A few of us are meeting weekly, a group of God-botherers, to flesh out and discuss together the astounding and surprising Biblical record, and we have leapt from the Kingdom period of 900bc into the New Testament’s Letter to the Hebrews.
This is a passionate letter from an unnamed real person or persons (we have noted all the “we”s in the text) to a real community of Jewish believers in Jesus probably written before 70ad.
Here we find much ‘high Christology’ in our author’s attempt to warn his readers against abandoning Christ and turning back to their previous practices.
There is an amazing thing in this letter: there is no suggestion of any ritual, ceremonial or cultic which might have replaced the Judaism they had left behind, which you will remember, was God’s design for his people and up to that time.
Rather they are called simply to consider Jesus. He is enough, superior, perfect. And called to care for each other.
Though the language and content is different to the apostle Paul’s correspondence to non-Jews, the practices that are encouraged are very similar.
So for example, Like the Pauline letters, this one is addressed not to some church leader but to the whole community. There is no hint here (or anywhere in the whole New Testament) of any clergy class and laity class.
It was critical for these Hebrews to leave behind their familiar, God-given, Old Covenant traditions and hierarchical practices which were now obsolete in Messiah Jesus. The author takes much effort to show convincingly that Jesus and his way, is far superior to Moses and the whole sacrificial and priestly system, now obselete.
Then HOW MUCH MORE critical is it, that we today leave behind all human ideas in our churches. God, in his infallible wisdom has revealed to us in the New Testament that He has a much better, a far superior design to human attempts to worship Him.
Humans have made pagan additions: professional Christians and their trappings, religious CEOs and middle managers, boring, ordered, liturgised, ritualistic ‘worship services’, entertainments, and all those traditions and habits inherited from our forebears, all those cultural substitutions for God’s wisdom that abound everywhere.
We all called to be counter-cultural because of what Jesus has accomplished and deposited for us in his chosen apostles and their writings. We must obey and trust and determine to make him Lord, not only in our personal walk with God, but when we come together, as a body. Otherwise we end up arrogantly determined to continue with human ideas.
Do you think we can improve on the Lord’s great design for corporate life as his people? How appalling. Is that true worship? true acknowledgment of God’s worth?
No. Obedience is better than sacrifice. Obedience is true worship.
Perhaps the greatest shame is the frequent way the Lord Jesus is kind of shut out of the meetings of his people and humans running the show, instead of Christ being the Head of his amazing design, his body, calling the shots, and the Holy Spirit prompting and inspiring the participants to share, edify, bring God’s word, heal, and care.
This wonderful design, which we see in this Letter to the Hebrews, the apostle Paul in his letters likens to the human body, with many members, each participating freely in the care and edification of one another and in the interests of God and the Body of Christ. Dare we continue to tempt the living God and His amazing grace by not honouring him in humble obedience?
Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as they did long ago in the desert wanderings.
Interestingly, I felt to read Hebrews one morning last week – all of it in one go, like reading any book. I underlined as i went and was really inspired about the revelation of Jesus in it. Why he came and how we can truly honour him by accepting everything that He came for – how we insult him and crucify him again and again, when we do not fully accept the complete gift he has to offer… (Funny how we all get different nuggets out of the same piece)… the other thing that struck me again, was the absolute importance of entering into His rest – just like God did when he finished creation and is now in His rest from it… a rest from OUR OWN WORKS… truly learning to walk in His footsteps. Every time we actually have one of those amazing God-directed days, don’t we feel amazingly exhilirated!!!! Apart from being on a high, it is a complete rest to our souls.
Thanks Ruth for commenting. you encourage me. It is certainly a beneficial exercise to read any Biblical book right through in one sitting. After all, many of the Biblical works were written to be heard in community, in the gathering. They were written to be heard, not studied, but certainly discussed together! Heard, discussed and then to be lived out, both corporately and individually. I hope and trust the Lord will give me more to write about as we venture through this distinctive book. And you are right when you say how exhiliarated it is to be God-directed. Let’s draw near with confidence for more of Jesus and his superiority over all alternatives.
> Today, if you hear his voice…
For a long time I was a Christian like most others, waiting for an absent master to return and reward his own – the “second coming”. We Christians are for the most part completely closed off to all things spiritual – in the same sense that new-agers are open to all things spiritual. But in the process we are closed off to the voice and leading of Jesus in our day to day life. Its taken me decades to get to the point where I know my shepherd’s voice, and He doesn’t just lead me in worship but also in the mundane like where I should do my grocery shopping today and where to park, and when I listen my day goes a lot better than when I don’t. But until we as Christians get to that point of being able to discern our master’s voice, how can our churches and fellowship be led by him? Meanwhile we need our priesthood to keep us on the right track, or else the deaf sheep would scatter wouldn’t they?
Teach us discernment! Teach us how to navigate all things spiritual in a spirtual world! Spiritual warfare! Teach us how to pray, how to listen to Jesus speak back to us in that still small voice! Until then, all we have is our bible and our religion and our church.
Thanks Stewart for your thoughtful remarks. May I add that all who have entered into the rest provided by Jesus’ work and his intercession for us continually, do have the capacity to hear his voice. “My sheep hear my voice” he said. We are told by the apostolic writers that all such are priests, who may stand in the holy place and commune with the Lord. The problem is often we are not prepared to “draw near” and listen to his voice but to human voices, to the razzamatazz of the megachurch charismatics or to the sophists of our own day on radio, TV, internet and facebook or to the CEO voices of religious parties advancing their own competitive brands. Hence we have competing, distorted and subverted forms of Christianity hardly anything like the first century Christians. I repeat : “Today, if you hear his voice…”