Meditations in Hebrews 1: 2. God the Communicator
Heb 1:1 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways
I think I have lost count of the number of times, over the years, I have written, “God is a communicator”, for the whole Bible is about God communicating with mankind. From the outset, before the Fall, He communicated with Adam (Gen 2:16,17). After the Fall He communicated with Adam and Eve (Gen 3:9-19), then later with Cain (Gen 4:6-15) and then even later, by implication to Enoch (Gen 5:22-24) and then later still to Noah (Gen 6:13 on), but the ‘big conversation with God’ man was Abram (Gen 12 on).
In our verses at the beginning of Hebrews the writer is going to contrast Jesus with even the prophets and say how much greater than them he was, so whatever we see of these men (and they were mostly men although Deborah (Judges 4:4 on) stands out) we need to remember that Jesus was greater than them.
Now Abraham is the first man designated by God as a prophet (Gen 20:7) yet not a man who brings, “Thus says the Lord,” types of word but without a doubt he us shown as a man who has conversations with God and is later described in the Bible as ‘God’s friend’ (Jas 2:23). Now Jesus was more than a friend, he was the unique Son of God, begotten of the Father (begotten means ‘comes out of’).
Four hundred years or so later, Moses would designate himself a prophet (Deut 18:15) but Moses was unique among those designated prophets in the Old Testament in that he spoke face to face with God and when he came out of God’s presence, his face shone with the glory of God (Ex 34:34). When the writer to the Hebrews says “at many times and in many ways” we don’t know what he has in mind but clearly already we have seen Abraham walking and talking with God and Moses waiting in God’s presence in the Tent of Meeting or the Tabernacle having face-to-face encounters with God. Remember along the way, my assertion that God is a communicator. There had been previous communications but now much deeper communications with both of these men, both designated as ‘prophets’.
We next see the word ‘prophet’ applied to a specific individual (Moses had used the word in teaching throughout Deuteronomy) in Judges 6 where we read, “When the Israelites cried to the LORD because of Midian, he sent them a prophet, who said, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says…..” (Judg 6:7,8) This seems to be the first ‘Thus says the Lord’ type of prophet who bring one message calling Israel to repent. However, when you read Judges you realise this is not the only divine communication. In chapter 2 an angel of the Lord comes with a message of rebuke to Israel (Judg 2:1-3) and at the end of that chapter the Lord speaks to Israel again (2:20-22). In chapter 4 we come across Deborah the prophetess (4:4-) who clearly communicates God’s will. This brings us to Gideon to whom the Lord appears to speak directly (7:2-). Later, in Judges 10 there is a time when Israel appear to repent and call on the Lord who answers (Judg 10:11-14), presumably through a prophet. When it comes to the story of Samson in Judges 13, it starts with an angel of the Lord communicating with his parents (Judg 13:3-5,11-18)
At the end of the period of the judges, Samuel “was attested as a prophet of the LORD” (1 Sam 3:20) and we read the Lord, “revealed himself to Samuel through his word.” (v.21) which, examining Samuel’s ministry, would suggest a combination of “Thus says the Lord” type of words plus words of wisdom as he judged the people. Samuel, of course, initially heard God’s word out loud (1 Sam 3:4-). What we tend to forget is that before this started to happen to Samuel, we are told “a man of God” came to Eli, the old priest, with a strong and lengthy prophetic word of rebuke and correction. (1 Sam 2:27-36). God of communication!
Now rather that go on and write several pages of all the records of the times when the Lord spoke to His people through the rest of the Old Testament, we would simply suggest that as you read your Bible you keep an eye out for the times when the Lord spoke and how He spoke. There are clearly times when He spoke directly to individuals and other times when an unknown prophet turns up with a word, or even more, when a prophet with a full prophetic ministry is clearly one who hears God – e.g. Elijah, Elisha then the major prophets – Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and then a number of ‘minor prophets’.
Already, in the limited scan of the earlier part of Israel’s history, we have seen that the Hebrews’ writer is accurate when he says that God spoke, “through the prophets at many times and in various ways”. We are going to go on to see how God then spoke through His Son, Jesus Christ, but that ‘speaking’ involved a lot of action. Perhaps the big difference between Jesus and many of the prophets is that Jesus demonstrated the kingdom of God and the others merely spoke it. The only real exception was Elisha who also demonstrated the wisdom and power of God through his ministry.
Of course, now we are in the era of the Church, the body of Christ, the clear teaching of the New Testament is that we too are to be God’s mouthpiece and we too, like Jesus, are to demonstrate the presence of the kingdom of God as he did. Remember he said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these.” (Jn 14:12) That really leaves no room for argument! That is the intended style of life in and through the Church. May we see it more and more.