Hebrews 1: The Divine Son
God had spoken in many ways through the prophets, but in the last days speaks through Jesus Christ, who is the exact image of God and radiance of God’s glory. Jesus upholds all things by the word of His power. He also offered Himself as a sacrifice, made purification for sin, and sits at the right hand of the Majesty on high. His superiority over the angels is clear. God speaks to Jesus as the divine Son who also is worthy of worship. As the divine Son, Jesus is also the Creator. Note the prayer to Yahweh from Psalm 102 being applied to Christ in vv. 10-12. The Hebrews writer uses the Old Testament here to demonstrate that Jesus is the Son who rules. Angels minister, but they are not equal to Jesus. The writer begins with a high view of Christ, and will continue to show how Jesus fulfilled God’s plans. May we see Jesus in this light!
Hebrews 2: Jesus the Man
Because God’s word comes through Jesus, we must pay close attention so that we do not drift away from the truth. If people did not escape judgment for disobedience under the Old Covenant era as God’s message was given and confirmed, how much worse will it be for those who reject Jesus? Jesus was not only God, but He came in the flesh as a man so that He would suffer and taste death for all. In doing this, He fulfilled Psalm 8 perfectly: becoming low so that His exaltation can also mean all things are brought under His feet. This required His death. Yet in dying, then being raised and exalted, Jesus is the founder of salvation and brings many sons to glory with Him. He is not ashamed to call those whom He sanctifies brothers. Ultimately, through death, He is able to destroy the one who has the power of death (the devil). By doing this, He is our merciful and faithful High Priest making propitiation for the sins of the people and comming to the aid of those who are tempted.
Hebrews 3: Today if you will hear
Christ’s people share in a heavenly calling through Him. This is possible because Jesus was faithful over His house as the apostle and high priest of our confession. As Moses was faithful, so Christ is even more, and all can be part of this great house, of which God is the architect, if we hold fast the confession and hope. To Israel, God promised rest, but because of their disbelief and disobedience, God swore they would not enter. Hence the importance of making sure that “today” God’s people do not harden their hearts as they did in the wilderness. God’s people need to take great care not to fall into a trap of disbelief. We share in Christ, and we need to be diligent to maintain our faith in Him. The children of Israel coming out of Egypt provides an important example to show what happens when we deviate from God’s will through unbelief.
Hebrews 4: The Promise of Rest
The children of Israel who came out of Egypt and died in the wilderness failed to enter the Promised Land (the rest) because their hearing was not united with faith and they did not obey. God promises rest for His people, but the people must listen in faith. The promise to enter rest under Joshua’s leadership pointed to a much greater rest, and God does not want His people to miss it. To that end, the children of Israel are examples for us. “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.” God’s living, powerful word will judge our thoughts and intents; no creature is hidden from His sight. We have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens for us, able to sympathize with our weaknesses, and provide the path of confidence to come into God’s presence. Therefore, “let us hold fast our confession…” and “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Hebrews 5: King and Priest
Jesus has already been introduced at the great high priest. Yet Jesus is different from the high priests under the Law, who themselves were beset by weaknesses. Even so, Jesus did not exalt Himself to become high priest, but was appointed by the Father. Here the writer quotes from both Psalm 2 (a royal psalm) and Psalm 110 (which combines priest and king through Melchizedek) in order to point to Jesus the Son as the fulfillment of both king and priest. Here we are introduced to the concept that Jesus’ priesthood, rather than being after the Aaronic order, is after the order of Melchizedek. Even as this is introduced, the writer indicates that there is much to say, but the Hebrews here were not at the maturity level they should have been. The mature have their senses trained to discern good and evil, and they had much to work on. Yet the writer will still return to Melchizedek. Herein is a good example of recognizing that maturity aids in our understanding of difficult concepts. We must keep growing.
Hebrews 6: The Assurance of Hope
We should keep in mind the concern for these saints who were tempted to leave Christ to go back to their old ways in order to avoid potential persecutions. God wants His people to move beyond the elementary principles. There are those who attitudes are such that they will quit, and renewing them to repentance is impossible while they hold onto that mindset. But the writer, here, is confident that these Hebrews can do better. If they will hang in there, God will not overlook their work and love in serving the saints. They could have the “full assurance of hope until the end.” The writer then points to Abraham as an example of one who received God’s promise and oath, two immutable things on which we may rest our hope. Hope, then, is seen as the anchor of the soul, and it is based on God’s promise and work through Jesus, who “has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” What a grand hope it is!
Hebrews 7: Priest Forever
Now the Hebrews writer delves into Melchizedek more. We know of him in three verses in Genesis 14:18-20 and in Psalm 110. Yet there is still precious little known. Abraham paid tithe to him when he returned from war, and we know he was both priest and king of Salem. His name means “king of righteousness,” and as king of Salem he is “king of peace.” He was not priest based upon genealogy, and his position showed that he was greater than Abraham. Melchizedek serves as a type of Christ, whose priesthood is also not based on the Aaronic order. “For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.” Therefore, Jesus is a priest “after the order of Melchizedek.” The result is that “this makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.” Because Jesus holds His priesthood permanently, “he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” Thank the Lord that we have a great King and High Priest who intercedes for us always!
Hebrews 8: A New Covenant
The writer affirms that we have a great high priest in Jesus who is also “seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven.” He is both King and Priest. He is the Servant in the true tabernacle built by God. Jesus could not have been a priest on earth, but the earthly priesthood and tabernacle were copies and shadows of the heavenly. What we have in Christ is far better than what any earthly priesthood or tabernacle could provide. Those things actually looked forward then to a new covenant. At this point, the writer quotes from Jeremiah 31:31-34 concerning this new covenant, which was enacted upon better promises. He indicates that with the new covenant, the old is made obsolete in terms of its earthly functions. Indeed what we have in Christ is greater than anything else that can be offered. What would we ever think to leave it behind?
Hebrews 9: Shadows of the Greater
The tabernacle built by Moses was a shadow of the real tabernacle in heaven. The services surrounding the tabernacle were also shadows, as was the priesthood. These dealt with material matters that “cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper” and were “symbolic for the present age,” yet they pointed to something far greater that is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Christ came as high priest and went through the “greater and more perfect tent,” entering into the most holy place “by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” The blood of goats and bulls could not accomplish this. Only the blood of Christ can work to purify the conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Christ, then, is Mediator of the new covenant so that the called may receive the eternal inheritance. It took the shedding of Christ’s blood to provide forgiveness. This was necessary so that when Jesus comes again, He will “save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”
Hebrews 10: Draw Near through Christ
Since the Law was a shadow “of the good things to come,” the animal sacrifices made under the Law could not “make perfect those who draw near.” They had to be offered year after year and served as a reminder of their sins. Yet they did not take away the sins. Christ came to resolve this problem. He came as a man and offered Himself as the sacrifice so that now “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Jesus offered Himself once, then rose and ascended to the right hand of God (the language of co-regent). Because of what Christ has done, we may have “confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus” which He opened up through his flesh. Therefore, “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Christians need to hold their hope without wavering, knowing that God is faithful. We also need to be encouraging one another continually, knowing that if we turn away from Him, we could no longer benefit from His sacrifice. Only judgment would remain. Do not cast away your confidence. Seek to endure, for “we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.”
Hebrews 11: Faith is the Evidence
Faith is the evidence that we trust the reality of what we cannot see. Biblical faith is active, working, and obedient. Without this faith, one cannot please God. To illustrate this truth about faith, the writer points to a number of people in Scripture who demonstrated faith at critical times. We read about men like Abel and Noah, both of whom obeyed God and demonstrated their trust. Abraham is given some attention because he serves as such a grand example of one who, through faith, was called the friend of God. We can read about Moses as he led the people across the Red Sea. Yet one of the striking points in this chapter has to do with the unlikely people we might not have expected as examples—people like Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, and Jephthah. Even though some of these were not overall stellar in how they acted, they had moments of clarity where they showed faith and because of that accomplished something greater. Yet the point of this chapter is in moving toward a greater purpose of looking to Jesus. He alone is the author and perfecter of faith. Our faith needs to be directed toward Him.
Hebrews 12: Endurance
The great cloud of witnesses in faith surrounds God’s people. We must lay aside any encumbrance and sin and run with endurance the race set before us. How? By looking to Jesus. He endured the cross, despised the shame of it, yet continue for the joy set before Him. Here we find a key exhortation in Hebrews: “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” Whatever may come our way, Christians must be ready to endure to the end. Even fathers discipline their children for their own good. So God disciplines His people for their good “that we may share his holiness.” Trials, then, are a matter of perspective. We can see them as a hindrance or we can see them as ways to help become holier and more like God. With that in mind, we encourage one another so that we do not fail to obtain God’s grace by allowing bitterness to overtake us (like Esau). We have come to a mountain greater than Sinai, “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem,” and join with “the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven.” We come to our Lord with the intent to listen to Him as He speaks. Let us be grateful for the kingdom that cannot be shaken.
Hebrews 13: Go Outside the Camp
A final series of exhortations is given, beginning with the reminder to let the love of the brethren continue. Christians form a “one another” community and need to love and encourage each other. This shows an active faith in God. Our trust in God is also reflected in how they would treat strangers, prisoners, their spouses, and their leaders. We need to continue looking to Jesus, who suffered for us “outside the camp.” We must go outside the camp with Him to bear His reproach. Why? “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” We offer up a sacrifice of praise to God with our lips, and we show love for others through sharing. The letter (or perhaps better, sermon) has given many exhortations to remain faithful through the trials that are peculiar to following Christ. “Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen."