Ep.219: A Weak and Useless Law.

Hebrews 7 discusses the priesthood and law that Moses set up for Israel, with Aaron as the first high priest. Comparing Aaron’s line of priests with Jesus, who came from a different line, the writer says,
  The former regulation [that is, the priesthood of Aaron] is set aside
      because it was weak and useless
      (for the law made nothing perfect),
  and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.
      Hebrews 6:17-19

“Weak and useless” is a rather harsh judgement on God’s law that established ancient Israel’s religion. If the system was weak and useless, why did God bother to set it up? And why are we still studying it?

The Book of Hebrews explains that it was weak and useless because the law can’t make anything perfect. Interesting thought. What use is God’s law if it can’t make things perfect? 

I answer that question by looking at the two moral problems we need to solve. 

The first is how to eliminate, or at least reduce, evil. Laws of all sorts do impact this problem, but law of any type has severely limited effectiveness. If laws could solve the problem of evil, our country probably has enough laws to make a perfect society! Russia and China have lots of laws too, but they may be less perfect than ours.

The second moral problem: how to make people good. Goodness is not simply obeying laws and avoiding evil. It is being motivated to actively love each other and God

Laws are helpful, because they contribute to solving the first moral problem. They do motivate some of us not to murder and steal, and to drive only a little faster than the speed limit. 

But “law and order” politicians are wrong when they think harsher punishments increase public safety and reduce serious crime. 

Imagine two conspirators planning to rob a liquor store. Do they call in their accountant to do a cost-benefit analysis on the project? If the prison term for armed robbery is longer than the prison term for unarmed robbery, are they likely to leave their guns at home? If the punishment for break and enter is harsher than the punishment for robbing without property damage, are they likely to hire a locksmith instead of breaking the door down? 

The punishments written into law do provide some incentive not to do evil, but not everyone attends to this. The author of Hebrews watched the high priest make the same sacrifices year after year for his own sins and others. Is there any way out of this never-ending cycle of never-ending sin?  

The system is so broken not even God’s law can fix it. To stop sinning and begin loving requires stronger motivation and greater willpower than any list of rules can supply. 

In our verses today, the author hints at an answer, saying, “The former law is set aside because it is weak and useless, and a better hope is introduced by which we draw near to God.” 

Let’s pray. 

Our father, we feel the weakness of your law in our lives. It is a sad week for us when our best efforts yield only the news that we didn’t murder anyone, that we didn’t commit adultery, that we didn’t rob a liquor store. You made us for better things than that, father, for relationships of love, for communication and community and good works.

Your law is not able to motivate and empower us to live the life of love we need. Help us then to find that better hope, the hope with which we draw near to you. Replace our never-ending cycle of sinning and repenting with a better cycle of drawing near, of receiving your spirit, of learning to loving you and others. 

Amen. 

I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”. 

Ep.217: Anchor.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”.

Hebrews 6 says,
  Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose  
      very clear to the heirs of what was promised,
        he confirmed it with an oath.
  He did this so that,
        by two unchangeable things
          in which it is impossible for God to lie,
        we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us
          may be greatly encouraged.
  We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.
                    Hebrews 6:17-19

Hebrews pictures our souls as ships adrift on the ocean, needing an anchor or port. Today’s passage describes the anchor and its use. 

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul,” says the author (v. 19). I find this odd, because we hope for things future, not things present. How can I cast my anchor into the future? 

Are we driven by fear to use this anchor?  Hebrews says we have fled to take hold of the hope set before us (v. 18b). Why do we flee? What do we take refuge from? The book of Hebrews says we run from hard hearts that are ready to give up the faith (Heb 3:15). We run from suffering that teaches obedience (Heb 5:8). We run from temptation (Heb 4:15), and we run from baby-bottle immaturity (Heb 5:12-14). Paul says, “Flee evil desires. Pursue righteousness” (2 Tim 2:22). 

The anchor of hope that Hebrews offers attaches itself to “two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie”–his promise and his oath (v. 17-18). We’re not sure what promise and what oath, but the author is clearly impressed that God doesn’t just make promises. Sometimes he swears an oath to convince sceptical hearers that his promises are real. Perhaps the author remembered God’s oath to Abraham after he prepared to sacrifice Isaac. God said, “I swear by myself I will bless you” (Gen 22:15). Or perhaps it was God’s promise to David: “I swore an oath to David . . . One of your descendants I will place on your throne” (Ps  132:11). Or perhaps it was God’s promise that the Messiah would be a priest: “I have sworn an oath. . . you are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek ” (Ps 110:4). 

The hope Hebrews offers as an anchor of the soul is a destination and an attitude. We flee from our troubles and temptations into Port Hope, casting our anchor on God’s firm promises, waiting for storms to is better than our past. This hope encourages us, enabling us to live with patience and optimism.   

Let’s pray. 

Father, our lives are adrift on an ocean of chance and change. Our thinking slows, our bodies age, our memories fuzz. The news shouts at us every day of earthquakes and wars, pandemics and winds of political change. What is our place in all of this? Are we flotsam and jetsam on the ocean of life? Bit players in a cosmic drama? Disposable pawns in the chess game of life? 

Lord, help us not to believe the future is just more of the present. Draw us into Port Hope where we can anchor on your unchanging promises.  Help us wait patiently until you bring a better future. 

Amen. 

I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.