For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin, are burned outside the camp. – Heb 13:11
There are different types of offerings prescribed in the Old Testament. The peace offerings as well as the sin offerings involved the sprinkling or pouring of the blood upon the altar in the sanctuary. Sometimes the fat of the animal (considered a delicacy) would be burnt upon the altar. But the carcass of the animal was not needed in these types of offerings, so it was apparently to be burnt outside the camp. There was another type of offering, called a burnt offering, in which the complete animal was consumed by fire upon the altar; that is not what the author of Hebrews is referring to here.
Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. – Heb 13:12
Now we see clearly that Hebrews is referring to the OT sin offering. In New Testament theology, Jesus has taken the place of the animal which would be used in the sin offering. Just as the animal would be bled, killed, and burnt outside the camp (since the handling of dead bodies and animals makes one “unclean”), Jesus was crucified outside the city boundaries of Jerusalem at the hill of Golgotha, or Calvary.
So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. – Heb 13:13
Here is the centerpiece of the argument, and if we allow this sentence to penetrate into our lives, it will change something. Well, it does for me. How could it not?
This sentence says that, just as Christ allowed Himself to be tossed aside by society and culture and fashion and respectability so that the people of this broken, abusive world system might actually live through it and tell the tale on the other side…so we should also be willing and ready to be tossed aside by society and culture and fashion and respectability.
This is being written to first-century AD Christ followers to whom this would not have been an abstract notion. To follow Christ meant to not take part in the Roman methods and styles of worship. It meant, in some parts of the Empire, being unable to buy food or to trade your services or to rent or buy property. To be a Christian might mean homelessness, out of a job and unable to find another. It meant people talking when you walked down the street because you wouldn’t pay homage to the Emperor.
For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come. – Heb 13:14
Unchecked ambition. The oppression of the poor. Pornography. Homelessness. Starvation. Child mortality. The prophet Malachi tells us that the things of this world are on fire, and are burning before our very eyes. When the mysterious Day of the Lord arrives, these fires will finally but totally consume all these things listed above. By some mechanism that we do not comprehend, this world will be remade by a loving God’s hands.
But when we buy into American Apparel’s, Urban Outfitter’s, or Brooks Brothers’ propaganda of how we should look and act and dress to be respectable and (perhaps do we dare!) enviable – we are buying into an idea that is on fire. You’re investing in the eternal equivalent of junk bonds that you already know are going to crash.
When we become willing to step on others to allow our ambition to breathe in the workplace. When our whispers of grace and peace upon one another are replaced with curtness and impatience due to our busy lives (and that is the conviction of the soul with which I struggle with this morning) – we have traded the warmth of eternal homes for sleeping outside on a freezing sidewalk.
Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. – Heb 13:15-16
As Christians, we forget that we’re still supposed to be sacrificing.
Instead of sacrificing animals, we sacrifice ourselves and our whims on the altar. We offer up kindness and community and sharing and smiles.
That’s how this whole thing is supposed to work, anyhow.