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May 25 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 24, 2020

Podcast

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits. Hebrews 6:1-3

Intro: We left off last week with the writer complaining (or scolding)

He had much more to say about Jesus in his role of a priest,
– but it would be too difficult to explain it all to them
• they had become lazy listeners
◦ as a result, they were not ready to go further or deeper
• but the truth is, the writer must have believed they were ready,
◦ because after this chapter he continues with his previous subject
◦ the one that he said would be “hard to explain”
– experienced public speakers can see what the writer is doing
• he wants to make sure he has their attention
◦ so he shocks them
◦ and he does this with what William Barclay described as
“one of the most terrible passages in scripture.”
• it is certainly one of the scariest passages in Hebrews
(two other equally scary passages in chapters 10 and 12)
◦ but these same chapters contain some of loveliest statements in the Book of Hebrews

We could cover this section in a couple of weeks, taking it in two or three bites,
– but that would leave us with too much tension in between each talk
• after reading to verse 8, we need to hear the next four verses
– the writer has three things he wants to say
First, preschool is over, it’s time to move on
Second, if they give up on Jesus, there’s no “Plan B”
Third, he reassures them, they haven’t gone over the edge

Preschool is over

“Therefore let us . . .” the writer has shifted from you (5:11-12) to us
– he is with them and will join them in this journey
• he refers to the doctrine (or teaching) about Christ as elementary
◦ the Greek word he uses is arche: the first or the beginning
• what do we learn in elementary school?
◦ the basics: the alphabet, addition and subtraction, grammar
◦ a foundation is laid so further education can be built upon it
(same in athletics – you practice the basics until they are automatic)
– a biblical theme is the call to move on with God
– Abraham, of course (Gen. 12:1), but later, the whole nation of Israel
The LORD our God said to us . . .“You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Turn and take your journey . . .” (De. 1:6-7)
• God did not liberate Israel so they could take up permanent residence at Mount Sinai
◦ for the writer, being stuck in one place is not an option
◦ progress is an essential and inherent characteristic of faith
• it possible these Christians did not know anything beyond the basics
◦ you cannot get anywhere if every day you have to start again at the same place

This was the curse placed on the Greek mythical character, Sisyphus. Two times he escaped death by tricking the gods. Therefore his punishment was that he would have to perform the same task every day forever. From morning to night, Sisyphus would roll a huge boulder up a mountain, but just as he neared the top, the boulder would roll all the way back down to the bottom. This curse is like the “vanity” (emptiness, futility) that the Teacher of Ecclesiastes witnessed regarding a life that is lived strictly under the sun. Like the wind, it swirls around and around without getting anywhere (Ecc. 1:4-8).

But look at what the writer is telling them to leave!
– his list is remarkable, in that it’s the bedrock of our Christian roots
repentance from dead works
faith toward God
instructions about baptisms
the laying on of hands
the resurrection of the dead
eternal judgment
• what he calls “elementary” are stock-in-trade of many preachers
◦ like those whose every message is on “justification by faith”
◦ or evangelists who never fail to mention eternal judgment
– there are four things we need to understand about this list:
1. the writer is not telling them to walk away from basics
◦ these are foundational, but you only need one foundation
◦ the purpose of a foundation is so something can be build on it
(he’s certainly not telling them to leave faith toward God behind!
He still has much to say about faith in this letter/sermon)
2. the most likely reasons for getting stuck here:
◦ being short-sighted regarding the goal
(Some believers have been taught that “getting saved” is God’s goal for their lives; that is, having your sins forgiven and your ticket to heaven. In those churches, believers are generally called to repentance every week. Also, they need to hear same message repeated every Sunday, because this theme gets worn out and loses its motivational force to keep them going.)
◦ or spending a lifetime dissecting, examining, analyzing the basics
◦ or especially arguing and debating with other Christians over the basics (Paul’s advice was to avoid such arguments)
3. there is more to the scripture than words on a page
◦ many Christians quote verses without knowing what they mean
◦ there’s a depth to the Scriptures that we reach through maturity and that takes us into maturity–and there is also a depth to mature faith
4. And this we will do if God permits
◦ that is, we can only move on if God sees that we’re ready for it
◦ then he will lead us on by his Spirit

If they give up on Jesus, there’s no Plan B
For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned Hebrews 6:4-8

If we summarize the first long sentence here, what it tells us is,
– if believers fall away from God, it’s impossible to restore them to repentance
• this is why Barclay referred to this passage as “terrible”
• some Bible teachers argue that such people were never really Christians
◦ let’s consider that idea – these hypothetical deserters:
1. were enlightened – their minds had been opened to the truth of God
2. had tasted the heavenly gift – taste: to have a real experience of something
◦ according to the writer’s world view, reality was two-fold
◦ there was what F. Schaeffer called an “upper story” and a “lower story”
◦ these people have had an upper story experience
3. had shared in the Holy Spirit
◦ they were in partnership with the Spirit
◦ and through the Spirit, partnership with the Christian community
4. had tasted the goodness of the word of God
◦ for the writer, Christian faith is lived-experience
◦ they had taken David’s challenge
Oh taste and see that the LORD is good! (Ps. 34:8)
◦ God had spoken a personal word to him through scripture
5. had tasted the powers of the age to come
◦ the New Testament reminds us that in Christ we experience something of the future joys of heaven now
– it is difficult for me to imagine how a person could enjoy all this,
• and then turn away from God
• this is something that gets to me every time I read the following
And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice [!] and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods (1 Ki. 11:9-10)

“Fallen away” can be misleading – this desertion is not accidental
– as if tripping over a rock or taking a wrong turn
• in rejecting Jesus, they are crucifying the Son of God
◦ and exposing him to open shame
◦ the shame of the cross, which he despised (Heb. 12:2)
impossible to restore them again to repentance
• if people turn from Jesus, he has nothing more for them
◦ they can’t start over, as if for first time, with something else

In his teaching, Jesus presented people with two destinies
– the analogies of wise and foolish builders, and sheep and goats
• here the writer presents the analogy of the soil in two fields
◦ the overgrowth of thorns and thistles appears in the Old Testament
◦ they symbolize a curse, from Genesis 3 and through the prophets
• with this the writer ends his argument with a grim conclusion

Now you see why we can’t stop here
Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation. For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, and you still do. And we desire each on of your to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises Hebrews 9-12

The writer admits his words have been severe, Though we speak in this way
– this relieves the tension that’s been building up in the passage
• “beloved” – how he feels about them (Greek: agapetos)
◦ he has written to them as a true friend
Faithful are the wounds of a friend;
profuse are the kisses of an enemy
(Pr. 27:6)
we feel sure of better things–in other words, “You’re in!”
– the reason for this assurance is because, God is not unjust
• he does not overlook the fact that this field has produced useful crop
your work and the love (agape) you have shown for his name
◦ their love for God was revealed in their service to others
– his concern for them, is that they persevere in this journey
• what he hopes to see in them:
the same earnestness – eagerness, enthusiasm, diligence
the full assurance of hope – we’ll see more hope later in this chapter
◦ they will not be sluggish – lazy, lethargic, apathetic
they will be imitators of those . . . who inherit the promises
(in chapter 11 we’ll find an extensive list of such people)
• they would need not only faith,
◦ but patience – endurance; a major theme in the Book of Hebrews

Conclusion: There is a really important lesson here

Not only the obvious lesson about growing toward maturity
– but one that’s just important
• it has to do with how the Bible gets inside us
• if you find passage disturbs you, it’s because it was meant to do that
◦ that is so much more than information entering our brains,
◦ it is truth entering our viscera–our hearts and lungs and bones

Too many people today are giving Christianity a bad name
It is easy to discover what they are against–
they are more than happy to scream it into your face
It is much more difficult to see
that they are for Jesus;
for his compassionate concern for others,
for his patience, mercy and forgiveness,
for his gentle touch of healing

God wants children
through whom he can love the world
So he sends Jesus to us,
to win us over by his love,
to walk with us through everything
Then Jesus sends us
to carry on his work

Let’s grow up, for heaven’s sake!
Haven’t we been Christians long enough
to swim in the deep end of God’s pool?

May 18 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 17, 2020

Podcast

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing Hebrews 5:11

Intro: I’m going to begin with a personal reflection

You won’t see the connection at first, but it will make sense later
– Friday I was reading in the Book of Acts
• Paul was under house arrest in Rome
◦ but he was given freedom to entertain visitors
◦ when people came, Paul’s spent his time
trying to convince them about Jesus, and so he,
welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance (Acts 28:23 and 31)
– if you were going to have a conversation with Paul,
• you were going to hear about Jesus
◦ he never forgot their first encounter or what Jesus did for him
◦ for those who listened, his enthusiasm was contagious
• his drive to have a closer relationship with never diminished
I count everything loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ . . . that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share in his suffering . . . (Php. 3:8-10)

When I read the verses in Acts, they took me back to the Jesus Movement
– it really was about Jesus – hippie believers were “Jesus freaks”
• there were Jesus festivals, Jesus marches, Jesus concerts,
◦ a Jesus people newspaper
◦ Jesus even made the front cover of Time Magazine
• we talked about Jesus all the time
◦ everyone had a story about Jesus
◦ where they were when he found them, and how he saved them
– sadly, all that energy for Jesus gradually faded
• the movement went through a process of institutionalization:
◦ characterized by Paul Hiebert as a “stratification of hierarchy”
◦ and a “hardening of the categories” — “Religion, Inc.”
• for many years, even before the Jesus Movement,
◦ Calvary Chapel’s mission statement was printed on its weekly early
One paragraph in particular read, “We are not a denominational church, nor are we opposed to denominations as such, only their over-emphasis of the doctrinal differences that have lead to the division of the Body of Christ.”
◦ within two years of my dad’s death, Calvary Chapel was divided into two denominations
(those who broke away from the “mothership” argued “doctrinal differences”)
– I don’t mean to generalize all Calvary Chapel churches or all of its pastors
• I’m thinking of those who claim to be carrying on my dad’s work,
• but have only adopted a method without understanding his vision

What changed?
There was a subtle shift from the person of Jesus to the word of God
– you may ask, “What’s wrong with that? Doesn’t the Bible refer to Jesus as “the Word”?
• that is true, and as we do not separate the Word from Jesus, nothing is wrong
◦ but when study of the Bible becomes an end in itself
◦ or the heart of our salvation, then we have become Pharisees
You, Jesus told them, do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life (Jn. 5:38-40)
• going to the Bible for Jesus is a first stage
◦ the next stage is going through the Bible to Jesus
◦ God did not give us the Bible just so we could know the Bible
– it took me awhile to wake up to what had happened
• we were emphasizing the importance of knowing the Bible
◦ but not stressing enough the importance of godly character
• we were producing students of scripture who could quote lots of it
◦ and did so to justify their anger, malice, rudeness belligerence, and
other attitudes and behavior that were not at all Christ-like
◦ while some of our ministers, who showed little integrity, were competing for influence and recognition

The writer of Hebrews had witnessed a similar decline

His readers were second and third generation Christians
– they were becoming weary – their faith was giving out
• and they were in danger of falling away
– so the writer scolds them with a stern warning (Heb. 5:11 – 6:12)
• vv. 11-14, first, they were behind in their education
• 6:1-3, second, it was time to move beyond an introductory level faith
• 6:4-8, third, he warned of the severe danger in falling away
• 6:9-12, fourth, he encouraged them that forging ahead was doable

Last week we saw that Jesus is our high priest

That he fulfilled the necessary qualifications and obligations
– but now the writer of Hebrews is stuck
• first, he tells them he has much to say about Jesus being
designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek
◦ this is surprising, because scripture has so little to say about Melchizedek
◦ he says it is hard to explain – the backstory of Melchizedek is not well known
• but that was not the only reason it was hard to explain
– the heart of the problem was they had become dull of hearing
• dull in 6:12 is “sluggish”–i.e., lethargic, even to the point of resistance
• have you ever started reading a book or article,
◦ and found it so technical or complex that you gave up?
◦ something like that was happening here with the readers

Evidence they were unprepared (or unwilling) to move on

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil Hebrews 5:12-14

Where they ought to be: by this time you ought to be teachers
– if we hear someone’s been playing guitar for thirty years,
• we expect that person to be able to play really well
• these believers should have known enough to be able to help others;
to . . . exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Heb. 3:13)
◦ as Paul told the believers in Rome,
I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers [and sisters], that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another (Ro. 15:14)

Where they were: you need someone to teach you
basic principles – the literal Greek is, fundamentals of the beginning
• such fundamentals would have included learning the ABC’s
of the oracles of God – “oracle” is the word of God delivered or spoken
Ken Shenk, “Hebrews has no explicitly stated theology of the Scriptures. . . . What Hebrews does have is a pervasive sense of God speaking and, thus, of God’s word, his [logos].”
Timothy Johnson, “. . . in Hebrews Scripture is always a matter of God’s speech . . . .”
– God makes this clear through his prophets
For in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to your fathers or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. But this command I gave them: “Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you” (Jer. 7:22-23)
• it is always about God speaking to us in the here and now
• whether it is through his written word or direct communication

The writer gives them an analogy that paints a clear picture
– we don’t feed infants solid food
• we introduce it in stages
◦ liquid, then soft, mushy food
◦ and later, chewable food when they they have teeth
• Paul used the same analogy
But I, brothers [and sisters], could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not ready for it (1 Cor. 3:1-2)
unskilled suggests a lack of experience
word of righteousness is an unusual way to refer to scripture
In the Scriptures, righteous is a relational term. It refers to the right way to respond to God and treat other people. Here in the United States, we have become a little confused about this. Instead of having to do with how we treat others, we have made it about ourselves, how we should be treated by God and others. Too often we hear believers say, “Well, what about my rights?” When the writer uses the term word of righteousness, he is referring to a specific function of the Scriptures; namely, its value in the formation of our sense of right and wrong when it comes to serving him and caring for others.
• God’s concern is not with how much scripture we memorize
◦ it’s about his word transforming us – changing us

How does the writer characterize a mature believer?
– someone who has undergone lots of intense training
• “power” does not refer to might or force, but capability
(specifically, “the mind’s ability to perceive”–our internal and external senses)
◦ it is possible to develop senses for discerning right and wrong
◦ it is not always right to be right (sometimes it’s right to be silent)
• immature judgment is black and white; what we teach children
◦ black and white judgment would have stoned the woman Jesus forgave (Jn. 8:1-11)
◦ mature indicates a more complex judgment that includes disciplined intuition
– let’s take a moment with the following words
Trained: we acquire new skills by exercising them, like tying our shoes,
teaching our bodies to balance on a bicycle or skateboard, or
learning to float and swim in water. The brain requires enough
experience with these activities to wire them into our brain so they
become as familiar to us as walking.
Constant: not haphazard, but self-disciplined constancy.
Practice: go over something repeatedly until we own it, like practicing
musical scales or the basics required for athletic performance.

Conclusion: Can you see what the writer is doing?

He is telling us there’s a prerequisite to fulfill before taking the next course
– he confronts us without condemning us (cf. the role of discipline in Heb. 12:7-11)
• what worries him can happen to:
◦ any Christian, church, or Bible college
◦ any pastor, movement, or denomination
• it can happen to me or to you
◦ the temptation comes to every believer
◦ to slack off – or get fixated on other things

This is the reason we were told earlier to “Consider Jesus”
Consider him, and keep on considering and contemplating him
The only way to develop a close friendship,
is by spending time together
Talk to Jesus–around the house,
while driving your car,
when you find yourself thinking anxious thougts

We cannot allow ourselves to lose our “first love”
It’s okay if the romance wears off,
but we dare not lose our passion
Romance is sitting on the beach staring at the waves
Passion is riding them

May 11 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 10, 2020

Podcast

For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people. And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was Hebrews 5:1-4

Intro: Wednesday evening, our meditation was in Luke, chapter 9

Speculation was growing regarding Jesus
– he was a spiritual leader, but what kind of leader?
• 2,000 years later theologians and anthropologists are still asking
• where did Jesus fit in his culture’s conceptual framework
◦ a prophet, a Rabbi, a sage, a healer, a mystic?
– there is not one label that captures all that he is
• even for believers: he is our Lord, Savior, Messiah
◦ Hebrews has already referred to him as
God’s Son, the pioneer of our salvation, and an apostle
◦ each is an attempt to get to at an important truth
• the writer of Hebrew’s special interest is, Jesus our great high priest

What service did the high priests perform for Israel?
– above all, they provided access to God; they served as a go-between
• sacrificial worship opened up a lived-experience of God
• the priest maintained a channel of communication and interaction
◦ providing instruction, assistance, and purification from sins
– chapters 5-7 will explore the high priest’s role:
• what qualifications were required of priests?
◦ and what services did they provided?
• the writer want his readers to see Jesus in this light,
◦ and how he is superior in every respect to those who came before him
◦ one of the priests’ requirements is irrelevant to Jesus
◦ Jesus did not qualify for another prerequisite, technically
yet in that prerequisite, he surpassed them
– we’ll find insights that are intriguing, and found nowhere else in the New Testament
• but our main concern will be, What does this mean to us?

Three Qualifications and two obligations

The first two qualifications:
chosen from among men (generic: humans)
• the priest had to be human in order to represent humans
• people had to be able to identify with him, and he with them
◦ a social worker can be educated in the psychology of poverty
◦ but have no personal understanding of what it is to live it
• high priest had to know human condition from the inside
◦ intercession is to pray for another as fervently as if for oneself
◦ in the case of the priest, he was interceding for himself as well as the people
appointed to act on behalf of men and women in relation to God
• the high priest’s assignment: service the spiritual needs of others
◦ one of the ways Paul described his role is found in 1 Corinthians
This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God (1 Cor. 4:1)
• at the heart of the high priest’s ministry was the altar
to offer gifts: thanksgiving offering, peace, daily offerings
and sacrifices for sins – sins, guilt, impurities (Lev. 7:37)

Two obligations:
– first, to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward
ignorant: note the “unintentional sins” in Leviticus chapter 4
◦ education was included in the priests’ job description (De. 3:10)
wayward: misled, to wander off
◦ these words represent normal life situations
◦ the purpose of the law was to correct these conditions
• the sins for which Israel suffered most severely were different
◦ we’ve seen: disobedience, rebellion, unbelief
◦ these instances were not unintentional–they knew better
– second, to offer sacrifices for sins–his own as well as theirs
• the high priest not only resolved the sins of the people, he shared them
• this is one of the points where Jesus differed from the priests
Jesus is a high priest who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15)

A third qualification: no one takes this honor for himself
– when Israel was ripped into two nations,
• this was one of the great sins in the north
◦ Israel’s king invented a new cult for his subjects
After this thing Jeroboam did not turn from his evil way, but made priests for the high places again from among the people. Any who would, he ordained to be priests of the high places (1 Ki. 13:33)
• the writer of Hebrews reminds us that Aaron was called by God
◦ and later on, God chose the entire tribe of Levi to be his priests

Jesus meets these qualifications and obligations
So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him,
“You are my Son,
today I have begotten you”;
as he says also in another place,
“You are a priest forever,
after the order of Melchizedek.”

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God as a high priest after the order of Melchizedek Hebrews 5:5-10

The writer begins with the last qualification mentioned
So also Christ did not exalt himself to made a high priest
– this takes us back to an earlier quotation; Psalm 2:7 (in Heb. 1:5)
• and he returns to a Psalm he has already quoted; Psalm 110:1 (in Heb. 1:13)
◦ this particular verse was well-known to the early disciples
◦ Jesus quoted it, and so did Peter in his first sermon (Acts 2:34-35)
• but the writer doesn’t quote that same verse from Psalm 110
◦ he quotes a verse no one else in New Testament ever mentions
“You are a priest forever,
after the order of Melchizedek.”

– even in Psalm 110, this verse is a mystery
• it is a reference to an obscure event
◦ an event from Abraham’s life that happened in a flash
• we’re going to have to wait awhile,
◦ before the writer unloads all that is revealed in this verse

The obligation Jesus fulfilled was what he offered up
– this is the same word used for offerings on the altar (vv. 1 & 3)
in the days of his flesh – for the writer this is important
◦ he sees a clear distinction between two realms of Jesus’ existence
◦ one material and temporal, the other is spiritual and eternal
his physical existence in the past and his spiritual existence now
• the only instance of Jesus praying with loud cries is from the cross
Jesus cried with a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mk. 15:34)
◦ but would we refer to that as prayers and supplications?
– the point I’m trying to make, is this:
• the writer may be referring to Jesus in Gethsemane,
◦ but perhaps there is also something more
◦ that Jesus fulfilled a priestly service through his prayer for others
a service he continues to provide today
• regarding his Gethsemane prayer, the prayed to the One
who was able to save him from death, and he was heard
Timothy Johnson, Jesus prayed that he would not have to drink the cup of death, but he also prayed your will be done, not mine. “The passion account that follows in the Gospels makes clear that Jesus’ prayer for God’s will to be done was heard, rather than his prayer for the cup of suffering to be taken away from him.”
◦ what gave Jesus’ prayer its force, was his reverence

And speaking of reverence,
– the next three verses deserve our most reverent attention
Although – because Jesus was God’s Son,
◦ you would think obedience came easy for him
◦ that it would just be handed to him or he’d come equipped with it
• but obedience was something he had to learn
◦ like everything else about being human
through what he suffered
William Barclay, “The Greek phrase . . . is a linguistic jingle, emathen aph hon epathen. And this is a thought that keeps recurring in Greek thinkers. They are always connecting mathein, to learn, with pathein, to suffer.”
• learning is connected to experience and experience to suffering
• various forms of suffering: physical, mental, personal, relational, etc.
◦ and also when we have to overcome the resistance of our will to God’s will
Timothy Johnson, “. . . no human can step all at once into God’s will, for two reasons: the first is that God’s call is new every day; the second is that humans can dispose of their freedom only moment by moment.”

In what sense was Jesus made perfect?
– in John 5:36, the same word is used when Jesus referred to the works he was given to accomplish
• perfection is a completeness, a fullness
Howard Marshall, “‘Perfection’ . . . means ‘excellence’ in doing whatever a thing is supposed to do; it signifies fullness and completeness for whatever a person or thing is meant to be and do, often as a result of training and practice.” “Perfection is not realized in a moment . . . . it is both process and result.”
– the picture given to us of Jesus is deeply human
• this is what he went through to become
the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him

Finally, we leave this passage with reminder that Jesus was
designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek

Conclusion: Jesus could not be like us until he learned what we know

We know suffering, and we learned it through experience
– Jesus learned suffering in the same way
• his last utterance from the cross was a loud cry
• a cry of abandonment that reaches to the depths of human pain
– suffering does not make us human, we suffer because we are human
• a person who hasn’t suffered isn’t fully human
◦ that’s why people who don’t know the suffering of others
are frequently inhumane
Abbot John Chapman, “Perfection in this world is not a calm union with God, unless God so wishes. Our Lord suffered temptation and desolation to show us that they are not incompatible with perfection, but are perfection.”

I belong to an online group chat, where we discuss Christian prayer. Eight months ago, a young woman posted the following:
“I am a 14 year old living with the most painful chronic pain condition on earth. I’ve been Christian all my life but I’ve been doubting that God is a loving God lately. Why would God let me go through horrible pain every day? I would really appreciate it if someone reached out to me.”
I responded, reminding her of Job whose suffering also caused him to doubt God’s love for him, and that he was especially critical regarding God’s justice in allowing innocent people to suffer. His pain, sadness and frustration caused him to say some harsh things about God that, to his pious friends, sounded like blasphemy. I wrote to her,
“Sweetheart, that is what suffering does to us. The disappointment with God that you feel is normal. ‘It is not an imperfection to find it painful to submit to God’s will. Our Lord showed us that, by His Agony in the garden.’ (Abbot John Chapman). Don’t let your doubts and bitter feelings make you think something is wrong with you or your faith. In his worst hour of Suffering, Jesus also felt unloved and forsaken by God.
“You will have days, perhaps weeks or seasons when God seems remote or disinterested in you. But you will also have moments when he is so incredibly close, it will make you cry. In either state or feeling,
God IS ALWAYS CLOSE TO YOU.
‘The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).’ ”

With apologies for making this run so long, I want to share two more quotations that are relevant. The first comes from the hand of a theologian and the second comes from the heart of a poet.

Timothy Luke Johnson, “Faith, then, is a deeply responsive hearing of God’s voice as it comes to humans in the circumstances of their worldly existence. It is saying yes to a ‘call’ (3:1) that leads them beyond their present world into a larger one defined not by their desire but by God’s creative and commanding word. Such faith is ‘obedience’ because it is a hearing that overcomes the human reluctance to move into a larger and more frightening world, and the human preference to live within the comfort zone of the accustomed. It is important to note that for Christ as for other humans, such obedient faith cannot be accomplished once for all.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear.

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows that I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

May 4 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 3, 2020

Podcast

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account Hebrews 4:12-13

Intro: This week it occurred to me, it might be good to stop here

To not go any further in Hebrews
– until our experience catches up with what we’ve learned
• for instance, we learned about an constant inner peace
◦ a Sabbath rest that doesn’t depend on our circumstances
◦ we can enter God’s rest in bad times as well as good times
• and our Sabbath rest is not limited to one day a week
One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. (Ro. 14:5)
On our Facebook page where the video of my talk last week was posted, Bill Livingston commented, “When seven days are holy you’ve entered his rest.”
◦ God’s will is that we always find rest in him
– so the question is, have we enjoyed that Sabbath rest this past week?
• have we been going there with our anxious thoughts?
◦ with our troubled hearts? with our anger and disappointments?

Well, I decided we have to continue going through Hebrews,
– because the next thing the writer tells us, how we are to move forward
• and that is with two definite actions
• both are introduced with the words, “Let us”
Let us hold fast and Let us draw near

At first it looks like writer has jumped to another topic

Namely, the word of God
– but he is reinforcing what he told us to do in verse 11
Let us therefore strive to enter that rest
• his entire message is a development of the word of God
◦ this is where he began in chapter 1, God spoke and he has spoken
• every point he’s made has been drawn from God’s word in scripture
◦ this chapter hinges on the good news, the message (v. 2)
◦ to enter the Sabbath rest requires faith in God’s word
the word of God has a rich history, playing a central role from the start
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light (Gen. 1:3)
• the word of the LORD was more than a message; it was an agent of revelation
◦ a conduit by which God revealed himself to a person
(an encounter with the word of God was an encounter with God)
This emerges powerfully in each instance where prophets receive their call from God (e.g., Jer. 1:4-10), and especially in the case of Samuel. He was born into a time when the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision (1 Sam 3:1). When still a child, God called to Samuel, but he thought it was the old priest calling to him. That is because Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him (1 Sam. 3:7). Notice how the revelation of God himself comes with the revelation of his word. After Samuel’s first encounter with the LORD (Yahweh), things changed for Israel. And the LORD appeared again at Shiloh, for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the LORD (1 Sam. 3:21)

Walther Eichrodt referred to the word of the LORD as “a cosmic power of God.” He said, “God’s intervention in history [was] attributed to the Word as an independently active force.”
◦ and that is exactly what it sounds like when we read:
in the Psalms,
He sent out his word
and healed them (Ps. 107:20)
in Isaiah,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and it shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it (Isa. 55:11)
and in Jeremiah,
Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? (Jer. 23:29) In fact when Jeremiah decided he would no longer deliver the word of the LORD because it only brought him trouble, he found,
there is in my heart as it were a burning fire
shut up in my bones,
and I am weary with holding it in,
and I cannot (Jer. 20:8-9)
• the Bible is not exactly the same as the word of God
◦ it contains the words of God, and word of God can move thru it
◦ but God’s powerful word is more immediate, more direct
• so, sadly, people can read the Bible yet not hear the word of God

Characteristics of the word of God that the writer lists include:
– it is living:
• the writer has shown that the word, even written long ago, still speaks today
• it derives its life from God who speaks it
◦ again we see a strong identification of God with his word
Luke T. Johnson, “In short, Hebrews applies the same quality of life that is normally associated with God’s being to God’s word.”
• it never expires, never dies
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away (Mt. 24:35)
– it is active: the word of God is a creative energy
• not only on earth, but in spiritual rebirth of believers
you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God (1 Pe. 1:23)
– it is sharper than a two-edged sword:
• not, “the word of God is a sharp, two-edged sword,”
• but sharper than – as the next characteristic indicates
– it is piercing: it can penetrate anything
to the division of – making a distinction between
soul and spirit – the scripture does not supply technical definitions for these terms
◦ in fact, sometimes they are used as synonyms

Sidebar: why would God’s word divide soul and spirit?
– between the psychological self and the spiritual self?
• we can mistake soul force for spiritual power
◦ mistake soul enthusiasm for spiritual inspiration
• and therefore assume we’ve encountered God,
◦ when we’ve only encountered our own emotions and feelings
– we cannot always discern this division on our own
• God’s word can reveal which one is at work now
of joints and of marrow
The Greek word translated “joints,” was used of the mortar between stones set in a wall. If you visit Israel today, your guide will take you to the Western Wall outside the precincts of the temple. You will be shown stones that date back to the time of Herod. Still today, the guides will boast that the stones were carved so well and are so compact that it is impossible to insert a thin knife blade between any two stones. The word of God enters those spaces that no other blade can penetrate.
marrow gives us a sense of the deepest, most hidden parts of a person
discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart:
• nothing about us is more hidden from others than what’s in the heart
intentions may be misleading, because it simply refers to another sort of thought
◦ for instance, notice how the Greek word is translated in 1 Peter
arm yourselves with the same way of thinking (1 Pe. 4:1)
◦ what a fine distinction this is between subtle differences
and no creature is hidden from his sight
• is the writer still talking about the word of God or about God himself?
◦ we refer to a word as “it,” not “his” or “him”
◦ the dynamic word of the LORD was incarnated, that is to say,
the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn. 1:14)
Walther Eichrodt again, “It holds good more than ever when, as a result of being equated with Jesus, the Word becomes an independent person, and thus enters on a mode of existence apparently at variance with traditional beliefs.”
• God’s word exposes everything
Luke T. Johnson, explains that the word translated exposed “has a range of meanings, all involving the neck . . . and all involving some sort of vulnerability.”
◦ the neck is one of most vulnerable parts of body (cf. Jos. 10:24)
◦ the point here is that we are transparent and vulnerable before God, as his word probes our lives

We need to know what we have going for us

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:14-15

“High priest” doesn’t mean much in our culture today
– for us to appreciate what Jesus is to us, we need the Scriptures
• in Leviticus we learned that a priest was a mediator
◦ his role was to make things right with God
◦ he helped remove sin and guilt,
and purify people and things from uncleanness
• this was especially the role of the high priest on the Day of Atonement
– our high priest is “great” – extraordinary
he passed through heavens
When Israel came to Mount Sinai, God established “zones” of distance; each zone with a different degree of holiness. The people could come to the foot of the mountain, but not touch it. Aaron and the elders were allowed part way up the mountain, but only Moses was allowed to enter the cloud and God’s glory at the pinnacle of Mount Sinai. Once God’s sacred tent was set up, God’s glory moved from the top of Sinai to the holiest place in the sacred tent, where the same three zones were established. The people could enter the courtyard, the priests could enter the holy place, but only the high priest could enter the holiest place. This may be what the writer has in mind when he says that our high priest has passed through the heavens (an idea the writer will make explicit in 6:19-20 & 9:11-12, 24)
◦ Jesus entered most intimate space of God’s presence
not in a vision (like Paul, 2 Cor. 12:1-4), but the real deal

Let us – the next thing we can do, is hold fast our confession
our confession (cf. 3:1) is what we already know and believe about Jesus
• and why do we want to hold fast to it?
For we do not have the kind of high priest that doesn’t care
(there were priests like that!)
– it is easy for us to think God doesn’t know what it’s like to suffer
• the same way the wealthy are cut off from the miseries of the poor
• but Jesus is not unable to sympathize; he knows the human experience
◦ sympathize does not mean “pity” – rather, he feels what we feel
◦ he is not unable, because he has no empathy, or is incompetent, or inexperienced
our weaknesses – yes, it’s plural!
• in 2:17, Jesus was made like us in every respect
◦ the same words are used here, only applied to a specific situation
temptation – yet without sin – Jesus did not “miss the mark”
• he has experience, and that is what enables him to identify with us
◦ not only empathize but he is also able to be helpful
He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness (Heb. 5:2)
I know a married couple who both lost their parents. They have also battled cancer together–twice. Whenever they are told that one of their friends has learned that a parent has been diagnosed with dementia or has a loved one who has been diagnosed with cancer, this couple immediately offers them resources that they found helpful in their ordeals. This is one of the great values of experience, and Jesus has all the experience we could ever need.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need Hebrews 4:16
Let us – there is one other thing we can do
draw near – typically, a throne was about power, majesty, authority
• this throne is all that, but it also about dispensing grace
◦ and, we don’t have to approach timidly – but with boldness
• in Acts 4:13 Peter and John displayed boldness before the Jerusalem counsel
◦ and later, when they rejoined their friends, they prayed for more boldness (Acts 4:29)
– at God’s throne we receive and we find
• we receive mercy – for the wrong we have done
• we find grace – for the good we have yet to do
in time of need – or, “well-timed”

Conclusion: Do you see what the writer is doing for us?

He is providing us reassurance and encouragement
– he is telling us,
“You have not gone as deep as you can go. You have help to go deeper!”
Luke T. Johnson, “This short exhortation breathes an air of encouragement and confidence.”
• Spirit-guided reading of scripture is a great help to personal growth
◦ it will tell you the truth about yourself–the deep stuff

What gives us the greatest hope and reassurance
is Jesus, the Son of God
That it is possible to draw near to him,
and through him, draw near to God
Not only over our lifetime,
but every day,
and any time of day
or night

Apr 27 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 26, 2020

Podcast

Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. Hebrews 4:1-2

Intro: Hebrews chapter 4 is like a mixed-green salad

It has four different types of lettuce:
Let us fear (v. 1)
Let us strive (v. 11)
Let us hold fast (v. 14)
Let us draw near (v. 16)
– this is one way to read this chapter
• the first Let us presents us with a problem
• the other three offer solutions
– also, notice the number of times “enter” pops up
• this is a key word in Hebrews – and related key phrase, draw near
• both suggest the idea of movement, of approach
◦ Hebrews reveals a potential experience of God
◦ we are urged to come close to God and step into that experience

“Let us fear”–the writer warns us of a legitimate concern

He began this train of thought with a quotation from Psalm 95
– what he found there was a promise that he says still stands
• sometimes retailers advertise, “We will still honor your coupons”
◦ in a similar way, God’s promise has not expired
◦ the promise is an invitation for us to enter God’s rest
• the danger is some believers will seem to have failed to reach it
◦ there are two ways that we could interpret this concern:
otherwise you will miss your opportunity, or
otherwise it will seem as though you missed your opportunity
◦ if it seems like the promise has not been fulfilled in our lives, we may give up the quest before we reach the destination
– why should we be concerned about this?
• because we are not the first to be presented with this opportunity
◦ the good news came to Israel in the wilderness
◦ but it didn’t do them any good (did not benefit them)
• now the message comes to us – will it benefit us?

The last part of verse 2 is not easy to translate, but this much is clear,
– something that needed to happen, did not happen
• the way I read this is the message did not unite with faith in them
◦ the promise was not integrated into their hearts and minds
William Barclay translates it this way, “But the word which they heard was no good to them, because it did not become woven into the very fibre of their being”
◦ this is a reminder that knowing is not the same as having or being
• how does the promise become integrated into lived experience?
by faith
– faith activates the promise–faith owns everything God says
• of course, hearing the message is necessary
How then will they call on him in who they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? (Ro. 10:14)
• but to own the message, to experience its fullness requires faith
So faith comes from hearing through the word of Christ (Ro. 10:17)

A description of the ideal Christian community

For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said,
“As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest,’ “

although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” And again in this passage he said,
“They shall not enter my rest.”
Hebrews 4:3-5

This is what the Christian life looks like when everything goes as it should
– if we follow the personal pronouns we find there are:
• those of us who with all believers need to be concerned (fear)
you who seem to have failed
us, to whom the good news came
• and we who have believed
◦ the we would include the writer and apostles,
◦ other Christian communities, and at least some of the readers
• they entered that rest, and were seeing the promise fulfilled
– why does he repeat the quotation here?
• the connection swings on the word “enter”
◦ the quotation is a negative example of what had become the positive experience of others
• everything that needed to be done had already been done
from the foundation of the world
◦ God’s rest was waiting for them–it was there, but they weren’t
◦ until now, God’s rest referred to the promised land
but now it refers to something more

This would be a good point to pause and take a deep breath
– many of us have a tendency to create unnecessary obstacles
“I’ll have a stronger faith once I’ve read through the Bible”
“I’ll be closer to God once I’ve overcome my worst temptations”
“I’ll spend more time in prayer when I’m not so busy”
• whatever work you feel has to be done for you to be close to God
◦ has already been done – from the foundation of the world
• what we need is faith — we need to trust God
◦ trust his love for us, and trust his grace
◦ trust that he meets us right here, right now, and accepts us
– here are two reminders from Paul:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ep. 2:8-10)
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Php. 1:6)

The writer now takes us to another quotation, Genesis 2:1-3
– God rested on seventh day, and he made it holy
• the writer then returns to the Psalm quotation
shall not enter my rest
◦ in the psalm passage, Israel’s rest was the promised land
◦ in Genesis, God’s rest was his repose after completing the six days of creation
• moving between these two passages,
◦ the writer has developed and deepened the meaning of rest
– God is inviting us to rest with him – and to rest in him
Timothy L. Johnson, “. . . the promise offered to God’s people now is no longer that of a material possession, but of a participation in the divine life.”

A conclusion we can draw from this

Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.”
For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on.
Hebrews 4:6-8

I’ll try to simplify this:
– the door to God’s rest remains open
• those who were first invited failed to enter that door
◦ they failed only because they disobeyed God
• since they failed, God decided on another day – “Today”
◦ that is the point made from the quotation in Psalm 95
– the writer attributes this psalm to David
• he points out that it was written so long after Moses and Joshua
◦ and that God spoke of another day later on
◦ hundreds of years later on!
• the point is, if the promised land was identified as God’s rest,
◦ then four centuries later he wouldn’t be saying, “Today”
◦ Israel could have experienced God’s rest in the land, but they didn’t

God’s rest is not found in any particular place
– not even in Jerusalem, or in the temple
Thus says the LORD:
“Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool;
what is the house that you would build for me,
and what is the place of my rest?”
(Isa. 66:1)
• it is not like going to a park or finding the perfect hammock
– so if 400 years after Israel entered the land, God says, “Today,”
• then his rest means something else and the offer is still open

Listen, if you and I hear God say “today,” then this word is spoken to us, and the moment we hear the word is precisely the time for us to respond. Today coincides with hearing and responding. If we do not immediately respond to God, in the present moment, we run the risk of our hearts growing hard
[God says] “In a favorable time I listened to you,
in a day of salvation I have helped you.”
. . . Behold, now is the favorable time; now is the day of salvation
(2 Cor. 6:1-2)

Another conclusion that we can draw from this

So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. Hebrews 4:9-11

This is the second time we find the word “remains” – and it’s his whole point
– a “Sabbath rest” – not Saturday, as a day off work
• but a state in which our soul is at rest
For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel,
“In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength
(Isa. 30:15)
• again, our rest is with God and in God
St. Augustine, toward the beginning of his Confessions, prayed these famous words, “You have formed us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in You.”
– so what do we do today? Let us strive to enter that rest

Conclusion: What is presented to us here is obviously not a familiar concept of rest

This rest is not what comes after chaos, conflict and confusion die down
– it is, instead, an inner peace that carries us through the chaos, conflict and confusion
And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith (1 Jn. 5:4)
• we overcome the world, not be conquering it,
◦ but by not letting it get to us
• God’s rest is an inner peace that we enjoy even while we work
◦ it is not like fall asleep,
◦ but more like being awake for the best moment of our life
– we do not rest in our accomplishments or even in our faith
• we rest in God himself
I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me
(Ps. 131:2-3)

Do you realize that “today” is right now?
It is so difficult to keep our minds in the here and now
If we are haunted by our past or obsessed with the future,
we will never experience life in present moment
It takes the discipline of trust to fix our attention on today

I suggest that when you sit in prayer,
and you make yourself aware of God’s presence,
that you consider using the words of this Psalm 116
to enter his rest:
Return to your rest, O my soul; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.
For you have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling.
I will walk before the LORD
in the land of the living
(Ps 116:7-8)

Apr 20 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Sunday’s Prayer

O God, our Father,
Creator of all that is good
and beautiful,
breathe again Your Spirit into our hearts.

Today we are grateful for all those
who every day risk their own health and safety
to devote themselves to healing others.
Please, Lord, protect them from this disease.
And also, keep safe all those
who are most vulnerable,
because of their age,
or impaired health,
their living arrangements,
or their poverty,
or homelessness.

Bless all those who continue working
to provide essential services.
Bless all farmers and packing house workers,
all truck drivers and grocers,
all pharmacists and clerks.

Though we are separated by the danger
of worldwide pestilence,
let us feel the oneness of heart
that we have together in You.
A safe distance from each other,
may we feel our sacred togetherness.
Let this time be to us
a valuable investment in our spirits,
to keep us strong and loving for others,
and faithfully devoted to You.
These things we pray
through Jesus Christ,
Your Son and our Lord and Savior.
Amen

Apr 20 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 19, 2020

Podcast

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
on the day of testing in the wilderness . . . . Hebrews 3:7-8

Intro: Since our text begins with a quote from Psalm 95, let’s go there first

The psalm begins with a call to worship
Oh come, let us sing to the LORD;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
(Ps. 95:1-2)
Next, the psalm tells us why we worship
For the LORD is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land
(Ps. 95:3-5)
Now the psalm repeats with another call to worship
Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
(Ps. 95:6)
And, again keeping with the pattern, we are told why we worship
For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand
(Ps 95:7a)

So, first we worship the LORD, because he is a great God
– then, second, we worship him
For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture
• and worship is what his people do

With the last line in verse 7, the poet makes a turn
– and it seems like he is saying,
“Well? What are you waiting for?
Don’t drag your feet, and don’t do
what our ancestors did!”
Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
when your fathers put me to the test
and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
For forty years I loathed that generation
and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart,
and they have now known my ways.”
Therefore I swore in my wrath,
“They shall not enter my rest”
(Ps. 95:7b-11)
– the wilderness generation paid a terrible price for their rebellion
• so now the writer of Hebrews is telling his readers,
◦ if they follow the example of that earlier generation,
◦ they will forfeit something wonderful

Now back to Hebrews chapter 3, verse 7

The writer began by telling us to consider Jesus (v. 1)
– we benefit from what he does for us as our apostle and high priest
• and we benefit from his faithfulness to God
◦ he calls us to a transcendent partnership
◦ and we become members of his household, under his care
• but this meditation on Jesus ended with an “if” (v. 14)
– to illustrate why there’s an “if,” the writer turns to the psalm
Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,
• this intro to the psalm deserves attention
1. it shows us his profound respect for inspiration of scripture
◦ it is no less than God who speaks by his Spirit
2. note how he uses “says” instead of “said”
◦ the Bible isn’t just a book of messages for long ago,
◦ in Jesus, scripture speaks through time in the present tense
and in Jesus, the old Scriptures become fresh and are filled with new meanings

I have been reading in the Book of Acts this week, and it seems remarkable to me how quickly the apostles found references to Jesus in the Hebrew Scriptures. In fact, in Peter’s first sermon after Jesus’ death he quoted two passages at length and referenced other sayings. Not long after, the Christian community was quoting Psalm 2 in their prayer (Acts 4:25-26). This is a psalm that our writer of Hebrews has also mentioned (only he emphasized a different verse from the ones they quoted). So almost immediately after Jesus ascended into heaven, his disciples were going over their Scriptures and finding many references to him.
In Luke’s gospel, one of the last things Jesus did for his apostles–and it was a wonderful gift that he gave them–he told them,
“. . . everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures . . . . (Lk. 24:44-45)
Our Wednesday night Lectio Divina is rooted in this practice. We listen (lectio) for the Spirit to speak to us today through the sacred (divina) Scriptures.

Notice that the writer chose a psalm that also has an “if”

In fact, that is where he begins his quotation
Today, if you hear his voice
– he is going to stay with this psalm for awhile; almost to the end of chapter 4
• he will quote different lines from it and emphasize specific words
◦ he is using it as a warning
• there were others who had journeyed with God in the past,
◦ yet failed to attain their destiny
– where did they go wrong?
• the simple diagnosis is, they had “heart problems”
. . . do not harden your hearts (v. 8)
They always go astray in their heart (v. 10)
• they did wrong, because their hearts were wrong

When I read the psalm, two place names were mentioned
– the original readers would have recognized Meribah and Massah
• and they would have known what happened there (Ex. 17)
• but those who translated the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek
◦ did not use the Hebrew names, but translated their meaning
rebellion and testing
– that particular event was not the last straw for Israel
• but it is and example that represents forty years of bad behavior
• what does it mean to “test” God?
◦ it is like children when they test their parents
◦ they explore their boundaries to see how far they can go before there are real consequences for their actions

Therefore I was provoked with that generation – they finally crossed the line
– they reached border of promised land and rebelled
• this was indicative of a set pattern, They always go astray
– I want to point something interesting, threaded through the Old Testament
• God said of Israel, that they
saw my works and yet they have not known my ways
ways refers to what is internalized in God’s heart
◦ how he operates (so to speak), what he wants in our lives
◦ for example, God said that if someone is going to boast, let him
boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD (Jer. 9:23-24)
and
let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts; . . .
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD
(Isa. 55:6-9)
• God’s “works” refers to his “ways” when acting on them
◦ so,
He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel
(Ps. 103:7)
◦ think of how those differ
God revealed to Moses the intent and motive behind his actions
The people only witnessed his actions

As I swore in my wrath
– the writer of Hebrews has a keen interest in all that God says
• so he pays close attention to the times when God swore an oath
◦ he will cite three instances of God swearing an oath
◦ regarding Israel, regarding Abraham, and regarding his Son
• the point: with the oath, God shut the door on Israel
◦ there would be no opening it,
◦ to allow that generation to enter the promised land

What does this psalm have to do with readers?

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion Hebrews 3:12-15

Take care translates one Greek word, “to see” – “Look out”
– Paul in 2 Corinthians wrote,
examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5)
• the writer of Hebrews is saying something similar
“watch out, because there may be in you an evil heart of unbelief”
◦ “evil” is not always moral, but can mean bad, like an over-ripe fruit
“Don’t drink the milk, it’s gone bad”
◦ e.g., our hearts go bad when our love for God goes cold
or when we settle into a fixed, negative attitude
unbelieving – can mean that our faith gives out
◦ or it can also mean that we become unfaithful to God
◦ when Israel went astray, it was usually to pursue other gods
leading you to fall away from the living God
– it is the heart that leads a person
• what matters is not only what we know,
◦ but how we feel about what we know
living God occurs four times in Hebrews
◦ the Old Testament prophets pointed out that idols did not have breath (or sight, or speech, nor could they do anything)
◦ they said idols were “vanity”–i.e., emptiness, nothingness

I am not a fan of the word “exhort”
– too many Christians assume that it gives them license to rip on others
• to fix others, straighten them out, give them a good dressing down
◦ what they call exhortation is, in fact, condemnation
◦ but exhortation and condemnation have two different goals
– a better translation here would be “encourage”
• it is related to word Jesus used for the Spirit – the Comforter
◦ person you call when you need support, comfort, affirmation
as long as it is called today
◦ the writer will emphasize that there’s no expiration date for “today”

How can we provide this encouragement and support for each other during a time of quarantine?
– e-communication, of course, offers several ways: text, e-mail, social media
• a friend who participated in lectio divina by way of Zoom afterward said,
“I wouldn’t have believed it was possible, but I really got something out of this”
• keep warming up faith – in your heart and in the hearts of others
For we have come to share in Christ
– to share gives us a sense of belonging
• Jesus belongs to us–though we don’t “own” him
(no one corners the market on God)
• we belong to Jesus
I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine (Song 6:3)

A quiz–and there are three questions

The answers to the quiz are in the quotation from Psalm 95
For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who ere disobedient? Sow we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief Hebrews 3:16-18

Luke Johnson, “. . . each question has in effect, the same answer from a slightly different perspective.”
– the conclusion drawn by our writer is that Israel came all that way, for all those years, but stopped short of their goal
So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief Hebrews 3:19
– it was a failure of faith, and a failure of faithfulness

Conclusion: Does God punish us for our attitude and behavior
when we’re having a bad day?

No, I don’t believe we’re punished for how we feel on our bad days
– but there’s always a danger that a bad attitude can harden a heart
• and then become a permanent disposition
• more importantly, every day we are given the chance to choose better
Today, if you will hear his voice
– we can listen, we can respond, we can choose:
• to come and sing to the LORD, to make a joyful noise
• to come and worship and bow down, and kneel before God
• to go on regardless of how we feel
◦ we can still do good things on our bad days
◦ we can still follow God on this journey of faith
• to not allow our hearts to be led astray
◦ and when we find we have gone astray, to return–quickly!
• to learn God’s ways
make me to know your ways, O LORD (Ps. 25:4)
• to stay in “today” – with focused attention on God NOW
• to hold fast and hold firm our confidence in God

Jesus has faithfully brought us this far,
we can trust him for the rest of the way

Apr 13 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 12, 2020

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. John 20:1

Intro: The formal Christian greeting this morning is not “Happy Easter”

It is, “He is risen” – and when greeted this way we respond,
“He is risen indeed”
– this morning we remember the most imp event in Christian history
• the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior
• we will resume our journey through Hebrews this week
◦ but today we will meditate on Jesus’ resurrection
– all four gospels tell the story, each focusing on certain details
• in John’s Gospel, the story is told in two parts
• part one begins with Mary Magdalene

Part One
Mary
Too eager to wait for the sun to rise, Mary made her way to Jesus’ tomb while it was still dark. This would not have been easy (or safe) without the benefit of street lights. Perhaps she carried with her a small clay lamp to help identify landmarks.
As she entered the garden and approached the tomb, she felt that something was off. Then it hit her. The stone that should have covered the entrance to the cave-like tomb was gone! Shocked by this unexpected situation, in her state of confusion she panicked. She did not take one step closer to the vault or try to look inside. Instead, she turned and ran back into the city, to the place where she knew she could find Peter.
Finding Peter and “the other disciple,” she blurted out, “They’ve taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they’ve put him!”

Peter and “the other disciple”
Hearing this, Peter and John immediately reacted. Jumping up, the bolted through the door and ran to the tomb. John outran Peter, and without going inside he bent down looked inside where he saw the empty linen shroud that had been wrapped around the body. John, the contemplative disciple, was taking it in, wondering what it meant.
Then a moment later, Peter, the reactive disciple, arrived and charged inside, where he also saw the linen shroud–and another detail. The cloth that had covered Jesus’ face was folded neatly and set to one side by itself. Why would anyone–especially a grave robber–bother to do that?
John followed Peter into the tomb, looked around, and later he reported that at that moment he “saw and believed.” But just what he believed is ambiguous, because he admits that at that point the still did not understand the Scripture, that Jesus had to rise from the dead.
Not knowing what else to do, Peter and John returned to their houses–an anticlimax to say the least after the strange discovery that morning. Nevertheless, and undeniable electricity continues to pervade the plot.

Mary
Now back in the garden alone in garden, Mary is bending down to look inside the tomb. Surprisingly, she does not seem phased by the fact that two angels are sitting in there on the stone slab where the body had been laid, one at the head and the other at the feet of where the body had been lying. The angels spoke to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” Sobbing, she answered, “They have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they put him!
Did the angels sit there without saying anything? Did they give her a consoling smile, as if to say, “It’s okay”? Or did Mary not wait for their response? She turned from the dark entrance, perhaps planning her next move or looking for clues. Mary was on a mission! She had to find out what happened there that morning. She had to do something. And then . . . .

Jesus
He was just–there. Mary saw him, but through her tears she did not recognize him. Jesus spoke first, asking the same questions the angels asked, “Woman, why are you weeping?” Then he added, “Whom are you seeking?” Mary cried, “If you know anything, can you help me? Just tell me where he is and I’ll go and get him myself. I’ll take care of everything!”
Jesus spoke one word–a name, her name, “Mary.”
This is one of those moments in scripture, where I would give anything to hear the tone in Jesus’ voice. What intonation did he use? Was it sympathetic? Did it sound as if he were saying, “You know me”? I am sure it was not a flat, matter of fact tone of voice.
A light went on for Mary, a thought occurred in a nanosecond, “I know that voice!” She wiped the tears from her eyes and really looked at him. Then screaming the one word, “Teacher!” Mary lunged at Jesus.
Please forgive me for adding to the story, but I imagine a detail John must have left out; namely, when he said, “Mary, don’t cling to me!” Oh yes, she had him in a bear hug. She had lost him once, she was not going to lose him again. No one was going to take Jesus away from her now. But as she loosened her grip, he explained she could not cling to him, “For I have not yet ascended to the Father.” Not that Mary understood what he meant by that, but she obeyed him.
Jesus gave Mary a new assignment., “Go to my brothers,” he told her, “and tell them I am ascending to my Father, who is also your Father, to my God and your God.” So off she went.

Part Two
The disciples (minus Thomas)

Later, that same day in the evening, fearing that the guards who arrested Jesus would be looking for them, the disciples locked themselves in private room in Jerusalem. suddenly, Jesus was standing there in the room with them.
“Peace be with you, he said.” Then he held out his hands toward them so they could see the puncture marks from the spikes. He pulled back his robe so they could see the wound in his side. Seeing him, they felt joy but were apparently speechless. So he said again, “Peace be with you.” Then he completed a chain by adding, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” We do not have to understand why he breathed on them, but I am thinking that it replicated the moment God first breathed the breath of life into humankind (Genesis 2:7), only this was the breath of new life. Jesus did not communicate this gift to them in words alone but with a real experience of the words he spoke, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

Thomas
When Thomas rejoined the other disciples, they told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he answered them, “How am I supposed to believe that! I would have to see him for myself; in fact, I would have to touch him, feel the nail print with my finger and place my hand on the wound in his side!”
Thomas prided himself on being a realist, a rational person who was not easily moved by the hysteria of others. He refused to believe what he could not see. So, eight days later the disciples were together again and this time, Thomas was also present. And again, Jesus revealed himself to them and greeted them with, “Peace be with you, he said.” Then he went straight to Thomas.
“Put your finger here,” he commanded Thomas, “and see my hands. Stretch out your hand, and feel my side for yourself. Do not disbelieve, Thomas–believe.”
Amazed, Thomas whispered, “My Lord and my God!” And now we are given the point of the whole story. Jesus said to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed.”
All through his ministry, Jesus was preparing witnesses who would tell others about him–his life, his miracles, his teaching, his death and his resurrection. Those who heard his witnesses would tell others, and those who heard them would tell others, and so on until the whole world knew that God had provided a way to himself through Jesus, his Son. And way down the line, we are among “those who have not seen and yet believed.”

Conclusion

Reading this chapter last week, something caught my attention
– John does not use the word “body” very often in his Gospel
• the first time he uses it is in chapter 2
◦ there he was asked for a sign that he was authorized to clear the temple of the money-changers and those who sold doves
◦ he answered, Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up
• there, John ways he was referring to the temple of his body
◦ I find it strange that John does not elaborate on that statement
◦ but then again, Jesus used lots of metaphors and figures of speech
(e.g., Jn. 10:6; 16:25)
• after that, “body” does not recur until three times in chapter 19
◦ first, the bodies of Jesus and the two others who were crucified next to him
◦ then twice when Joseph requested the body of Jesus
– the last time body appears in John is here in chapter 20
Yet the whole chapter is about the body of Jesus!

Mary could not think of Jesus as a dead body, but referred to him as the Lord or my Lord
When Peter and John entered tomb, the only thing missing was the body
The angels were positioned exactly where the body had been placed
Mary intended to cling to the body of the risen Jesus
Jesus showed the disciples the wounds on his body
Jesus encouraged Thomas to touch his wounded body

So why is mention of Jesus’ body subdued in John’s story?
– perhaps because he never forgot that Jesus referred to his body as “this temple”
• maybe the Lord’s body was too sacred for him to treat it casually
◦ Jesus’ body was more than a shell
◦ it was the means by which he revealed himself, and God, to the world
– for Mary and others, Jesus’ body was how they knew and experienced him
• and as his witnesses,
◦ those who knew him before his crucifixion
◦ had to be able to ID him after his resurrection

Our bodies carry the story of who we are – our ID
– in our finger prints, facial recognition, and DNA
• also in our mannerisms, habits, and the sound of our voices
Pat Ogden, “The body speaks clearly to those who know how to listen. . . . The multifaceted language of the body depicts a lifetime of joys, sorrows, and challenges, revealed in patterns of tension, movement, gesture, breath, rhythm, [vocal intonation], facial expression, sensation, physiological arousal, gait, and other action sequences.”
◦ our bodies contain, act out, and reveal our personal histories
• our bodies have a destiny – now and in the future
Now:
The body is for the Lord . . . So glorify God in your body (1 Cor. 6:20)
. . . present your bodies as a living sacrifice (Ro. 12:1)
Arthur Vogel,“Love can literally fill the world if [people] will let it affect the body, for then it will be thick and the same stuff as the world; Christian love is not something spiritual that cannot be seen, for Christian love is Jesus Christ in the flesh. Love that makes no difference in the world is not love.”
In the future:
1 Corinthians 15 where Paul answers questions about our resurrected bodies)
And in Philippians 3:21, where he says we will have bodies like Jesus’ glorious body

My Uncle Bill owned a “body shop” in Santa Ana
He repaired broken cars
He he did the body work
to make them beautiful again
(that happened to be the place where my body got its first scar)

Jesus has a body shop
where he transforms bodies,
and where his Spirit
breathes new life into our bodies
(Romans 6:4; 8:11)

Today, we thank God
for the body of Christ,
given for us
And we thank him
for our own bodies,
that have been given to us,
and that we give back to him

He is risen

Apr 10 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Good Friday – 2020

Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices . . . . Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb . . . . since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there. John 19:39-42

I have not been especially mindful of Holy Week this year—too many other distractions. However, this morning my reading in John’s Gospel brought me to the crucifixion of Jesus and, appropriately so, that became my meditation.

As John’s footnote indicates, we have already met Nicodemus. It was near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and a moment when the story was filled with hope and promise. Nicodemus arranged a private meeting with this impressive young man whom he recognized to be “a teacher come from God.” Jesus taught Nicodemus the two sides of religion, that which is manufactured by “the flesh” and that which can only come by “the Spirit.” Nicodemus learned from the Lord that he needed to be born into the life of God’s Spirit.

Then, about halfway through Jesus’ ministry Nicodemus resurfaced. He attempted to defend Jesus, or at least slow down a rush to judgment, when the chief priests and Pharisees were prepared to condemn Christ without allowing him a fair hearing. However, Nicodemus was quickly and effectively silenced by a prejudicial attitude the religious leaders held against Galileans (Jn. 7:50-52).

Nicodemus’ reappearance at the end of Jesus’ ministry sharpens the grief surrounding the cross. The Lord’s disciples, family and friends were not the only ones who lost him when he said, “It is finished,” bowed his head, and gave up his spirit. There were others on the periphery of his ministry like the unnamed Samaritan woman, the crippled man at the pool of Bethesda, and the blind man whom Jesus told to wash his eyes in the pool of Siloam, and when he did he could see.

And there was Nicodemus. His curiosity about Jesus at the first, then the fight in him when Jesus was treated unjustly, and the hope he felt that this man might be Israel’s salvation — all of that was gone. There was nothing left to do than bury the body. It was safe for Nicodemus to assist with this responsibility, because he was not a known disciple of Jesus. Besides, he belonged to the Pharisee sect, most of whom were hostile to the Lord. He was willing to come and help lay Jesus—and the Jesus movement—to rest.

We cannot lose Jesus! To lose him is to lose everything. Jesus cannot become to us nothing more than a fond memory, a nostalgic remembrance of happier times. We cannot return to the garden now and then to leave flowers on his grave, as if the world can go on without him. To his last breath, there was a chance he might somehow escape death. But when his corpse was removed from the cross and placed in the tomb, the stone that was rolled over its entrance, sealed all hope in darkness.

The sorrow of Good Friday is not only the suffering of deep grief, it is complete despair. It is the saddest, the most difficult and frustrating cliff-hanger of all time.

Apr 6 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 5, 2020

Podcast

Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession Hebrews 3:1

Intro: Is there anything in the Bible you wish were not there?

I may be hypersensitive to manipulation
– a by-product of growing up in my religious subculture
• a typical statement would be,
“If you love the Lord, then raise your hands”
◦ the peer pressure was intense
◦ what would the others think if I didn’t raise my hands?
• so whenever I hear an “if,”
◦ I assume someone is trying to coerce or manipulate me
“If you’re a good Christian boy, empty the trash”
“If you’re a real Christian, donate money to our missionaries”
◦ my immediate reaction is to resist
– there is an “if” in this passage
• so that part reminds me of my Sunday School teachers
◦ conditions are placed on me that I may not be able to meet
• however–if the Bible does give us warnings, is it wise to ignore them?
◦ our nation is right now suffering the consequences of ignoring
early warnings regarding COVID-19
◦ it is wise and safe to trust the warnings in the Book of Hebrews
(we will soon see what happened to others that ignored God’s warnings)

“Looking for treasures in the yard sale of life”

A friend once threatened to write a book with this title
– people will spend weekends combing through garage sales,
• hoping to find some overlooked or undervalued antique
– there are rich treasures in Hebrews – widows that open to Jesus
• we read in chapter 2 that we may not see world God intended,
But we see him . . ., namely Jesus
◦ and here we are told to consider Jesus
◦ the writer continues to focus our attention on Jesus
• last week, Jesus became human to take on suffering and death
◦ now the writer provides a meditation on Jesus for us to consider

Notice how we are addressed:
– “holy” – we learned last week that Jesus makes us holy (2:11)
◦ as God called Israel to be holy (Lev. 19:2)
◦ we belong to God, Jesus qualifies us for his presence
– “brothers and sisters” – Jesus forged this bond with us (Heb. 2:11)
◦ and between us and each other
◦ we have been adopted into God’s family – we belong
– “partners”
In Luke chapter 5, Jesus and Peter went fishing. Peter was certain that they were not going to catch anything, but was shocked when his net filled with so many fish they could not haul all of them on board. He needed help, so he called for his partners to come and assist them (Lk. 5:7) That is the same Greek word here that the English Standard Version translates you who share.
◦ we share in the work and the rewards
– “in a heavenly calling” – the word heavenly is not “window dressing”
◦ the writer is aware of two dimensions
one physical, the other spiritual
one is provisional, the other is ultimate
we live in both at the same time
◦ Jesus was also aware of these two dimensions
that was his message regarding the kingdom of God
and, it is why he taught, Lay up your treasures in heaven
– “calling” – an invitation, opportunity that requires response
◦ but it also refers to what we have become
◦ for instance, if by others we are called Christians (Acts 11:26)

What is it that holy people with a heavenly calling do?
– we “consider Jesus”
• to consider is to look intently – contemplate until the truth emerges
◦ as when Jesus said, Consider the lilies
◦ there is a lesson to be learned
• “the apostle,” the one sent by God with a message and an invitation
◦ “high priest,” one who acts on behalf of men in relation to God (Heb. 5:1)
◦ Jesus fills both roles:
he represents God to us and he represents us to God
• “our confession” – the truth that we admit to believing
◦ and the truth by which we live

Verses 2-4, What specifically are we supposed to consider?

Jesus’ faithfulness to God
. . . who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself Hebrews 3:2-3

– the writer has compared Jesus to the prophets and the angels
• now he will compare him to Moses
• there is hardly a more important person in the Old Testament
And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt . . . and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel (De. 34:10-12)
◦ he was great not only as the law-giver and miracle worker,
◦ but also for his intimacy with God
If there is a prophet among you, I the LORD make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the LORD (Nu. 12:5-8)
– the writer does not a contrast between Jesus’ and Moses’ faithfulness
• rather, he draws a comparison their “glory”
• do you remember Moses’ prayer Show me your glory?
◦ I can’t read God’s self- revelation to Moses without feeling its profound effect (Ex. 33:17-18; 34:5-7)
◦ afterward,
Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God (Ex. 34:29)

Paul saw this same comparison between Moses’ and Jesus’ glory
Now if the ministry of death carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? . . . For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory. . . . And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another
(2 Cor. 3:7-18)
– one specific instance of Jesus’ visible glory was his Transfiguration
• the Gospel of John does not mention the Transfiguration
• however, the glory of Jesus shines all the way through; e.g., Jn. 1:14; 2:11)
– reading in John this week I cam to the passage we celebrate today as “Palm Sunday”
• like the other Gospels, Jerusalem was filled with breathless excitement
◦ the Pharisees, however, panicked
◦ to them, it looked like the whole world has gone after him
• ironically, some Greek people approached Philip and told him,
Sir, we wish to see Jesus
◦ when Philip told Jesus, the Lord said,
The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit (Jn. 12:23-24)
◦ the death and resurrection of Jesus were central to his glory

The glory that Moses’ face absorbed was not his own
– it lingered for awhile and then disappeared
• the glory of Jesus is all his own, and it is permanent
He is the radiance of the glory of God (Heb. 1:3)
• now, the first comparison the writer makes is by analogy
the builder of a house has more honor than the house
◦ the house may be an architectural masterpiece
◦ but the honor for its design and construction,
goes to the architect and contractor
– then he adds a footnote
For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God Hebrews 3:4
• again in chapter 1, God created the world through Jesus
• Jesus shares God’s creative role and God’s glory
William Barclay, “Moses knew a little about God; Jesus was God.”

In verses 5-6, the writer fleshes out the comparison he has in mind

Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope Hebrews 3:5-6

Three facets of Moses’ faithfulness:
1. it was in God’s house
2. he was a servant (no small honor!)
3. his service had reference to the future (a revelation to come)
Three facets of Jesus’ faithfulness:
1. he is over God’s house
2. he is a son – at that time, a status slaves could never achieve
3. he is the future, now revealed

And now the writer comes back to us
– here is that conditional sentence I mentioned at the beginning
• we were warned in chapter 2 that we could drift away
• to prevent that, we have to hold fast our confidence
confidence is boldness as in Acts 4:8-12, Peter and John did not hold back when confronted by the very people who wanted Jesus crucified
boasting was a way of giving credit to sponsor and expressing gratitude
our hope – hope is what keeps us going
• Hebrews has some of the loveliest insights into hope in all the New Testament

Conclusion: We can find something useful in this passage

First, put together two thoughts, one from the beginning and the other from the end:

“Consider Jesus, our hope”

– What happens in crisis, when we forget to consider Jesus?
• we turn on each other – we become fearful and suspicious
• in the last two months, we have witnessed sad examples of ugly religion
– the worst thing about ugly religion is that it misrepresents Jesus
• we do this, not by our beliefs, but by the way we carry them
◦ our attitudes and actions, our anger and aggression
We retreat into our worldly selves while faking piety
we return to our jealousies, greed, and contempt for others
But that is not the way you learned Christ (Eph. 4:20)

We can avoid ugly religion and misrepresenting Jesus
if we remember to consider Jesus
Several times we read in scripture
that Israel forgot the LORD and forsook him
Jesus provided us with a way not to forget
I am the vine; you are the branches.
Whoever abides in me and I in him,
he it is that bears much fruit,
for apart from me you can do nothing (Jn. 15:5)
Consider Jesus
Abide in Jesus
His love will constrain us,
his kindness will keep us gentle
Here is the north star to guide us,
the reassurance to calm us,
the hope to inspire us:
Consider Jesus