Monday, April 21, 2003

Gleanings from Hebrews

Jesus and the New Covenant(2)

This marks the second division of a series that introduces the Book of Hebrews. To start at the beginning, click here.

One very central tenet in Hebrews is the superiority of Jesus and the New Covenant over Moses and the Old. This second section of Gleanings from Hebrews will cover this central message.

Jesus: The Greater Word

The opening of Hebrews contains an incredible description of Jesus the Messiah:

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they. (Hebrews 1:1-4, NASB

Moses was great because God knew him face to face. And one time Moses asked to see God's glory, but the Lord could only have His goodness pass before him.

The Lord said to Moses, “I will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favor in My sight and I have known you by name.” Then Moses said, “I pray You, show me Your glory!” And He said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.” But He said, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” (Exodus 33:17-20)

The prophets frequently wrote, "The Word of the Lord came to me." They were the Lord's spokesmen. They saw visions and communicated them. The Lord spoke to His people through them. But with Jesus, things are very different:

  • Moses and the prophets were made, but the Son is He through whom God made the world -- and them.
  • Moses could only see God's goodness, rather than His glory, but the Son is the "radiance of His glory."
  • Ezekiel described his vision of the throne of God as "the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord." (Ezekiel 1:28) What he saw was two steps removed from reality, but the Son is the "exact representation of His nature."
  • The "Word of the Lord" came to the prophets, but the Son "upholds all things by the word of His power."
  • Moses instituted the sin and guilt offerings and the other prophets called the people to repent, but the Son "made purification of sins."

The Son sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. He has inherited a more excellent name than the angels. In an earlier series, I demonstrated how Jesus taught in a way no other teacher would dare to teach. His life and His power and His Spirit gave credence to His message or it would have been long forgotten. To study His life in the gospels is to see the nature and character of God more clearly than ever before.

The opening words of Hebrews are an unambiguous statement of Jesus' divine nature. They also carry a responsibility:

For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will. (Hebrews 2:1-4)

The Rabbis have a name for the logic the writer to the Hebrews uses here. It is KAL V'CHOMER, or "light and heavy." The idea is that "if this light thing, how much more this heavy thing." The author of Hebrews says, "If the word spoken through angels proved unalterable." This is the light thing. he then says, "how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?" This is the heavy thing. The good news is that it is salvation that we neglect at our peril. The Son who is the "radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature" is also the One who "made purification of sins." Through the Son we have the clear message and the provision for our sin. Our life consists of embracing this great salvation. It is to our peril to neglect it; To put it off; To account it of little value.

I would be tempted to say that the Son, Jesus, is the last word. In fact, however, He is the eternal word. He is the living word greater than all the words spoken by prophets and angels.

Tuesday: Of Builders and House Managers

<>< Test Everything. Cling to what is good. ><>


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