Tuesday, March 22, 2005

It's All About Him: Hebrews Lesson 7

To start with the first lesson in this series, click here.

Flames of Fire

The Writer has provided scriptures to identify the promise of a coming Son and scriptures that declare that the former angels and messengers are called to worship the Son. He now continues to set the Son apart from all who came before:

And of the angels He says, "Who makes His angels winds, And His ministers a flame of fire." But of the Son He says, "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, And the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness above Your companions." (Hebrews 1:7-9, NASB 95)

The Writer quotes from two sources. The first is Psalm 104:4 and the second is Psalm 45:6,7. Let's look at the first in context:

Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, You are very great; You are clothed with splendor and majesty, Covering Yourself with light as with a cloak, Stretching out heaven like a tent curtain. He lays the beams of His upper chambers in the waters; He makes the clouds His chariot; He walks upon the wings of the wind; He makes the winds His messengers, Flaming fire His ministers. He established the earth upon its foundations, So that it will not totter forever and ever. You covered it with the deep as with a garment; The waters were standing above the mountains. At Your rebuke they fled, At the sound of Your thunder they hurried away. The mountains rose; the valleys sank down To the place which You established for them. You set a boundary that they may not pass over, So that they will not return to cover the earth. (Psalm 104:1-9)

The NASB translation has chosen to follow the context of creation and natural phenomena and renders the Hebrew ruach as "wind." The Septuagint rendered the word as "angels." Among English translations, most of them use the word "wind." The context and plain sense of Psalm 104:4 has wind and lightening speaking of the power and majesty of God. However, there is certainly a hint of something grander than wind and lightening. At the very least wind and lightening are messengers and part of God's speaking in "many portions and in many ways." The real point brought out by quoting psalm 104:4 is that the angels are subject to God. They do what they are told. In contrast to this we have the Son who sits at the right hand of God in power and authority. The Son has been "anointed above" his companions.

Now let's look at Psalm 45:

Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of joy above Your fellows. All Your garments are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia; Out of ivory palaces stringed instruments have made You glad. Kings? daughters are among Your noble ladies; At Your right hand stands the queen in gold from Ophir. Listen, O daughter, give attention and incline your ear: Forget your people and your father?s house; Then the King will desire your beauty. Because He is your Lord, bow down to Him. (Psalm 45:6-11)

Psalm 45 is a song about the marriage of the king. As with all the other quotes of the Old Testament, the Writer of Hebrews uses a secondary and deeper meaning of the text. I should note that in all the cases so far, the text itself invites this secondary meaning. Let's take the phrase, "Your throne, o God, is forever and ever; a scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom." The simplest meaning, given the subject matter of the Psalm, is that the king sits on a throne that belongs to God: the king derives his authority from God and has responsibility to the people to discharge his duties faithfully. Nevertheless, when we read it, we also get a inner sense that God, himself, really is the king--and with the promise of the coming Messiah, we can look forward to the day when Messiah is on the throne. Those who knew Jesus on earth made the connection and ascribed these verses to Him. It was a fit. Afterwards, they could not read the verses and think of any king but the Son who had come.

It is not my intent to trouble anyone by bringing to the forefront how the Writer uses the Old Testament. All the New Testament authors quoted the Old Testament this way--and their audiences understood the difference. What it says is that Jesus on earth carried Himself in such a way that He "fulfilled" such scriptures. Beforehand, they spoke of one thing and hinted at another. Afterwards, they spoke of Jesus and hinted at their initial meaning. See, therefore, how great the life of the Son of God on earth must have been!

Test everything. Cling to what is good.


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