MERCY! Ah, what a lovely word. Mercy speaks of compassion, love, tenderness, "thinking the best," overlooking faults and failings...and we could go on. Those of us who have mercy-showers in our lives are blessed beyond measure! How reflective is mercy of our merciful, loving Creator. Even throughout the Old Testament, we read of God's tender mercies and loving-kindness toward the children of men.
But there was a "not so little thing" called God's Justice, that is, His holiness and righteousness, that hindered the full expression of His mercy and love to us sinful creatures. That's where our Great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, comes in...His Person and His work released us from the just wrath of God against sin so Mercy could come flooding forth upon us.
No where do we see the what's and wherefore's of the mercy of our God better spelled out than in Hebrews, chapters 8 through 10. There we see the provision God made over generations to show mercy to a stiff-necked people (a.k.a. you & me).
Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens… Hebrews 8:1 NASB
As Ray Stedman has so clearly said:
On the night in which he was betrayed, Jesus took a cup of wine, passed it to his disciples and said: "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (Mt 26:27-28). With those words and that symbolic action, he borrowed the phrase used by Moses when he took the blood of an animal, sprinkled it on the people and said, "This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words" (Ex 24:8). The contrast was deliberate. Moses used the blood of an animal; Jesus used wine as a symbol of his own blood. Moses spoke of the covenant of the law; Jesus alluded to the new covenant of grace. Moses spoke of God's words which provided for the partial covering of sins so God could remain with his people; Jesus promised the actual remission of sins so God could live within his people forever. It is that excellent new covenant which chapters 8-10 of Hebrews...expounds.
Because of Who He is, Son of God and Man (Hebrews 1-7), what He has done carries infinite weight! Let's look at what His work entailed according to these chapters in Hebrews:
I. He is the Mediator of a New Covenant (8:6-13; 9;17-22), “based on better promises.”
Compared to the Old Covenant (Law), The New Covenant is immeasurably more glorious! No longer is it, "I do it; therefore God does it." This was at the heart of the Law ("If you obey, I will bless you and be your God."). Rather now in the New Covenant, it's all about, "God does it: therefore, I do it."
Isn't that the way, Jesus lived His life on earth?
So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. John 5:19 ESV
So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. John 8:28
For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. John 12:49
The New Covenant then is all about God and what He has done through the finished work of His Son. And it's also about what He is now doing in His world, in and through His people.
But the problem is that the Old Covenant proved that we humans are not reliable vehicles of the divine life and ways. So how can the change take place from the "I do it, so God blesses me" mentality to "God does it, and I'm His instrument?" That's the beauty of the New Covenant provisions and promises. Take a look at those amazing truths stated in our passage (Hebrews 8:6-13):
- The Law written on the heart (Heb 8:10; 10:10). No longer are God's ways (the Law) written on tablets of stone (2Cor 3), but now they are written on human hearts. And even that heart of ours has been changed. Look at an important cross reference: And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. Ezek 36:26-27 ESV Not only is the Law written on a new heart, but the Holy Spirit is united with our spirit. He causes us to walk in God's ways...isn't that incredible?! So now there is the truth united with desire and power!
- Intimacy with the Living God (Heb 8:10-11). Jesus said that the heart of His zoe, eternal life, is that we know God! And this is eternal life [zoe], that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. John 17:3 Since we have the indwelling Holy Spirit, the resident Teacher, we know God! The Apostle John referred to this glorious truth in his first epistle: But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know... But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him. 1John 2:20-27
- Complete Forgiveness of Sins (Hebrews 8:12; 10:17). And this is primary. Until sin was permanently dealt with, God's justice and holiness "prevented Him" from uniting with His people. But now the way is open...Why? Because...
III. He Himself is the Offering of a Perfect Sacrifice (10:1-18).
He offered HIMSELF! He was the perfect, eternal sacrifice because of His perfect, indestructible life (Hebrews 7). He presented His perfect blood so that He could perfect for all time, those who are in the process of being sanctified while on this earth (10:10,14) It's a finished work that is a done deal forever. It is totally true, perfectly and forever int the eternal realm.
But you may ask, "Why am I not experiencing this now?" The answer is all about faith. Just as we enter the New Covenant by faith in the finished work of the eternal Son of God, we also live by faith every day of our lives in this temporal realm (Col 2:6-7). As we run our lap in the race of faith (Hebrews 12:1-4), we fix our eyes on the indwelling Christ. We surrender to His indwelling, resurrection zoe Life. Then we experience the glory of the New Covenant: "God does it; therefore we do it!" If we begin to live according to our own, even morally "good" way," we go back to OC living, expecting something of God in response to our "good works" (like a reward) or in addition to our "good works" (like help to do what I'VE determined to do). Then we're back to, "We do it ; therefore God does it."
So let me ask you a question. What would change for you if you took the risk to abandon yourself to the New Covenant, Indwelling, Risen Christ...ceasing from your own labors, self-effort, good works...and live in His Sabbath Rest (Hebrews 4:9-11)?
Freedom! Joy! Fruitfulness! Rest!
Listen to how two brothers from the past describe this glorious life:
...The most wonderful secret of living a holy life does not lie in imitating Jesus, but in letting the perfect qualities of Jesus exhibit themselves in my human flesh. Sanctification is “Christ in you . . .” (Colossians 1:27). It is His wonderful life that is imparted to me in sanctification— imparted by faith as a sovereign gift of God’s grace...Sanctification means the impartation of the holy qualities of Jesus Christ to me. It is the gift of His patience, love, holiness, faith, purity, and godliness that is exhibited in and through every sanctified soul. Sanctification is not drawing from Jesus the power to be holy— it is drawing from Jesus the very holiness that was exhibited in Him, and that He now exhibits in me. Sanctification is an impartation, not an imitation. Imitation is something altogether different. The perfection of everything is in Jesus Christ, and the mystery of sanctification is that all the perfect qualities of Jesus are at my disposal. Consequently, I slowly but surely begin to live a life of inexpressible order, soundness, and holiness— “. . . kept by the power of God . . .” (1 Peter 1:5). (Oswald Chambers)
If today I am patient, it is not I but He who lives in me who is patient. If today I love, it is not because I try my best to love, for the power of love is not in me. But it is because there is One who loves in me. If today I forgive, it is not due to my generosity or effort or ability. It is instead purely due to the One who lives in me and always forgives. He is my forgiveness. If today I am humble, this does not happen because I remind myself how proud I am and that therefore I need to be humbled. My humility does not come through suppressing my needs and then determining to be humble. It is the Person (the Lamb) in me who is humble. Since He is my humility, I therefore am humble. (Watchman Nee)
I love the imagery of this song. Can't you just visualize our Father God "bursting forth" when Jesus cried from the Cross "Tetelestai/It is finished!/the sin debt, paid in full!" and breathed His last? Usually we think of us finally being able to come into the throne room of God (Heb 4:16). But here we see it from the opposite direction -- God "chomping at the bit" (I hope that's not irreverent) to get at us with His loving-kindness and tender mercy. When the veil was rent, God came flooding out to the world of men. Oh, embrace Him by faith today!
Mercy Came Running Phillips, Craig, & Dean
Once there was a holy place Evidence of God's embrace And I can almost see mercy's face Pressed against the veil Looking down with longing eyes Mercy must have realized That once His blood was sacrificed Freedom would prevail And as the sky grew dark And the earth began to shake With justice no longer in the way
Chorus: Mercy came running Like a prisoner set free Past all my failures to the point of my need When the sin that I carried Was all I could see And when I could not reach mercy Mercy came running to me Once there was a broken heart Way to human from the start And all the years left it torn apart Hopeless and afraid Walls I never meant to build Left this prisoner unfulfilled Freedom called but even still It seemed so far away I was bound by the chains From the wages of my sin Just when I felt like giving in
Sometimes I still feel so far So far from where I really should be He gently calls to my heart Just to remind me
Homework: Read Hebrews 10:19-39 Answer questions in Hoping for Something Better, p. 199-200 Read chapter 7, Hoping…