W. J. Burrows, New Zealand
It would appear that the great underlying purpose of the Holy Spirit in the Epistle to the Hebrews is that of stirring the believer to spiritual progress. The Christians to whom the Epistle was written had known, in unregeneratc days, a very limited revelation of God largely communicated to them in the language of ritual.
A new day has now dawned for them and for us. God has graciously and fully revealed Himself in the Person of His Son. He is the brightness of God's glory, 1. 3, and in the blaze of such a wonderful outshining all shadows must flee away. Yet adherence to ritualism dies very hard, and there is a tendency towards "ritualism", a condition of stagnation quite opposite to what God intends for His people.
Beset by such a danger the exhortation of chapter 6. 1 is seasonable and stirring:
Let us go on. Those to whom the Epistle was written had experienced the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. His gracious ministry had revealed to them the love of God and the work of Christ, with the happy result that they knew the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
Yet there was a regrettable tendency to halt, and even to return to the old order of things. They could only be saved from going back by going forward. Spiritual life does not admit a vacuum. "Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord", Hos. 6. 3, is a principle of progress in divine things. "Not as though I had already attained", was the language of the apostle as he sought to "press towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus".
In ancient days the coinage of Spain was inscribed with the motto "Neplus ultra" which means "nothing beyond". It was imagined that no more territory remained to be explored. But with the discovery of America a new coinage was minted and the motto changed to "plus ultra" - "more beyond". In Christian experience there is always a "plus ultra".
Yet it is true that all spiritual progress is the result of exercise before God, and we are thereby reminded of the exhortation in Hebrews 10. 22:
Let us draw near. Do we appreciate the blessedness of communion with God? What an inestimable privilege it is to have access to God in prayer. How wondrous the work of the cross that has given us a standing before the throne. The work of redemption, perfectly completed by a perfect Saviour, gives to every believer a place of unassailable security and perfect acceptance before God.
In the language of the Song of Songs 2. 14 it is true of us that we are "in the clefts of the rock" telling us of security; but we are also "in the secret places of the stairs" in order that we mount up in the exercise of prayerful communion with our God.
Surely we all feel the need for this. No amount of activity can take its place. The book of Nehemiah is full of the record of sanctified activity as the people set about the work of repairing the wall and the gates of Jerusalem, yet read the book carefully and note the many references to prayer.
It is recorded of Absalom that he "saw not the king's face", 2 Sam. 14. 24. A king's son with right of entrance to the king's presence, but living in the place of a stranger! In contrast to such an unhappy experience may we know more of nearness to God and the privilege of prayer.
The final exhortation to which we would refer is found in Hebrews 13. 13:
Let us go forth therefore unto Him. He is seen to be outside the camp and going forth to Him will involve "bearing his reproach". Our God would have us clean and clear cut from everything that dishonours His Name. There should be a true and positive allegiance of heart unto our worthy Lord Jesus. Joy and usefulness will be ours in the measure in which we give our Lord Jesus His right place in our life and testimony. Moses, the man of God, made a great choice when he renounced a place in the court of Egypt, "choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God", but he esteemed "the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt", ii. 25-26. When Moses stood with the Lord Jesus on the mount of transfiguration he would have no regrets concerning the renunciation that he made. So may the general tenor of our lives be "unto him" who is supremely worthy of the affection and devotion of His blood-redeemed people. In this, the day of His rejection, may we have grace to serve Him acceptably with reverence and godly fear, while giving heed to the exhortations we have traced together.