So…I’m absolutely thrilled to be studying Hebrews in my weekly Bible study, Every Woman’s Grace, this school year! I happened to be eating up Hebrews when I learned that EWG would be studying it this fall, a fun “coincidence” that sealed the deal–I had to sign up. =)
I’ll kick off this series with what I’ve appreciated about the opening verses of Hebrews.
Andrew is in a Hermeneutics class and reminded me recently about how important it is to read the Bible in its original context, from the perspective of its original readers, and then apply it to our own lives. This letter was written to mostly Christian Jews, not many years after Jesus’ ascension. With that in mind, read Hebrews 1:1-4 and prepare to be BLESSED!
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. (Heb. 1:1-4)
First of all, can I just say how beautiful this is?
It’s like the first page of a fairy tale, only it’s truth, and it’s really a part of believer’s personal story. There is an absolute TON packed into these verses, but today I’m going to single out one of my favorite pieces.
The original readers came from a long line of generations that had listened to the words of the prophets who foretold of Jesus’ coming and eagerly awaited that event. The reality that the Messiah had indeed finally come and made the ultimate sacrifice on their behalf was still new, revolutionary, and perhaps even confusing. Their grandparents, parents, and maybe even some of the elderly readers themselves, had grown up making sacrifices at the temple and approaching God through priests. They had heard the teaching of the Old Testament and knew that their ancestors had received God’s truth through prophets.
The writer of Hebrews begins by reminding his audience of the incredible event that had happened just decades earlier: not another prophet, but Jesus Christ Himself had come to earth. God had spoken through Jesus, Who was His Son, heir to everything, Creator of the world, and the exact imprint of God’s perfect nature. He was so great, it would be unfair to even compare Him with the prophets, who had all been flawed messengers, fellow sinners.
Imagine being a Christian Jew at this time.
They understood full well what life had been like before Jesus’ coming, and was probably still surrounded by unbelieving Jews carrying on with the sacrifices and priests in the temple. This description of Jesus and Who He was must have been an incredibly moving reminder of what an awesome thing God did for His people in sending His only Son. They must have been filled with gratitude that God would place them in “these last days” that the author of Hebrews refers to, when prophets and priests were no longer needed and access to God could be had through His Son.
I’d imagine, since these people centuries ago had a sin nature much like mine, that some of them had already grown calloused to the gift that Jesus was in their lives. I’m sure this letter was a wake-up call for anyone in that camp, a reminder of how blessed they were to live after the Messiah’s coming.
If you’re familiar with Hebrews, you know that these verses are only the beginning of chapter after chapter stressing God’s provision of the Ultimate High Priest. Meditating in this book is deepening my gratefulness that we can “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:16) See what I mean about context? That oft-quoted verse is so much more poignant when you ponder how the Jews had to approach God prior to Jesus.
I hope these few simple thoughts inspire you to return to Hebrews on your own; I’m looking forward to exploring it more together as the months roll on.