Hebrews 13:10-14 – “We have an altar.” This is a reference to the altar that stood in the Temple when this letter was being written. Ordinarily the priests were allowed to eat what remained of the sacrifices. But on the day of Atonement, they are forbidden from eating the sacrifices. The remains of the offerings were to be taken outside the camp and burned. The priest could not be defiled with the sins of the nation in regard to the Day of Atonement. The writer seems to pointing to a similarity between believers and the Levitical priests.
Just as the priests could not partake of that which pointed to the sins of the people on Yom Kippur, so too should we, who have experienced a permanent atonement, have nothing to do with a sinful world system and its practices. We are to be outside the camp, outside the gates of the city just as our Messiah. When Messiah died on the cross, it was outside the gates of the city. As believers we too must be willing to come out from the world=s system, to bear the reproach, scorn, and shame, that comes from identifying ourselves with Him. Moses, as was mentioned earlier in Hebrews 11:26, in a sense did the same thing when he identified with the children of Israel, instead of the Egyptians.
As believers we are called to be separate (2 Corinthians. 6:16-17). We are to be like Moses and the Messiah, willing to endure reproach willing to bear the worldly embarrassment of following the Messiah. And so in Hebrews 13:13 we are told “Let us then, go to Him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace He bore. When Moses led the children out of Egypt he set up the Tabernacle (Exodus 33:7).
So if we are to meet with God we must leave the camp. We must be willing to leave the familiar, and go outside, for it is only there that we will truly meet the Lord. To leave the old ways and things is difficult and costly. 2 Timothy 3:12 “All who desire to live godly in Messiah Yeshua will be persecuted.” So we are called to come outside the camp in order for us to partake of the promised New Covenant.
Hebrews 13:15-16 Tells us that God desires us to offer sacrifice as well. In the context of this letter, sacrifice was most important. Sacrifice was the means by which God cleansed the sins of the children of Israel. The Jewish believers accustomed to the various offerings and sacrifices that were required under Torah may have thought that in addition to the sacrifice of Jesus, God still required the other sacrifices besides the sin offerings. The writer here of Hebrews says that they are correct in their thinking. He demands the sacrifice of our praise and of our good works in His name. Let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise, the fruit of lips that confess His name. In fact the name Jew means “praise God.”
Our means of sacrifice to God involves Praising God continually. Not just fair‑weather praise, but in all things we are called to give thanks. But we are not only to praise God with our words but with our deeds as well (1 John 4:20). In other words, if our praise of God in word is not accompanied by doing good and sharing, it is not acceptable to our God. Worship involves action that brings honor to God. The prophet Isaiah warned Israel in this way in Isaiah. 58. When the people asked God, “Why have we fasted and You do not see?” Someone has said lip service must be accompanied by life service. As John writes in his first letter, Alet us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth” So a second aspect of our abiding in the new covenant is the sacrifice of praise, both in word and in deed.
Hebrews 13:17 we’re given a third aspect of the New Covenant. This 3rd area is submission. The most obvious form of submission seen in this passage is given in respect to the leaders of our congregation. But Submission is called in other areas as well. Even world rulers who could care less about God are used by God as we read in Romans 13:1 Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. In Ephesians husbands and wives are called to submit one to another, as believers we are submit ourselves one to another. But in this passage we are reminded of the importance the Lord places on the Spiritual leadership of the local assembly.
The leaders of the congregation are called elders (presbyters) or overseers (bishops). These are mature believers who have been raised by the Lord to lead the congregation until the Lord returns. As they traveled about, Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in every congregation they established. Paul directed Titus to appoint elders in every city. These men were appointed to feed and lead the flock, but today things have changed. In many congregations the flock rules the leaders. In America we have the idea that everything should be democratic but nowhere in the Scriptures both older and New Testaments is this found to be true. In fact whenever the flock determined to lead over those appointed trouble always followed. Such was the case when Israel demanded of Aaron to make a god for them and when they demanded Samuel to appoint a king.
Elders are not to be tyrants, because they do not rule for themselves but for God. But the command in Hebrews is unqualified, “Obey your leaders, and submit to them.” Peter writes to elders to Shepherd the flock of God among you, not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God’ and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples.
Our Messiah said “He who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me”. John 13:20. When a man is placed in the leadership of a congregation, our submission and obedience to him is equivalent to submission and obedience to the Messiah. Why are we to submit to the elders of the congregation, “They keep watch over your souls as men who must give an account.”
It is a heavy responsibility to be an elder for they must answer to God. Believers are further urged to allow their leaders do it with joy and not with grief or as a burden. This is the responsibility of the congregation. What makes an elder find joy? When the congregation submits and grows in the Lord. Grief or burden means an inner, unexpressed groaning. It generally comes when a spiritual leader must confront selfishness and self‑will. Samuel, Jeremiah the weeping prophet as well as most of the prophets of Israel all experienced this. Jesus experienced this too when he lamented over the hardness of the peoples hearts.
Spiritual leaders are not perfect. there are times when a member of the congregation is justified in disagreeing with an elder, even in accusing such a leader of sin. But Scripture gives clear guidelines “Do not receive an accusation against and elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also may be fearful of sinning.” 1 Timothy 5:19-20. Making our elders grieve we’re told is not to our advantage. It doesn’t help us in our spiritual walk. Finally read in Hebrews 13:18-19 that we are called to prayer. To pray for the leaders. It is through prayer that the muscles of the arm of God are activated. Prayer changes things. It is through our prayers that the congregation is guided properly and led and filled by the Spirit of God.
Hebrews 13:18-19 Finally we are called to prayer. To pray for the leaders. It is through prayer that the muscles of the arm of God are activated. Prayer changes things. It is through our prayers that the congregation is guided properly and led and filled by the Spirit of God. The writer of Hebrews apparently was a leader in the church, or churches, to whom he was writing, and here asks for the prayer support. Every servant of the Lord needs the prayers of the believers he is called to work with. Church leaders are made of the same stuff as those they serve.
They have sins, weaknesses, limitations, blind spots, and needs of all sorts, just as everyone else. They need the prayers of God’s people, in order to be more effective in the work of the Lord. God’s leaders face temptations that most other believers do not face to the same degree, because Satan knows that, if he can undermine the leaders, many others will go down with them. If he can get them to compromise, to weaken their stand, to lessen their efforts, to become dejected and hopeless, he has caused the work of Christ great damage. The writer of this letter did not hesitate to ask for prayer.
The writer closes with a prayer for his readers which include some key things. First of all, He reminds them in prayer that God is the One who brings peace. Even in the most turbulence and distressing situation, he can bring peace to our souls. In any fellowship where there is division, it is because we have forgotten God and only the remembrance of his presence can bring back that lost peace. It is only the God of peace who can make us at peace with ourselves, at peace with each other and at peace with himself. Secondly he reminds them that God is the God of life.
It was God who brought Jesus again from the dead. His love and power are the only things which can bring a man peace in life and triumph in death. It was in obedience to the will of God that Jesus died and that same will brought him again from the dead. For the man who obeys the will of God there is no such thing as final disaster; even death itself is conquered. Finally his prayer includes acknowledgment that it is God who both shows us his will and equips us to do it. He never gives us a task without also giving us the power to accomplish it. When God sends us out, he sends us equipped with everything we need.
The writer of Hebrew closes with a threefold picture of Jesus also. Jesus is the great shepherd of his sheep. The picture of Jesus as the good shepherd it is interesting that Paul never uses this picture. There is a lovely Jewish legend of Moses which tells of a thing he did when he had fled from Egypt and was keeping the flocks of Jethro in the desert. A sheep of the flock wandered far away. Moses patiently followed it and found it drinking at a mountain stream. He came up to it and put it upon his shoulder. “So it was because you were thirsty that you wandered away,” said Moses gently and, without any anger at the toil the sheep had caused him, he carried it home.
When God saw it, he said: “If Moses is so compassionate to a straying sheep, he is the very man I want to be the leader of my people.” A shepherd is one who is ready to give his life for his sheep; he bears with their foolishness and never stops loving them. That is what Jesus does for us. Jesus is the one who established the new covenant and made possible the new relationship between God and man. It was he who took away the terror and showed us the love of God. Jesus is the one who died. To show men what God was like and to open the way to Him, it cost the life of Jesus. Our new relationship to God cost his blood.
The letter finishes with some personal greetings. The writer to the Hebrews half apologizes for its length. What the reference to Timothy means no one knows, but it sounds as if he, too, had been in prison for the sake of Jesus Christ. And so the letter closes with a blessing. All through it has been telling of the grace of Messiah which opens the way to God and it comes to an end with a prayer that wondrous grace may rest upon its readers.