I cannot come,
I cannot come to the banquet,
Don’t trouble me now,
I have married a wife,
I have bought me a cow,
I have fields and commitments that cost a pretty sum,
Pray, hold me excused,
I cannot come!
This is the chorus of one of my favorite children’s Bible songs we used to sing around the campfire in the summer. It is based on Jesus’ parable of the Man who held a Great Feast in Luke 14:16-24. It came to mind as I was thinking about the words of Hebrews 10:22-25. It carries some of the profound messages of this passage boiled down to simple truths sung by children. Music is good that way. So today, let’s explore these verses a little further, shall we?
I absolutely love the fact that God teaches us in brilliant ways that only His mind could develop. His word can be probing the very depths of life-or-death concepts, and then bring a simple statement that knocks-your-socks-off with its easily accessible application. That is what I see in these verses in Hebrews 10 today.
Hebrews is a book that takes the lessons of the Law of Moses and brings them into focus by demonstrating how they were fulfilled through the Lord Jesus and his sacrifice. The Law was merely “a shadow of the good things to come”. Jesus, on the other hand, was the very “form” of those good things. v. 1
And so this chapter takes us through a discussion of the intensely personal concept that a lifelong pursuit of offering sacrifices under the Law would never have permanently removed sin. Only through Jesus’ blood, “once for all”, can sanctification be achieved. v.10
For by one offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. v. 14
So, we are told we have this real “forgiveness”, this “confidence to enter the holy place”, this “new and living way” through the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus – the “great priest over the house of God.” vv.18-21 It is lofty, amazing, overwhelming, really.
And what are we directed to do with this super-abundance of spiritual provision? Practical things. That’s what I love about God’s inspired word. We are given practical application as to how to show our thankfulness for His unique and profound gift in saving us. Here are the directives in a nutshell:
- Draw near in sincerity and faith
- Be free of guilt and be baptized
- Hold on to hope without wavering
- Stimulate others to love and good works
- Don’t fail to assemble in community
- Encourage each other
This should be our lifelong response to the good news of salvation. It doesn’t seem so complex as some might make it when we just meditate on these verses, does it? Let’s consider a few aspects of these simple directives.
Drawing near implies that we have to work to move toward God – to be seekers. Faith does not come by osmosis. And when we draw near, we are told to have sincere (or true) hearts – implying our love, emotions and deepest selves are engaged. We must come to God with concerted, sincere, persevering effort BECAUSE of faith in Him. Hebrews calls it the “full assurance of faith.” We have to believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Hebrews 11:6
Even baby steps of true-hearted, fully assured faith are rewarded.
We must also have “hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience”. v.22 I see this as another way of saying we must have a deep-seated peace in God’s forgiveness. The Bible calls it the peace “which surpasses all comprehension.” Philippians 4:7 We must believe our past sins are past. Paul calls it “forgetting what lies behind” us.We must do this so that all of our energies can be directed to pressing on toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14
“Bodies washed with pure water” can only signify baptism when we consider Bible language. v.22 Baptism is essential in the process outlined in a scriptural response to God’s calling. It washes away our sins and gives us that clean conscience being outlined here. (cp. 1 Peter 3:21) Baptism is only a beginning of this new life commitment, however.
We must “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering.” v.23 This includes our baptismal words of commitment but also moves beyond. It is our daily readiness to confess our belief in God through words and actions. It is our longsuffering through trials because we will never give up on the reality that something much greater awaits us. (cp. 1 Timothy 6:12) And we must do it without wavering. This is the only place this particular phrase occurs in the Bible. It means: not inclining, firm, unmoved. I picture it as a mighty tree that no winds or storms will uproot, because its roots grow deeper in the soil of hope every single day.
Now this next phrase always strikes me. We are to “consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.” v.24 This is very specific. We are to consider – hmmmm, that means sit down and think it through, carefully, in a planning-ahead type of way. How many of us really do this when it comes to examining our interactions with others? Perhaps it’s time to start. And we are to stimulate one another. This is where is gets tricky because this word means; “provoke, incite, irritate” in Greek. Most of us do not like irritation. Most of us don’t like people who are irritating. Sadly, sometimes, we especially don’t like it when they are irritating us about doing more good in life. (think: Pharisees and Jesus) And then again, we equally dislike having to BE the person that is trying to incite others to love and good works. So we don’t like to be stimulated and we don’t like to have the job of stimulating others. This is sort of a dilemma of the Christian walk. And just how do we incite people to love, exactly? Worth asking yourself, isn’t it? This verse calls for a great deal of meditation. It is an exciting, irritating, out-of-our-comfort-zones, phrase that will propel us to growth – but only if we let it 😊!
The next phrase is also annoying to the mind of the flesh. We are not to forsake assembling together. In Greek it literally means the “religious assembly of Christians.” In fact, we are told to do it even more frequently as we see Jesus’ Coming drawing closer. This is where the “I Cannot Come Mentality” comes into play. As I see it, we are being warned of our human tendency to draw away from God and from the people of God. This is a slow drift process that begins with one thought. “I don’t get anything out of going to church, or Bible class etc.” which leads to “I don’t go now and then,” which leads to “I forsake (GK. – totally abandon) assembling.” Note: “I” is the operative word here! I am to go to serve, not to be served. I am to go to worship God, not to be worshipped. I am commanded to go to encourage others, not to be encouraged. (The great paradox is that in learning to obey the command is exactly where our own encouragement will come!) Usually it is all about our mindset about going as to whether or not we become “I Cannot Come People” or “Count Me In! People.” We must go with a spirit of obedience and humbly asking God to give us right feelings about it, if we do not have a positive outlook about our community worship times. (If you are irritated by this paragraph go back and read the prior one. 😊)
And the final admonition is that we are to encourage each other. How do we encourage people? Bible answers would be through: wholesome words, right teaching, hospitality, helping, relationship building, friendship, kind actions, serving, fellowship, giving, generosity etc. etc. Sometimes we feel encouraged just because someone else shows up. Do you have people in your life that you know, deep down, that you are their special encourager? If not, look for some. There are plenty of people around us every single day that could use encouragement. And in the context of Hebrews, we are especially to look for them in our “assemblies” i.e. church/meeting communities. Pick a person and decide to be their special encourager. Your skills are guaranteed to blossom if you expand your encouragement horizons.
So I will close with the encouragement to you to be a Count Me In! Person. We want to be welcomed by the Lord Jesus to come to his great banquet feast when he returns – soon! Never let anything – wives, cows, lands, commitments – ANYTHING come in the way of that! Here’s how that children’s song I spoke about earlier concludes:
Now God has written a lesson for the rest of mankind,
If we’re slow in responding He may leave us behind,
He’s preparing a banquet for that great and glorious day,
When the Lord and Master calls us,
Be certain not to say,
“I Cannot Come…”