The writer to the Hebrews is consistent to the end. In his plea to Jewish believers to not drift away, he has repeatedly contrasted the old to the new, demonstrating the superiority of who Christ is and what Christ has done. Again and again, he has pointed out how the Levitical priesthood and it’s sacrifices were but foreshadows of the great High Priest and His once for all sacrifice of sin. And so, as he concludes his letter with a number of practical exhortations, he again brings them back to the old in order to encourage them in the new . . . inviting them come to the better altar.
We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. . . . Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name.
(Hebrews 13:10, 15 ESV)
There was an altar “in the tent” . . . a reference to the tabernacle of old . . . a reminder of the temple at Jerusalem. To that altar, worshipers were to bring their animal sacrifices. The best of the flock brought as an offering for sin. These offerings were taken by the priests . . . sliced and diced . . . placed on the fire . . . consumed by the flames . . . their aroma ascending upward . . . trusting that it would be a sweet smelling aroma in heavenly realms . . . that it would be sufficient atonement until the next time atonement was required.
But, says the Hebrews writer, we have a different altar. An altar “outside the camp” where Jesus suffered “in order to sanctify the people through His own blood” (13:12). And it is to this altar we are invited to come and continue to offer our sacrifices. Not animal sacrifices . . . His blood having completely fulfilled atonement’s requirements. Not sacrifices of our righteousness . . . or of our best efforts. But sacrifices of praise . . . “through Him.”
Jesus is the better voice of God . . . He is the better builder of the house . . . He is the better promise . . . He is the better High Priest . . . He is the better sacrifice . . . and, He is the better altar . . . worthy of better sacrifices.
Some have seen, in this new altar, the Lord’s table . . . others identify the altar as the cross. But I’m thinking it is simply Christ Himself . . . as it is “through Him” that we are encouraged to “continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God.”
As we sit at His feet . . . as we know the intimate communion He promises to those who will open the doors of the heart to His knock . . . as we recline, as it were, at the table with Him . . . it is there where we have our altar. Like the woman of Luke 14, we break open our alabaster flask of precious perfume and pour it upon the head of Him who poured out His blood for us . . . we anoint the feet which bear the nail prints of love . . . we fill the room with an aroma of worship that transcends the place of offering but ascends into heaven itself. It’s the sacrifice of praise . . . offered at the altar which is Christ Himself.
And our offering . . . our alabaster box of perfume . . . is the fruit of lips that confess His name . . . remembering His humanity . . . declaring His majesty . . . ascribing to Him all authority.
Thanks be to God for the better altar . . .
(Have a few more minutes? Check out Alabaster by Rend Collective Experiment by clicking here. )