Hebrews

Hebrews 13:20-25 The Word Of Exhortation-An Everlasting Covenant.

Our God is a God of peace. This must be understood in the context of this letter as a covenant renewal document. Peace is through the new covenant. It is no coincidence that our author describes the Lord Jesus as “that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant” (v. 20 Cf. Is. 55:3; 61:8; Jer. 32:40). Ezekiel predicted that there would come one who the Lord God would establish as Shepherd, in the succession of David, and through Him a covenant of peace (34:23-25 Cf. Is. 54:10). This would be an everlasting covenant, when the Lord would also establish His sanctuary in their midst (37:24-27). Again, our author comes full circle from chapter one, seeing in the Son the succession to the throne, covenant, and promises to David, the last of the old covenant administrations of grace (II Sam. 7; I Chron. 17).

In the new covenant God’s people are perfected and made complete, including “complete in every good work to do His will” (v. 21a). This is by grace (v. 9), and “through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (v. 21). Paul penned the same thoughts when he encouraged his audience to work out their “own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12b-13). This all fits in with this concluding section, of what our author himself called “the word of exhortation” (v. 22). Our author was also looking forward to joining with Timothy, someone who at that point was not free, perhaps one of those in chains. He also mentions their rulers again, sending his greetings to them, “and all the saints” (v. 24). “Grace be with you all. Amen” (v. 25).

Hebrews

Hebrews 13:7-19 Established By Grace.

Those who rule or lead, are those who have spoken the word, for this reason they need to be remembered, “whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct” (v. 7). These were leaders who ruled over them, and so they would know them to be leaders who practiced what they preached. Some appear to have moved on to other areas or passed, but the Christ they preached and followed is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (v. 8). This also involves a warning against being carried away “with various and strange doctrines,” which clearly involved doctrines which in some way went against the apostolic teaching concerning Christ.

In the previous passage our author joined himself with his audience when he said, “let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (12:28). Before that he warned his audience to be careful, “lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble” (12:15). Now he encourages his audience to have their hearts, that is their core, “established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them” (v. 9). These references and more highlight that among the strange doctrines were those that denied the continuing need of grace.

The emphasis that some put upon ordinances associated with certain foods, is directly related to the apostates who would not accept the Son as the fulfillment of what those sacrificial and ceremonial ordinances pointed to. This is seen in his next verse where he says that those who have accepted the Son have food from another altar that the apostates are barred from. The animal sacrifices were still being offered, but they would soon come to an end, and through the Son he and his audience were able, like us, to “offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name” (v. 15 Cf. Lev. 7:12; Is. 57:19; Hos. 14:2; Eph. 5:20).

The earthly Jerusalem would soon disappear, but they sought the one to come down from heaven (v. 14). Like them, we also must not let reproach keep us from following Christ (v. 13 Cf. 11:26; I Pet. 4:14). However, what we do by grace isn’t just religious worship, we also need grace, as was said before, “to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Cf. 12:28; Rom. 12:13; II Cor. 9:12; Phil. 4:18). The right understanding of the word was so critical that our author again commands his readers to be submissive to those who lead, because they minister to them the word, and watch out for souls, “as those who must give account” (v. 17a).

Having the right attitude with those who minister the word, will both make these ministers joyful, and this will certainly make the word more profitable to those who receive it (v. 17b). Prayer for those who minister the word is also necessary, because those who minister the word with a clear conscience do so “desiring to live honourably” (v. 18). Prayer also is used of God to bring about deliverance, so that those like our author could continue to spread the word (v. 19). The message is the same. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (v. 8). We must not forget that our author said this when ‘yesterday’ was before the Son appeared (Cf. 1:12; Jn. 8:58).

Hebrews

Hebrews 12:28-13:6 Succession-Finishing By Grace.

In light of the conclusion above to the lawsuit, which stands as a warning to all, and “since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (v. 28). The apostates had rejected grace. However, every true believer knows that having begun by grace we must also finish with grace. Only by grace can we “serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear,” the latter being evidence of the former (Cf. 13:15, 21). “For our God is a consuming fire” (v. 29 Cf. Ex. 24:17). God will both consume all the haters in judgment, and also consume all that in His people is not of grace.

Brotherly love is one thing that comes from grace (13:1 Cf. Rom. 12:10-13), as does the entertaining of strangers, “for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels” (v. 2 Cf. Gen. 18:1-22; 19:1; Mt. 25:35-36). We are reminded to “remember the prisoners as if chained with them-those who are mistreated-since you yourselves are in the body also” (v. 3 Cf. 10:34). Grace is what makes fidelity in marriage possible (v. 4 Cf. Prov. 5:18-19; I Cor. 6:9; I Th. 4:6). Grace also keeps us from covetousness (v. 5 Cf. Gen. 28:15; Dt. 31:6-8; Josh. 1:5). “So we may say: ‘The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me’” (v. 6 Cf. Pss. 27:1; 118:6)?

Hebrews

Hebrews 12:25-27 Covenant Lawsuit Recognition.

For one more time we see the transition from the first or second person to the third person. Our author again warns his audience with what he is about to write, but then he shifts to the third person, to give the fifth and closing section of the Covenant Lawsuit against the apostates of the old covenant order-Recognition. It is a warning to not “refuse Him who speaks” (v. 25a). The voice from heaven has spoken now for the last time. With the coming of the new covenant the old is done. Given the finality of this transition, people needed to take heed (v. 25b). It is also no coincidence that our author quotes Haggai, because he prophesied of the house of the LORD to come (v. 26 Cf. Hag. 2:6). Haggai addressed the remnant (2:2), and this is the audience who is addressed in this letter.*

The covenant LORD commanded Haggai to ask the people of his day if they had seen the temple in its former glory (v. 3a), because at the time of Haggai they were not as impressed with what stood in their midst (v. 3b). “Verses 1-3 suggest that the people were discouraged by the new temple’s relative lack of splendour (cf. 2Chr. 3; 4) and by the difficulty of the task ahead of them” (NGSB p.1461). At that time the LORD encouraged the governor, the prophet, and the high priest to be strong by addressing them with the covenantal promise-“’I am with you,’ says the LORD of hosts” (v. 4b).** “According to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so My Spirit remains among you; do not fear” (v. 5)! This must be understood as what is behind our author’s citation.

Our author is clearly hearkening back to the beginning of his letter. Like any good author he sought to close on the points he made from the very beginning. The ultimate goal of the covenant of grace, in both its old covenant administrations, and in the new, was the building of His house. “I will be your God and you shall be my people” (Cf. Ex. 6:7; 29:45-46; Lev. 26:12; II Sam. 7:24; Dt. 26:18; Jer. 31:33; 32:38; Ez. 37:26-27; II Cor. 6:16). Furthermore, with Haggai we also have this connection with the title ‘LORD of hosts’, what our author applies to the Son as heir to the throne. Haggai then adds another title to this covenant LORD, namely “the Desire of All Nations” (v. 7). Our author was speaking of the time of shaking spoken of through the prophet Haggai.

The LORD was roaring from Zion, shaking heaven and earth, but He was also a shelter for His people (Cf. Joel 3:16; Is. 51:4-8). “The Desire of All Nations” had come (Cf. Gen. 3:15; 49:10; Mal. 3:1). The greater house is that which would remain, from which the glory of the LORD will never leave (Cf. I Kgs. 8:10-13). This was the glory cloud into which the Son ascended to begin His messianic reign. This was the time when the words of Isaiah came to ultimate fulfillment-“I will glorify the house of My glory” (Is. 60:7 Cf. Zech. 2:5). “As God’s presence fills the temple, the nations come to the light (Is. 2:3-5; 60:3)” (p.1461). This final section of this Covenant Lawsuit-Recognition, recognizes this time of shaking, with the close of the old covenant administrations, and the dawn of the new.

Our author quotes the words, “Yet once more,” and “indicates the removal of those things that are being removed” (v. 27a). That is, not “will be removed,” but in his day were “being removed,” speaking of the soon removal of the earthly Jerusalem, the temple, and the old covenant sacrificial ordinances exercised there, because the new, which can never be shaken, had come. Those things were ultimately made by men, albeit according to the pattern given. It was a time of blessing, but also of cursing (Cf. 1:10; Is. 34:4; 65:17). Mountains symbolize the kingdoms of the world, and as Isaiah also wrote-“the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has mercy on you” (54:10).

*Remnant “is a common term used by the prophets for those of God’s people who remain faithful to Him in the midst of unbelief (Is. 10:22; cf. Zech. 13:9). Paul later points to a faithful remnant in Israel-the Jews who embraced Christ (Rom. 11:5) (NGSB p.1461).

**“Similar commands accompanied the building of Solomon’s temple (1 Chr. 22:13; 28:20; cf. Gal. 6:9)” (Ibid. p.1461).

Hebrews

Hebrews 12:18-24 Our Inheritance.

The old covenant system, particularly as expressed in the Mosaic administration, was not one that allowed or encouraged personal access (v.18 Cf. Ex. 19:12, 16; 20:18; Dt. 4:11; 5:22). There was a loud unmistakable declaration, by trumpet and words, that everyone knew the consequences, such that they did not want to hear it (v. 19 Cf. Ex. 20:18-26; Dt. 5:25; 18:16). The people “could not endure what was commanded: And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow” (v. 20 Cf. Ex. 20:12-13). This testimony was even backed up by Moses himself, who was “exceedingly afraid and trembling” (v. 21 Cf. Dt. 9:19).

This is in stark contrast with the new covenant on a couple of fronts. Firstly, if the earthly mountain and ministry was accompanied with such warnings, then one might imagine that the heavenly would merit even greater fear. This is the point our author will make with respect to the closing section of the Covenant Lawsuit which follows-Recognition (Cf. vv. 25-27). Secondly, the opposite is actually the case, because we can now come to God through “Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel” (v. 24 Cf. 8:6; 9:15; 11:4; Gen. 4:10; Ex. 24:8; I Tim. 2:5;).

Our author in fact lists just some of the things which are the inheritance of the people of God. “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect” (vv. 22-23). Mount Zion was associated with the remnant, those who had true saving faith in the one covenant of grace (Cf. II Kgs. 19:31). On Mount Zion is “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” and the earthly Jerusalem, which was still standing, would soon be gone.

The “innumerable company of angels” echoes the throne of the Glory-Presence in chapter one, the Son Himself enthroned as the Lord of Hosts. There is also “the general assembly and church of the firstborn.” To the seventy, Jesus cautioned and encouraged them to take more joy in having their names written in heaven, than that the spirits were subject to them (Lk. 10:20). Firstly, the latter may be exercised by some who were not numbered with the latter, and the latter will cease with the close of the canon, but the former will be forever. Secondly, it is far better to be children of God with a heavenly inheritance, than to exercise a certain power over spirits.

The church militant on earth will ultimately be united to the church triumphant in heaven. The spirits of just men made perfect, simply reiterates what our author has stated all along. The core of the various old covenant administrations of the one covenant of grace, is that the just shall live by faith, which finds its ultimately fulfillment in Jesus the Mediator. Again, through mercy and grace there was a provision of blood sacrifice going all the way back to God clothing Adam and Eve through shedding blood and clothing them, to the blood offered by Abel (v. 24 Cf. Gen. 3:21; 4:4). Jesus blood is better, and we also come to the One who is “the Judge of all.”

Hebrews

Hebrews 12:12-17 Birthright By Grace.

Running our individual races, does not mean we leave our true brothers and sisters behind. We need to “strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths” for all. Some are weaker than others, the lame need healing, and for some the way does not appear as clear as it does to others. Those who are strong in the faith need to help the weak, and show them a clear way forward from the word (vv. 12-13 Cf. Job 4:3-4). From our author’s perspective, this is what was required for this time of visitation from the Lord of Glory, and the last days of vengeance of our God (Is. 35:1-4).

However, for us, we are called to “pursue peace with all people” (v. 14a Cf. Dt. 32:35; Ps. 34:14; Mt. 5:9; Rom. 12:19-21). Again, as true sons, it is also the Lord’s will that we pursue “holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (v. 14b). Again, we do not do this in our own strength, but it is the Lord working in and through us, “that we may be partakers of His holiness” (v. 10b). In fact, we must be watchful for any who would seek to take pride in their own works, rather than giving thanks for God’s grace (v. 15a). We must also guard against bitterness, which springs up when we compare ourselves to others, which is idolatry (v. 15b Cf. Dt. 29:18).

We must also guard against and warn any who are guilty of being fornicators (Cf. I Cor. 6:13-18), or profane persons, “like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright” (v. 16 Cf. Gen. 25:33). This is what had happened to the subjects of the lawsuit contained in this letter. They, through their own sinful pride, made out of the old covenant administrations of the one covenant of grace, a covenant of works, which they, in their pride, claimed to keep. They exchanged the birthright of justification by grace through faith, for a religion of works that no man, other than the Son, has ever kept (Cf. 4:1).

This example of Esau is meant to both serve as a warning to our author’s audience, but also as an example of the subjects of the lawsuit contained in this letter. In selling his birthright, the blessing of the sons of the covenant, Esau called upon himself the curses of the covenant, just like the apostates who regarded the blood of the new covenant an unclean thing (Mt. 27:25). As he approaches the last section of the lawsuit, he will make the point that the blessing of mercy and grace will not be the possession of those who have rejected the gospel, because like Esau they refused to repent, even if they, like Esau, pleaded with tears (v. 17 Cf. Gen. 27:30-40).

Hebrews

Hebrews 12:3-11 Discipline Bears Fruit.

In looking to Jesus, as the old covenant witnesses did, and our author with his audience aspired to, we also in looking to him must be reminded that suffering came before victory. Christ’s example should help us guard against becoming weary or discouraged in our souls (v. 3 Cf. Gal. 6:9). Many suffered in this trial against sin in all its force, to the point of bloodshed, so serious is the battle to be fought, or the race to be won (v. 4). In every situation the Lord promises grace sufficient, and also a way of escape (I Cor. 10:13; 12:9). Furthermore, as sons this is what we should expect. To this end our author quotes Proverbs 3:11-12. So we should be thankful for this discipline, because His bringing us through it, is a proof that our faith is genuine (vv. 5-7 Cf. Dt. 8:5; I Pet. 5:9; Rev. 3:16), otherwise we would be illegitimate sons, the very subjects of the lawsuit contained in this letter (v. 8).

This is a pattern familiar to anyone born of parents that cared to any degree about their children (Cf. Prov. 13:24). For such love we all had due respect for them (v. 9a). Those who did not, acted thereby as though they were illegitimate. Most parents try their best, and they are respected for this (v. 10a Cf. Prov. 19:18; 23:13). However, we know that with God it is always perfect, and always for our good and eternal well being (vv. 9b, 10b). The goal is sanctification-“that we may be partakers of holiness” (v. 10c Cf. Lev. 11:44). In stating the obvious, our author makes the point that “no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (v. 11 Cf. Js. 3:17-18). Discipline from God is intended to bring forth the fruit of the Spirit in and among His people.

Hebrews

Hebrews 12:1-2 The Race Of Faith-The Beginning Of Covenantal Succession.

This begins the final section of our author’s covenant renewal document-Succession. The previous chapter highlighted the witnesses of the old covenant’s previous administrations, all who are witnesses making up the Witnesses section of this new covenant renewal, but also those who were called upon in the launch of the covenant lawsuit against old covenant apostates who rejected the Messiah, and new covenant renewal. It is with these witnesses that our author once again employs the hortatory subjunctive, including himself with his audience, to follow forward from their testimony, to lay hold of the promises.

We, also with them, must “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (v. 1 Cf. I Cor. 9:24). This is covenantal succession. This is how our faith is carried forward into the future. “Among the burdens to be thrown off are fear that shrinks back in the face of suffering (10:38, 39), bitter discouragement that defiles others through doubt (v. 15), and sensuality that seeks immediate gratification (v. 16)” (NGSB p. 1953). We go forward by no other means than the word spoken, and our vision clearly set upon “Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (v. 2a Cf. Lk. 24:25-26).*

The Lord Himself, “who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame,” also “sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (v. 2 Cf. Ps. 110). This faith is not what is originated by us or that we are the authors of-Jesus is. Likewise, having begun by the Lord, He is the one to also finish or perfect it. There was no doubt that shame was associated with the accursed death on the cross. However, Jesus saw through this to the ultimate victory over sin and death. Like the great cloud of witnesses mentioned in chapter eleven, and our author and his contemporaries, we also must look unto Jesus (Cf. 2:9).

* This might also be translated as “originator and perfecter” of our faith (NGSB p. 1953).

Hebrews

Hebrews 11:30-40 A Great Cloud Of Witnesses.

Joshua was chosen to take the baton of covenantal succession from Moses forward. Joshua and Caleb were the two out of the twelve spies who by faith in God’s word of promise, believed that it was their future to take possession of the land promised. Therefore, immediately upon entering this land, they marched in faith around the walls of Jericho, showing that the battle was the LORD’s, and all that they were called to do was to walk by faith into the future (v. 30 Cf. Josh. 6:20). Associated with this journey of faith, there is also the example of Rahab the harlot, who in lying to the authorities, bore true witness to the God who spoke the word of promise. It must not be missed that she put out a scarlet cloth from her place, not only to escape death by the people of God, but as symbolic of the blood of the Passover, which in faith she sought to keep. “By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she received the spies with peace” (v. 31 Cf. Josh. 2:1, 9; 2:25; 6:23).

Our author struggles, because there are so many witnesses he could mention, who all were people of faith in the flow of salvation and covenantal history, such as bore testimony to his time when fulfillment was taking place with the Messiah who had come (v. 32a). Gideon is the next one he mentions in order. In his time, the Israelites had turned to the Baals, and in judgment the LORD sent their enemies against them, destroying their crops, and the Midianites in particular, keeping them in bondage. When the people cried out to the LORD He answered them, and He reminded them, through a prophet, of the deliverance out of Egypt. It was then in continuity with that covenant through Moses, that the LORD spoke to Gideon, through the Angel of the LORD, the pre-incarnate Son (Jud. 6:7-7:24). Then in obedience to the LORD he destroyed the idols of Baal (7:25ff), and would then go on, with a mere 300 warriors, to defeat the Midianites (Chs 7-8). Just prior to this there was also the victory of Barak (Jud. 4:6-24).

All these examples which our author is enumerating are those who out of obedience to the word of the LORD set out to gain the land that was promised. Like those who died in the wilderness after coming out of Egypt, it was a sin to be wanderers in the wilderness, than to be men and women of faith going forward to conquer the land that was promised. This was also the case with Samson (Cf. Jud. 13:24-16:31), and Jephthah just before him also (Cf. Jud. 11:1-29; 12:1-7). Following them there was of course David (I Sam. 16-17), Samuel before him (I Sam. 7:9-14), and all the prophets (v. 32). Their victories were victories by the LORD through faith, which “subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises” (v. 33a). What follows in the rest of verse 33 are really just examples of what we first find here-all was done through faith in the word of promise. The faith of Daniel and his companions, for example, would stop the mouth of lions, and quench the violence of fire (Dan. 6:22; 3:23-28).

Following upon Daniel and his companions, many would escape “the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again” (vv. 34-35a). The latter certainly occurred with the Lord Jesus, but this also occurred with Elijah (I Kgs. 17:22). Our author also reiterates the point that these old covenant saints did believe in the resurrection (v. 36b). Some were imprisoned, or stoned, or sawn in two, or “wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented-of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth” (vv. 37b-38 Cf. I Kgs. 18:4, 13, 19:9; 21:13; II Kgs. 1:8; Zech. 13:4). There were many who lived by faith, believing in the promise of the covenants (v. 39 Cf. vv. 2, 13). These were and are all witnesses (12:1), who looked forward to the time of the last days of the old covenant, and the coming of the Anointed One in the renewal of the new (v. 40 Cf. 5:9).

Hebrews

Hebrews 11:23-29 The Covenant Of Grace Through Moses.

The hope for a future through faith saved Moses, through the faith of his parents and the providence of God that he was found by Pharaoh’s daughter, and she was favourably disposed toward him (v. 23 Cf. Ex. 2:1-10 Cf. Ex. 1:16, 22). This same faith led Moses to reject the lie that he was the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, and chose rather to be numbered with God’s people (vv. 24-25 Cf. Ex. 2:11-15). This faith was a faith in the promised Messiah, as our author stated, Moses esteemed “the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward” (v. 26 Cf. 13:13; Rom. 8:18; II Cor. 4:17). That reward is everything that would come with the promised Seed, the Messiah. In particular, as our author has stressed, it would be the Anointed One as Prophet, Priest, and King, whose sacrifice would provide the propitiatory offering, and His resurrection the hope of eternal life. In this regard, he shared the very same faith as Abraham.

“By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible” (v. 27). Today we might say that Moses relationship with the king was more than political, as it was both personal and religious (Ex. 10:27-29). Moses endured the suffering and opposition associated with his faith, because he saw Him who was invisible, which referred not just to God’s being, but also to the promised Anointed One who was to come in the future, for he esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt, for he looked to the reward.” By faith Moses also kept the sacraments-“the Passover and the sprinkling of blood” (v. 28 Cf. Ex. 12), their new covenant counterparts being fulfilled in the Lord’s Supper and baptism. By this same faith Moses and those he led, “passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned” (v. 29 Cf. Ex. 14:22-29).