Page 14 - April 2024 - Truth & Tidings
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we should note the variety of instructions   His death. It is upon this that we feed in
        that are given in this section. Some of them   our priestly communion. In this, we stand
        clearly have assembly testimony in view:   in contrast to those in verse 9 who were oc-
        those who had the rule and “have spoken   cupied with meats. The writer summarises
        unto you the word of God” in chapter 13   all of Jewish ritual in this “preoccupation
        verse 7 clearly belong to that setting, as   with foods.” His choice of language is
        do those mentioned in verse 17. But the   deft, for it simultaneously stresses the
        section also deals with the home (v2),   way in which Jewish ritualism, expressed
        marriage (v4), our relationship to material   in scrupulosity about food, would impact
        possessions (v5), and, if only negatively,   every moment of an individual’s life, and
        our diet (v9). So, while our fellowship in   sets up the contrast with our spiritual
        a local church is clearly vital to the scrip-  feeding on Christ. Under the Law, the
        tural practice of our priesthood, there is   right of consuming a portion of the of-
        no suggestion here that it is limited to   ferings for sin (as opposed to the peace
        that context.                         offering) was limited to the priests. Now,
          The writer reminds us that we are part   those who “serve the tabernacle” have no
        of a priestly community: “We have an   right to this new communion; it is limited
        altar, whereof they have no right to eat   to those who belong to this altar, and to
        which serve the tabernacle” (13:10). In   whom this altar belongs.
        the previous verse, believers were called   This link with the altar requires priestly
        to be different from “them that have been   consecration, the severing of links with the
        occupied” with meats – a reference that   camp, the gate and the city. In Exodus 33,
        encompasses all those who have remained   the tabernacle was set up “afar off from”
        within  the  system  of  Judaism.  Now,   an idolatrous camp, and “every one which
        though, “those who serve the tabernacle”   sought the LORD went out unto the tab-
        draws a tighter contrast between those   ernacle of the congregation, which was
        priests who ministered in tabernacle and   without the camp” (v7). On that occasion,
        temple and a new community of priests,   Levi had rallied to the Lord’s side, and
        of whom the writer says, “We have an   had been rewarded with a special priestly
        altar.” It is very clear that “we” refers to   status. But, as the writer emphasises,
        every believer – the writer uses “them”   that place of priestly consecration is also
        and “they” to speak about elders in verses   a place of shame. There, “the bodies of
        7 and 17, but there is no suggestion here   those beasts, whose blood is brought into
        that any subset of Christians is in view. As   the sanctuary by the high priest for sin,
        we have seen, the passage assumes that   are burned” (Heb 13:11). To come outside
        believers will belong to a local church, but   the camp was a costly thing, but only by
        this “we” is not limited to this setting – the   doing so could the Hebrews engage in
        writer as well as his readers together have   priestly service. And while our context
        the same altar, for they form part of the   is very different to that of the Hebrew
        same priesthood.                      Christians, we, too, need to hear God’s
          The altar that “we have” is not to be   call to consecration – to leave behind the
        understood as a literal altar in the heav-  camp of the religious world, the gate of its
        enly sanctuary. Rather, the term is used to   government, and the city with its sociality.
        encompass all of the value of Christ and   We must go “forth therefore unto him

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