Two Turtledoves

Two Turtledoves ~ November 10, 2019 ~ Hebrews 13:11-16

Alright, we are in the letter to the Hebrews this morning. That’s how you know who’s supposed to make the coffee at church – the men, because “He-brews.” We have a lot of She-brews here. The question I have for you – have you ever had second thoughts about a decision, perhaps, that you have made in your life? Most of us have. I have shared with you before. The car of my dreams that I got in 1981. It was a 1979 Trans Am right out of Smokey and the Bandit, it had a big eagle on the hood, it had a T-roof, you could take off the things and put them in the trunk. It was awesome! So, I bought it, and I brought it home. I was so excited until my new bride sat me down at the kitchen table and wrote down on a piece of paper the reality is, we did not take enough money into the home to make the payment. Whoops! So, yes, that is a decision that I have regretted.

Now, the Lord bailed me out of that one (Praise God!) before I had to make my first payment. He got me a job in the Post Office. So, I was able to make the payments on my car. But the Lord has an interesting sense of humor. He got me a job at an office an hour away from where I lived. Do you have any idea how many miles a gallon a Trans Am gets? In 1981, I was paying $50 a week, back and forth, on gas! So, I did have to sell it. I only owned it for about a year. But that was one decision I definitely had second thoughts about.

Life changing decisions are much harder. Should I quit school? Should I go to college? Am I college material? Should I marry this guy or this gal? Should I walk away from this marriage? After 30 years of pressure and persecution, some people were having second thoughts about their decision to leave Judaism and become Christian. That is the issue that Paul is addressing in this letter to the Hebrews. He is reminding folks that Jesus is the best way, that Jesus is the only way. And he does this by going over the gospel story from the beginning; by pointing out all of the Old Testament prophesies that point to this Rabbi from Nazareth. Jesus is the one.

So, Hebrews is kind of like a review. It’s kind of like a CliffsNotes of the other books of the Bible. Remember CliffsNotes? When you didn’t want to read the book, you went and bought the CliffsNotes instead. Well, when I went off to Seminary, a good friend of mine bought me the CliffsNotes of the New Testament and the Old Testament. Just in case I didn’t want to read the Book, I could read the CliffsNotes! Didn’t work in Seminary all that well; but it did make a couple of my professors chuckle. Anyway, Hebrews is kind of like the CliffsNotes of all the other books in the Bible. Paul concludes in chapter 13 with the old versus new systems of sacrifices, and that’s what we’re going to be talking about today. So, please join me in the unison prayer as we…

Oh! Before we pray, I forgot one thing. Last week was the first toilet bowl. My New York Jets who only had one win went up against the Miami Dolphins, who had no wins, which is Kyle’s favorite team. And I must say, Kyle won the Toilet Bowl. So, come get your trophy, Kyle! Display it proudly. This afternoon the Jets play the Giants. I’m told this is Toilet Bowl 2!

Let’s pray our unison prayer as we prepare to study the Word of God.

Lord, upon the pages of this book is Your story. It is also our story. Open our eyes that we may see, our ears that we may hear, our minds that we may understand, and our hearts that they may be transformed. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Hebrews 13 beginning in the 11th verse, we read:

Under the old system, the high priest brought the blood of animals in the Holy Place as a sacrifice for sin, and the bodies of the animals were burned outside the camp. So also Jesus suffered and died outside the city gates to make his people holy by means of his own blood. So let us go out to him, outside the camp, and bear the disgrace he bore. For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.

Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.
(Hebrews 13:11-16)

Now, ever since the beginning, blood sacrifice was required to cover sin. Remember the story of Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve eat from the tree; they disobey God – they were told not to, and they do. All of a sudden, they’ve been naked up to this point, but nobody cared. Now they think it’s shameful. Sin has entered the world. So, in an attempt to cover up their nakedness, to cover up their sin, they sew together fig leaves. Have you ever pulled a leaf off a tree and tried to sew it with a needle and thread to another leaf? It doesn’t work very well. Leaves are very fragile. So, their attempt to cover their sin didn’t meet the standard, didn’t work very well. God realizes this, and God covers their nakedness – covers their sin – with animal skins. The thing about an animal skin is an animal cannot live without its skin. So, in order to give this skin to Adam and Eve to wear, an animal had to die. Blood had to be spilt to cover their sin.

That leads to a system of Temple sacrifice that continued for the next 6000 plus years – until Jesus. There were five main types of sacrifices or offerings. They are spelled out in the Old Testament, mainly in the book of Leviticus. Two of them were mandatory – the sin offering and the trespass offering. Both of them required blood sacrifice. You brought an animal to the Temple, you gave it to the priests, and the priests sacrificed the animal. Its blood covered your sin.

Well, just like everyone cannot afford to put the same amount in our offering plates, not everyone could afford a bull, a sheep, a lamb, or even a goat. They were poor. So, what do you do? The sacrifice is required; it requires blood. If you aren’t wealthy enough to own an animal, are you out of luck? No. God made provision. In Leviticus 5, He says:

“When you become aware of your guilt in any of these ways, you must confess your sin. Then you must bring to the Lord as the penalty for your sin a female from the flock, either a sheep or a goat. This is a sin offering with which the priest will purify you from your sin, making you right with the Lord.

“But if you cannot afford to bring a sheep, you may bring to the Lord two turtledoves or two young pigeons as the penalty for your sin.”
(Leviticus 5:1-7)

You see, it wasn’t about the worth of the offering. It’s not about money. It’s not a money thing. It’s a heart thing. I mean, do you think that God is impressed by money? I mean, the God of all creation, the God who if He wants anything, He has but to speak and it becomes. Money has no use. He has no use for money. Offerings weren’t about money. This offering isn’t about money. Does God give more of His attention to people who put more money in the plate? He does not. Whether you put in $500 a week or $10 a week, the amount doesn’t matter. What matters is your heart. The same would go for putting absolutely nothing in the plate.

I mean, look, I can pick up cans on the side of the road and go get nickels for them to be able to put something in the plate. If I pass it by, that’s a decision. That’s a conscious choice that I make. If you couldn’t afford a bull, or a sheep, or a goat, or two turtledoves, or a partridge in a pear tree, or two pigeons? Come on. Everyone can afford two pigeons. If I do not even do that, if I do not even put in two pigeons, if I refuse to give up any of my Dunkin Donuts budget, or my McDonalds budget and put nothing in the plate on Sunday morning, what I am saying to the Lord is my Caramel Macchiato or my Quarter Pounder with Cheese is more important to me. If I can find money for pot or beer (I don’t spend money on pot, just seeing if anybody was awake – but I know some people who do!) If I can find money for pot, or beer, or video games, or Redbox DVDs or cigarettes, but have nothing for God, that’s not a money issue. That’s a heart issue.

Because the truth is, we sacrifice all the time for things that matter to us. Everyone who’s ever had children knows what I’m saying. If you’ve had children (or grandchildren), I know there have been times that you have gone without so that your children could go with. That’s what you do as a parent, and you do it again and again without even thinking about it. That’s why Veteran’s Day is so important to me – because there are some people among us who were willing to possibly make the ultimate sacrifice for something that mattered to them – freedom. And not just theirs, ours. I mean, I know there are some vets who kind of poo-poo their service because they didn’t see action; they weren’t in a theater of war. I disagree. Perhaps you didn’t fire at the enemy, but I’m telling you right now, if we got attacked, you would have been on the front lines a heck of a lot faster than I would have. You were willing to do so when you signed on the dotted line to serve this country. You were there to defend freedom, not just your own, but ours. There have been men and women since the Revolutionary War who were willing to answer the call to defend America against those who seek to destroy it.

Just recently in the news we learned of the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – Caliph, or king, or leader of Islamic State, ISIS. Al-Baghdadi was not just your run-of-the-mill Islamic terrorist; he was described by many as one of the most evil men in all of human history. Please know, under his leadership, ISIS killed thousands of people in acts of horrific brutality. He put people in cages and lowered them in water to drown. He put people in those same cages and set them on fire so they could not escape. He took homosexuals to the highest building in town and threw them off to their deaths. He cut off the heads of infidels – sometimes even American journalists. Do you remember two, three years ago? It was almost a weekly video of somebody kneeling in an orange jumpsuit before somebody in ISIS and having their throat slit. Baghdadi perpetrated genocide against the Yazidis, inherits to one of the middle east’s most ancient religions. Thousands of men were slaughtered, not just killed by slaughtered – specifically on their ancestral Sinjar mountain in northwest Iraq. Women Yazidis were raped and murdered or taken as sexual slaves. This is a bad man, and I promise you, given the opportunity, he would have done the exact same things to Americans in America if he had the chance.

So, who stops people like this? The same people who stopped Adolph Hitler, Imperial Japan, Sadam Hussein, Osama bin Laden – soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines – every one of which was willing to sacrifice their lives if necessary, so that you and I remained safe and free. That’s awesome. They didn’t know our names. We don’t know most of theirs. We have a small list here we read. But, because of them, we do not live in fear. We can worship as our conscience dictates. I mentioned last week, that is not the case in a lot of the world. These magazines are free, they’re out in Robinson Lobby on the tables. Please help yourself. It talks about the persecuted church. They don’t have soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines coming to their defense. We do. We have. We owe a great debt of gratitude to our veterans – and their families, who didn’t know if mom, or dad, or brother, or sister would come home. And they waited faithfully.

Well, we owe an even greater debt, wouldn’t you say, to Jesus? Who was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, to be the ultimate sacrifice – the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world? He did it for something that mattered to him – our eternity. He wanted us to be able to spend eternity with Him, not separated from Him. And after the Last Supper, on the way to the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus told His disciples there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. That’s how much He loved us. He laid down His life. He, as verse 12 said, suffered and died outside the city gates to make his people holy by means of his own blood.

Paul says it this way back in chapter 10:

Our High Priest (Jesus) offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time.

As we honor our vets, so too should we honor our Lord. How do we do that?

Well, in verses 15 and 16 it said:

Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need.

Paul spells that out in one of my favorite verses in all of Scripture, back in Romans 12. How do we live out a continual sacrifice? Paul says:

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behaviors and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.
(Romans 12:1-2)

Take my word for it, please – if the world is telling you something is right, is telling you something is moral, most likely, the exact opposite is true. The world once thought it was okay to own human beings, to buy and sell people. And nearly every country and every nation in the world, at one point in their history, they had slavery. The world, in many places, still believes it’s okay to murder children inside their mother’s womb. So, what does the world know? The world is a place full of fallen people. You don’t believe me? Turn on the television. Watch the news. Read a newspaper. This is a fallen world, full of fallen people. We don’t even have to look that far. Let’s be honest. You want to check that theory out? Look at your significant other! Tell me there’s not fallen people in the world! Look in a mirror and tell me there’s not fallen people in the world. And we’re going to listen to the world?

No. The Bible says, DON’T copy the behaviors and customs of this world. The Bible says, offer a continual sacrifice of praise to God. How do we do that? By living our lives in a way that honors and glorifies God. How do we do that?

Well, I don’t have time to tell you all the ways to do that, but one jumped to my mind. One way that we can live lives that honor and glorify God is to fight back against the evil one’s attack on the family. Satan knows that the family is the foundation of human civilization. How do I know that? He attacked the very first one. Adam and Eve had two children, right? Cain and Abel. What happened? Cain let the devil influence him, and he murdered his brother, Abel. The very first family was under attack by the evil one. He’s been doing it ever since, and he’s trying to tear down families today. So, fight back! That means husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church, and provide for your families. That’s what men do; boys do not. It’s so funny sometimes to see guys strutting around thinking like they can really do better. Wives, respect your husbands. Encourage him to be his best. Don’t nag and belittle him right out the front door. I mean, think about it. You can tell all of your friends what a dipstick your husband is, but you were the one that said, “Hey, Jughead! Let’s make a baby together!”

Work at your marriage. The world says walk away. Satan says, “Abandon your family. Just start over with someone new.” What does the world know? Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world. Don’t give up at the first sign of trouble. Keep the vows you made on your wedding day. And if you have not yet asked her to marry you, what are you waiting for? Jennifer is not leaving A-Rod any time soon! And seriously, you never had a shot anyway! Ask her if you love her! Please don’t let cost get in the way. I’ll marry you for free. I will!

Look, we work on our vehicles, right? We change the oil, we check the tires, and if we need new tires, we buy new tires from Frank. We get a tune-up. We do all that because you want your car to last. Work on your marriage for the same reason. You want it to last. And when you do mess up – and you will, you both will – don’t lie. Don’t try to cover it up, weasel your way out of it, blame someone or something else. Man up! Or woman up (I don’t know if that’s a thing, but I’m inventing it). Confess your sin and repent. Seek forgiveness and reconciliation with your partner and offer it when it is asked of you. This is one way we can honor and glorify God. One way how our lives can be a continual sacrifice of praise to Him. Just one.

There’s anther way. In verse 16, don’t forget to do good and share with those in need. Part of living a life that honors and glorifies God is service. Jesus said He came to serve, not to be served, and those who follow Jesus are supposed to do the same. I’m going to use, at my peril, because I am a Jets fan, a football analogy. The starting quarterback knows how to drive the team down the field, but if the starting quarterback is injured and removed from the game (Jesus was crucified and ascended to heaven, He’s removed from this game of life), the backup quarterback goes in. That’s us! We’re little backup Jesus’! Now, I know we’re going to throw interceptions, we’re going to fumble the ball, we’re going to take sacks, we’re going to mess up; but we should do everything we can to move the ball down the field and try to score. That’s our job. We are supposed to reach out and help those in need, because that’s what Jesus would do – and did when He was here.

That’s one way of laying down our lives for one’s friends – by putting other’s needs before my wants. I wanted to sell all this stuff at my next tag sale, but I heard the pastor talk about someone who needed this stuff to set up their apartment, so I’m going to give it to him instead. Putting our wants behind someone else’s needs, that’s one way to live a life that honors and glorifies God. And let me tell you, it’s not easy to live a life that honors and glorifies God, to help those in need – it’s not always going to be the easiest path, because a lot of your friends, and even family, are following the way of the world. So, it’s not easy to swim against the current, to swim upstream. Sometimes living the life of a Christian, I mentioned in Bible study the other night, is like walking down an up escalator. Everyone else on the escalator is very irritated by you as you try to worm your way up. But if we’re not following the behaviors and customs of this world, that’s what we’re doing – we’re going up the down escalator. You’re not going to be popular. You’re not going to be celebrated. And sometimes these are the sacrifices that please God.

Our vets sacrificed so we could be free. We honor them by treasuring our freedom, not handing it over to others (like our government) so easily! They put on the uniform so that you could make decision for yourself, not so that others could make them for you. Jesus, the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world was the blood sacrifice for our sin, good for all time, so that we could be free as well – free from the consequences of our sins. Jesus suffered and died so that we could look forward to a home yet to come – a home with Him, eternal in the heavens. We honor Him, not by bringing a bull or a sheep or a goat or a lamb, or even two turtledoves, but by offering a continual sacrifice of praise to God, by not copying the behavior and customs of this world, but by living lives that honor and glorify Him.

Would you stand and pray with me?