I) Leviticus 8-23
A) Sacrifices: Several passages show that the Israelites’ sacrifices were not for eternal salvation, but rather for temporal salvation – to keep the Lord from consuming them: Leviticus 8:35, 12:8, 15:31, 16:30. The first sacrifice succeeds in a dramatic way, Lev. 9:22-24, but the one offered by Aaron’s sons results in death, Lev. 10:1-4, 20. As a result, Aaron does not eat the offering as instructed, but this is accepted. It appears that Aaron understood that it’s not the ritual, but the attitude that matters. This is an example of the spirit of the law being observed over the letter of the law. (Bessinger)
B) Holiness: God is showing that He is holy, and not to be approached casually. His example of Nadab and Abihu is echoed in several places. As God introduces something new, He takes great pains to make sure the people take it seriously by making examples of first-offenders. OTHER EXAMPLES: The Israelites were severely punished for refusing to go into the promised land, Numbers 13-14. Korah’s rebellion against God’s appointed leaders was severely punished, Numbers 16. After their first victory in the promised land, the Israelites were sorely punished for the sin of one family taking items under the ban, Joshua 7. Israel’s first king Saul was rejected by God for disobedience even though future kings would do far worse, 1 Samuel 15. Incorrectly moving the ark was severely punished when it was first brought to Jerusalem, 2 Samuel 6. Ananias and Sapphira were killed for lying to the Apostles, Acts 5.
C) Cleanliness: Many things that make one unclean are tied to the curses from the fall – disease, dead animals or people, childbirth and menstrual uncleanness, etc.
D) Blood: Leviticus 17 details the importance of respecting blood – even blood of things not offered in sacrifice. It’s because blood is what ultimately pays the price for sin – the blood of Jesus. Blood is not only essential to life, it is the “element of atonement.” (Bessinger)
II) Hebrews 4-8
A) Hebrews 4: The nature of these warnings is clear here in Heb. 4:1, “Let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it.” The warnings are not against walking away from your salvation, but walking away before you even have it. The writer says “seem to have failed,” meaning that they should fear that they have not yet entered into the rest – that is believing unto salvation. We should strive (be diligent, hasten) to enter that rest, Hebrews 4:11. 4:12 is powerfully important, and is connected to this context of striving to make sure that we are saved. See Philippians 2:12. It’s easy enough to hang around church, but that does not make us authentic believers. We must all work to make sure we are truly in the faith. Hebrews 4:16 is a great encouragement because it stands on the merits of Christ, and not on our own. So drawing near confidently is part of our striving to make sure we are genuinely saved.
B) Hebrews 5: This great discussion of Jesus as our great high priest is important. Connect what we are reading in Leviticus and Psalm 110 to this teaching. Learn what a high priest does, then consider how it has been done perfectly and finally in Christ! Hebrews 5:8-9 does not suggest that Jesus was flawed or lacking, just that his mission required certain actions and certain suffering for his mission to be complete. The word “perfect” in the Bible has more an idea of completeness than of being without flaw. The author of this letter speaks more strongly about the importance of Christian maturity than any other, because mature Christians are better equipped to resist temptation and not compromise truth.
C) Hebrews 6: So the author intends to begin growing the readers right here and now. Hebrews 6:4-6 has been interpreted by many as a description of one losing his salvation, but it is just as easily taken as one who joined up with the church, enjoyed its benefits, maybe even was stirred by the message, but then turned away. The impossibility of returning to repentance does not mean that people only get one chance, just that there is nowhere else to turn where repentance is meaningful. Repentance is meaningful only in the gospel of Jesus Christ. 6:7-8 shows that the proof of conversion is good works, just as maturity is an indicator. Heb. 6:9 makes it clear that the author is giving his recipients the benefit of the doubt – he believes them to be genuinely converted.
D) So if we cannot lose our salvation, our these warnings meaningful? Absolutely! If we should fall away from the truth, we should be very concerned that we were never really converted. When tempted to do so, we should strive all the more with prayer, God’s Word, and the help of fellow believers to make sure that we have truly entered into the rest.
A) Psalm 110: This is quoted in the New Testament more than any other Psalm. Notice the powerful Messianic images. See Genesis 14:17-20 regarding Melchizedek. The book of Hebrews is about to go in-depth about him.
B) Psalm 111: Here are many great general praises worthy to be lifted up to the Lord in prayer. Have you heard Psalm 111:10 before?
C) Psalm 31: Psalm 31:5 is quoted in Luke 23:46. More great encouragements. Use the Psalms as your prayer guide!
IV) Keep going! Remember, if you get behind, just start at the current week. It’s better to skip some reading than to get discouraged and quit. Pray for help to do it. Pray for understanding. Pray for God to work in you and our church as we continue to read. Hearing the gospel, hanging around church, is not enough – it has to be matched with faith.