Hebrews 1:1-3: Jesus is God

Read: Hebrews 1:1-3

Hebrews opens talking about the continuous revelation of God through fathers and prophets and in these “last days” has spoken to the world through his son. In a way, the author of Hebrews was talking about how God was revealed entirety of the Old Testament, which is called the “Tanakh” in the Hebrew language. “Tanakh” is a sort of acronym that stands for The Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. The fathers and prophets are uncovered all these portions of scripture. The Law is the first five books of the Old Testament. The Prophets includes Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, and 1 & 2 Kings, and Isaiah through Malachi. Lastly, the Writings include the rest of the Old Testament. The Old Testament revelation stopped with Malachi, but the author of Hebrews effectively asserts that the latest revelation on par with the Old Testament that had come into the world came through God’s Son himself, namely Jesus.

The opening verses of Hebrews also offer one of the most unequivocal statements about the deity of Jesus in all of the New Testament. Not only is God being revealed through Jesus, Jesus himself is on par with God. Hebrews asserts many things about Jesus in these verses:

  • He is “heir to all things”. Ultimately, everything will belong to Jesus in the end (Ephesians 1:20-23, Philippians 2:9-11).
  • Through him the “worlds” (The word is plural in the Greek) were made. This indicates not just the earth, but the entirety of the cosmos. For this to be possible, Jesus would have had to been present in Genesis 1:1 when God created the heavens and the earth. John makes a similar statement in his prologue, saying he is the originator of all things that came into being (John 1:3). Paul asserts that all things were made through Jesus too (Colossians 1:16).
  • Jesus is the “radiance of his glory”. The word translated “radiance” is difficult to translate because there is not a word in English correlates with it, but a literal translation would be an “out shining” in the manner the sun radiates sunlight. In a manner of speaking Jesus radiates the glory of God.
  • Jesus is “exact imprint of his nature”. The word here for imprint is a figurative form of a tool engravers used to make precise imprints on objects. Jesus is said to be an exact representation of God’s nature, substance, or essence. In classical Greek thought, earthly objects were seen as cheap copies of some sort of perfect, transcendent form. Jesus was not some sort of cheap copy, rather a perfect representation of that form. Colossians 1:15 asserts that Jesus is the very “image” of God. John says that Jesus he who has seen Jesus also sees the Father (John 14:8-11). Jesus is not merely a projection of God – he is so much more than that.
  • He upholds the world by his power. Not only was Jesus at the creation of the cosmos, it through him that the world is held together. In Colossians 1, Paul also asserts that Jesus holds the cosmos together (Colossians 1:17).
  • He made purification for sin. Jesus was the perfect sacrifice that satisfied the requirement of the law so that those who believe don’t have to. For man to be reunited to God, a perfect sacrifice had to be made. The only one qualified as a perfect sacrifice was God himself.
  • He sat down at God’s right hand. The right hand of a God is the ultimate place of authority, and Jesus claims it. The imagery of Jesus taking the right hand is seen a number of times in the New Testament, drawing from Psalm 110:1. (Matthew 22:41-46, Mark 12:35-37, Acts 2:34-35, Hebrews 1:13, Hebrews 10:12-13) and elsewhere in Mark 16:9, Mark 14:62 (paraphrasing from Daniel 7:13-14) Acts 5:31, Acts 7:56, Romans 8:34, Ephesians 1:20, Colossians 3:1, 1 Peter 3:22, and Revelation 5:7. By taking the right hand seat, Jesus has all the same authority of God.

Jesus has all the glory, power, authority, and qualities that are recognized in God. These powerful descriptors of Jesus can only point to one thing: Jesus is God. These statements alone are enough to establish the supremacy of Christ, but the author of Hebrews does not stop there. He continues in the book to show how the Old Testament vindicates the qualities.

When God spoke through the fathers and prophets, he was pointing to what would come. When Jesus came, he was fulfilled what the fathers and prophets yearned for. As this study of Hebrews continues, this will be unfolded. But right off the bat, Jesus divinity is established to assure the reader that Jesus was not merely another prophet, rather that Jesus himself is God revealed.

Lord, what words can express glory, power, and authority revealed in Jesus? You truly are amazing!

Joshua 2:1-24: Difficult Decisions

Read: Joshua 2:1-24

Rahab was a prostitute that lived on the walls of Jericho that allowed the men from Israel to “lodge” at her home. She somehow found out that they were from Israel, and apparently this fact leaked and reached the ears of the king. Rahab was faced with a difficult decision: expose the spies that had come into Jericho and face certain retribution from God or hide the spies from her own king and face possible retribution from her own king. She chose the latter, but in doing so had to make a decision to deceive her king. Rahab and all that were in Jericho and the surrounding area had heard about the awesomeness of God and what God had done for the Israelites in the desert and at the Red Sea. After lying about their presence, she strikes a deal with the spies asking for favor when Israel attacks the city in exchange for hiding them. She honors her side as the Israelites honor theirs (Joshua 6:17,23,25).

Some, however, may question whether or not Rahab was right in lying about the spies or not. The Bible does command the people of God to submit to governments. Governments that exist are established by God and the ones in authority are God’s servants for good. One that rebels against them brings judgment on themselves (Romans 13:1-7). But one has to realize though that the ultimate authority for government is God – that is even those one authority are still subject God’s authority. Sometimes, men in positions of authority make commands that run contrary to the commands of God. In these cases, one has to ask, does one obey man or does one obey God? On two occasions the disciples were brought before the authorities and told not to preach about Jesus. On both occasions, the disciples said that they must obey God rather than man, and they did so (Acts 4:19-20; Acts 5:27-32). Rahab, like the disciples, recognized the authority of God over the authority of man and acted. What is even more interesting is the redemption of Rahab. James 2:25 and Hebrews 11:31 cite her actions as evidence for her faith in God. By all counts, Rahab would not be considered a “good” person because of her occupation and the fact that she lied, but when Rahab is remembered in the scriptures, she is remembered as a woman of faith. And if that wasn’t enough, Rahab is also mentioned in Matthew 1:5 as one of the ancestors of Jesus himself. Rehab is not the only person in the Bible who was faced with difficult decisions. Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and Daniel all had to consider the consequences of worshipping God. They chose to continue to worship God and were thrown into a fiery furnace because of it (Daniel 2-3). The Egyptian midwives lied about having babies and were blessed by God because they protected the babies (Exodous 1:15-21). The Pharisees attempted to corner Jesus about healing on the Sabbath in John 7, and Jesus said it was better to do good on the Sabbath than be legalistic about it.

In any case, Rahab’s actions do not make lying right — the Bible is clear that lying is a sin. But there are certainly occasions when one has to make a difficult choice, and in some cases the choice is not clear, as it may require one to seemingly commit sin in order to maintain faith and have obedience in God. In any case, the acts of Rahab were courageous and did maintain her faith in God because of her deeds. When faced with difficult decisions, Christians have to consider the circumstances and act, and sometimes there is not a whole lot of time to mull over and weigh the options. In such circumstances it is certainly best to side with God and seek him above all else!

Lord, help to make tough decisions when they come!

Ecclesiastes 8:2-8: Government

Read: Ecclesiastes 8:2-8: Government

The Preacher’s admonition to obey the king comes sandwiched between the accolade to wisdom and the warning on the limitation of wisdom. The Preacher gives a number of observations concerning one’s relationships to the king when one is on the presence of the king:

  • Do not be in a hurry to leave the presence of the king. Being in the presence of the king, so it seems, is a matter of importance. One should not be hasty to leave, as this could show disrespect for the one in authority.
  • Do not stand up for bad cause. This almost goes without saying, but the Preacher qualifies it saying that the King will do as he pleases concerning matters. In matters of procedure, one should exercise wisdom on choosing the causes one wants to advocate and not advocate.
  • The one who obeys the king avoids harm. The text here is talking about matters of proper times and procedure – that is, in a matter of court. Related to being hasty, one should do what is necessary in terms of procedure so that there can be no mistake made concerning the issues at hand or the importance of a matter being addressed by the procedures.

The Bible commands Christians to submit to governments. Governments that exist are established by God and the ones in authority are God’s servants for good. One that rebels against them brings judgment on themselves. The ones who do what is right are really the ones who are free from the government because governments exercise the most authority over those that break the laws rather than follow them (Romans 13:1-7). But one has to realize though that the ultimate authority for government is God – that is even those one authority are still subject God’s authority. Sometimes, men in positions of authority make commands that run contrary to the commands of God. In these cases, one has to ask, does one obey man or does one obey God? On two occasions the disciples were brought before the authorities and told not to preach about Jesus. On both occasions, the disciples said that they must obey God rather than man, and they did so (Acts 4:19-20; Acts 5:27-32).

When Ecclesiastes was written, perhaps the most common form of government was an absolute monarchy. The world has shifted away from absolute monarchies to more democratic forms of government. Even though the forms of government have changed, the principles taught concerning matters of procedure and due respect are no different. Democracy in many respects provides procedures for the people under authority to express their concerns and descent through petition, peaceful gatherings, and voting among other things. For this matter, Christians should exercise these civil liberties to help bring about change for the better and help empower people who represent the ways of God in government and ultimately in laws. But at the same time, some places do not have such liberties, and Christians who live under these circumstances have to ask the same sort of questions as the early disciples: does one obey men or God. Many choose God, and suffer greatly for it. Christians in places of religious freedom ought to pray for those who are persecuted. In all things whether one is living free or under persecution, people under authority should pray for those in authority (1 Timothy 2:1-4, Matthew 5:44). God, who is the ultimate authority, will judge everyone who is under him.

Lord, I am under authority. Help me to recognize this and act in the appropriate manner!

 

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