A JOURNEY THROUGH HEBREWS
— To find the greatness of CHRIST!
Have you ever felt like giving up? Have you ever awakened one morning and asked yourself – “What on earth am I doing in this hard place?” Perhaps some of you always knew you would be called to a hard place; maybe others were surprised and shocked at the circumstances that led you there. In either case, our lives with God are often quite unpredictable. When we are young we all tend to look into our future with rose-colored glasses and happily-ever-after dreams. Of course, the Lord delights to give us “the desires of our heart.” (Psalm 37:4) But He delights also to grow us up and make us fruitful.
Imagine, if you can, the Hebrew Christians in the first century. Many of them found themselves in a place they never dreamed possible. Not only were they displaced from their homes and everything that was normal and predictable, they were also experiencing hardship and persecution – from their own countrymen! How can this be?
They felt like giving up and going back — returning to their old comfortable lives under the old covenant of Judaism. At just the right moment along comes the writer of Hebrews to open their eyes and hearts to their new reality – the best and sweetest that God has to offer has come to them – but not necessarily the easiest.
This story of THE SUPERIORITY OF LIFE IN CHRIST and the inspiring list of great heroes of the faith will spur us on to greater things. Our hope is that it will also make us content in the place God has for us in this moment of our lives.
DAYS ONE & TWO: FACTS ABOUT THE WRITING OF HEBREWS
OVERVIEW OF HEBREWS
Little is known about the origin of the book of Hebrews.
- Some believe it was a letter – perhaps written by Paul, Barnabas, Apollos, Luke, Timothy or some otherwise unknown author.
- Some believe it was a sermon delivered to a particular group of discouraged believers since it is lacking the normal salutation of first century letters.
- No one knows for sure where the recipients were located. Undoubtedly they were Jews, possibly in Jerusalem or nearby in Judea or even in Rome.
- The date of writing is also uncertain – perhaps prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in the first century. It is possible that these recipients were second-generation believers since it appears they were not eyewitnesses. (Hebrews 2:3)
One thing we know – the recipients were in a hard place. The prospect of severe persecution or martyrdom was causing some to seriously consider apostasy. In His grace, God sent an encourager.
- The writer writes to encourage these discouraged brothers.
- His purpose is also to warn and instruct about coming events.
- When God sends encouragement, what form does it take? At least in this instance the outline shows a defense of the Christian faith or an early apologetic.
- This writing also gives a thorough description of Christ from a Jewish perspective.
- It contains teaching, warnings, exhortations and models that form a rock-solid foundation for faith.
The book could be broadly divided into two major divisions:
- THE SUPERIORITY OF THE PERSON OF CHRIST
(Chapter 1 – Chapter 10:18)
- Greater than the Prophets: 1:1-3
- Greater than Angels: 1:4-2:18
- Greater than Moses: 3:1-19
- Greater than Joshua: 4:1-16
- Greater than Aaron: 5:1-10:18
- THE SUPERIORITY OF NEW LIFE IN CHRIST
(Chapter 10:19 – Chapter 13)
- The book clearly shows the superiority of Christ over the Levitical sacrificial system and the old covenant or the Law of Moses.
- The book also gives five important warnings scattered throughout the text that speak loudly to our needs today.
E. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION
- Briefly scan through the book and note the chapter headings. Jot down any thoughts that will help build an anticipation of what you will study about Christ and a life of faith.
- What are two of the purposes the author had in writing Hebrews? (Hebrews 2:1-3; 6:1)
- Can you name a time in your life when you or a loved one became deeply discouraged?
- What are some of the ways God has used to encourage you or others?
- How do you consider yourself to be an encourager of others?
We all experience discouragement from time to time. It is part of the human condition in this fallen world. God may use a phone call, a letter, an email, text message, a visit or just a few words of conversation when His child needs encouragement. He may also use a song, a scripture, a sermon or a radio voice to help and comfort. Often these things need a “voice” or a person to deliver His message. When we pray for help in times of discouragement, we must open ourselves to His creative method. Whether we are the messenger or the recipient, God’s encouragement is a necessary function of the Body of Christ.
When I am discouraged, I particularly love to go to the Psalms to read and meditate until – “the things of earth grow strangely dim,” allowing my spirit to once again soar.
DAY THREE: A SUPERIOR SPOKESMAN IS INTRODUCED.
READ: Hebrews 1:1-3
A. GOD HAS SPOKEN TO MAN IN VARIOUS WAYS.
The writer of Hebrews begins with a dialogue of how God has spoken to man down through the ages. Then he makes some sweeping statements about the greatness and superiority of Christ. Four of the great pillars of Judaism are prophets, angels, Moses, and the Levitical Priesthood. So we begin with a contrast – not between the good and the evil – for all of these things are from God. Judaism was the best there was until Christ came. The contrast is between the good and the best. The Son of God has come to be the ultimate revealer of God’s glory and God’s plan.
Throughout human history God has always communicated with His creation. Man has never been left in the dark to become fearful, ignorant and confused (as the pagans were) about the nature and purposes of God and man.
- God walked and talked with Adam and Eve. (Genesis 1)
- God spoke through the patriarchs – Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses.
- God Spoke through the prophets, angels, priests and kings
God spoke in various ways. He was not limited to one “voice” but used whatever was effective in different times and different circumstances.
- Visions and Dreams
- Direct Voice
- Events in Nature
- Laws and Prophecies
- Types and shadows
The prophets were compelled to speak, so God’s message was always delivered – even when the prophets were reluctant. What God said was always true and always relevant. The instruction God gave was always far superior to man’s wisdom (Deuteronomy 4:8).
The Jews had great wisdom and revelation (as the Queen of Sheba testified (2 Chronicles 9). Great pride had developed. But prophets were limited – each gave a piece of revelation. They didn’t know the whole story, and they didn’t always understand what they prophesied (I Peter 1:10). And, all of their prophecies were only a preparation. The prophetic voice seemed to come to an end with Malachi – the end of the O.T. There had been 400 years of silence.
B. JESUS IS SUPERIOR TO PROPHETS.
Now God has spoken again in a new way and with a new voice. While Hebrew prophets were held in highest esteem (and rightly so) – now someone is speaking who is far superior. Why so? The answer is given in Hebrews 1: 2-3:
- He is the Son of God – as deity He has complete and perfect knowledge.
- He is the creator of the world – As creator He understands everything in heaven and on earth. He designed the product, so He is qualified to write the “Owner’s Manual.”
- He is the heir – He has a personal interest because it all belongs to Him. He is the owner of the earth and mankind.
- He is a reflection of God and has the very nature of God – He represents God perfectly. As a member of the Trinity, He speaks the very same message as God.
- He has all power—He upholds the universe. He can do what He plans and promises regarding salvation, the abundant life, and eternal life.
- He made purification for sin – He is the final answer to the sin problem of man — the problem that separates man from God. He is the permanent and sufficient sacrifice.
- He is seated at the right hand of God – He has all authority to rule over man.
Both the Law and the Prophets (entire Old Testament.) came from God. But Jesus is God’s final, perfect and complete revelation. At the transfiguration God’s voice said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.” (Matthew 17:5) Two of the greatest Old Testament prophets were there – Moses and Elijah.
So Jesus is superior to the prophets. He is the perfect vehicle for divine revelation. He is both creator and savior. He is both God and perfect man. He speaks from divine knowledge and personal experience.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION
- Which of the facts about Jesus is the most convincing to you? Why?
- Which of the facts about Jesus is the most encouraging to you? Why?
- Since Jesus is God’s ultimate word, how would you describe the importance of studying the Old Testament today? (II Timothy 3:16)
- How do you demonstrate that Jesus’ words are ultimate truth in your life?
- How much time do you devote to the reading of Jesus’ revelation each week?
The Bible has what we call “progressive revelation.” As we move along from Genesis to the New Testament, we see more and more of God’s plan for man. We are fortunate to live in this period of time wherein Jesus has come to earth to give us complete and ultimate truth. We can know not only how to live our lives, but also what God has planned for the future. We can know how to rightly interpret all of the Old Testament laws and all of the prophecies about the first and second coming of the Messiah. The book of Hebrews was written to believing Jews to help them transition from Judaism to Christianity, but the message gives us a deep-seated peace about the precious truth that comes from the very person who is described as “truth.” Standing for truth in a world filled with Satan’s lies is a great privilege bestowed on believers today.
DAY FOUR: JESUS IS GOD’S HIGHEST ORDER.
READ: Hebrews 1:4-13
A. JESUS IS SUPERIOR TO THE ANGELS.
Angels were very important in the Jewish religion.
They had played a major role in Old Testament stories from Genesis 3 throughout the history of God’s chosen people. They were present in struggles in Egypt and Canaan and in Babylon in other battles with God’s enemies. They were also mentioned in force at the giving of the law. (Deuteronomy. 33:2).
Yet, Jesus is higher than the angels.
The author makes a definitive statement about Jesus’ superiority over angels. What is it that makes Jesus superior?
- V. 5 — Jesus is superior in name and origin. He is the Son of God (deity). He alone holds that title. He became human but was still the Son of God and not the son of Joseph. No angel holds that title. (Psalm 2:7)
- V. 6 — He is superior in rank. At birth, angels were commanded to worship him. That proved his deity. None of God’s angels would worship a created being.
- V. 7 — He is superior in role. Angels are servants to carry out God’s purposes. Jesus is the eternal ruler and King of righteousness. He earned that title on earth. He will reign forever and ever. Angels will serve him forever. (Psalm 104:4)
- V. 10 — He is superior in essence. He is the creator. He existed outside of time before creation. All else is part of creation. He is eternal – without end. (Psalm102:25-26)
- V. 13 — He is superior in honor. He is seated in heaven in the place of honor. (Psalm110:1)
Jesus is superior in every way to angels. Even though angels have an important role in God’s created order, they can never live out the role designed for the Lord Jesus Christ.
B. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION
- The author of Hebrews uses at least seven Old Testament verses to prove his points about the superiority of Jesus over angels. Why are Old Testament passages important to Hebrew Christians?
- What have you learned about angels from Hebrews 1 or any of the Old Testamentassages?
- What new thought in the description of Jesus’ superiority proves his superiority to you?
- Since Jesus is so important, how can a person get to know him better?
- What can believers do to show their honor to their King of Righteousness?
Everyone in God’s created order (angelic or human) has their role to play in God’s economy. While there is a hierarchy, everyone has the same assignment – to bring glory to God by living out that role in the best way possible. We cause chaos and bring judgment on ourselves when we ignore our role and try to usurp someone else’s role. We can see a beautiful picture when we see everyone using their spiritual gifts and honoring their roles as we live and work for the kingdom of God.
DAY FIVE: ANGELS STILL HAVE A ROLE TO PLAY
READ: Hebrews 1:14
A. ANGELS ARE GOD’S SPECIAL SERVANTS.
Even though Jesus is superior in every way to angels, they are still very important. They are still being used by God to serve Jesus as He sits on the throne. They also serve those who belong to Jesus and those who will be saved.
What can we know about the role of angels?
- We often don’t recognize them. Hebrews 13:2 speaks of entertaining angels unaware. In Genesis 18 angels came to Abraham in the form of men.
- Angels give special care to children. (Matthew 18:10)
- Angels intervene in the lives of God’s children when they need special help. (Acts 5:17-21; 12:1-10)
- When believers die they escort them to glory. (Luke 16:22)
- When Christ returns, angels will accompany him. (Matthew 25:31)
- We must not worship angels (Revelation 22:9) but we can trust Jesus to send them when we need them most. Jesus may use an angel to protect me or rescue me. (Psalm 91:11-12)
- Angels don’t marry or reproduce. (Mark 12:25)
- As seraphim they praise God in Heaven. (Isaiah 6:2)
- Some angels serve as messengers. (Matthew 1:20)
- Some angels serve as guards. (Genesis 3:24)
B. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION
- Read as many of the references regarding angels as you can. Name at least one thing you have learned that encourages you.
- There is much misinformation about angels taught in our culture. What is one thing you have heard that is not true?
3. Have you ever asked Jesus to send an angel to help you or protect you? Explain:
4. Share one thing you have learned about the role of angels with someone who needs this encouragement.
We may often feel like giving up when life becomes very hard, but this lesson shows us why that would not be a wise choice. This lesson about the superiority of Jesus over prophets and angels not only clarifies Jesus’ position, it also provides some challenges for us today. Since Jesus is God’s final word to man, we need to learn to listen to him. He will give us wisdom and guidance and comfort to keep on keeping on. Since angels are God’s special servants, we can know that they are always available to Him to assist us when we are in great need. This knowledge can give us incredible peace in hard times.
PRINCIPLE FOR THE WEEK:
God is faithful to comfort His hurting children – using His perfect choice of methods.
Since Jesus is our king, in the position of power in heaven, we can call on him at any time. Call on Jesus for comfort and help in some way this week. He may send an angel. He may send a person. He may send a fresh message from the word.
Be open to listen and receive His comfort, then play it forward to others. (II Corinthians 1:3-4)
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