At the beginning of 2016 I started with the book of Hebrews because it’s so deep and rich in meaning, demonstrating how the new covenant of grace has fulfilled the type, the shadow as seen in the rituals of the Old Testament.
The year was new and Hebrews seemed like the perfect book to study.
I acquired study materials online and did some reading up till around the 4th chapter and then went on to other things, which I suppose goes to show that I’m not unlike many of us who intend for great and disciplined things at the beginning of the year and then lapse into previously established patterns.
And now, meandering back through the latter half of the book of Hebrews, I measure myself against the heroes of the faith (“Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation.” – Hebrews 11:2, NLT).
The measurement does not make me look good by comparison, but nevertheless I see that these giants of the faith, these witnesses surround the Christian as it’s his or her turn to run the race marked out for that one. (Hebrews 12:1)
And as for the writer’s concluding exhortation, the thirteenth chapter, I’ve been mulling on it for a few days.
Verse 1: We’re supposed to keep on loving fellow believers as brothers and sisters. So I’ve got to make sure that if I’ve been remiss in this that I ramp it up. I’m pretty sure the world of unbelievers can’t love Christians the way their fellow believers can and the way Christians need love and encouragement. The world of unbelievers is downright hostile, but I’ve been called to give it all for my brothers and sisters.
This includes hospitality to strangers, my fellow believers that I have yet to meet.
Verse 3: We are to remember those in prison as if we were there ourselves. The account of a South Korean Christian jailed by the North Korea regime is merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Happily, he has been freed on medical grounds.
The uncomfortable truth is that there are far more instances of our brethren jailed and persecuted for being Christians. It is very difficult to put ourselves in the position of others suffering for the faith…we’re busy living life, working 9 to 5, recuperating on the weekends and trying to keep head above water.
It makes me think that these brethren are more on the cutting edge of grace because they need it far more.
The things that our brethren are being subjected to are incomprehensible. The least I can do is pray for them. The very least.
Verse 4: We are to keep the marriage bed pure. Not a very popular teaching recently, as God is thought to be quite intolerant in Western society currently. And since the politically correct commissars cannot touch Him, they go after His children.
The world is pretty much hating on the church right now but in historical context, without the church, the alternatives might be pretty bleak, either communism or shariah, or some other authoritarian form of government.
Verse 5: We should be content with what we have and trust Him. It is admittedly easier to trust in money sometimes as we can manipulate and manage it, stockpile and store it, work for it and spend it; it is a thoroughly pliable thing. One thing money does do however: it forsakes us, and ultimately lets us down. God never will.
“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.”
Verse 7: We are to remember our leaders in the church and the outcome of their way of life. I only wish I could have the same level of faith as some of these guys who go about as missionaries and give up so much time for the poor community down the road.
Verse 8: Jesus is the same, yesterday, today and forever. He is dependable in a world where there are 18 tonnes of cow manure being disseminated daily on media and social media, and co-ordinated lying on an Albert Speer industrial scale, the Christian can always depend on Christ…as well as the non-Christian who comes to Him.
Verses 15 and 16: We are to profess His name and the fruit of that will be praise.
I also want to be faithful in doing good and sharing with others because it makes God happy.
And I love how the writer concludes: Grace be with you all. It doesn’t bear contemplation of where we would be without grace.