Leader Guide Sunday, October 7, 2018
Psalm 23 Sermon Text: Psalm 23 Study Texts: Hebrews 4:14-16 Sermon Recap: Psalm 23 is one of the most well-known and beloved of all the Psalms. In fact, it probably ranks among the most well-known portions of the entire Bible itself. This is a Psalm about trust and confidence but not just any trust and confidence. This Psalm is concerned with trust and confidence in God alone. This Psalm expresses confidence in God’s goodness, both in the here and now, but also confidence in God’s goodness in the life to come. The Psalm presents God’s goodness using two different images. The first is God as a good Shepherd (Jesus Himself calls Himself the good Shepherd in Jn. 10:11). The second image is God as a generous host Who lavishes His guests with many riches. The people of God come away from Psalm 23 with this confidence: Because the LORD is my Shepherd, I have all I need both now and forever. Sermon Connection: Psalm 23 is a Psalm of comfort and confidence in God. We come away from it knowing that God walks with us, cares for us, and is leading us into all righteousness. Hebrews 4 is much the same. In Hebrews 4, the writer is continuing to develop a theme of Jesus, the Christ, as the High Priest of God’s people. We are told, in clear and unambiguous language, that Jesus not only truly understands the hurt and temptations we face, but having entered into such hurt and temptations Himself, conquering them on the cross, He invites us to come before the merciful and grace-filled throne of God. Just as the Good Shepherd of Psalm 23 leads us in the paths of restorative righteousness, so the great High Priest of Hebrews 4 leads us to the eternal throne of God where we find all the help and mercy we need.
Lesson Plan Lesson Goal: To see our great hope in King Jesus because He was tempted in every way that we are, yet remained sinless for us. Lesson Points: Point 1: Holding Fast to Our Confession (v. 14) Point 2: Remembering Our Sinless High Priest (v. 15) 1
Point 3: Boldly Approaching God’s Throne of Grace (v. 16) The Context: Hebrews is a letter that shows how the Old Testament and the old sacrificial system were all forerunners to Jesus Christ. The Old Testament is all preparation for God’s decisive act of salvation which was accomplished in Jesus’ sacrificial death, burial and resurrection. In Hebrews 4, the writer is showing how Jesus is our great High Priest, the One Who truly atones for our sins because He bore them in His Own body; He made our sins His Own in order to give us His righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21). Opening Question: Where do you search for comfort in hard times? Is it in certain persons, a group of friends, and activity, etc.? Transition Statement: Christian’s seek their help before the very throne of God in heaven, and the Bible promises the help we need in our moments of need... Point 1- Holding Fast to Our Confession (v. 14) What does the author want us to see about Jesus when he gives Him the title “great high priest”? What is the biblical significance?1 Throughout the Bible, specifically the Old Testament, the High Priest role shows up again and again. In the Old Testament, the Lord commands Moses to consecrate Aaron and his sons as priests over Israel (Lev. 9). The High Priest was to intercede for the people before God. In the Old Testament, under the old covenant, the High Priest would offer the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the people on “the Day of Atonement” (Yom Kippur in Hebrew). These sacrifices appease God’s wrath only for a time; these sacrifices did not atone in full. In calling Jesus our great High Priest, Hebrews is showing that Jesus offered the ultimate and full atonement for our sin. God’s anger was not put off until a later time; it was fully exhausted upon the crucified Jesus. How does the phrase “passed through the heavens” help us to understand the radical nature of Jesus’ priesthood? It is important to pay attention to such phrases as “passed through the heavens.” This is not just fanciful language the author uses. Rather, he is making an eternally important point. Under the old covenant, the High Priest went before the Lord in the earthly sanctuary of the Tabernacle and the Temple. When Jesus offered Himself on the cross, becoming our great High Priest, He went before the Lord, not in an earthly sanctuary, but in the heavenly sanctuary. By offering Himself, Jesus went into the very throne room of God on our behalf. His offering was made before the Lord God in God’s very Own dwelling. In doing so, Jesus set Himself apart as the One and truly great High Priest over the people of God.
“The High Priest’s Purpose,” Ligonier, https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/high-priests-purpose/
This is the first time in Hebrews the author mentions Jesus by name. He is referencing the historical Jesus, the real man Who walked the earth. Why is this important when considering Jesus as our High Priest? The point the writer emphasizes here is the historical reality of the man, Jesus of Nazareth. The God-man that walked the earth, died on a Roman cross, was buried in Joseph's tomb, and dined with His disciples after His resurrection—the historical reality of that man is the grounding for the Christian faith. Hebrews is reminding us of the incarnation of Jesus (Jn. 1), and that the incarnation took place in time, space, and history—it actually happened. The incarnation reminds us that Christ’s Own work and experience is not distant from our own experiences. But the writer also emphasizes Jesus’ deity with the biblical title, “Son of God,” showing why Jesus was able to be our great High Priest. What is the confession of the Christian Church, “Our Confession” ? See Heb. 2:10-14; see also Rm. 10:9-10. Simply stated, the confession of the Church is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The writer has spent these first four chapters developing this idea: That Jesus Christ, the historical God-man, is the great High Priest of the people of God. In Romans 10:9, Paul writes, “...because, if you confess with your mouth that ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. ” Al Mohler notes, “This is the message that makes up the heart of the Christian faith and is what Christians throughout the centuries have been claiming as their confession.”2 Christians believe and confess Jesus Christ as the resurrected Lord. Transition Statement: As we hold fast to our confession of Jesus Christ, we remember that He is our perfect and sinless High Priest... Point 2 - Remembering Our Sinless High Priest (v. 15) Why does the writer explicitly state that Jesus identifies with our weaknesses? This is a continuation of the idea that Jesus Himself was truly a man. He was not merely a man as He was fully God and fully man in one, but He was, no less, fully man. This idea of Jesus’ humanity is not meant to be some lofty theological idea. Rather, the writer is formulating a very real and tangible theology for the people of God, in which they can anchor their lives. It is a profound good that Jesus identifies with our weaknesses; it means that when we struggle, He understands. What a deeply comforting reality! Does this mean that He understands every single aspect of the sin we struggle with? Hebrews 4:15 answers the question of, “Why do we need a High Priest Who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses?” It shows us that Jesus could not have fully identified with
Al Mohler, Exalting Jesus in Hebrews, Christ-Centered Exposition ( Nashville: Holman, 2017), 65.
our humanity while also fulfilling His priestly ministry of propitiation3 had He not truly identified with (or actually experienced) our weaknesses and temptations. Is every temptation sin? How can we know? (See also Mt. 4.) We can often wonder whether or not temptation itself is sinful. “Is it wrong to be tempted with sin”? What we understand from this verse is that temptation itself is not sinful. Jesus was tempted in every respect, in every way that we are, yet He was tempted without sin. In Matthew 4, we see Satan tempting Jesus (even with something as small and as necessary as eating). The heart of Jesus’ response gives us insight into the reality of being tempted. It is not sinful to experience temptation. Rather, because we are sinful, our temptations often manifest into sin be it in our hearts, minds, or actions. What comfort does Jesus offer as/when we face temptation? What we do not want to take away from this is the thought, “If Jesus can resist temptation, so can I.” That is not the writer’s point in holding up Jesus. On the contrary, the writer holds up Jesus because we can never experience temptation without sin. Because sin lurks in our hearts, our temptations often turn into sin. But Jesus’ sinless perfection is our great hope and comfort! Jesus never let His temptation cross over into sin. He always resisted. And this is why Jesus is able to be our great High Priest for us! Point 3 - Boldly Approaching God’s Throne of Grace (v. 16) What does the writer mean in saying, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace...”? This is all based on what the writer has already said. Because Jesus is our great High Priest Who intercedes for us, because Jesus is our great High Priest Who understands and sympathizes with our weaknesses, and because Jesus is our great High Priest Who made final and enduring atonement for our sin in the very throne room of God, we are urged to come to God with great hope and comfort. For those who are in Christ, then, the throne of God is a place of comfort and grace where we are welcomed on Christ’s behalf. From where does this confidence come? The confidence comes from Jesus. This is not a boastful confidence, but a reverent confidence that comes through the humble receiving of the gospel. We look to Jesus because, through His sacrificial death, burial and resurrection, He went before God on our behalf and made atonement for us. We approach God confidently because of, in and through Jesus.
What comfort is this to the people of God? This is a deep and abiding comfort for the people of God. As we think of the comforts of Psalm 23—the paths of righteousness, the still, calming waters, the restoration of our souls—we think of Christ in Whom all these promises are fulfilled. And how is it that Christ does all these things? He does so by becoming our great High Priest, by offering Himself in the very throne room of God, having become identified with every weakness of humanity, resisting all temptations, and remaining perfect for our salvation. Our comfort lies in the fact that Jesus is our hope, and Jesus leads us to the throne of God’s grace. What promises lie within the gracious throne of God? One writer notes that if Christ were not our great High Priest, we could not stand before God. More than this, we would be cast from His presence for eternity. But the primary comfort from this is that no Christian lives under this threat! The great promise of the gospel is salvation through Jesus Christ! This means that in and through the gospel of Jesus Christ we are completely saved from sin and saved unto God. Furthermore, we note the writer states that at the throne of God, we may find grace and mercy, divine and gracious help for our many times of need. What a promise! What comfort! The Big Picture Comfort is a tremendous gift, and it is a natural part of the human experience. We all face difficult times when we need comfort and compassion; we need someone stronger than ourselves to walk beside us for a time. Psalm 23 reminds us that Jesus Christ, our good and faithful Shepherd, walks with us through all of life. He leads us along good paths and cares for us even when we face the threat of evil and the enemy. Hebrews 4 reminds us that we find true comfort in Jesus because He actually became like us, was tempted and tried in every way that we are, but conquered sin by remaining sinless. He went before God Himself in the heavenly throne room and made atonement for us. And He now invites us to come before God Himself through the gospel. What a promise! What a gift of comfort! Application Questions ● How am I trusting in the Lord for comfort and peace? ● How is the peace of God affecting how I deal with hardship? ● How is our growth group applying this comfort to one another as we deal with hardship? ● Do I know the members of my group well enough to know when they are hurting? ● How can we (growth group) know each other better so as to better apply the comfort of the gospel?