Meditations in Hebrews 13: 72. The Doctrinal Launch Pads (1)
Heb 13:22 Brothers, I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written you only a short letter.
Platforms of belief: Over the past two studies we have been considering all the exhortations that flow through this book and the context or background that made them necessary, but as we go to conclude this series I realise that for these past two studies we have focused more on the exhortations and little on the reasoning for them, and so we may yet have to do more studies picking up on what I referred to as the platforms of belief or launch pads from which all these exhortations come from. There are always theological reasons for everything we do in the Christian life, so let’s start checking them out in this letter.
The exhortations that we have considered are important as they give us practical matters that we are to work out in our Christian lives today (and so if you are unsure of those matters you may wish to reread the last two studies). However the thinking behind them is equally important and so we need to recap the book again but this time observing the theological platforms from which all those exhortations sprung. We should not rush this because the nature of this book, the Jewish-Christian, Old Testament basis of it, means that it is likely that first time round we did not fully take in or understand all of the ‘theology’. So, pray for grace and here we go.
The Greatness of Jesus: Chapter 1 started us off with a mini condensed ‘prologue’ all about the wonder of who Jesus was and is (1:1-3) and the rest of the chapter expounded on how he was greater than the angels being God’s Son who now sits reigning at the Father’s right hand (1:4-14). That then in Chapter 2 opened up the first exhortation to ensure we did not drift in our faith (2:1-3a). This was followed by more doctrine about Jesus being crowned with glory through his death, sharing in our humanity as he suffered to bring our atonement (2:3b-18). Whereas chapter 1 exalted Jesus in a general way as the divine Son of God, chapter 2 exalts him as the human Son who has done the Father’s work but in a way with which we are easily able to identify.
Two Grounds for Worship: When we worship the Lord we have two platforms from which to launch our worship. The first is worship of the divine Son of God who has existed in heaven with the Father from beginning of time, and who was involved in creation, and who now upholds this world by his word of power, and who left heaven to bring about the work of redemption. We worship a divine Son who is all glorious. But then, second, we praise and thank the human Son who left his glory in heaven and who came and lived on earth and who identified himself with us and experienced all we experience, including rejection, suffering and death, before he was raised from the dead and then ascended back to heaven. These two aspects of the Son are worthy of our worship, praise and thanksgiving, and are the essential ‘two sides of the coin’ of the Son of God who is our Saviour.
Moses, Rebellion & a Warning: In Chapter 3 we saw Jesus contrasted with Moses, the hero of the Jewish faith, for Moses was a servant in God’s house but Jesus was the Son in God’s house (3:1-6). That led into the first serious warning because mention of Moses reminded the writer that the Israelites with Moses had failed to enter the Land (3:7-11, 16-18) which led on to an exhortation not to follow their example (3:12-15). Chapter 4 opened up and expounded more on that rebellion, considering the concept of ‘the rest of God’ that He intended for His people (4:1-11). In doing this he referred first to the ‘rest’ that God entered into when he finished Creation (4:4), and then the ‘rest’ that was the Land of Israel (4:6) and then yet a third ‘rest’ that is held out as a possibility for all God’s people, that will be heaven.
Failure & Hope: In the same way that chapter 1 (the divine Son) contrasted with chapter 2 (the human Son), so there is a contrast between chapters 3 & 4. Chapter 3 is all a warning about the possibility of failure to believe, chapter 4 presents the possibility of a ‘rest’ being the reward for believing – which is what we enter into as believers today and look forward to for eternity.
Recap: Very well, before we rush on and find ourselves embroiled in the complexity of the next three chapters, let’s simply recap what we have just seen and then deal with subsequent chapters in the next study.
The Full Jesus Focus: Almost more clearly than anywhere else in the New Testament, we have a picture painted of Jesus Christ, the divine Son of God who existed in heaven before he came to earth, and then the human Son of God (although they are both one and the same) who came and redeemed us. We always need to hold his greatness and glory and then his meekness and humility before is when we worship and as we seek to understand his work and our salvation. That is all about the ‘belief’ side of our lives.
The Christian Life: But then belief leads to action, to change our lives now empowered by the Spirit of Jesus. As soon as we start to consider this we are in the realm of beliefs, attitudes and decision making, and because we have free will, we are able to choose to go on with God, receiving all He has for us in His plans for us, or of drifting into complacency and inactivity which, if left unattended, can develop further into positive backsliding, unbelief and even apostasy.
But the Bible doesn’t leave us to wonder about this, for it presents us in these chapters with clear warnings of the example of the Israelites who came out of Egypt and who had observed such wonders with God but who, nevertheless, failed to have faith to go in and take the land. The Lord uses an analogy of the Land, calling it ‘their rest’, a target He had for them which they failed to hit. Now, in our salvation received from Jesus, we too have a place of ‘rest’ which is simply the goal of our salvation which the Holy Spirit leads us into and which culminates in heaven. The warning that had gone before suggests that it is possible for us to drift and become complacent and fail to enter that ‘rest’ in this present life, all that God has for us now. It is a challenge to consider our lives and ask ourselves, are we open to all that the Lord has for us and check that we are being obedient to all He says. There are very practical and very vital outcomes to these first four chapters that we need to heed. May it be so.