Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Notes on the Epistle to the Hebrews With a Focus on Chapter 9: Part 2

[This is the second section of  a paper I wrote for the Great Plains Pastors' Conference (of Circuits 7, 8, & 9) which is titled Notes on Reading the Letter to the Hebrews With a Focus on Chapter 9. It was delivered at Bethany Lutheran College on Wednesday, May 25th
 τὸν τῆς πίστεως ἀρχηγὸν καὶ τελειωτὴν Ἰησοῦν]

An Exegetical Summary of Chapter 9 [Judica: Lent 5]

Jesus, my great High Priest,
Offered his blood, and died;
My guilty conscience seeks
No sacrifice beside:
His powerful blood did once atone,
And now it pleads before the throne.
[ELH 289:5 Passion Sunday]

The pattern for the design of the First Covenant ritual worship and the tools, structures, and rituals used in that worship is the Pre-incarnate Son of God in heaven, and the Promise of His future redemption of sinful mankind. The ritual and material items of the First Covenant were never intended to be the τελείωσις or שלום summation [Lk. 1:45] of God's reconciliation with humanity, our שבת. The priesthood, the sacrifices, the furniture, the utensils, the structure of the tabernacle, the rituals, and the mercy seat itself are all patterned on the promise; and they existed to demonstrate the Person who would fulfill the Promise. Being patterned on the heavenly court, the earthly tabernacle/temple pointed to the fulfillment of the Promise when that same Son of God would come into the world to establish the Second Covenant in His own Person—as the Divine-Human Logos. That same Son of God became fully human; served sinners with a perfect obedience to the Law; fulfilled all the promises made prior to, during, and after the implementation of the First Covenant; gave His life as a ransom serving as both High priest and sacrifice in accordance to the Promise and the First Covenant.
… when He had by Himself purged our sins,
sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
having become so much better than the angels,
as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
[He 1:3-4 Christmas Day 1st Service]
The Letter to the Hebrews is essentially a treatise on Christology. But as such its purpose is to lead the reader through the Scriptures and the Divine Service of the First Covenant. It teaches the reader about how the Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets described the coming Christ. It teaches how particular historic persons and events recorded in Scripture demonstrate who the Christ would be and what He would do, so they could recognize Him when He came into the world. It teaches us how we are to instruct the congregations under our care how the liturgical worship under the First Covenant declared Who the Christ is and how He would save. And it teaches us that we who live under the Second Covenant must constantly tend our flocks with the same instruction under the New Covenant—a care for the flock which is centered on the ritual of the Son of God Incarnate in Word and Sacraments. Thus, one could maintain that the Letter to the Hebrews is an exegetical, historical, systematic, liturgical, and symbolic exposition of the Old Testament focused on the Person, Nature, and Work of the Christ.
ἐπ’ ἐσχάτου τῶν ἡμερῶν τούτων ἐλάλησεν ἡμῖν ἐν υἱῷ
in these last days He has spoken to us by means of the Son...
[He 1:2 Christmas Day 1st Service]
The letter to the Hebrews stands in stark contrast to any theology of earthly glory. The writer moves the reader's focus off of the sovereignty of God to demonstrate the incomparable and unsurpassable humility of God in serving His worst enemies. He did this by walking among them and giving His life to redeem them. The author demonstrates that this has been the plan from the time Adam and Eve fell into sin, and that this had been the whole focal point of the Torah. 

That is this: the almighty everlasting God who is over all things [Sovereign] chose to reveal Himself to us as the humblest of servants through the incarnation of His Son—through His active and passive obedience; through His humble submission to the Father as our substitute in righteousness and in sin and in death—that we might be the inheritors of His resurrection through faith in Him.
… and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying,
“This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!”
[Mt 17:5 Transfiguration Sunday]