As I begin, please know that these are just my thoughts as I begin to read through the book of Hebrews and try to understand it. They will not be theologically perfect, meaning, I may not be saying everything right, though I will strive to. I am writing as lay person, so you probably wont get big, lofty, theological thoughts or phrases, but if by chance you do, it will hopefully come by way of small and simple-sounding explanations that are easy to grasp, because that’s what I’m trying to do, even if only for myself as I try to understand. So feel free to join me on this journey whether in simply reading along, or commenting here, or on Facebook or Twitter.
And…. here we go!
We encounter in our lives many things designed to distract us. Whatever the goal we may have, as the journey becomes a struggle, we can fall back. We fall back on comfortable or familiar things, or simply on things we like. Whatever the reason, those things take us off course, drawing us further away from what we wanted, but we go willingly, because we like it. It’s familiar and easy. As I begin to read through the book of Hebrews, this seems to be the thrust of the book. Written primarily for a Jewish audience at the time, old religious customs were the comfortable, familiar things they liked. The Jewish converts were still connected to those old traditions and maybe difficulty had caused them to waver and fall back into an old style and way of worshiping God. They needed to be reminded that this Jesus they followed fulfilled what all their tradition and rules set forth by God were pointing to.
This book is reminding the Jewish believers that Jesus is the ultimate and final mediator between God and his people. We see that this redemptive plan God had in store for his people (and the world) in the Old Testament, points to Jesus. It points to Christ as the unconditional, comprehensive and everlasting rest that was foreshadowed by Moses and Joshua in coming to the promise land. It is a reminder not to put your faith and trust in the old sacrificial system because, again, it points to Jesus, and how he was that final sacrifice, and to go back to that is no different from saying I need a new sacrifice.
One of the things Hebrews and the other New Testament books do is that they are always reminding us of the Gospel-of Christ’s work on our behalf. Every letter has in it, the message of Christ and him crucified. Every book says, put your eyes on Jesus, on what he’s done, and what he continues to do. Every book addresses error, or turning away towards something else for some satisfaction, whether it be tradition, or simply sinful behavior. Before any of that is dealt with, you are reminded of all Christ has done. If the church of that day, so close to his departure, needed to hear that regularly, what in the world makes us think we move past the Gospel today?
Works for one.
We love to be told to do something. So much so we fall in love with accomplishments or tasks. We say to ourselves, “you’re doing OK!” It is a theology of Glory and we either delude ourselves into thinking we have “arrived” in some way or we crash and burn because we can’t keep up and nothing is going like its supposed to. We may have salvation in Christ by faith alone, through grace alone, but we create little self salvation projects that “confirm” our salvation. We know we can’t pay God back, but we can sure as heck show him we deserve what He’s given us. That’s nearly as bad as thinking we can earn our salvation.
Because of that tendency towards trying to earn our worth to God, we never grow out of needing to hear Christ died for us and paid the debt for our sins. We never grow out of needing to remember that his righteousness is given to us. As we walk in Christ, we need to hear it more. It keeps us humble, though never enough. It keeps us grateful, though not always. It keeps us needing our Savior and desiring to bow a knee to him as Lord, though we could never claim to do that all the time. BUT THAT’S WHY WE NEED THE GOSPEL JUST AS MUCH AS AN UNBELIEVER.
As you read Hebrews, be reminded how often you tend to put your hope in other things. Whether it’s how much your spouse loves you, how great your kids behave, how satisfying your job is, or what an awesome vacation you had. We may not be turning from Christ as Savior in these thoughts, but we use them to qualify that we are true believers. This letter was written to believers in Christ who were returning to old customs, for assurance of faith or trust in God. We can look to those things I stated above as assurance of faith or trust, when those things are “going well”.
My hope for myself is that I let the words in this book remind me to check myself and see where I begin to place faith in other things as my assurance of that faith and then turn again to Christ as my hope, even in the most difficult of situations. I want to remember that as I fail, as I struggle, I can rest in him again. My hope is that this will be a constant reminder to me, because I WILL stray at different times in my life until I finally rest in glory.