< Hebrews 5:7-10 | Hebrews 5:11-6:12
I don’t know about you, but I find myself feeling pretty overwhelmed by what I know (and what I don’t know) about God. There are some things that I cannot wrap my head around, but because they are so clearly taught in the Bible I have to simply be okay with them on one level and take it on faith at another. This is why the next section of the book of Hebrews is puzzling to me.
About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
(Hebrews 5:11-14 ESV)
< Hebrews 4:14-5:6 | Hebrews 5:7-10 | Hebrews 5:11-6:12 >
Death and suffering: two things we try desperately to avoid at all costs. Or do we? At the heart of suffering and death is sin (Romans 6:23). We harbor our secret sins, justify others, and even commend those who sin when they do so for what may be considered a “righteous purpose.” Yet all sin is a turning away from reliance on God and seeking our own way. And according to the Bible, the reward for all sin is death.
From the time of the Fall of Adam, sin has become our default setting. No matter how hard we try, no matter what the consequence, sin always seems so reasonable because it parallels with our very nature. In his book The Sinfulness of Sin, Ralph Venning (1621– 1673) discusses the pains that Christ took to leave the throne to become enfleshed as a human. He walked this earth and at every turn was faced with the ugliness and utter vulgarity of sin. Christ faced every temptation and remained free of sin, yet I cannot imagine the utter sorrow he must have felt every moment with the plague of sin constantly at his shoulder. Even in this, what may be described as torment, he alone was thus capable of becoming the atoning sacrifice for the salvation of those beloved of God.
< Hebrews 3:7-4:13 | Hebrews 4:14-5:6 | Hebrews 5:7-10 >
Every day we hear phrases like “have faith” or “leap of faith.” George Michael sang a song called “You Got to Have Faith” about believing that someone is interested in a romantic relationship. Faith is obviously a topic that the Bible addresses often. In the book of Hebrews we read what likely is the most well-known definition in terms of religious belief:
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
(Hebrews 11:1 ESV)
I often hear people talk about faith as being something that we hold without evidence, and sometimes even with evidence to the contrary. Do we read the words “hoped for” and “not seen,” and forget that faith also involves “assurance”? Obviously faith is something about what is “not yet,” but where does this assurance come from? It sounds as if the author of Hebrews is arguing that there is a level of certainty to our faith.
< Hebrews 3:1-6 | Hebrews 3:7-4:13 | Hebrews 4:14-5:6 >
One of the most amazing things about the gospel of Jesus Christ is that it gets us off the hook. There is absolutely no “but” in terms of what Christ did for us and the life he lived in our place. Certainly upon receipt of such an amazing gift we can never be the same, and part of that is a desire to do what God wants us to do, but it does not change the fact that everything that God requires of us he accepts through Jesus.
It is this increadible news that the author of the book of Hebrews next shares with us. The work of God throughout human history has urged us toward him, to trust in him, and rest in him. God’s plans are not secret; the mystery of his plan of salvation has been revealed. This revelation demands a response:
Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
on the day of testing in the wilderness,
where your fathers put me to the test
and saw my works for forty years.
Therefore I was provoked with that generation,
and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;
they have not known my ways.’
As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest.’”
(Hebrews 3:7-11 ESV)
Jesus, transfigured, with Moses and Elijah
< Hebrews 2:5-19 | Hebrews 3:1-6 | Hebrews 3:7-4:13 >
Whenever I have conversations with skeptics about the basics of the Christian faith, I inevitably point out that Christianity is not a system of morals but the story of God’s rescue of his people. The response is typically varied disseminations of puzzlement because, for whatever reason, it is difficult to imagine Christianity not being about thou shalts and thou shalt nots.
“But, Aaron,” I hear from my fellow Christians, “what about the Ten Commandments? What about Jesus’ command to love God above all else and love one another as ourselves?” Indeed there is much in the Bible about right ways of living and doing good deeds. Jesus himself challenges us to “take up [our] cross and follow [him].” Was this the reason that Jesus came? If his intention was to give us a good example to live by then why did he have to die?