(For the next 13 weeks I will be pondering my way through the Book of Hebrews… Brick by Brick.)
As I pondered my way through this great first chapter of Hebrews there were several things that caught my attention. The first thing was something that was NOT there. In all of the other letters in the New Testament there is a “salutation” – a greeting that identifies who wrote the letter and who it is to. Hebrews does not have this. Therefore there is some uncertainty as to who the author of this letter is. Many people think it was Paul. But other candidates include Luke, Barnabas, and Apollos. We just do not know for sure, but what we do know is that the author had a deep concern for the people he was writing to and wanted to encourage them in the midst of the problems they were facing and the persecution that they were experiencing.
So who were the recipients? The title of the letter is a huge clue. They were Hebrew Christians. Jews who had become believers – who had put their faith in the long-awaited Messiah that had been promised throughout the Older Testament – Jesus.
A few other things that grabbed my attention:
“God spoke” (v.1) – The Hebrews had been used to hearing God speak through the prophets but after Malachi He was silent for 400 years. Just imagine what that would have been like for a people used to hearing God’s voice. But then… God spoke loud and clear and compellingly through the voice of His incarnate Word when Jesus appeared at the beginning of the 1st century. And He still speaks loud and clear and compellingly through the voice of His written Word… the Scriptures. The author is adamant throughout this book that we “not refuse Him who is speaking.” (Hebrews 12:25) Many people live today as if God is silent. I do not want to be one of those people.
“Much Superior to Angels” (v.4) – The author begins building his case as to why Jesus is much superior and “more excellent” (v.4) than anything. He spends half a chapter here documenting why this is true regarding angels. Why does he pick on angels? Well, it turns out that there had developed during the last centuries of the B.C. era a fascination of and a worship for angels. This is what happens when people do not listen to or hear God’s Word. They supplant worship for the one true God with whatever suits their fascination. It is called idol worship. Anything that takes the rightful place of God is idolatry. In the Hebrews case it was angels. But what about in our case? Where does our fascination lie? What are our cultural idols? Money. Sports. Food. Fame. Sex. These are a few that get a lot of votes in our day. What is it that is very alluring to you that you have to fight against lest it take the place of God in your life?
The author of Hebrews wants us to understand that Jesus is much superior and more excellent than any of these things. And as he will say in the first verse of chapter 2, “we must pay MUCH CLOSER ATTENTION to what we have heard, lest we drift away.”
So that is my encourage to you as we begin our pondering through Hebrews: Stay in the Word. Read it. Ponder it. Pay attention to it. Obey it.
And may this brick cause you to think about what might be superior to God in your own life and to make a course correction so that you do not slowly drift away.