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Archive for the 'Highlights in Hebrew' Category

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Highlights in Hebrews
Highlights in Hebrews
(with Roger Kirby)

Part 6 - Hebrews 2:10

Jesus our pioneer

1 In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered.

Our main emphasis here is going to be on that word ‘pioneer’ but before we go there here is another thought from this verse.


Have you fully realised that you are a brother or a sister of the Lord of Creation? He is your elder brother. WOW and triple WOW!

The word translated ‘pioneer’ in the latest NIV or ‘author’ in the older one is quite tricky to get the full meaning of. Authors write down something that has not been written before; pioneers hack a new way through the jungle where no one has been before. I like to think of the word ‘pathfinder’ as a possible translation although I can’t find it in any version. A ‘pathfinder’ is a member of a unit of the British army whose dangerous job it is to go ahead of the main force; to identify where helicopters can land; to locate the enemy and where he can be best attacked. And those are just the things that Jesus did for us - with a bit of imagination.
 
What Jesus did was exceedingly dangerous - he actually had to die doing it. When the Lord God created our world he deliberately made it a chaotic place. It may seem strange to us but earthquakes, tsunamis, thunderstorms and so on are part of the very interesting place in which we live. Otherwise it would be a very boring place! He also ensured that we would not all be perfect, living to a ripe old age without any aches and pains or diseases on the way. But neither of those sets of chaotic problems are the worst part of life on this earth. No, the worst part is what men and women do to other men and women. The sinfulness of humans is the source of all the worst things that can happen to us. As a result suffering is a normal and almost essential part of our life experiences. Only in a comparatively few peaceful and quiet parts of the world can fortunate folk expect to live lives without suffering caused by humans.

It was the great and amazing intention of the Triune God that Jesus, the earthly embodiment of that Trinity, should be the pathfinder to force a way through the jungle of sinful humanity, to search out the enemy, Satan, and to die in doing so. In that victory his true people became his brothers and sisters. So, as the next verses say, “ Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.”(2:11) and “ Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil”.(2:14)

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Highlights in Hebrews
Highlights in Hebrews
(with Roger Kirby)

Part 5 - Hebrews 2:9
Jesus as representative man


“we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honour because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”

Our writer quotes the psalmist (Psalm 8:4–6) in Hebrews 2:6-8:
“What is mankind that you are mindful of them,
a son of man that you care for him?
You made them a little[ lower than the angels;
you crowned them with glory and honour
and put everything under their feet.”

It is a tricky passage as is obvious from the lengthy footnotes in most English versions. The second line seems to be singular while all the other lines refer to mankind in the plural. It is the nearly unanimous opinion of modern translations that this is correct. The quotation refers back to Genesis 1:26 where God says, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” In an astonishing act God put the care of this world of ours in the hands of mankind. We haven’t done very well with it. As I write the main problem seems to be plastic in the seas. For centuries mankind has assumed that the oceans are so big we can dump anything we like into them and they will absorb it. It is now clear that there is so much plastic in the seas, which will break down into ever smaller particles without dissolving, that all the fish and other creatures in the seas will be poisoned by them. We have scarcely done any better with the land. We continue to fight over it with each other and generally mess it up.

But our writer can see good in even these problems. He goes on to say in Hebrews 2:9, “we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honour because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”

 
Jesus has rescued all mankind from the consequences of their failures if they will only recognize that he has done so. Ultimately we, his people, will all end up in his New Heaven and New Earth. What exactly that means; what it will look like; how it will relate to our present experience; we do not know, but we can have confidence in our Lord and Saviour.

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Highlights in Hebrews

Highlights in Hebrews
(with Roger Kirby)

Part 4 - Hebrews 2:3
Escaping salvation

“How shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?”


Already the writer is warning his readers. This is a recurrent feature of this book. The warnings against turning away from faith having once started to follow Jesus are stronger in this book than any other in the New Testament. They cause considerable difficulty for those whose basic theology is strongly Calvinistic. Those people say: once saved always saved, which this book seems to contradict. We have to take scripture as more significant than any systematic theology so we need to heed what the writer says.

This first warning comes so early in the book it might be thought hard to justify. It raises the question: why do we come to faith? Many people in our culture, and perhaps yours too, come to faith and start to attend church because something has gone wrong in their lives or they feel a gap in the way they live. Those are not good reasons for starting to believe because they are ‘I’ centred. They come from the needs and the thinking of the individual. The true reasons we should come to faith are because of who Jesus was, and is, his death and resurrection. That is what the writer has emphasised in those first few verses of chapter one.

The reality is that most people do not come to faith for that good reason. What is hugely important is that they should then receive teaching that convinces them of the way it actually was. If they know that the Lord had the main guiding hand in what happened, that it was his initiative that brought them to faith in the first place, that the gift of the Hoy Spirit was his doing, then they are unlikely to try to leave faith because it is convenient for them. It may well be that if they are taught to do so they will be able to look back and realise that the Lord had for many years and in a quiet and non-aggressive way been leading them towards faith. Few people take the leap of faith when it is first placed before them. Most need many a nudge and suggestion before they get there. Our God is a gracious and kind God who deals tenderly with his people.

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Highlights in Hebrews

Highlights in Hebrews
(with Roger Kirby)

Part 3 - Hebrews 1:8, 9
Jesus on his throne

“Your throne, O God,[ will last for ever and ever;
a sceptre of justice will be the sceptre of your kingdom.
You love righteousness and hate wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
by anointing you with the oil of joy.”
Hebrews 1:8-9

These verses are one of the many places where the very first words of this book are demonstrated. The writer started by saying God spoke through the prophets. In the second part of this first chapter he uses that fact to explain how Jesus was greater than the angels with some 7 quotations from the Old Testament. This is one of the most striking. It is drawn from Psalm 45: 6, 7. The ancient writer of the psalm will have thought he was writing a psalm of praise for a new king, possibly Solomon. It is a thoroughly secular piece, probably written to order, and greatly exaggerating the likely attributes of any earthly king and queen. It is hard to see what those reading it after the complete collapse of the Davidic dynasty after the exile can possibly have made of it.

But the writer to Hebrews can see its meaning centuries later. He can even use the rather curious reference to God in the first line of that quotation that makes little sense in the original. The gross exaggerations of the original make perfect sense applied to the perfect man, Jesus.


Attention is not often drawn to the quite amazing way in which things said centuries earlier referring to all sorts of situations and people suddenly come to life in the person and work of Jesus. Counting only those places where the NIV indents the lines there are 28 references back to the Old Testament in this book of Hebrews alone, most of them before the history of chapter 11. Our wonderful God, knowing what would happen, organised it so that his servants said things relating to their own circumstances that would be of use to other servants writing about his glorious Son.

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Highlights in Hebrews

Highlights in Hebrews
(with Roger Kirby)

Part 2 - Hebrews 1:1-3
The real history of Jesus


In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

In just these three verses the writer sets out the full story of Jesus. He did not begin in Mary’s womb. He had been around for all the ages since the beginning of this world of ours-and even before that. Jesus was God, part of the Trinity, so he had to have existed before he was born a baby in Bethlehem. In his magnificent opening verses John says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Our writer here says in 1:2. “he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.” Paul, in Colossians 1:16, 17 manages to surpass that when he says:

 
“For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

It is very difficult to work out how it all worked. Jesus was, at that stage, not human. He was in heaven, working for the creation and establishment of the universe and, in particular, this world. In the Old Testament there are several ways in which aspects of God, parts of his essential identity, are referred to. He is Word, Wisdom and Spirit. John says Jesus was the Word (John 1:1). Matthew strongly hints that he was Wisdom in his 11:19, “ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.” He was an integral part of the Spirit as Luke 4:18 says, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me”. In Proverbs 8: 30 it is said of Wisdom that at the creation that she was ‘at his side’.

From all these glories Jesus descended that he might provide ‘purification for sins’, a very shorthand way of talking about all he did on this world of ours living as both God and man at the same time. The writer could have spoken of his ministry, his death and his resurrection but he chooses just those three words, ‘purification for sins’, to stand for those the greatest moments, probably just 3 years of them, of all time. Only then did he ascend to heaven and sit down at the right hand of God on high. From then on there was, and is, a man in heaven.

His role there is to ‘hold all things together’ (Colossians 1:17), to look after his people, to direct their prayers, particularly when they run out of ability to pray. There he waits the Father’s signal that it is time for him to return to earth and set up the New Heavens and the New Earth that we are promised. I wonder whether he is impatient for that day to come or whether he rests calmly in the confidence of his Father God.

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00:0000:00
Highlights in Hebrews

Highlights in Hebrews
(with Roger Kirby)

Part 1 - Hebrews 1:3
Jesus: the image of God

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

The word ‘better’ is oft-en seen as dominant in the book of Hebrews (I call it a book because it does not read like a letter or epistle. It is more like a treatise, but that is an unduly posh word!). But it is not the subject of this wonderful book; that is Jesus. The writer (no one knows who that was) starts his thesis with the statement that Jesus was ‘the exact representation of his being’. The ‘his’ is God. Like all good Christian thinking, writing and preaching everything starts with God.

One problem they had in those days was that they had not worked out how to advertise! They had no billboards lining the streets, no newspapers printed every day, no televisions to annoy us with their perpetual breaks for adverts, really very few opportunities to say what they were good at. Only the Emperor had an opportunity and that was with the coins. Everyone knew what the current emperor looked like because his image had been stamped on every coin. The coin was made of a comparatively soft metal. The stamp was made of very hard metal so that it could be pushed down under pressure on the face of the coin and thus you had the face of the emperor. This was what Jesus referred to in Matthew 22: 18 - 21 when he said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. Which rather caught them out because they were admitting that they had the picture of an idol in whatever they used in place of pockets.

The primary reference of the exact representation has to be to the character and actions of Jesus. He was supremely oriented to other people. He cared for them, he healed them; he showed great grace and mercy towards them. He set a completely new standard of human behaviour focused on love. That is what God was, and is, like. Most paintings that attempt to show God get it completely wrong. They portray a big old white man with a long beard looking very stern and judgmental. No! If we want to know what God is like we have to look at Jesus because if he is the exact representation of God that has to be what God is like: Jesus, probably a small brown man looking rather scruffy and dirty because he walked so many miles on dusty tracks is the nearest we can get to what God looked like. But we can get much closer in the non-visual things that matter so much more. He was a God of love indeed he was Love. So all those lovely things that Jesus did as he walked this earth reflect the personality of God himself.

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