We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat. Hebrews 13:10
An altar is a place of slaughter. The lamb or bull that was brought in as a sacrifice for sin would be slain on the altar and the blood was spread around in various places as the priests were directed in the Law of Moses. The remainder of the blood was poured out at the base of the altar. Certain parts of the animal were designated as food for the priests, the rest was taken out and burned outside the camp. Only the priests were allowed to handle this activity.
Throughout this book, the writer of Hebrews has been comparing the work of the priests with that of Jesus, and showing how they are no longer necessary because of all that has been fulfilled in Christ coming, dying and rising again. He is the final High Priest. He is the reason for all this blood. His blood saves us all. Finally, and for all time.
So we have an altar that even the priests can’t access. They can’t access it because they do not recognize Jesus as their Messiah. So our altar is the cross (“place of slaughter”) and where is it? Outside the camp. That’s the whole point. Our High Priest is outside the camp. Our holy of holies is outside the camp, where the unwashed and unclean gather, because we are all dirty and we know it. We have come to get clean on a moment-by-moment basis. Like Marti likes to say, we sin/confess/get forgiven, sin/confess/get forgiven, sin/confess/get forgiven, sin/confess/get forgiven … and that takes about as much time to experience as it took to say it.
Jesus had to go outside the camp to die. We go out there to live, and to bring the gospel of welcome to those don’t know that God isn’t mad anymore. We really will be more comfortable out there with sinners than inside with saints. Whatever made us think we were better than anybody?
One of the tragedies of the Christian subculture that flourished in the ‘80s and ‘90s and then became overly political in the new century, is that it pulled away from the world out of fear and tried to create an alternative world that was safe for the whole family. At that point we lost sight of what God left us here to do — to go outside the camp, bearing the disgrace Christ bore and inviting other sinners to come share in the banquet of forgiveness that has been spread before us.
We’re not supposed to be setting up camp here anyway. We’ve gotten too comfortable. We are called outside the camp, “For here we do not have an enduring city” (Hebrews 13:14). Time to break camp and head outside.