Monday, October 27, Hebrews Chapter 10
“It has not been your will
to have an animal sacrifice and a meal offering;
rather, you have prepared for me a body.
No, you have not been pleased
with burnt offerings and sin offerings.
Then I said, ‘Look!
In the scroll of the book
it is written about me.
I have come to do your will.’” CJB
I would proclaim them, I would speak about them;
but there’s too much to tell!
Sacrifices and grain offerings you don’t want;
burnt offerings and sin offerings you don’t demand.
Instead, you have given me open ears;
so then I said, “Here I am! I’m coming!
In the scroll of a book it is written about me. CJB
The author of Hebrews quoted from Psalm 40, but he used the Septuagint, the Greek translation in common use in the First Century. Even the difference above makes it clear that the quote is a little off. Yet the meaning is the same. It is a Psalm by David and about David, the Messianic forerunner. For Jesus, the meaning is, you have given me a body and I come to do your will.
The theme of this section of Hebrews is sacrifice; the sacrifice of Jesus in particular. We must not forget that God instituted blood sacrifice. He did not hate blood sacrifice. What he hated was sacrifice without love. He wanted people to come to the altar with joy in their hearts that God would forgive their sins; with joy that the finest animal they owned would be given to God in exchange for that freedom from sin. Without that loving relationship with God, the blood was wasted.
The author quotes Jeremiah 31:33, but it is good to read the preceding verses as well: “The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
“when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
and with the people of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
though I was a husband to them,”
declares the Lord. NIV
That is followed by a partial quote of Jeremiah 31:34. The full verse reads:
No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the Lord.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.” NIV
Because of all this we can enter the Holy of Holies where only the High Priest could go before, and then only once a year. We in fact can follow Jesus into Heaven.
Verse 22: let us draw near with true hearts and fullest confidence, knowing that our inmost souls have been purified by the sprinkling of his blood just as our bodies are cleansed by the washing of clean water. Phillips We are baptized by both blood and water.
Verse 25 is all important. We cannot give up meeting with follow believers. We gain strength from them and they from us. Christianity is a religion of community.
If we deliberately keep on sinning, NIV presents a show stopper. To choose to sin leaves no hope. We will sin. That is a given. We cannot choose to sin. That is the road to death.
We must persevere.
Tuesday, October 28, Hebrews Chapter 11
Faith is the center of Christianity. In faith I believe what I cannot see and cannot prove. In 460 BC, a Greek philosopher, Democritus, first proposed the existence of atoms. It was not until about 1800 AD that much scientific thought was given to the idea and it was not until almost 1900 that experiments began to prove their existence. Until that time, faith was required to believe in atoms.
What that means is, for now, I cannot prove God exists. I will be able to prove it sometime. However, I am not without evidence, the most important of which is the known and provable life of Jesus of Nazareth.
What can I prove? Jesus lived, taught about God, had disciples who believed his teaching, and died. What I cannot prove is that he was both God and man; that he defeated death by coming out of the grave and appearing to hundreds of people; that his death and resurrection make it possible for me to also cheat death and go to live with God. All that requires faith.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. KJV
Idea, theory, fact; what is the connection? Someone developed the idea that man can fly. Eventually, efforts were made that did not succeed but did prove it is possible, even probable. That moved the idea to theory. Then on December 17, 1903, two sons of a Bishop of the Church of United Brethren in Christ proved the theory to be true. The theory became fact.
Another example might be gravity, but in that case nearly the reverse has happened. Through observation humans accepted gravity as fact long before any serious thought was given to it. Then Newton developed the idea that objects attract one another and that the moon is pulled toward the earth and the earth toward the sun. With calculations and measurements that idea quickly became theory and later accepted as fact again.
But Einstein upset the notion by proposing in 1905 that gravity is really the result of bending both time and space. That is now the current theory and so far all tests support the theory. Men have even gone to the moon based on faith in that theory.
The author of Hebrews gives us a good list of people who stepped out in faith and became examples for all of us. His stress on the faith of Abel is instructive. We often say that he had a better attitude in giving. Yes, it was an attitude of faith that God deserved the best and he acted on that faith. Cain simply wanted to get by.
Abraham is THE example of faith. God told him that he would have descendants as numerous as the stars and that Isaac would be the one to bring that about. Then God told Abraham to prepare a sacrifice by taking Isaac to the mountain. Not a goat or lamb, his one promised son. Abraham had no idea what God intended. It made no sense. Abraham did it anyway. Abraham reckoned that God was able to raise Isaac from death—and, so to speak, Abraham did receive Isaac back from death. GNT
The long list of faithful servants of God is a reminder to each of us of what it means to believe. Only in faith can we find life. What a record all of these have won by their faith! Yet they did not receive what God had promised, because God had decided on an even better plan for us. His purpose was that only in company with us would they be made perfect. GNT
Wednesday, October 29, Hebrews Chapter 12
Because of the great cloud of witnesses NIV we must focus on the things of God, using Jesus as our living example. We cannot allow sin to divert us. Focus. Focus.
Endure hardship as discipline. NIV Not something we want to hear, but hardship comes with life on this earth. Christians are not immune. The Greek word translated here as hardship really means correction, chastisement, instruction, nurture. Whatever comes our way, we are meant to learn from it. We take the good and bad and see God at work in our lives.
God does not mean us harm. He does not want us to suffer. He does not give us cancer as a punishment or paralyze us to force us to do His will. God has allowed us to live here with our free will, taking our chances with all the nasty things that can happen. In all that nastiness we must look to God, not as the cause of our burdens but as our salvation.
Parents the world over have to let their children go into the world and risk being maimed or killed. We do it because the other choice is to make them captives. God does not want prisoners, he wants us to freely choose Him, even in the midst of disaster.
Two mountains are visited by the author; Sinai and Zion. In verses 18-21 we read of the giving of the Law on Sinai. It is a place filled with danger, but No, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to countless thousands of angels in a joyful gathering. NLT
How little chance of escape is there for us if we refuse to hear the one who speaks from Heaven. Phillips When God spoke on Sinai, the earth shook. When God speaks on Zion, even Heaven will shake. All will change. We who are mortal will join God in immortality. We who are impure will become as white as snow.
Thursday, October 30, Hebrews Chapter 13
In closing, love, be kind, visit those in prisons of the mind or of physical ailments. Live your marriage vows. Respect the opposite sex as humans, not as objects of lust. Do not treat money as a god. Seek God, not money. Remember to imitate Jesus.
In a time when sacrifices were still made at temples to dozens of gods, eating sacrificed food was thought to bring special benefits. No.
Verses 11-14 are about the Red Heifer. It was a rare sacrifice because it required a cow that was entirely red down to the last hair. When one was found, the sacrifice was made on the Mount of Olives directly in line with the eastern entrance of the Temple. Some of the blood was carried by the High Priest into the Holy of Holies even though it was not the Day of Atonement. Jesus is identified with the Red Heifer, having been sacrificed outside the city.
Starting in verse 18, we get the idea that the people who first received the letter knew the author. The closing does sound like Paul even as the rest of the letter does not. Verses 23-24 are the strongest arguments in favor of Paul as the author. We know that Timothy was nearly Paul’s son and we know that Paul was in Rome.
It is possible that Paul gave an outline to someone else who then wrote the letter in his own words. It is possible that Paul did not include his name at the beginning because he did not dictate the latter as was his habit. It is possible that the copies of the letter we have today all left off the introduction with his name. And it is possible that someone else worked with Timothy.
Friday, October 31, James Chapter 1
This letter is actually one of the earliest we have in the Testament. It was written by the brother of Jesus, though it could have been written by another James. But we do not know of any James other than the disciple who would have had the status to write such a letter and he was long dead when the letter was penned, perhaps as early as 50 AD.
Like Hebrews, this letter is intended for Jewish followers of Jesus and seems to have been written when the church was still mostly Jewish. James, as the head of the Jerusalem church, was considered by this time to be the head of all Christianity.
His acceptance of his older brother as the true Messiah came after the crucifixion, as far as we know. Jesus did appear to him after the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:7).
James almost picks up where Hebrews 12 left off; facing life’s adversities should be taken as opportunities for growth. God wants us to grow closer to Him and facing difficulties is part of that process.
Starting in verse 9 James is telling us that being either rich or poor is not relevant. Being rich in God is the only thing that matters. Wealth is not anything to seek but having it does not keep a person from God. Failing to use wealth for God’s Kingdom on earth will keep a person from God.
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone. NIV As often as not even the Devil does not need to tempt us, we seek to be tempted.
We have two ears but one mouth, yet we speak twice as much as we listen. Controlling anger is not easy but it is easier if we keep our mouths shut. Focus on God. Most of us become angry when we feel wronged in some way, when we consider ourselves the center of whatever was said or happened.
Starting with verse 22 James gives us an important clue about Christianity; it is a doing religion. Love is not a noun in Christianity, it is a verb. Action is required; visit the sick, befriend the friendless, give to the needy, sing to those who have lost their song.
To look after orphans and widows NIV is a common Old Testament expression for how we are to act out the love of God. In general it means we need to help people when they need help.
Be righteous and do good.