Sunday: Hebrews Introduction
Today we begin a study through the letter to the Hebrews. Though there is no mention of the authors name, the clear voice of the Holy Spirit through its pages and the sound theology we find there gives it unquestioned apostolic authority. That it belongs in our canon of scripture and was written by one of the recognized leaders of the early church is without doubt (Heb 13:22-24). Numerous guesses as to authorship have been made including Barnabas, Apollos, or Aquila and Priscilla. Some argue Paul wrote it and there are passages that sound just like him, but other passages definitely dont. So well have to wait until we get to heaven to find out for sure, but regardless of who wrote it we should be deeply thankful that this magnificent letter has been left to us.
Monday: Hebrews Introduction
Hebrews was apparently written during the mid to late A.D. 60s just before the fall of the Temple in Jerusalem (A.D. 70), because no mention is made of that remarkable fulfillment of Christs prophecy. The spiritual symbolism of that event is so tied to the theme of Hebrews it seems inconceivable that the author would not have mentioned it had it already taken place. The letter is addressed to Jewish believers, many of whom had been persecuted for their faith, but not martyred (Heb 10:32-34; 12:4). They had endured such things as public humiliation and beatings. Some had been imprisoned and some had had their homes or land confiscated. And many must have been under severe pressure from family members and friends by being ostracized and disinherited.
Tuesday: Hebrews Introduction
During its first few decades, Christianity was viewed by the outside world as one more sect within Judaism. They saw it as an internal debate among Jews about the validity of a rabbis claims to be their Messiah. But as the years passed, the gulf between Judaism and Christianity widened. Irreconcilable differences emerged forcing people to make painful choices. As positions hardened families were split apart and synagogues expelled followers of Yeshua. During the mid A.D. 60s, a political crisis was fomenting in Israel which increased the pressure on Jewish believers even more. Tensions were escalating over Romes occupation until an open revolt broke out in A.D. 66. Parts of the country freed themselves from Roman rule until Rome sent a major army under a general named Vespasian. He systematically slaughtered hundreds of thousands of people in Galilee, Perea, Western Judea and Idumea, isolating Jerusalem from outside support. But before he was able to attack Jerusalem he was proclaimed emperor so he appointed his elder son Titus to finish in Judea. Titus surrounded Jerusalem in April of A.D. 70 and by August 29 the city and its Temple lay soldering in ruins (F.F. Bruce, Israel and the Nations; Eerdmans, 1963, pp 222-223). Overall, by the time the revolt was put down, over a million people had died. In this emotionally-charged atmosphere the loyalties of Jews all over the world were drawn to stand in solidarity with their people.
Wednesday: Hebrews Introduction
This placed Jewish Christians in a particularly awkward position. By continuing in their faith they appeared to be disloyal to their Judaism and Israel at the time when these were in danger. As these political events developed the pressure became even greater on Jewish Christians to abandon Jesus and return to their ancestral faith. After all, Judaism had been the faith of Moses, David and the prophets so why should God be displeased if they went back to it? Most of Hebrews is a carefully laid-out response to that question. And the answer which is given is a resounding No! You cant abandon Jesus and go back to Judaism because Jesus is the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David and the prophets. Jesus Christ isnt a new religion. Hes the fulfillment of all for which Judaism has been waiting. Yes, faith in Him may get you into trouble, but true faith has always brought hardships. So determine to persevere no matter what it costs because nothing this world holds compares with eternal life.
Thursday: Hebrews 1:1
Verse 1: God has always spoken to His people. In fact one of the most distinguishing features about Him is that He actively communicates. It proves that He is a living person not a lifeless idol or a mere philosophical concept. If we let our minds review the flow of Biblical history we can identify time after time where He spoke to humans in one way or another. He used many different forms, both verbal and non-verbal. He used dreams, visions, angels, prophets and common people. To some He spoke a lot, to some very little. To some He revealed profound insights, to others simple instructions. But from Adam and Eve onward we find ourselves reading stories of men and women who heard God speak to them: Noah, Abraham, Hagar, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Balaam, Joshua, Deborah, Samson, Samuel, David, Nathan, Gad, Solomon, Ahijah, Elijah, Elisha, Obadiah, Joel, Jonah, Amos, Hosea, Micah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Nahum, Haggai, Zechariah, Ezra, Nehemiah and Malachi.
Friday: Hebrews 1:2
Verse 2 : Then suddenly after thousands of years of this kind of communication, God changed everything by speaking to the world in an entirely new way. What He did was so radical it became the spiritual center point of all human history. It overshadows everything that came before it and from that event onward it has become the standard against which every spiritual truth and communication is to be tested. This time He did not send us another human prophet who would, like all others, only be able to give us a partial revelation of who He is. This time He spoke a complete, perfect revelation of Himself by incarnating His Son into human flesh. Now in terms that all of us can understand we are shown Gods character as it is lived out on our own planet. In Jesus, God communicated with us in the clearest, most flawless way possible: He became one of us.
Saturday: Hebrews 1:2
Verse 2 (continued): To behold Jesus is to behold the Father (Jn 149; Col 2:9). Its as if we were invited into the throne room of heaven to meet God Himself face to face, because as Gods Son, Jesus is exactly like His Father. To see one is to see the other. To hear one is to hear the other. So between now and the end of time there will never be a communication from God that is higher or supersedes what He has revealed about Himself in Jesus Christ. Verse 2 (continued): Jesus is not just one more human prophet. He is literally Gods Son (Mt 21:33-41). Whereas every other human begins his or her existence in a mothers womb, Jesus did not. As a spiritual being He existed eternally in heaven prior to being miraculously conceived in Marys womb (1Cor 8:6, Php 2:5-11; Col 1:16, 17; Jn 1:2, 3,10;17:5). Then at His conception He fully became a man, just as human as we are. Yet at the same time His spirit remained unchanged because a persons spirit is that person. So as we listen to this ancient letter called Hebrews, well hear Jesus being spoken of in both divine and human terms. And thats because at His incarnation He became, and still is, both: fully divine and fully human.