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Going Forth Unto Him

Israel were redeemed in Egypt, baptized in the Red Sea, and separated to God to become His people in obedience to the covenant that God made with them at Sinai. The ordinances of divine service associated with that covenant are reviewed in the epistle to the Hebrews, and are contrasted with the service associated with the New Covenant, which was made effective by the death of Christ.

The letter to the Hebrews makes it clear that God had not intended that first covenant and its service to continue in perpetuity. It had been introduced with a time of reformation in view (Heb. 9:10). It belonged to the days of the shadows. God had better things in prospect and these better things are detailed for us in the epistle. The sacrifices offered repeatedly under the law foreshadowed the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ. The material sacrifices and the material house were to be superseded by spiritual sacrifices and a spiritual house. The Lord Himself in His ministry had given indication of this fundamental change (John 4:21-24), and in the closing days of His ministry He had made that solemn pronouncement, "Behold your house is left unto you desolate" (Mat. 23:38). The rending of the veil in the Temple at the time of the Saviour's death was a clear confirmation that the material house had been forsaken (Mat. 27:51).

The spiritual house composed of living stones came into being on the day of Pentecost, fifty days after the crucifixion, with the coming of the Holy Spirit to indwell the spiritual house (Eph. 2:22), which initially comprised 120 disciples who were together in unity in Jerusalem in conformity to their Lord's command, and also to indwell them individually (Acts l:4,8, 2.14, John 14.17). From that small beginning the work of God through the apostles gained momentum and "the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem exceedingly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the Faith (Acts 6:7). It was no light thing for early Hebrew Christians to forsake the material house for the spiritual one, and the break with the temple would be particularly traumatic for those who had been priests. They would probably have heard of the rending of the veil, and that would be a further reassuring indication that they were in tune with the purposes of God in embracing the New Covenant and its service.

The service of God associated with the first covenant had been made possible with the construction and erection of the tabernacle in the wilderness. The portable nature of that structure made it eminently suitable for the needs of a pilgrim people, but it continued to be used in the land also for nearly 500 years until Solomon completed the building of the temple on Mount Zion in accordance with the pattern that had been given to David by God (1 Kings 6:1; 1 Chr. 28:19). The service of God that centred on the temple was essentially the same as that of the tabernacle but with the addition of the service of song, which was also part of the pattern given to David (2 Chr. 29:25).

In reviewing the service of God committed to Israel the writer to the Hebrews goes back to the wilderness experience and speaks of the service associated with the first tabernacle as "a parable for the time now present" (Heb. 9:9). The relevance of the parallel becomes apparent on reflection, for the New Covenant people of God are a pilgrim people described by Peter as "sojourners and pilgrims" (1 Pet. 2:9,11), but they have the privilege of enjoying the service of the spiritual house in the days of their pilgrimage even as Israel too were privileged to serve God during their wilderness sojournings. The arrangements made for Israel's collective service in the wilderness are summarized in Hebrews 9:1 10 and contrasted with the arrangements pertaining to collective service under the New Covenant. The sanctuary associated with the Old Covenant was an earthly one and a copy of the heavenly reality. It was divided into two compartments by means of the veil, and, while the outer compartment was the sphere of daily activity by the priests, only the high priest was permitted to enter into the inner, and only on one day in the year was he allowed to pass through the dividing veil. That special day in the national calendar was the day of atonement (Lev. 16).

In drawing attention to the restrictions that were a feature of tabernacle service the writer states that the Holy Spirit was "signifying that the way into the holy place hath not yet been made manifest, while as the first tabernacle is yet standing" (Heb. 9:8). God's New Covenant people have the privilege of entering, in spirit, into the holy place, the heavenly sanctuary, to offer to God spiritual sacrifices through their great High Priest (Heb. 10:19). This has been made possible through the abiding efficacy of His once-for-all sacrifice. In contrast to the yearly entry of the high priests of old into the inner compartment of that earthly sanctuary our High Priest has entered into heaven itself and has taken his seat "on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens" (Heb. 8:1). His entry into the holy place above is a once-for-all entry "having obtained eternal redemption" (Heb. 9:12), and, in entering in He has cleansed the heavenly sanctuary that a worshipping people might also enter

in by the way that He dedicated (opened) for them (Heb. 9:23,24; 10:19,20).

In dealing with the sanctification of a people for this privileged service the writer to the Hebrews reminds us of precious foreshadowings in the past. In particular he reminds us of the procedure that was observed for the highest grades of sin offerings, those offered for the high priest and for all the congregation. Blood from those offerings was brought into the holy place to be sprinkled before the veil and to be put on the horns of the golden altar, but the carcases were taken outside the camp to be burned with fire at the place of the ashes (Rev. 4:3-21; Heb. 13:11). This ritual under the Old Covenant was essential to permit a sinning people to continue in the service of God and had in view the work of Christ in relation to God's New Covenant people. There is no doubt also that, in giving these detailed instructions, God had in view the circumstances in which that once-for-all sacrifice would be made. Israel's rejection of the Son of God resulted in their being set aside nationally by God for the time being, and in the abrogation of the Old Covenant and its service. In the purposes of God the Old Covenant and its service were to be replaced by the New Covenant and its service; the shadows were to give way to the substance. "We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle" (Heb. 13:10). There was to be no mingling of the two (Heb. 13:9,10).

The sanctification of a people for the service of God under the terms of the New Covenant has been made possible by the death of Christ. Essential elements in the accomplishment of this purpose were the shedding of His blood and His suffering without the gate (Heb. 13:12). This collective sanctification, however, requires the obedient response of individuals in continuing separation and commitment. It involves not only separation from persons and things opposed to the will and purposes of God but also identification with the Lord Jesus in the outside place and the sharing of His shame and reproach (Heb. 13:13).

In those last precious hours that the Lord spent with His own before going to the cross He spoke to them of their relationship to the world and of the divine purpose that was to be fulfilled in them. He made it plain also that He had in His thoughts not only that little band of men gathered with Him in the Upper Room but also those who, right down through the centuries, would believe on Him through their word (John 17:16-21). His words to them were spoken with the full knowledge that He was going out to surrender Himself into the hands of men to be crucified. They too would experience the hatred of the world because they were not of the world even as He was not of the world, and because of their association with Him they would share in His reproach and shame. They too were set apart to the will of God by their obedience to the Truth which they had received from Him.

"Save yourselves from this crooked generation" was Peter's instruction to those convicted by His message on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:40). They were called upon to dissociate themselves from the action of the nation who, on the advice of their leaders, had rejected their Messiah, and to align themselves with Him who is "rejected indeed of men, but with God elect, precious" (1 Pet. 2:4). Association with Him in the outside place of rejection is essential to association with Him in the holy place of privilege and collective service.

The term "the camp" in Leviticus 4 was descriptive of the encampment of the Israel nation in the wilderness with all its orderly administrative arrangements both ecclesiastical and civil. Jews would readily understand that Hebrews 13:13 applied the Old Testament teaching of verse 11 to the present day,

especially in view of Peter's exhortation on the day of Pentecost to which we have already referred.

This teaching extends to all believers of this dispensation whether Jew or Gentile. Our Lord is still outside all the systems of men whether political or ecclesiastical, and His authority set aside, but in the spiritual house His authority is absolute. He is Son over God's house. There must be complete subjection to Him and obedience to all His commands not just those that are acceptable to the many. We must know separation from all unscriptural associations and practices before we can be associated with Him in collective service. It is to those who have responded to the exhortation "let us go forth unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach" that the further exhortation is given "through Him then let us offer up the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of lips which make confession to His name" (Heb. 13:13,15).

To those who truly love the Lord Jesus the most precious thing about this essential separation is that it is a separation unto Him, to be linked with Him in the service of God in the days of our pilgrimage.