Friday, April 15, 2005

It's All About Him: Hebrews -- Lesson 17

To start at the beginning of this series, click here.

The Living Sword

Here is what the Writer says next:

Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:11-16, NASB 95)

The Writer has been pressing home the need for diligence. "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts..." Although the verses that he quotes are inherently negative in tone, he sees in them the promise of a special "Sabbath rest" for the people of God. He now draws three conclusions, which are marked by the word "therefore."

  1. We must be diligent until we are assured of our salvation. It is at this point that one of the great verses of the Bible appears, "For the word of God is living and active..." In fact, it is such a great verse that it is hard to now see it in a supporting context for the Writer's point. The Writer wants us to see danger! A double-edged sword is a weapon of war. It is displayed to warn and establish authority. It is wielded to kill. "Today if you hear His voice" -- Today if the "Word of God" comes to you -- you must submit or die. There is no fooling around. There is no escape. You have a choice Rest or Death.
  2. The Writer then immediately moderates the harshness of that truth by pointing us in the direction of our Great High Priest, who is the means by which we have the hope of rest. If the first of three conclusions is prone to generate terror, this second is a cause for great hope. This is the one who took on our nature. This is the one who became a kinsman and a redeemer.
  3. And then he directs our eyes to the one who holds the sword, sitting on a "throne of grace." He says that we can draw near "with confidence." That means that we can expect mercy over the sword. Mercy is for the asking, mercy comes from approaching. The sword is for those who stay outside or flee

For me, this is one of the reasons why a constant meditation of the Gospels is so important in our coming to know God. Read them and note that Jesus never met a sinner he did not like. He was a standard bearer of righteousness and He never compromised truth and holiness in His teaching. But sinners could come to Him and become undone and then remade. Only those who could not recognize their sin, but asserted their own righteousness found trouble -- and that because they pushed Him away. This is a marvelous truth: when you find sin in your soul, that is when Jesus is willing to have you come close. He is on the throne of grace. He is the high priest who has been tempted too. He is the kinsman who has responsibilities to redeem.

Test everything. Cling to what is good.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

It's All About Him: Hebrews -- Lesson 16

To start at the beginning of this series, click here.


The Writer's use of Scripture in this next section of Hebrews is a marvel:

For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said,

As I swore in My wrath, They shall not enter My rest,

although His works were finished from the foundation of the world. For He has said somewhere concerning the seventh day:

And God rested on the seventh day from all His works

and again in this passage, "They shall not enter My rest." Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience, He again fixes a certain day, "Today," saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before, "Today if you hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts." For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that. So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:3-11, NASB 95)

Let's look at the themes the Writer is developing in this section of Hebrews, which began in chapter 3:

  • Is it faith or is it obedience? Re-read Hebrews 3:1 -4:9 and note the interplay between faith and obedience; unbelief and disobedience. It would seem as if faith is the foundation upon which real obedience grows.
  • Unbelief has a hardening effect, from which disobedience grows.
  • God will offend the mind to reveal the heart. For the ancient Israelites, the sudden lack of water gave cause for their unbelief to come to the surface.

Against this backdrop comes "Today, if you hear His voice." These are words of hope for anyone. Yesterday, He may have spoken and I may have hardened my heart--but that does not mean that He will not speak "today." This is what the Writer is trying to say in Hebrews 4:3-11. The Writer connects God's "rest" after the creation with the "rest" of psalm 95. A "Sabbath rest" for God's people that they can enjoy by completing their labors through faith.

In the context of the entire book, the Writer is saying to his unbelieving Jewish brethren, "In these latter days, God has spoken to us through His son...Today if you hear His voice do not harden your hearts as you did in the days of Moses." God has spoken again in a new and better way.

Test everything. Cling to what is good.