By Faith

Hebrews 11

Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture. (A reading of the first 12 chapters of Genesis will prove to be of value.)

1.          Here we have one of the most beloved and important chapters in all of our Bible. The author of Hebrews is looking back at the faith of those who had gone before, from Abel, and Moses, and likely those who led the Maccabean Revolt.

2.          Faith, the noun, and believe, the verb, are both from the Greek word pistis, and is the center of this chapter. The description of faith (belief) in the first verse means trusting in that which God has promised, of which the core is the salvation we have in Jesus Christ.

3.          Cain, the first born of Adam and Eve, following their expulsion from Paradise, kills the second born Abel who offered a sacrifice more excellent than Cain’s. Abel offered a lamb while Cain offered what he grew from seed planted in the ground, thus prefiguring the crucifixion of the Lamb of God.

4.          The list of those who trusted in their Creator follows: Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, and a host of others including David, Samuel, and the prophets.

5.          Though these “Old Testament” faithful did not live to see the completion of the work of God, those things that were promised, they still are commended by God for their steadfast faith.

6.          However, the readers of Hebrews have received something better, these are living after the events of the promised Messiah, namely, the crucifixion, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus the Messiah, the Savior of those who trust in Him.

7.          The author of Hebrews, despite the turmoil and trouble of that present age, urges his/her readers to remain faithful to the promises of God that are in Christ Jesus.

The Full Assurance of Faith

Hebrews 10:19–39

Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture. Reading the following passages will be of help: Dt.17:2–7; Matthew 27:45–51; 1 Peter 4:7–11; 2 Peter 3:8–13.

1.          To set the scene, the Jewish-Christians living in Rome were subject to persecution by Rome, and this during the reign of Domitian, 81-96 CE. Plus, those family members and friends who were not accepting Jesus as Messiah would have applied pressure to desert the fledgling Christian churches. It was a difficult period to be a follower of Jesus and not unlike today for many Christians around the world.

2.          The author of Hebrews states that these Hebrew believers can have every confidence to enter into the inner holy place because of the shed blood of Jesus. Their salvation is assured, and they must hold fast their hope without wavering.

3.          These Christians are not to neglect meeting together, as some were, and they are to encourage one another especially in light of the fact that the “Day” may come at any time, and this is the Day of Judgment.

4.          Verse 26 seems to suggest that it is possible to lose one’s salvation and over the centuries there have been many resolutions to the seeming problem.

5.          One view is that within the congregations being written to were those who had actually not been truly converted but were present due to any number of other reasons. We may use the term “christianized” to describe this. Anyone who has been a pastor of a church for any length of time will attest to this circumstance.

6.          The Hebrews author reminds his/her readers that after their conversion they had to endure many sufferings, and such had been, as we know, also true of the Neronian persecutions several decades earlier. History tells us many were murdered, tortured, and cast into prisons.

7.          Though some would “shrink back” our author declares that “we are not of those who shrink back.”

Christ’s Sacrifice Once for All

GOSPEL MEDITATION

Hebrews 10:1–18

Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture. Recommended Passages: Psalm 40:6–8; Jeremiah 31:31–34; Phil. 2:5–11; Rev. 12:7–12.

1.         This letter (epistle in Greek) is addressed to Jewish Christians, likely second-generation Christians and likely living in Rome. At this point in history there is no Bible or collection of writings of the original apostles or their disciples.

2.         The author of Hebrews wants his readers to know that there is no longer any need for daily and yearly sacrifices of animals to be made at the temple. (There is a debate as to whether the Temple in Jerusalem yet stood or if the dating of the letter was after 70CE.)

3.         One thing is clear, the “blood of bulls and goats” cannot cover or take away sin. Psalm 40:6–8, written 1000 years earlier teaches this very thing.

4.         The daily and yearly (Yom Kippur) sacrifices are prophetic, a looking ahead to the one supreme sacrifice, the Messiah who is both priest and king.

5.         The work of Christ stands forever. And those in Christ have had their sin, shame, and guilt forever taken away.

6.         Now we are in “waiting” until all the enemies of Messiah Jesus are completely defeated, and by this is meant not only Satan and the entire demonic kingdom but death itself, that eternal separation from the presence of God.

7.         The author of our passage points, as before, to the prophet Jeremiah and the passage 31:33–34, clearly one of the most incredible verses in the Hebrew Bible. And the key statement is: “I will remember their sins and lawless deeds no more.” Herein is the core meaning of what we call “Amazing Grace.”

Hebrews 9:11–28 Redemption Through the Blood of Christ

Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.

1.          In this lengthy passage we find that Jesus is both high priest and sacrifice.

2.          “Redemption” is a word found in Scripture that theologically contains the effect of Jesus’ death on the cross. 3.  To redeem means “to buy back.”  Our sin brings us under the authority and power of Satan, the enemy of God. The first covenant, or the Old Testament, meant that on a   continuing basis, sacrifices, or payments, had to be made in order to satisfy the demands of the Creator God.

4.          The blood of goats, calves, and bulls were never intended to be a final solution however, but served as a shadow or pre-cursor of that which was to come.

5.          The blood of Christ alone purifies “our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” This is the blood of the covenant.

6.          The high priest entered, on the Day of Atonement, into the inner sanctum and sprinkled blood on the ark of the covenant and the mercy seat. Christ how enters into the very presence of God and acting as our high priest.

7.          This sacrifice was a one-time event.  “He appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”

8.          He, Christ, will appear a second time, which we refer to as the “Second Coming” in order to “save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”

9.          This salvation extends to all those who have been called and elected throughout the entirety of world history.

The Earthly Holy Place

Hebrews 9:1–10

Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.

1.            Reminder: the unknown writer of Hebrews is writing to a Jewish Christian audience, and it is most likely he or she, or a husband-and-wife team, but the author(s) is Jewish.

2.          The focus of this first part of chapter 9 is the “earthly holy place,” that tent or tabernacle wherein God dwelt while the people of Israel, and for forty years, were wandering in the wilderness. The “Temple,” Solomon’s, would not be built for another five hundred years, and which was destroyed in 587 BCE. What came to be known as Herod’s Temple would be begun when the captives came back to Israel about 530 BCE. This was the temple in Jesus’ day.

3.          That tent in the wilderness had a court about it, a space where people would gather. Then the single tent contained two rooms, one the Holy Place and the other the Most Holy Place. The Holy Place was twice the size of the Most Holy Place, and the two were separated by an ornate and thick curtain or vail.

4.          Ordinary priests, of the tribe of Levi, entered the Holy Place often, carrying out the offerings and sacrifices we read about in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers.

5.          The Most Holy Place, wherein were the stone tablets upon which the 10 Commandments were written and the “Mercy Seat” flanked by representations of magnificent angels, the high priest of Israel entered once a year, on the Day of Atonement otherwise known as Yom Kippur. He sprinkled the blood of a sacrificial bull and later blood of a sacrificial lamb, thus atoning for his sins and the sins of the people. This ceremony would take place every year.

6.          Now then, the author of Hebrews understands that the way into the holy places are not yet opened; at this point in history there is no Temple, 80 to 95 CE, there is no holy place. Israel is then without hope.

7.          Paul, in referring to the above, put it this way in his letter to the church at Colossae: “These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” And by this he means that the earthly holy place pointed ahead prophetically to another Temple, a New Covenant, wherein Jesus Christ is the great high priest.

Jesus, High Priest of a Better Covenant

Hebrews 8:1–13

Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.

1.     A “priest” is one who stands between people and God. Aaron, the brother of Moses, a Levite, was the first high priest appointed by God. The Law demanded that the high priest make a sacrifice, the shedding of blood, of an animal to atone for his own sin and then and only then could he make an atoning sacrifice for the people of Israel.

2.     The descendants of Aaron, and it is recorded that there were 83 of theses between the days of Aaron and the last high priest in 70 CE, which is the date of the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.

3.   In Jesus we have a high priest who is “seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven.” (“Majesty” is an indirect Semetic term for God.)

4.   Jesus alone, who as deity, is in the Holy of Holies in heaven, ever interceding for us.

5.   His sacrifice stands for all time and is the basis of a new covenant since the old covenant had been broken as it depended upon a priesthood that was not without sin.

6.   Indeed, a new covenant would be made and Jeremiah the prophet spoke of it in chapter 31 of his prophecy, verses 31–34, which the writer of Hebrews quotes.

7.   Even in Jeremiah’s day, the 6th century BCE, the old covenant was treated as obsolete, but he looks ahead to the ultimate sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Jesus the Messiah, which would never be obsolete.  

8.   John the Apostle summarized this great and eternal truth when he quoted Jesus as saying, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

      (John 14:6)

9.   We then have no need of any sort of human priest, or institution, to stand between us and the Father.

The Resurrection

John 20:1-10

Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.

1.         The first day of the week, Sunday, unlike the Western version of designations, Mary Magdalene of dubious reputation, made a visit to the tomb where Jesus’ body had been laid.

2.         The tomb itself, belonging to a member of the Council of Israel, Joseph of Arimathea, had been secured by having a large stone plastered in place. But Mary finds that the stone had been taken away.

3.         Mary, thinking there had been a grave robbery, runs to find Peter and the unnamed disciple, and tells them Jesus’ body is missing and nowhere to be found.

4.         So Peter and the un-named disciple rush out to see for themselves. Peter is no match for the speed of the other disciple and arrives at the tomb first.

5.         This disciple looking in saw the linen burial garments lying there. He does not got in himself.

6.         Peter, on arrival goes into the tomb and he also saw the garments lying there, and he also saw the face cloth folded up in a place separate from the other grave clothes.

7.         Then the other disciple enters the tomb, sees that Jesus is not there and “believes.”

8.         For unknown reasons, “they” and likely referring to the whole of the Eleven, had not yet understood that Jesus “must rise from the dead.”

9.         Then, the “disciples” and here John the Apostle, the author, states, “then the disciples went back to their homes.”

10.       The story continues with Mary weeping outside the tomb.

Jesus Compared to Melchizedek

Hebrews 7:11–28

Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.

1.              If perfection, or the ultimate intention of God, had been attainable via the Levitical priesthood, there would have been no need for a high priest like Melchizedek. But there, from a human point of view, was a change in the priesthood.

2.              Jesus, is born of the tribe of Judah and not Levi, and there were to be no priests from the tribe of Judah. Thus Jesus’ priesthood is of another order, and unlike the priests of Levi, this high priest has no end of living but is eternal.

3.              And Jesus’ priesthood is not without an oath for such is found in Psalm 110:4, “You are a priest forever” and this oath spoken by the Creator God who inspired David the Psalmist.

4.              It is sharply stated by the author of Hebrews that Jesus “holds his priesthood permanently because he continues forever.”

(This precludes all others, individuals or groups, who claim their truth is new improved truth. And there are many such who do so, consider Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, Christian Scientists among dozens of others.)

5.              Our high priest has no need to make sacrifices first for his own sin and then for the sin of others. This high priest, sinless and eternal, offered up Himself alone, and who “ has been made perfect forever.”

6.              The “Old Covenant (Testament) was always and only temporary, which covenant in fact pointed prophetically to the ultimate covenant ushered in by Jesus the Messiah.

7.              There is a paradox to be found here: there is an Old and a New Covenant or Testament, but there is really only one as the Old was never to be permanent.

8.              The New Covenant, agreement, testament, contract, never changes and is eternal.        

The Priestly Order of Melchizedek

Hebrews 7:1–10

Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.

1.         The writer of Hebrews in presenting the superiority of the priesthood of Jesus in these verses, refers to a legendary high priest, Melchizedek. This “king of Salem” and Salem means peace, received a tenth, or a tithe, from Abraham after his victory over his enemies.

2.         The point is that from Abraham, through Isaac and Jacob, and Jacob otherwise known as Israel, would come the Levitical priesthood. Thus, the priesthood of Melchizedek is superior to that of the priesthood that would stem from Aaron, Moses’ brother, both of whom were from the tribe of Levi, one of the twelve sons of Jacob (Israel).

3.         Jesus then is like Melchizedek, superior to the priesthood descending from Aaron, and again shown in Abraham’s giving of a tithe of the spoils of battle to Melchizedek.

4.         This explanation was important to Jewish believers in Jesus, especially since at that time the Temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed, and this in 70 CE.

5.         Though Hebrews is not directed toward Gentile Christians, still it is essential for all those who follow Jesus as Lord to understand the historical and spiritual background found in the Old Testament.

6.         In the Sermon on the Mount we find these words of Jesus: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). And the writer of Hebrews is helping us do just this.

The Certainty of God’s Promise

The Book of Hebrews

Hebrews 6:13–20

Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.

1.         The following passages will help set the stage for an understanding of this complex passage: Genesis 14:17–20; 22:1–18; Exodus 26:31–35; Psalm 110:1–7.

2.         In Genesis we find the promise that God made to Abraham, that he would be blessed and he would be “multiplied.” The Akida, the story of the Sacrifice of Isaac, who was born 25 years after the promise God made to Abraham, is part of the multiplying and a fulfilling of the promise despite being fulfilled after long years.

3.         God confirmed His promise to Abraham with an oath, a verbal and legal mechanism understood in that era, and from the Creator God it is unchangeable.

4.         God’s Word is unchangeable because it is impossible of Him to lie, therefore those who “have fled” to Him for refuge can be encouraged to “hold fast” to the “hope” that is ours. And there is no maybe attached to the definition of hope here: it refers to a sure thing.

5.         Instead of a maybe we have an “anchor” in ourselves, for we are a soul, a living being. (see Genesis 2:7) Here the Hebrew is nephesh meaning living creature.

6.         Jesus, the forerunner, meaning that He, in the ascension to heaven, is in the presence of the only God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is there “on our behalf” the eternal and only High Priest. The order of His priesthood is like that of Melchizedek, not a Levite, no ancestors or offspring to follow as priest, and who is symbolic or prophetic of the high priesthood of Jesus.