The writer of Hebrews encourages the first-century followers of Jesus to persevere in their faith in the long-awaited Messiah. The writer reminds them what it was like to live under the law of the old covenant. God was perceived as unapproachable and vengeful, something to be feared. And woe be unto those who disobey the law. Even Moses trembles with fear.
The writer reminds them that Jesus brings a new covenant that fulfills the old covenant. Jesus’ life and love highlight another aspect of God as the God who loves, forgives, and offers salvation for all humanity through extravagant grace. Fear and judgment no longer serve as the motivators for people to obey God. The law of love has been around since creation, even in the midst of humanity. Therefore, the writer assures the followers of Jesus that they are loved by God and are called to love others even as they love themselves.
The writer declares, “You have come to Mount Zion...the heavenly Jerusalem...and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” We no longer need to offer endless sacrifices to appease God. Jesus has forgiven all sin, once and for all, through his blood on the cross.
As followers of Jesus, we live in the covenant of Zion. Our Christian faith invites us beyond the covenant of Sinai fraught with fear to follow Jesus “marching upward to Zion...to fairer worlds on high” (umh, no. 733).
God of salvation, you love us so much that you invite us to march upward to Zion. Guide us on our journey. Amen.
The readings in Jeremiah and Psalm 71 are repeated in a pair from earlier in the year (January 28—February 3). They describe the authors’ confidence that God has had plans for their lives since even before they were born. God similarly knows each one of us and has a calling on our lives. The reading in Hebrews gives us confidence in the permanence of the kingdom of God, to which we have access through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We are not to take this lightly; we should worship God with due respect. In a synagogue on the sabbath, Jesus teaches a lesson about mercy. When he encounters a woman in need, he places her need above religious regulations. If religious traditions trump mercy, then our priorities are out of alignment.
Read Jeremiah 1:4-10. How do the children in your life live out God’s call on their lives?
Read Psalm 71:1-6. How do you continually praise God as your refuge?
Read Hebrews 12:18-29. How do you discern what is required of you in praising God in the new covenant?
Read Luke 13:10-17. How do you observe the sabbath now? What sabbath practice might you start that puts God’s reign into action?
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