Hebrew’s Study 1
A few years ago, the Baltimore Orioles home-runned their way to the play-offs. Their rise in success resulted in an increase of fans. That was the natural response. People wanted to root for a winning team: a great team. You approach all areas of your life with this same mentality. You devote yourself to things and people you consider great.
Devotion to the greatest is the main thread through the sermon or letter of Hebrews. The author, whether Paul, Luke or Apollos, persuaded his audience that no matter who steps into the ring of contention, Jesus is greater. Jesus deserves your greatest devotion.
A TAPESTRY OF CONTRASTS
“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son,..;” (Hebrews 1:1–2)
The author sews a tapestry of contrasts:
- various times and last days;
- various ways and single way;
- to the fathers and to us;
- by the prophets and by His Son.
God the Father is the golden thread of these contrasts. The author of Hebrews is not speaking about all persons of the godhead when he says, ‘God.’ Otherwise, he would not single out the Son in verse 2.
Each person of the Trinity is distinguished by their work. Here the work of the Father is to speak. Before the advent of the Christ, God revealed His plans. God was not silent.
- At various times, the Father revealed His thoughts. Little by little, God spoke in different ages. He spoke and inaugurated the age of Adam, of Noah, of Abraham, and of Moses.
- In various ways, the Father revealed His thoughts. “Ways” may be the manner in which God revealed Himself. For example, in visions, dreams, voices, or angelic visitations. “Ways,” on the other hand, may be the genre of revelation–prophecies, sermons, promises, and threats.
- To the fathers–the ancestors of the Jewish Church, God revealed His thoughts. He revealed them by the prophets.
In summary, God spoke inaugurating different ages and in those ages gave visions, dreams or even spoke face to face with the prophets. Those prophets would, then, give sermons, or warnings or promises, to the Old Testament Church.
In these last days, God spoke by His Son. Some people misunderstand the comparison involving the last days. The last days in Hebrews are not what Tim LaHaye portrays in his novels. The last days are the end of Old Testament Jewish sacrificial worship. For,
- The main purpose of the book of Hebrews is to keep the Jewish converts from leaving the Church under Christ and going back to the Jewish temple system of worship under Moses. The author is pointing out that these are the last days of worship as established by Moses. Therefore, don’t get caught on the wrong side during the transition.
- Jesus spoke of the last days in Matthew 21:33-46 in the parable of the landowner. Notice the same elements in the parable as in this Hebrew’s passage. God established a vineyard. A clear allusion to the establishment of OT Israel. God sent servants: the prophets. Israel killed each one. God, finally, sent his own Son, they killed Him too. The last days arrive. God takes His kingdom or vineyard and gives it primarily to other nations besides the Jews.
- The fulfillment of this prophecy may be read in your history books. It was the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D.
Now the tapestry of contrasts makes sense. The author introduces his congregation to this idea: God spoke in the past, but you must hear what God says in the present. Jesus is greater than the past. God in the past gave you the temple system, but now a new worship begins.
JESUS SUBMITS HIS RESUME
“…has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.” (Hebrews 1:2–4)
God’s former ways have been superseded by His work in Christ. “Don’t stay in the past!” “Come to the present!” “I understand,” the author says, “God spoke through Moses authoritatively. I understand that Moses’ face reflected the glory of God and that God called him a friend. Yet, have you considered the Son?”
This is in fact the emphasis. Notice how the author details the Son unlike the detail of any other topic in this passage. God the Father has spoken in these last days through the Son. Now, the author tells us about the Son with two “whoms” and a “who”.
Each ‘whom’ and the ‘who’ enumerate the greatness of Jesus. Here is Jesus’ resume.
- God the Father, appointed Him over all things.
- Jesus created the universe.
- Angels in Job 4:18 are called the sons of God, and mankind is made in the image of God, but only Christ Jesus being the person of God may be said to have the glory of God and to be the exact image of His person.
- Jesus upholds the the universe by the word of His power.
- Jesus purges the sins of the Church.
- Jesus sits at God’s right hand.
- Jesus was granted a title from God the Father greater than the angels.
Charles Spurgeon, the 18th. century Baptist preacher read Christ’s resume and said,
“Only think of it; those innumerable worlds of light that make illimitable space to look as though it were sprinkled over with golden dust, would all die out, like so many expiring sparks, and cease to be, if the Christ who died on Calvary did not will that they should continue to exist.
Jesus’ providence is astonishing. The universe only continues in existence or with lawful regularity, because of the providential diligence of the Son.
The Son is diligent, also, over the Church. In the same way that the Son cares for us by ordering all events– the sun rises and falls, the crops grow and bear fruit, the cattle grazes in the fields, the milk is harvested and the cream undulates in your coffee–so, too does he care for the Church’s restoration in communion with the Trinity.
ANCIENT LETTER BUT MODERN MESSAGE
God the Father has spoken in the past by the prophets, but in these last days, He has spoken by His Son who is greater. Although this was first written to the first century Jew, you also need this message.
The Jewish Christians were tempted to turn away from Christ. Think of their temptation. The leaders, the wealthy, the very infrastructure of the city was a temptation. Anywhere they went in the city, they could see the temple and perhaps smell the sacrifices. Every meal was a reminder of food and bathing laws.
You have the same temptation, but not to Judaism. Each day you do a comparative analysis.
- You compare the lives of those around you to your own. If your friend is successful, you say, “How are they doing that.”
- If they are powerful, you say, “How are they gaining power.”
- You, then, ask, “Does Jesus give me those things now?” If the answer is,”No!”, then you are tempted to leave Jesus and follow another.
Yet, remember, that despite appearances, Jesus is greater. Those Jews that gave into temptation fell with their temple. Destruction awaits for all those that give up Christ for success and power.
I understand that it seems that other ways of life offered in America are more secure, but are they?
Who providentially manages the American way of life? Each day, who upholds the illusion that we don’t need God and that science and human passion are sufficient and plausible? Whoever or whatever that is, are they in more control than Jesus Christ? If they are building a tower of Babel against Christ, then whose kingdom will remain. Just like the temple, godless America will fall.
“After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, “Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God! For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her.” Again they said, “Alleluia! Her smoke rises up forever and ever!”” (Revelation 19:1–3)
- God spoke and inaugurated several ages–The age of Adam, Noah, Abraham and Moses. Obviously, lots of time passes between these ages. Which books of the Bible are in each age? If you want a real challenge list the chapters.
- If a friend asked, “What is the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament?,” How would you respond? Your answer to this question determines where you fall in just about every debate in the Church today. Calvin Knox Cummings sorts this topic well.
- Do you ever worry? What kinds of things do you worry about? If your imagination was captured by, “the providential diligence of the Son,” would you worry less? Are you anxious now, Listen to Sweet Comfort by Sandra McCracken as an act of mediation.
- The thick stone walls of a fortress make it seem impenetrable. What qualities of godless America make her seem unconquerable? For those of you who are really serious, consider plausibility structures. Al Mohler interviews sociologist Peter Berger who popularized the concept.
- Continue your self examination by reading Tim Keller’s article. Pastor Keller lists comparative analysis as the fourth leading cause of decline in the Church.
 C. H. Spurgeon, “Depths and Heights,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 45 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1899), 390.