Hebrews

Hebrews Chapter 13

Concluding Exhortations 

1. Keep on loving each other as brothers
2. Don’t forget to entertain strangers
3. Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoner
4. Marriage should be honored by all
5. Keep your lives free from love of money
6. Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you
7. Jesus is the savior yesterday and today and forever
8. Do not be carried away with all kinds of strange teachings
On reading this chapter I was in truth very cavalier about it. These general guidelines for christian living sound obvious to me - just a laundry list of what I should and should not do. 

But when putting this letter into context, the letter makes perfect sense. This letter was written to rally christians who may have been leaning back to Jewish law. Basic christian fundamentals had to be spelled out clearly! 

The blood of sacrificial animals where no longer necessary, because Jesus had sacrificed His life for our sins. 

On a more personal level, I felt ashamed that I had been reading the Bible with such a casual attitude. I was reading it like it was a homework assignment. In hindsight, I should be reading the Bible with reverence and humility, never forgetting these words are from God. 

Lord, thank you for your words, direction, and wisdom.
Help me to keep the proper perspective when reading the Bible. Amen. 

Hebrews Chapter 12

Hebrews 12:5-7, 10-11

“My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.” As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children…He disciplines us for our good…No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

 So much of our lives that we see as needless, random suffering or bad luck is, in actuality, a divinely arranged opportunity to learn, grow, and become.  Culturally, we have learned from a very early age to avoid, like the plague, discomfort on any level.  We mistakenly avoid these chances to develop by running away, or by drowning these challenges in an ocean of distractions readily available to us in the forms of materialism, entertainment, accomplishment, and ambition.

Next time you find yourself in trouble, conflict, confusion, discouragement, or even loss…before engaging the old familiar default of fight and/or flight…ask yourself, “What is the Lord teaching me?” “What am I being trained in right now, and how might that be useful in future circumstances and relationships?”  I encourage you that not only will you look at your life differently, but there will be a deep peace that begins to cover you as your realize that God has allowed you to experience this for a reason, for your ultimate good.

 Try it, and see.

Hebrews Chapter 11

Are you ever reading along in the Bible and come across a familiar verse you’ve heard a million times, a snippet that’s been quoted over and over, and you think, thereit is! That’swhere that comes from! That was verse one for me. The definition of faith that most of us have heard many times comes from this chapter: “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.”

This chapter is a great reminder of those things that we believe in faith and of the faithful believers who came before us. 

I’m particularly struck by verses 13-16:

 All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. 14 Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. 15 If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. 16 But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

 I like this so much because it operates on multiple levels. It’s literal for Abraham, for Moses, and for many others who kept moving forward in faith toward the actual land they were promised. They genuinely chose between the known and the unknown, the less-than-perfect but tangible homes they had and the distant, as yet shapeless reality they were promised. And they struck out in faith.  

And of course the other level of meaning remains just as relevant to me in 21st century America. This world is not my home. I have not reached my destination. If I feel out of place, a little lost and unrooted in this life, it’s because I am all of those things. How firmly do I keep my sights on what’s been promised—a room in Jesus’s father’s house, a heavenly home? How tightly to I cling to the things of this world that seem so real and so desirous?

We haven’t been called to step off the ledge with no promise of rescue. We have been repeatedly told that there is another world, another reality that awaits us. A much better place, in the presence of our very God. It’s hard to live everyday life with that promise front and center in our mind’s eye. That’s why it’s called faith, and why we need the very concept of faith defined for us and laid before us in examples. 

Hebrews Chapter 10

Encouragement is such a powerful motivator and it can change the course of our day or our life.  Those people who helped motivate me throughout my life, also believed in me and cared about my welfare. 

In Hebrews 24-25, we are told to put our mind to motivating others in their Christian walk and to encourage one another.  By doing so we hope to create a thirst in them “toward love and good deeds.” By showing concern and attentiveness to others believers, not only are we strengthening our personal relationships, but the entire Church will benefit as a result. Others on the outside may see how much we care about each other and want to be part of the Church.

 One of the highlights of my week is meeting with my fellow believers after church and in Life Group. Sometimes our conversations stay shallow.  At other times, Christian fellowship takes place when we exchange encouragement, confess wrongdoing, expose our weaknesses and pray for each other. Those meaningful conversations become more common as time goes on with trusted Christian friends. Most of us want to share our burdens, not be judged and still be loved. 

Encouragement means prompting others to do their utmost to love God and serve others. Let’s be encouraged then to go out and be the encouragers of others!

Hebrews Chapter 9

This chapter which at first seems simple, packs a lot more than is at the surface (at least my scratching of the surface).  The Jews lived under a set of rules and rituals that very strictly defined what they did and how they did it.  I never could get my arms around splattering the whole temple with animal blood.  YUCK!  But, they had their marching orders and they followed them.  I did not put this in context with the old covenant the Jews had with God but it was all part of the package.

Apparently, the book of Hebrews seeks to reassure the Jewish Christians that Christ, not the old Testament Law, is God’s ultimate plan for their salvation.  This is the new covenant through Jesus.  Back in Hebrews 8, the chapter references a quotation from the book of Jeremiah “The time is coming when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel…it will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers…they broke my covenant…”

So this is the chance for the chosen people to start over, with less pomp and circumstance (and less gore).  Instead of the old temple, approachable by the select few, they could approach Jesus’ temple (heaven) and could approach it on their own.  And instead of the blood of animals, their (and our) sins are paid by the blood of Jesus.  And it was paid once and does not need to be paid again.  I don’t think it gets any better than that.

The chapter ends with the reminder that Christ came to earth to die (once) and when He comes again He will come to finalize God’s salvation for those who accept Christ and the judgement of all those who do not.  Seems pretty clear, no time like the present to accept and embrace the new covenant.

Hebrews Chapter 8

It was clear that the old covenant was weak and useless because it was not based on the love of Christ. As this became obvious, Jesus talked about a new covenant. He was the true high priest and with the change of him taking on his role as high priest, rules needed to be changed. The Lord was not of the tribe of Levi but of another tribe, the tribe of Judah. This had not been done before.  This alone would have precluded Jesus from being a high priest. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross would now be all that was necessary.  What we needed was Grace, not rules and laws. Under the new covenant this is exactly what we would be blessed with. Jesus promised to put his laws into our minds and on our hearts. Then he will be our God  and we will be his people. I have hope today because of this new covenant. I will always and forever need grace. He was thinking of me long before I came into existence. Oh what  a good God we serve.

Hebrews Chapter 7

Over the last couple of years, I’ve spent more time in the Old Testament than the New. This has given me an appreciation for the Law, and the amazing detailed system God established to help all of us see our need for Jesus. I often think of the Law as a measuring stick to show how we as flawed people can never measure up. Hebrews 7:23-28, is a beautiful contrast of the old priest’s sacrificial system and Jesus’ one sacrifice for all. This section highlighted the limitations of human weakness.

 I never lived under the Law as the Israelites did, but I had, in my younger days, association with cults.  In my late teens and twenties when I felt the tug of God in my heart. In response, I connected with a couple of groups who taught, that believing in their prophets, and performing various deeds you can become righteous. Trying to achieve a right relationship with God this way is a heavy burden, and it is ineffective. 

 I love the reminder in verses 24-25, Jesus is our high priest his sacrifice is enough to save us. 

  24 But because Jesus lives forever, his priesthood lasts forever. 25 Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.

Hebrews Chapter 6

In Hebrews 6, we as Christians, along with readers of the first century AD are urged to move beyond basic teachings about Christ and grow our faith as a plant would put down deep roots. As explained here in Hebrews 6, growth requires trust in God’s promise and oath fulfilled through Jesus and requires endurance to the end of our lives.   At that point, we have the hope that Jesus, our Savior, has gone before us into heaven where he waits for us at the end and opens the curtain of heaven for us.

How can we exercise our faith and strengthen our endurance according to this chapter?  According to verse 3, we must move forward to further understandings.  This can occur by the study of God’s Word and by deepening our relationship with God through prayer.   For me, being involved as an adult in a Bible study was life-transforming and increased my faith.  Before I began a series of Bible studies, my understanding of faith and a relationship with God was basic but had not progressed from when I was a child.  Studying God’s Word gave me a knowledge and confidence in God so that I could pray and feel a closer relationship to God.  It all started with Bible study as an adult.

In verse 10, we also deepen our faith and love for God by caring for others as long as our life lasts. For me, caring for my immediate biological family was just part of my DNA growing up and therefore at a fundamental level of faith and care.  But God also challenges us to move to a further understanding in our ability to care beyond the basics of our family.  For me this year, the challenge has prompted me to serve in our church’s homeless ministry which I had never considered in the past.  Sometimes, God stretches us in unexpected ways that don’t seem comfortable at first, like the homeless ministry was for me.  But with faith, God gives us love and endurance in each season of serving.  He makes us grow past the faith fundamentals to a new level.

Hebrews Chapter 5

Roger and I have 2 daughters and when they were growing up we had a wall chart where they would mark the date and their height.  We would do this about every six months and it was always exciting to see how much they had grown. 

Imagine what a shock it would have been had they grown down and not up!!  We would have immediately scheduled an appointment with their pediatrician to find out what was wrong.

 Many of the Hebrew Christians to whom this letter was written had grown down in their Christian walk and not up.  The author says that they had come to need milk again, not solid food.  Imagine a grown child who quit eating regular food and went back to formula and pureed peas!  Instead of being able to teach others, they now need someone to teach them the ABC’s of the Christian life all over again.   Paul is saying to them “Grow up”!

 It says in Chapter 5:13-14, “Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.  But solid food is for the mature who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil”.

 Right and wrong behavior needs to be discerned according to God’s word.  Our culture bombards us with immoral behavior as if it were “OK” or even desirable.   If we are watching TV more than reading our Bibles is it any wonder that Christians struggle with discernment of good and evil?

There is another lesson for us in Chapter 5:11

“We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand.”  The Hebrews had “dulled” their hearing.  It appears that they no longer even cared to understand.  

 What I take from this chapter is that while there are different rates of spiritual growth-----if we are not growing then we are shrinking.  The question for all of us is which are we right now?  We can’t be content to just tread water because the current of the world, the flesh and the devil will carry us backwards if we do not strive to move ahead.  To be very direct, if we are not making time daily to spend in God’s word and in prayer, then we are not growing, we are shrinking!  We are going from eating meat back to the formula and pureed peas. That stuff is great for babies but not for adults.

 The overriding lesson in Chapter 5 of Hebrews is quite simple.   Grow up!

Hebrews Chapter 4

Just what the doctor ordered.

My oldest brother is a famously fabulous doctor…and an infamously insensitive shot-giver. Emblazoned on my childhood memory is an occasion of much-needed medical attention, to be administered via a penicillin jab in my bare back-side. With dread – and much embarrassment over the full moon exposure – I braced for impact. Although my doctor-brother’s procedure felt more like a stab than a jab, the cure was efficiently and effectively delivered and I was back to my normal self soon thereafter.

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.” Hebrews 4:13 (NLT)

When I first read verse 13, I have to admit the dominant feelings were of embarrassment and conviction. Does it really mean “nothing” is hidden and “everything” is exposed? With a fearful, cringed posture, I researched other translations, hoping to find less-strict or perhaps more accommodating interpretations. As it turns out, there is no escape from this nothing–everything calculated symmetry.

So, what shall I do with this? It’s hard to say “I have nothing to hide” but the truth is that with God, there is nothing I can hide.

After much introspection (including additional futile attempts to avoid personal application of this verse), I came to an important realization: although this passage certainly does address my accountability to God in thought, word and deed, I also find supreme comfort and confidence in this passage.

Although the concept of being fully known is initially uncomfortable, it is actually a tremendous blessing. God already knows all my fears, failures and weaknesses – the ones I’ve had, currently have, and will have – and He loves me anyway! The feelings of embarrassment and conviction are fine (probably even healthy); however, I am to embrace the laid-bare exposure and welcome God, The Great Physician, to continue the work of the Holy Spirit in me.

Today, reflect on your “nothing” and “everything” in verse 13 – what does this mean for you? Before you conclude, I encourage you to carefully contemplate Hebrews 4:16.

Be bold and find grace, my friends!