s ultimate answer to sin – the God-man who offered Himself as a sacrifice to take away the sin of the world.

Besides the examples at which we have already looked, his idea of types and symbols can apply to the biblical concept of rest as well.  To see this, we go to the New Testament book of Hebrews.

Read Hebrews 3:7-19, 4:1-11.  The theme of perseverance and faithfulness is very important here.  Though talking about the seventh-day Sabbath, the main focus of these verses is really a call for God’s people to be persevering in faith; that is, to remain faithful to the Lord and the gospel. 

These passages remind the reader to take the lessons learned from God’s leading in the past seriously, “so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.”  Pay attention, this is an opportunity!  Israel did hear the gospel, the text continues, but the Word did not profit them.  Instead of having their faith strengthened by trust and obedience, they chose rebellion, and thus, they never experienced the rest that God wanted for them.

Hebrews 4:3 points to the close relationship between faith and rest.  We can enter into His rest only when we believe and trust the One who promised rest and who can deliver on the promise, and that is, of course, Jesus Christ.

Reread Hebrews 4:3.  What was the main problem with the people referred to?  What lessons can we take from this for ourselves, we who have had the “gospel preached to us as well as to them”?

The early Christian community accepted God’s prior revelation (what we call the Old Testament) and believed that Jesus Christ was the Lamb of God, the Sacrifice for their sins.  And by faith in the Sacrifice, they could experience salvation in Jesus and the rest that we are offered in Him.

“Harden Not Your Hearts” – Reread Hebrews 4:4-7 and Psalm 95:8-11.  Hebrews 4:4-7 quotes both the Creation account and Psalm 95:11 in the context of talking about the unfaithfulness of the Israelites and, hence, their failure to enter into the rest that God wanted for them.

Indeed, Psalm 95:8-11 connects Israel’s wilderness experience with God’s rest and includes the divine oath that faithless Israel would not enter into His rest, originally associated with the Promised Land.

Of course, Israel did enter the Promised Land.  A new generation crossed the border and, with God’s help, took the strongholds of the land and settled there.

They did not, however, enter into God’s rest, the idea being tht many did not experience the reality of salvation in Jesus because their lack of faith was manifested by flagrant disobedience.  Even though rest was associated with the land, it included more than just where the people lived.

What is the link between disobedience and not entering God’s rest?

“Today” expresses urgency.  “Today” means that there is no more time to diddle around.  “Today” requires a response and a decision now.

Paul grabs hold of he word “today,” and really emphasized how important it is in the context of rest.  Psalm 95:7-8, meanwhile, is a warning and a plea to God[s people not to repeat the mistakes of their ancestors and fail to enter into the true rest that is found only in the salvation God offers us.

Conquering a Heavenly City – The logical development of the key ideas in Hebrews 4 becomes particularly evident when reading Hebrews 4:8-11.  Joshua did not give Israel rest.  Consequently, since God is no liar, there must be another “rest” that remains for the people of God.  This group is not made up exclusively of Jewish believers.  It includes all those who have accepted Jesus as their personal Savior.

Read Galatians 3:26-29, and note the characteristics of God’s post-Cross covenant people.  In this context, what does it mean that there is neither Jew nor Greek, Neither slave nor free man, neither male nor female?

At times, Hebrews 4 has been used to emphasize the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath, while others have used it to challenge the validity of this Sabbath rest, in light of the fact that there is another (end-time) rest.  Neither position reflects the biblical text well.  Instead, the text suggests that the end-time focus on God’s special rest has been present since Creation and that the celebration of
Sabbath rest offers a small, weekly taste of that end-time rest.  Indeed, for the Jews the Sabbath has been understood to be a small precursor of the world to come.

The Sabbath-like rest that remains for the people of God, echoing God’s rest on the first Sabbath in earth’s history, means that we can cease from our own works and trust Him to fulfill His promise of salvation for us.

Contrary to arguments of some interpreters, the context does not support the suggestion that the Sabbath commandment had been fulfilled in the rest of salvation that Christ brought, making it unnecessary for Christians to obey it.  The ultimate rest we are promised through what Christ has done for us does not replace the biblical seventh-day Sabbath.  On the contrary, it enhances it.

In a world that highly values self-made people, hard work, and go-getters, resting in Jesus and trusting that His grace is sufficient to save and transform us is truly countercultural.

Just let me rest in Thee, O Lord,

 Nor strive, nor fret, nor strain

Against the burden of the days

That bring me tears and pain.

Let me remember that Thy Hand

Can lighten every load. 

And in Thy presence I shall be

Safe on life’s darkest road. 

For Thou hast said that Thou are near

To all who need Thine aid. 

Then, foolish mortal that I am,

Why should I be afraid?

QUESTIONS FOR THOUGHT

Think back to the experiences of the Israelites in the Exodus.  What spiritual lessons can we learn from their “examples,” both good and bad?

How bad sin must be in that it took the sacrifice, the self-sacrifice of one Member of the Godhead, Jesus, to atone for it.  What should this teach us about why we must rely only on grace and never on works?  After all, what could we add to what the Redeemer has already done for us?

How can understanding what it means to be saved by the blood of Jesus help us enter into the kind of rest we can have in Him, knowing that we are saved by grace and not by works?

What should it mean to us, now, when we hear the words, “Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts”?  What is so important about the word, “today?”  After all, Psalms was written thousands of years ago.  So, why should it still be just as important for our “today” as it was for those who heard it thousands of years ago?

How does the Sabbath rest give us a foretaste of eternity?

How can we avoid majoring in minors in our Christian life?  What keeps us focused on the big picture offered in God’s Word?