Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Fight the Shrink! Hebrews 10

In Summary:

Hebrews goes on, speaking of our need for one sacrifice, and one sacrifice only. Through the course of Hebrews 10, the author returns to the shortfalls of annual animal sacrifices. First by highlighting that the conscience isn’t really salved by such sacrifices, and then moving on to showing where God Himself expressed that animals aren’t good enough for Him.

Instead, our intrepid author (who continues to be Apollos. Or Luke. Or Barnabas.) brings the Psalms back and focuses on the supremacy of Christ. Which, despite Hebrews having some excellent things to say about faith and obedience, really is the focus of the book as a whole. The supremacy of Christ to all to other gods, revelations, or sacrifices, and therefore our only viable option is to place our obedient faith in Jesus.

This is reinforced by the “new and living way” to enter the presence of God (Hebrews 10:20,) which is through Jesus. Prior to this, the apparent way into the presence of God was through a pile of bodies, wracked by the carnage of death and in turmoil as regarding whether or not the sacrifices were sufficient. We go through the perfect way, the One who not only died but arose, showing that His sacrifice fulfilled all of the need. We need not, therefore, flee in terror from the presence of God. Neither do we fear assembling with God’s people, for there exists no risk that their sacrifices were insufficient and that we would be swept away in the judgment of another.

In Focus:

Let us turn, wholeheartedly, to Hebrews 10:39. The NASB renders it as “we are not of those who shrink back,” which is probably the better way to bring this into English. It could be rendered as “we are not the shrinking back ones,” and the same would apply to “those who have faith” as being “we are ones of faith.” The main use, outside of the Bible, of the term that “those who shrink back” seems to be of military reserve forces. Not like our “reserves” that are called up in crisis but the ones who are “held back” in the battle plan, just in case they were needed.

They still got to march in the victory parade when all was said and done, though. Without any actual taking of the risks—just by being there but being “held back.” Sometimes, it was a sound military strategy to “hold back” a few troops, but the author of Hebrews is not talking about a logical and reasonable plan. He’s addressing those who would volunteer to be held back.

In Practice:

Which, practically speaking, would have been an act of cowardice in most cases. The typical legionnaire was expected to face the enemy and fight. He had trained for warfare. His unit counted on him, his brethren in arms counted on his presence. It was not an optional involvement. He was necessary. Those who were physically unable to participate in the battle were not put into the reserve, they were put in the infirmary. Those are a different matter.

Here are those who hear the trumpet call to assemble and face the enemy, and instead volunteer to catch up later. Or to be fresh and rested when it’s all said and done. These are the people who are glad to see the church on Sunday, but have no interest in engaging a lost and dying world in between church events. After all, theirs is the calm assurance of heaven and being in the victory parade. No sense in getting hurt before then, right?

Except then we don’t really do much good. Stop holding back and get to walking in obedience. Our Supreme Sacrifice is also our Supreme Battle Commander. Let us follow, though all is dark around us. Fight the urge to shrink. Stand firm.

In Nerdiness:

The information I’m working on comes from the Annals of Tacitus, and so I might be off the deep end. But I think there’s something to the overall idea of what ὑποστολῆς refers to in this case. At least the mental image that would have been drawn.

I find it interesting that Hebrews 10:23-36 seems to suggest that remembering prior suffering is our encouragement in current suffering. As in, don’t think you get to go through bad stuff once and then never again. It keeps coming back.

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