There’s an odd moment in Hebrews 13. The writer is just wrapping up and then adds a number of concluding remarks (as if he’s saying “By the way…”) & he says this: “It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so.We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat.”
I love the idea of being “strengthened by grace” but was a little puzzled by the comparison with eating food. If you don’t eat food to strengthen your heart, how do you eat grace?
I guess if you’ve woken up this morning feeling a little guilty or depressed and defeated about something you did or said yesterday then you need to hear God saying “Get your heart strengthened by grace. On a morning like this, eat grace for breakfast.”
How?The writer says, “We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat.” He’s referring to the priests in Jerusalem who have rejected Jesus as their Messiah, but who go on “serving the tabernacle” which was meant to point to Jesus as the final sacrifice and the cross of Jesus as the final altar of sacrifice (Hebrews 9:26; 10:12).
So the altar he has in mind is the cross where our final sacrifice was offered once for all for our sins. There is where our food is found. There is the table where grace was prepared.
If you want to know where your breakfast of grace was prepared, the answer is : We have an altar – the breakfast of grace was prepared on the altar of the cross where Jesus died for our sins.
If you want to be strong in your heart, when your heart is groaning with a sense of sin and failure, before you go to the kitchen to eat food, go to the altar to eat the blood-bought grace of forgiveness and hope.
Anne Lamott said that the essentials of prayer could be boiled down to three words: Help, Thanks, and Wow! I think that the breakfast of grace is a cross-centred combination of all three together, don’t you?
(Notes from a John Piper sermon mixed in here and there 🙂