The more I read Hebrews, the more I am convinced that Auctor wanted his readers to see themselves as members with OT Israel in their wilderness journeys. I use to wonder why the inclusion of angels, Moses, high priest, sacrifices, tabernacle, etc., but I am beginning to think that we are to see ourselves in the wilderness, exiled without a home of our own. But while we are there, awaiting of final eschatological rest, we have similar institutions and regulations for worship much like those of Israel.
For example, Israel had their Apostle (Prophet) Moses. He was the messenger sent by God to communicate to Israel the OT Covenant (OTC) (Heb 3.1ff). We also know that the angels played some kind of role in the giving of the Law according to Paul (Gal 3.19). But for Christian, we have the great Apostle of our confession Jesus Christ (Heb 3.1). He is God’s last and final word and spokesman, appointed by God as His Son to deliver the final word (Heb 1.1-2).
Also much like Israel suffered in the wilderness and was tempted, Christ to suffered and was tempted, yet without sin (Heb 2.18). We know from the OT and the quotation from Ps 95(94 LXX):7-11 that the Israelites did not pass their test but rather they rebelled in the wilderness, their hearts hardened to God and his faithfulness. We also know that that generation did not enter into the rest which was promised them. But for us who remain faithful, a Sabbath rest is waiting.
There is also the establishment of a new priesthood and a new high priest. Jesus is not only the Apostle of our confession, he is also the high priest. Much like in the wilderness, the people of God have a high priest who ministers at the altar, but this altar is in heaven. Auctor tells us that “We have such a high priest, who has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man” (Heb 8.1-2). The reason for a new priesthood is due to the fact that their has been a change of Law. The OTC contained the cultic sacrifices for the sin of the people, and these sacrifices were a perpetual reminder of the need for redemption and cleansing. The OTC was officiated by the Levitical priesthood. But Christ, by means of his death, established a New Covenant (NC) and a new priesthood which the people of God now operate under.
We are also not left without an example of how we are to live under God’s grace and covenant. The readers of Auctor’s letter were suffering and facing difficulties for their faith in the Messiah. They were being publicly shamed and mistreated by those around them, and this was leading them to question God’s promises and faithfulness. This is not dissimilar to what the Israelites were going through as well in the wilderness. Auctor did not want to see his readers fall in the wilderness and perish on the way to Rest, so he gave them a list of examples of lives lived in the face of suffering (Heb 11.1ff). While they may be tempted to think that they were experiencing their sufferings alone, they were to be encouraged that mighty men of the OT were in the same boat as they were. But the greatest example of all is Jesus, and we are exhorted to “Fix our eyes on Him, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12.2).
Well, while this is not an exegetical analysis of Hebrews, I still feel like the wilderness motif is one that is to be in our minds as we read this book. Many make issue of mentioning of sacrifices as a key to a pre-70AD writing. This may be so, but I find it even more interesting and compelling that the temple is the not mentioned, but rather the tabernacle. Auctor wants his readers to put themselves in the wilderness with OT Israel. The more we partake of their calling, the more we can partake of the heavenly calling we have received.
What are your thoughts?