“Great Expectations” (1861) is the title of a literary classic written by Charles Dickens. For some reason known only to the guild of literature teachers, it is thought to be important. So, during my high school sophomore year, it was included in my reading assignment. Well, I was 16 and more interested in other things, so I found “Cliff’s Notes” on “Great Expectations,” turned in my paper and passed the class.
Fast-forward five decades. As I was preparing for a trip to instruct a week of seminary classes in Honiara on Guadalcanal, I decided to use the 30-hour transit time reading some of the books I had avoided in high school. A guilty conscience is a powerful and long-lasting thing. So, I downloaded “Great Expectations” on the Kindle app of my iPad and headed out. It actually took me two trips halfway around the world, one year apart, to finish reading that classic, but I am glad I did.
“Great Expectations” is a literary classic, but in my opinion, is a mediocre book. However, I love the title. So, with apologies to Mr. Dickens, I want you to think with me about the “Great Expectations” God has of us.
God, our creator, anticipates responses from His creation. He expected Adam and Eve to obey Him regarding the fruit of one particular tree (Gen. 2:16-17). He was disappointed when Cain killed his brother, Abel (Gen. 4:10-12). God expected Abraham to follow when He called him out of Ur (Gen. 12:1-3). The Bible is full of God’s commands for obedience from His people, and their responses to Him.
In Hebrews 10, the writer records three great expectations God has for those who believe in Him. God’s expectations of believers are based on the fact that we can come into His presence, spiritually, because of the blood of His Son, Jesus (verse 19), who provides the access to God through His sacrificial death (verse 20), and intercedes for us as our great priest (verse 21).
So, what are God’s great expectations of His people? We find them following the words: “Since we have a great priest over the house of God….”
1st “Let us draw near….” — Look Upward (verse 22).
God invites us to come near to Him. “Draw near” is a compound word meaning to come close. It is an invitation to get intimate or familiar with God. Though God is our Creator, is sinless and far above us, He longs for us to come near Him.
He wants us to come near “with a sincere heart” —that is, with a true, not phony or hypocritical attitude. We can fool people, put on a front, hide behind a façade—but not with God. When we approach Him, it should be from a sincere desire to know Him, an openness with Him, and a longing to connect to Him.
Another condition for coming to God is it must be “in full assurance of faith” —that is, with complete trust in Him. It would be foolish to pray to God if you didn’t believe He would hear or answer your requests. We know that, “without faith it is impossible to please Him” (Hebrews 11:6).
The third condition for drawing near Him is “having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience”—that is, we need a clear conscience coming to God. Because He is all-knowing (omniscient) and always nearby (omnipresent), we cannot hide any sin from Him. Instead of hiding sins, God calls on us to clear our minds of them.
Then we are to approach him with “our bodies washed with pure water” —that is, with a cleansed life. These words remind us that, as the priests ceremonially washed before entering the Holy Place, we are to cleanse ourselves symbolically by renouncing and confessing known sin, when we come to Him.
2nd “Let us hold fast….” — Look Outward (verse 23).
Believers in Christ are to: “hold fast the confession of our hope”—that is, we are to consistently manifest and proclaim the hope we have in Christ, to people near us. Everyday we are surrounded by people without Christ, and without hope. These people need the hope only the Lord can bring, when they acknowledge, receive and follow Him. Christians are to “be ready always to give an answer to everyone who asks you a reason of the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).
We are to hold this confession of hope “without wavering”—that is without doubting, because, “He who promised is faithful.” This assurance of hope is in God, who cannot fail, who has never broken a promise. Christians profess hope that is not in themselves, but in Him, who died for their sins, and rose again.
3rd “Let us consider how….” — Look Around (verses 24-25).
The third thing God expects of His people is that they look around and “consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds”—that is, to get our eyes off ourselves, and on struggling Christians around us who need encouragement to love and serve God better.
There are discouraged Christians in every church. God expects us who are seeking to please Him, to consider them—focus on them—and find ways to bring them back into effective service for the Savior. Think and plan how to “stimulate” or stir them up to more “love and good deeds.” When God’s people are loving and serving Him, He will be glorified and will bless.
God indeed has great expectations for those who follow Him.
What about my other missed high school reading assignments? On my fourth flight to the Solomon Islands, I read half of Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick.” I expect to finish it on my next trip.