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Archive for the 'Highlights in Hebrew' Category

Highlights in Hebrews
Highlights in Hebrews
(with Roger Kirby)
40. Hebrews 13:20-21 - Farewell greetings.

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21) ESV
(Unfortunately the NLT translation uses a word in the middle of this passage that is not exactly every day English, so I have used the ESV instead.)

The word that is common to nearly every New Testament benediction (literally a good word, finishing a letter or other writing) is peace. As this brief comment goes out from Dave’s web site it may be read, or listened to, by people in many different situations. Some of you will be able to live a quiet and peaceful life with little difficulty. But some of you may be reading this in situations that are far from peaceful. It is almost impossible to write anything to both groups.

Let those of us who dwell in peaceful parts of the world, offer our prayers for those who do not know peace. Our hearts go out to you. You may be struggling to relocate to another country hoping to find a great deal more peace than you are able to in the country of your birth and life so far. You are therefore a refugee. May you be sure of the Lord’s purposes for you and may you be able to follow him through thick and thin until you can find a reasonable amount of peace. Even as I write that I am aware that I should be exhorting you to find peace even in the most difficult of circumstances through your reliance on Jesus as your champion who initiates and perfects your faith. Remember he too suffered greatly for his faithfulness to the terrible task that his Father had sent him to complete. That is the theory. To actually put it into practice is no easy thing. May you be able to do so in rich and richer measure in the days ahead.

For those of us who do not labour under such difficulties the word from our writer is that we should do the Lord’s will, working on things which are pleasing in his sight because he has equipped us to do so. In many ways that is a much easier task. It is also a much easier task to avoid, to slide by, to overlook, to pretend we have not seen and understood what we should be doing.

None of us will ever be completely satisfied in our own eyes by what we have done in the days and the circumstances he has given us. He will be even less satisfied with us. Fortunately these are not the criteria by which he accepts us and loves us. Those things happen because the great shepherd of the sheep was seen to have completed (confirmed, or as the NLT has it ratified) his work through the blood of the eternal covenant.

May God’s grace be with you all.

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Highlights in Hebrews
Highlights in Hebrews
(with Roger Kirby)
39. Hebrews 13:1–7 - Keep on … don’t forget … remember …

Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters. Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it. Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.
Give honour to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery.
Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said,
“I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.”
So we can say with confidence, “The LORD is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?” Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith.

There is no one outstanding highlight in these verses but they constitute a brief but important part of the whole writing. So I have to sweep them together into a little pile and say - look at this! The book of Hebrews is crammed full of teaching about our Lord, Jesus, who he is and why we should follow him. Only now, late on in his writing, does the author comment on what it should all mean in hard significant facts about our daily lives.

He is particularly anxious that we should:
1. Be very aware of the need to offer loving support to our fellow Christians through hospitality, special support to any who have fallen foul of anti-Christian authorities;
2. Be very careful about our sex lives. They will have been living in a situation in which it was as difficult to stay sexually pure as in any modern one. Our sexual appetites can be very strong and difficult to resist. But both within marriage and without we should stay pure;
3. Be aware of the dangers of living a life distorted by too great a concern for money and what it can buy.;
4. Be prepared to give full honour to those who work hard in the gospel, particularly through the pastoral ministry.

We all particularly in the West, are living in a society which in historical terms is rich beyond the wildest dreams of people from earlier societies. Even for ordinary citizens with no exceptional sources of wealth - Our houses are bigger, our kitchens are full of wonderful machines, we mostly own a chariot which will take us faster and in much greater comfort than any that have existed before, we holiday in greater comfort and in many more places than any but the very richest used to do.

Just imagine what our writer would have said to all that! What would he have expected us to do with all that in terms of support for the kingdom?

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Highlights in Hebrews
Highlights in Hebrews
(with Roger Kirby)

38. Hebrews13:8 - Jesus, Son of God

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (NLT)
 
Taken as it is this doesn’t say too much! We all have a yesterday and a today. Yet when we hear it or read it it seems to say much more than that. There is a very similar statement in Revelation 1, usually translated as about ‘he who is, and who was, and is to come’. One version translates this, as ‘I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come.’

So we read our passage here as:
Jesus Messiah had a very different yesterday from ours since he existed from before creation; he is today very different from us because he is the Lord of Glory and plays a big part in this world of ours; then tomorrow on one future day he will lead us forwards into a very different and wonderful future.

Our writer has said all these things on his way through his writing. He started off with ‘through the Son he created the universe.’ (Hebrews 1:2). Then he said ‘The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command.’ (Hebrews 1:3). Now, as we reach the end of his writing he says we, ‘have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, … You have come to the assembly of God’s firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. … You have come to Jesus,’

We have all, no doubt, done many things – some good, some bad in our lives so far. No matter, we rest in the arms of the one who always was, is now and ever will be, who will one day take us to be with himself in a better life, the one still to come.

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Highlights in Hebrews
Highlights in Hebrews
(with Roger Kirby)

37. Hebrews 12:22–24 Our wonderful destination

you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to countless thousands of angels in a joyful gathering. You have come to the assembly of God’s firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God himself, who is the judge over all things. You have come to the spirits of the righteous ones in heaven who have now been made perfect. You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks of forgiveness instead of crying out for vengeance like the blood of Abel. (Hebrews 12:22-24 NLT

The most astonishing two words in these verses are ‘have come’. Not ‘will come’ looking forward to some future date. Not tomorrow; not next year; not when we die; but now. We are already there. Wow! What is it that we have already come to? Our writer’s words form something of a purple patch in his description of it. He does it all with a half-concealed contrast to what happened to the Israelites as they left their slavery and travelled to the promised land so that there they might build the Temple which was to be the resting place of the Lord.

We are already there, on Mount Zion, that is we are living in the city of God - wherever we may be living in this world of ours. So we are at the place where the Lord God will be. There are countless thousands of angels already worshipping all around us even though we cannot hear them or see them. We are surrounded by God’s first-born children - that is by all those with whom we are in fellowship, world wide. We have only ever met the tiniest fraction of them, a few dozen or a few hundred at most. But they are there, all around us, none the less real because we have never met them. We have met with the Lord, or perhaps we should rather say that he has met with us when we were converted and turned to follow him. He is the judge over all things, but that does not frighten us because we have been accepted through the blood of Jesus. At that same time we met the ‘spirits of the righteous ones in heaven’, that is we entered the spiritual world. But above all we met Jesus.

We are, each of us, one tiny bit of Jesus, the Lord of Glory. Paul says in Philippians 3: 3: 9 he (Paul) had become one with him (Jesus). Turning it the other way round Jesus represents us, every one of us who are his. In all this wide world of ours there is nobody and nothing with which we are in closer relationship than we are with Jesus.

This is because we are now members of the Kingdom, the unshakeable kingdom where no earthquake will ever disturb us, as it did the Israelites as they camped round Mount Sinai. We are now present in the very Temple of God, which is Jesus, a far superior temple to those built in Jerusalem.

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Highlights in Hebrews
Highlights in Hebrews
(with Roger Kirby)

36. Hebrews 12:7 - Discipline

 
As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? (Hebrews 12:7 NLT )
Discipline, now there is a dirty word – in much of the West, anyway. Several hundred years go the great thinkers decided that men and women do not really need God. We are all quite capable of working everything out for ourselves. This idea was called the Enlightenment and began back in the 16th century. Since then that idea has spread and now determines what people think in most of Europe and North America.

If we are capable of working everything out for ourselves that means that the way you work things out may be different from the way I do. And the way children work things out may well be different from the way their parents do. So the parents cannot discipline their children for doing something different from what they would. The result is not good. In fact it is beginning to show up in an increasingly chaotic society. So the whole background idea from which the writer is working – (Hebrews 12:7–10) has no basis in our culture! Ouch!

However that does not make what he says invalid. We are not talking about human beings, misled by the philosophy of many centuries ago. We are talking about the Lord God, who is far above and beyond our cultures. He is going to be our judge one day when we meet him face to face. He has every right to try and bring us to a point where we can be accepted by his grace and goodness because of a life of faith in which we have tried as hard as we can to be his good people. He calls that, ‘a peaceful harvest of right living’ (Hebrews 12:11).

 
That does not happen by accident. Fortunately we have the Holy Spirit himself with us to help us along the good way. It is only when we slip through his clutches, fail to stay in step with him, that we will need to be subject to discipline. Remember that ‘those who are not holy will not see the Lord.’ (Hebrews 12:14)

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Highlights in Hebrews
Highlights in Hebrews
(with Roger Kirby)

35. Hebrews 12:1-3 Keeping spiritually fit.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. NLT

If the writer to the Hebrews had known that we all have a mix of fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscles throughout our body he might have used them as an illustration of what he wanted to say. If, like me, you are short of the fast-twitch type you always come in at the back of all the sprint races. You may, however, do much better at the cross-country races. He would have been asking us to ensure that we develop as much slow-twitch spiritual muscle as possible. Experts in such things tell us our muscles are a mixture. Slow -twitch enable us to keep going for a long time: run in cross country races or marathons, or row across the Atlantic. Fast-twitch are good for sprinting, playing tennis and catching the bus. Different people have different amounts of each of these in the blend in their legs and everywhere else. Chickens have slow-twitch muscles in their legs with the brown meat so that they can walk and run a long way. The white meat of their breasts and wings gives them much better intense activity like flying, but they can’t keep it up for long. You may know some people, there are too many of them around, who become Christians with a great flourish in their early days or their teen years. They are full of enthusiasm rushing around telling us all to follow Jesus, do a lot of evangelising, go to many youth rallies and so on. But where are they a few years later? They seem to have disappeared from the church scene. Oh, dear. They were so concerned with their fast-twitch spirituality they failed to develop any of the slow-twitch sort.

The writer is talking about slow-twitch spirituality. He talks about ‘endurance’ in 12: 1; about not becoming weary and giving up in 12: 3; about getting a harvest in 12: 11; and, of course, the outstanding characteristic of the heroes of chapter 11 - Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and all the rest is that they fought their way through many difficulties to reach their barely understood destinations.

Above all there is Jesus, who endured hostility and the shame of the cross, because he knew he was going to a place of honour at the right hand of God on high. We know where we are going - not quite to such an honourable place, but into his immediate presence.

If you want to stay healthy into your old age it is no good waiting until you are old before doing anything about it! It is no good thinking you were fit and healthy at school when you played a lot of football, cricket or netball. Health is something that has to be kept up throughout life.

All that is true of physical health, but it is also true of spiritual health. Don’t think you can turn off your fast-twitch spirituality when you leave your teens, get married, move house to another area with the need to fit into a new church. It will probably slowly decline, as the years pass but it must be replaced steadily by slow-twitch spirituality. That does not mean that you just become one of the too many people who go to church, sit in their pew or their comfortable chair and think that is now their Christian life. After all you would have a job to stay even reasonably healthy physically if you only did anything remotely healthy just once a week. No! You need to join a prayer group, a study group, teach Sunday School, or do something to maintain a reasonable level of spiritual fitness. Come on - get off your backside and do something! (with apologies if you already do.)

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