Thursday, March 22, 2012

Blogging Through Hebrews: Heb 1: 5-14

    For to which of the angels did God ever say,
    “You are my Son,
        today I have begotten you”?
    Or again,
    “I will be to him a father,
        and he shall be to me a son”?
    And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,
    “Let all God's angels worship him.”
    Of the angels he says,
    “He makes his angels winds,
        and his ministers a flame of fire.”
    But of the Son he says,
    “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
        the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
    You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
    therefore God, your God, has anointed you
        with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”
    “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
        and the heavens are the work of your hands;
    they will perish, but you remain;
        they will all wear out like a garment,
    like a robe you will roll them up,
        like a garment they will be changed.
    But you are the same,
        and your years will have no end.”
    And to which of the angels has he ever said,
    “Sit at my right hand
        until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”?
    Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

(Hebrews 1:5-14 )

After the magnificent intro to the letter to the Hebrews, a passage Dave Black describes as "the most beautifully constructed sentence in the entire Greek New Testament", we come into a series of quotes taken from the Old Testament and I think this is where people start to struggle with Hebrews. At first blush and for the many Christians who are unfamiliar with the Old Testament, these passages can seem like a string of random quotations strung together. We need to ask why the author starts off with these Old Testament quotes and what they mean taken together.

First, this is a letter written to Hebrews. Thus the title of the book! For a Jew in the first century, these passages would have been quite familiar and meaningful. As the centuries have passed and the church has lost most of her early Jewish flavor, these passages have become less obvious and meaningful to us but to the early church it was crystal clear.

Second, this letter perhaps more than any other New Testament book a bridge between the Old and the New Testaments and this is demonstrated right in the first few verses. As we will see later, no other book goes into such exhaustive detail regarding the changing covenants, the different priesthood, the once for all sacrifice of Christ, in short showing us how the entire Old Testament is not a foreign book that has little to say to the church other than a collection of morality tales for children via talking vegetables but is rather all about Christ! These passages quoted by the author of Hebrews don't speak merely of a contemporary figure but also of the Christ who was coming and they help us to get a flavor for the rest of the letter, a letter that tells us of the glorious Son of Man and His greater sacrifice, priesthood and covenant.

Jesus is the heir of David but in an unexpected and gloriously, infinitely better way. He is both not what the Jews thought they were waiting for and at the same time greater than they could have dreamed, a Messiah who takes away sin for Jew and Gentile alike, tearing down the walls that kept us apart to make one people from two. He alone is worthy to be the heir, to sit upon the eternal throne, to be called the first-born and the ones that even the angels worship.

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