Wednesday, July 15, 2015

God Spoke: Hebrews 1

Because I am not quite right in the head, I’m going to tackle Hebrews next. Hebrews, where there’s absolutely no way one blog post will do justice to a chapter. So, I’ll just do it and we’ll cope.

In Summary:

Hebrews begins with the clear declaration that God spoke. The first verses summarize well the rest of Hebrews 1: God has spoken, now let’s talk about what He has said.

The author of Hebrews (see the Nerds) goes on to extensively quote from the Psalms and interlaces several Psalms as a testimony to the Lord Jesus Christ. This supports the overall theme of Hebrews of Jesus as superior to all others, including both angels and King David.

The one thing lacking in this chapter? Any biographical information about the author. Unlike most of the other letters, Hebrews contains no introduction or personal greeting at the opening. The content must stand on its own for the modern reader, rather than resting on the backstory of the author.

In Focus:

Let us roll back and take a look at Hebrews 1:1-2, the first two verses. What do we find there?

1. God has spoken. Taken on its own, this is significant. “Speaking” as communication is distinct in its clarity. This is different from hinting or even “communicating,” where one is hopeful the idea comes across.

This sets up to us that God did not leave matters unclear when He interacted with His people in the past. He “spoke,” being clear about what He wanted them to know.

2. God has spoken, first through prophets and then through Jesus. I find a pair of interesting points here. One is the exclusion of the apostles as part of God’s speaking. The other is the equivalency of authority between the prophets and Jesus.

The former suggests that Hebrews is not written at a time when the church recognizes the inspiration of the apostolic writings. If we compare this to 2 Peter 3, where Peter equates Paul with the prophetic Scriptures, there is a clear contrast.

The latter reminds us that the older writings, those of the “prophets” are valid parts of God’s speaking to His people. The difference between them and Jesus is the completeness of the speaking in Christ. There is nothing lacking in Jesus, while the prophets spoke in parts.

Beyond this, we see the quotation of the Psalms which demonstrate that the God spoke in the Old Testament to tell us of Jesus.

In Practice:

What does this look like in practice? Here are three thoughts:

1. Stop seeking God in tea leaves, emotional twinges, or strange thoughts that cross your mind. God speaks clearly. He has spoken clearly in the Word. Listen to what God has already said. The key to living the Christian life is knowing and doing what God has already said, not guessing at what your thoughts are about.

2. Do not neglect the Old Testament. It may take some effort to see how the Law, Prophets, and Writings affect your life, but that effort is well-spent.

3. Be clear in your speaking of God. We like “wiggle words” that let us out of ideas, just in case those ideas go wrong. Stop it. Say what you mean, say it clearly, and let it be. Especially as you speak of God.

In Nerdiness: 

The First Nerd Concept: Who wrote Hebrews? I’m partial to David Allen’s view of Luke as the author of Hebrews, myself. See this book:  Lukan Authorship of Hebrews.  Other thoughts are Barnabas, Apollos, and even Paul. I think Paul is the least likely, and lean toward Apollos as the backup possibility. One other theory is Priscilla and Aquila together.

I don’t think it’s critical.

Second Nerd Concept: I think Hebrews fits the format of audio delivery. I see this as the written record of oral delivered content, like a sermon series. That’s different than a letter like Paul’s which was written intending to be read. I think that accounts for some of the style oddities, and then Hebrews 13 bears the marks of the post script for the letter format.

Third Nerd Concept: Worth knowing is that the Old Testament references are from the Septuagint rather than the Hebrew text. Doesn’t affect much, but is worth knowing.

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