OUTSIDE THE CAMP

When I read the Book of Hebrews, I picture a group of Christians who are deeply discouraged and who feel forsaken by God.  They started their life for the Lord with high hopes and big dreams, but that was before persecution started against them.  Now some have lost their belongings to the persecutions and feel threatened for their very lives.  When they started it seemed that God was with them every moment and that Christ was powerfully on their side.  But now it seems that God is silent.  They have been praying sincerely and often for His help.  But it just doesn’t seem their prayers are going anywhere.  Why doesn’t God step in and stop the Roman authorities that are tormenting them for their faith?  We don’t know for sure who wrote the Book of Hebrews.   But his message is clear.  When you are down and out, don’t despair.  Christ is the better way.  His salvation is better, his priesthood is better, his covenant is better and his kingdom is better.

Even when it seems that God is silent we must remember that God has always spoken to his people.  In times past he spoke to the fathers by the prophets in many different ways and many different times.  Sometimes he gave them dreams, visions, signs, symbols, punishment and rewards to demonstrate he was with them all the time.  But, no matter what God did the people turned from him and went in their own way.  Today God isn’t speaking to us by the prophets any longer.

Today he speaks to us through his son, whom he appointed heir of all things.  He is the Son of God and as the firstborn child of God he is there to inherit whatever God passes down.  Instead of God speaking through dreams and visions of all kinds today he speaks to us through his one and only son.  He is so far superior to the angels through which God delivered the Old Testament law.  By inheritance he has earned a better name than they have.

The Old Covenant was divine and was delivered by the hands of angels.  But the great salvation we now have was first spoken by the Son and was confirmed to us by those who heard him, God also bearing them witness with signs and miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit according to his own will.  If the Old Covenant had been without fault it would have remained as law until now.  But finding fault with it God promised through Jeremiah the prophet that God would give us a new covenant, unlike the one given to our fathers by a mediator.  Through the Eternal Spirit he has delivered the New Covenant that is far, far superior to the old.

After the writer of Hebrews goes through the different ways that the cause of Christ is far superior even to the Old Covenant he noted that we are receiving a kingdom that can’t be shaken.  It is pure like him and we can serve God acceptably through him in the kingdom.  In the thirteenth and last chapter of the book he tells of Jesus who suffered outside the gate of Jerusalem, not as a insider but as one who was outside all they thought he should be.  In that kingdom we can serve God acceptably with reverence and awe.  He then pleads with us to go to Jesus outside the camp and be the servants He calls us to be.  Jesus suffered outside the gates of Jerusalem.  He was an outsider as the teacher and as their savior.

When Jesus willingly gave up the rewards and privileges of deity to become a man a long journey was started.  It was arguably the case  he was jumping from the frying pan into the fire, heading to a fall from the Lord.  He emptied himself, took the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of man.  I don’t know if he knew from the very beginning that he was heading toward a hard road of suffering for the cause of sin.

Just as Jesus suffered outside the gates of Jerusalem, we know that it was a signal to us that we must follow his way and go forth unto him bearing his reproach.  His suffering was in order to satisfy the justice of God and save the people through his own blood.  “Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.  For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.  Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.  Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. (Hebrews 13:13=16)

These Jewish Christians by devoting their future to serving the Lord must have had some serious recommendations for Christ and the salvation He offers.  But they likely thought when they came to God they could serve the Lord faithfully as part of the Jewish camp they had grown up in.  But the divide between Christianity and Judaism had grown wider and wider.  Now the writer of Hebrews tells them it is time for them to come out to Christ, outside the old camp of Judaism and just devote themselves fully to Jesus.  Old friendship and family ties would have to be broken to stay with Christ.  Many old friends would leave you on their own as soon as they saw you are devoted to Him.

What does all this mean to us today?  You can’t follow the Lord inside the different camps available for us.  Often serving him will mean that family ties will have to be broken.  Some times in order to serve him I must give up the job I now have without knowing where the next cheek will come to serves.  There are even some churches that one must get away from to follow Christ completely.  Jesus said if one would follow him that had to hate father and mother, husband or wife, brother or sister.  He wasn’t saying we must despise others but saying that our love for him was to so far outweigh our love for these that by comparison they seem as hate.

We live in a time when Christianity is under attack from all corners.  The politically correct crowd have nothing good to say about following Christ.  Islam is praised by many as a religion of peace, while Christianity is pictured as backward, radical and intolerant.  The call of Christ is, no matter what the insiders may say or think, come to Christ outside the camp bearing his reproach.  Instead of an animal sacrifice, offer the sacrifice of praise, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to God.

It has never done the cause of Christ good to become the accepted faith or become the inside religion.  When it has happened faith came cheap, and grace without demands.  The way of Christ is always to be “narrow and difficult.” (Matthew 7:13-14)  His way always involves a cross.  Instead of finding self and feeling good about self his challenge is to deny ourselves and take up the cross and follow him.  Certainly there is a reproach in being part of the outside crowd who follows Jesus, but it is a reproach worth having.

Will you follow God’s call to be an outsider?

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About leoninlittlerock

Preaching minister for Central church of Christ in Little Rock. Author of over 20 books including: When a Loved one Dies, Spiritual Development, Skid Marks on the Family Drive, Challenges in the church, To Know Christ and A Drink of Living Water.
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