This morning I was in Exodus 29 – God specifying how his priests were to be consecrated/set apart/purified. It’s amazing the theme of blood cleansing from sin – to see that throughout the Old and New Testaments – but that’s not really what jumped out.
God specifies that sin offerings are to be made outside the camp – Ex. 29:14
…you shall burn with fire outside the camp; it is a sin offering.
(Exodus 29:14 ESV)
Fast forward to Jesus. Where is he crucified? Outside the city. Hebrews 13 gives us this description:
For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.
(Hebrews 13:11-12 ESV)
The continual Old Testament animal sacrifices were a foreshadowing of the one-time perfect divine sacrifice of Jesus for our sins – he bore all of the sin and shame outside the camp.
So what does this mean for us? Again, Hebrews helps:
Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.
(Hebrews 13:13 ESV)
We are called to be like Jesus, not as a sacrifice for sin, for there can only be one of those – but to leave the comfort and security of “the city” and bring him glory – to be radically committed to Jesus and his Kingdom – which is much different than our man-made kingdoms. We get so trapped in our Americanized Christianity and the comforts of this world – yet, is that what we are really called to do? Do we (I) turn this scripture around and make it more “Stay here where it’s comfortable and warm, let others go outside the camp where it’s cold uncertain and dangerous, they are the ones ‘called’ by God to do great things, I’m just a regular dude with a job, house, mortgage and trying to be cozy.” Ouch. This passage always hurts, and I think that’s the point. But don’t let it just hurt – do something. Go. Outside.
I always think of a John Piper sermon I heard years ago when I read these passages, it was very impactful and I recommend it. You can read it or listen here.
Here is a snippet that will whet your whistle:
So the point of Hebrews 13:14 is confirmed again and again: Christ did not die to make the cities of this age – or the suburbs – a paradise. He died so that we would be willing to stop trying to make our lives paradise on earth – both in the city and in the suburbs, and instead go with Jesus outside the camp of comfort and familiarity and security to where the needs are…