If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you noticed several (gorgeous, I might add) Florida photographs recently. My family spent a week in Santa Rosa, Florida, on a much-needed vacation. In just a couple weeks, my husband will kick-off another school year (he’s the principal, and is also affectionally known as the Grimm Reaper) and three of my four boys start school. We’re not busy-bodies on vacation (or in general), so we sat on the beach, splashed in the ocean, took naps, and ate ice cream. It was magical and didn’t even require any Tinkerbell pixie dust or Mickey Mouse. (Never fear, the reality is now fully reinstated, which is inclusive of a bazillion loads of laundry. I hear some people wash, dry, fold, and put away their laundry all in one day. This world is truly broken.)
I’ve been trying to get back into running again. I used to be a long-distance runner before the starting gun of my eight-year pregnancy sprint of birthing boys, boys, boys, and more boys. While I was in Florida, I got up (stupid) early and ran. If you’re a runner, you know the longer you run, the more and more difficult it is to talk (at least when you’re starting from the couch and trying to build your stamina like I am). It’s the same way in life – when you are hustling non-stop, you lose your voice, as well as your endurance. You fail to speak because you are too winded to talk.
You’re going to soon find out that Hebrews is a half-marathon read. Not because of the number of chapters (13), but in terms of the level of effort it will require of you. Drinking milk won’t provide enough energy in learning this book – you need protein. This is a non-vegetarian read. It’s thick and you must chew, chew, and chew some more – and even yet, it may be difficult to swallow. However, you are going to rock out this book because I know you’ve got God and you’ve got grit. That’s all you need, fellow runners.
Here’s what you should look to expect in studying and applying the book of Hebrews:
· The establishment, prioritization, and superiority of God.
· Words of encouragement for you.
· A restoration of your spiritual voice.
· Settling into a steady and God-honoring pace in life.
Knowing what you know, are you willing to do whatever it takes to evaluate your walk and listen and do what God speaks? Me too. So, let’s lace up our spiritual sneakers, and head out (here’s a Florida sunrise to get you motivated for the road ahead).
1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 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. 3 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. 4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.
- I had to resist the temptation of just stopping at verse 1: “In the past God…” We could gnaw on those four words for a decade. The audience or receivers of this letter were Messianic Jews. They were Jewish people, familiar with the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) and understood and believed Jesus was the Messiah. However, they couldn’t quite separate themselves from the sacrificial system of the old Mosaic (Moses) Law.
- The author of Hebrews is unknown – although we know all Scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16). Some scholars believe Paul wrote it, others Luke or Apollos. I am not going to postulate because from my perspective, God penned the book for me. He has something to say to me through Himself, and it’s going to be good. You should be expecting the same!
- Notice that the author didn’t debate or convince the people about the existence of God. I haven’t found anywhere in the Bible where God’s existence is defended (you should look for yourself, though). It’s a “known known” that God exists and Psalm 14:1 says, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.” We also know that creation declares the glory of God (Psalm 19:1 and Romans 1:20). There are no excuses, friends.
- The Lord is constantly speaking and in various ways. That white noise of life is what we must control the volume on. We hustle crazy fast and then breathe so heavily that we can’t hear what’s going on around us. We can’t hear God. We know from Scripture that He’s actively speaking. In the past, in the present, and until the end of time. He is not silent.
- Verse 3 says, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.” I used to go to the First Friday Art Walk in one of our neighboring cities. You could stroll between restaurants and galleries and admire the local artistry. When it came to paintings, there was typically an original being showcased and an identical print hereby for sale. Every line, shade, color, intricacy, and detail was in the print, just as it’s was in the original. That’s like what’s being said here – God and Jesus are separate, yet identical when it comes to the imprinting. That’s not the best analogy because God is not less or more than Jesus or the Holy Spirit, but it may help you understand how Jesus is the exact representation of God. We’ll fully understand it when we see Him face to face, but for now, I gave it my best.
- Okay, so the latter part of verse 3 is wah-wah-wildly awesome. “…He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” This is where the audience we discussed previously comes into play. These were Jesus-believing Jews. They had a solid understanding of the Mosaic Law and had not let go of that sacrificial law despite Jesus fulfilling that requirement. Hebrews ties to so many of the Pentateuch books, and here’s the Exodus studies in case you want to work on those while we study Hebrews. The fact that Jesus sat down is key. He sat down because He is the High Priest and His ultimate sacrifice of Himself satisfied the Law established in the beginning. The Jews reading this letter would have immediately recognized this point, and it’s important we make a similar connection because Jesus “finished” the work once and for all. Meaning, He doesn’t need your “works” to help bring fulfillment. #itisfinished
5 For to which of the angels did God ever say,
“You are my Son;
today I have become your Father”?
“I will be his Father,
and he will be my Son”?
6 And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says,
“Let all God’s angels worship him.”
7 In speaking of the angels he says,
“He makes his angels spirits,
and his servants flames of fire.”
- What’s up with all this angel talk? FYI: angels are not chubby little Michelin babies with wings. Angels were highly regarded by the Jewish people, and the reason was due to what’s written in Deuteronomy 33:2: “The Lord came from Sinai and dawned over them from Seir; he shone forth from Mount Paran. He came with myriads of holy ones from the south, from his mountain slopes.” Those “myriads of holy ones would refer to countless angels. They were a big deal.
- The issue was that once the Messiah came, died, and was resurrected, the Jews weren’t sure how to hierarchically rank who was superior (and many believed Jesus was an angel). I love how the writer doesn’t ignore the fact that the Jews were hung up on this point and their belief was incorrect. He’s like, “Hey, I get you have a deep adoration and respect for the angels, but you must remember Christ is superior and here’s why…” That’s an important lesson for us. We don’t need to spend our energy negating how people feel or what they think. When you use your voice and speak, acknowledge their belief (it doesn’t make their belief right or Scripturally sound), and then point back to Scripture. We must continually align ourselves with the Word of God. In this section, the writer quoted seven scriptures from the Old Testament to prove the superiority of Christ. Fellow runners of the faith, this is why we must know God’s Word.
- Verse 7 talks about you. You are a flame of fire. On vacation, my oldest started playing with Amanda’s (our favorite boy-helper in the entire universe) SnapChat filters. There’s one with these little flames. Rowen did a selfie on his 7-year old face, showed me, and said, “Look, I’m an apostle! I have tongues of fire on my head!” It made me laugh, and my God-heart smiled. You are flames of fire. I hope you are stoking your fire, fanning your flame, and being the light Christ has purposed in each of us to be. Hold up your flame because it’s time to light up this broken world.
8 But about the Son he says,
“Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever;
a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.
9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
by anointing you with the oil of joy.”
- Let’s talk about the “oil of joy” for a moment. Oil is critical to having a burning flame. Oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit and without oil, it’s impossible to achieve a continuously burning flame. The Holy Spirit is the fuel to what we do each day. If you’re tired and walking around in the dark with a lantern that isn’t burning – check your oil. “We say we depend on the Holy Spirit,” wrote Vance Havner, “but actually we are so wired up with our own devices that if the fire does not fall from heaven, we can turn on a switch and produce false fire of our own. If there is no sound of a rushing mighty wind, we have the furnace all set to blow hot air instead. God save us from a synthetic Pentecost!”
10 He also says,
“In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
11 They will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
12 You will roll them up like a robe;
like a garment they will be changed.
But you remain the same,
and your years will never end.”
13 To which of the angels did God ever say,
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet”?
14 Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?
- Beautiful final verses in 10-14. Read them again. “You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed.” Ah, I just love that. Toward the end of our vacation, my second-oldest son, Liam, cuddled up next to me on the couch and with his big green eyes and curly blond hair and said, “Mama, I feel bad because I was so excited to come to the beach house and play in the ocean and now I am homesick.” I have no idea where he heard the word “homesick” before, but I knew exactly what he meant. The Lord will be back for us, but until then, it’s okay to feel homesick.
- God places an eternal future that runs through our veins. It’s incomprehensible and unimaginable. Even Paul said he heard inexpressible things (2 Corinthians 12:4) Whatever minute slivers of understanding that Lord provides you, it should serve as a reminder of how brief this life is, the available harvest, and how we must run for Him and not this world. Amen.