December 23 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today's Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Hebrews 4:14- 10:31 (note: the reading for today's lesson is long because of the prevailing theme)

new vehicles

A Better Vehicle

It is Christmas time and many people buy a new vehicle. All of the vehicles we buy have to be serviced on a regular basis. Not only do they need service, but periodically they must also be repaired. Finally, they rust or wear out, and we get tired of repairing our vehicles and replace them with newer vehicles, but even they need repair and servicing. Wouldn't it be nice to own a vehicle which never wore or rusted out, always looked new, and never needed servicing or repair? Nice thought but impossible, right? In the physical realm this is true but not in the spiritual realm.

The Jews had a vehicle for salvation. It was always by faith, but they had a system of laws and regulations, sacrifices, and feast days to keep. Some tried the new vehicle of faith in Christ Jesus for salvation, but they were experiencing persecution for it and were tempted by Gnostic beliefs (the worship of angels and making personal sacrifices). Now they were tempted to go back to their old outdated vehicle.

Why did their old vehicle for salvation need to be replaced? Every day priests would offer animal sacrifices of bulls and goats to atone for the sins of the Jewish people (Israelites). However, the priests and high priests were also sinners. All the priests were chosen from the tribe of Levi, and the high priests were chosen from the family line of Aaron, the older brother of Moses. Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the high priest would offer sacrifices for his own sins and for the sins of the nation (this was a general sin offering for all the Jews and Jewish proselytes for sins which had not been atoned for, whether the sins were intentional or not). Then he took blood from the sacrifice into the innermost part of the sanctuary of the tabernacle (a portable worship center), the Holy of Holies, and sprinkled blood on the lid of a small solid gold chest, called the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant. He did this in order to atone (make satisfaction) for their sins. All these things were symbolic pictures. The blood shed by the animals did not in themselves take away the sins of the people. It was a picture. The innocent animals did nothing to deserve being killed, yet their lives were given in substitution for those who were guilty of sin, and they paid for it with their blood. The Jews (Israelites) were forgiven for their sins when they exercised faith in doing what God required.

Now, Jesus is the reality of what those things pictured. Jesus was a better vehicle for salvation. He was a better high priest. He received his priesthood by someone who had a better position than Aaron–God chose Jesus Christ after the order of Melchizedek. Melchizedek was a recognized priest of the Most High God in Abram’s (Abraham’s) day. He blessed Abram as he and his small army returned from rescuing his nephew Lot and his family from four invading kings of the north. In gratitude, Abram offered Melchizedek a 10% tithe of all the booty he brought back from the battle (Genesis 14:11-20). Melchizedek had no traceable earthly origin. Jesus’ origin was from heaven for an eternity. Jesus' origin from heaven is much more important than a priest’s origin from the earthly tribe of Levi. God chose Jesus to be a high priest in the order of Melchizedek and confirmed it with an oath, which was more than what was required for an earthly Jewish high priest.

Jesus was also a better priest than other high priests because Jesus was not a sinner. This does not mean, however, that he cannot relate to us,

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-- yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need, (Hebrews 4:15-16, NIV).

Jesus offered a better sacrifice than that of the high priests. He did not have to enter the inner sanctuary year after year to offer blood sacrifices of animals for the sins of himself and all the people. The animal sacrifices were incapable of removing the guilt of the worshipper. Jesus shed his blood on the cross of Calvary on our behalf, offering himself as a perfect, sinless sacrifice for all people (not just Jews or Jewish proselytes)– once for all. By faith we now have forgiveness and peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (more...).

Jesus is the author of a better covenant, built on better promises. The old covenant was built on laws, which if the Israelites kept by faith, they would be pleasing to God. But the people of Israel were not faithful in keeping the covenant, so God turned away from them. After the death of Christ, the new covenant, confirmed by his blood and received by faith, was put into their minds and hearts. Now, not just the Jews but we, too, receive true forgiveness–not just a covering for sin. Now, the Holy Spirit helps us to please God. Now, we have a life-giving relationship with God which is worthy of any suffering we may experience. Jesus is definitely the better vehicle for salvation. The old one rusted and decayed away. The old vehicle is destroyed but the new vehicle of faith in Christ for salvation lasts forever.

Lessons to Live By

Persecution may cause us to re-examine our new vehicle of salvation in Christ and return to our old vehicle of religion, ceremonies and traditions. However, the old vehicle is broken down, dead, and does not lead to salvation at all. The new vehicle is far better and brings forgiveness of sin, peace, and new life (more...). Let’s stay with Christ, the new vehicle of our salvation.

Today’s Memory Verses

Hebrews 10:23 (NIV) “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”

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A Look Ahead: Now that we accept Jesus Christ as the better and only vehicle for salvation, how do we have Persevering Faith when others think we are crazy and persecute us? See for yourself in our Next Lesson.

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