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Mar 16 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

March 15, 2020


I am going to begin with the verses we covered last week, only this will be my own “interpretive paraphrase” of the first four verses of Hebrews.

God spoke in the past and God has spoken in our time.
There are differences in how he spoke then and now.
In the past he spoke
• many times in many ways
• to our ancestors in the faith
• through the prophets
Now he has spoken
• one time (i.e., the life, death and resurrection of Jesus) in one way
• to us
(note that this spoken word has created a community, an “us”)
• through his Son–God’s ultimate word regarding himself
Everything has been passed down to God’s Son,
So that we now understand how Luke 8:25 can say
“he commands even winds and water, and they obey him.”
The universe does not exist apart from the Son,
but was created through him.
As we do not see the distant stars, rather we see their light,
So we see the Son, the light and glory of the invisible God.
The Son is God, making himself visible and knowable to humans.
God stamped his impression on human clay,
and the Son is that image of God perfectly represented and revealed.
In the words of the old Gospel chorus,
“He’s got the whole world in his hands.”
Knowing the Son in this way,
we can understand how his capacity
to wash away all the sins, of all humankind, for all time.
The Son has joined God, at his right hand.
The Son of God is our divine Shepherd and King.
He provides and he protects.
As awesome as the angels are in splendor and might,
God’s Son is superior to them.
The Son has a name, an identity, more excellent than theirs.

The remainder of the chapter will support verse 4; that is, the Son’s superiority to angels
– the author does this with, what I call, a string of pearls
• seven quotations from the Old Testament, mostly from the Psalms
• the point he wants to drive home:
◦ Jesus is not a culmination of all that came before–he is greater
◦ greater than angels, Moses, Joshua, priests, and so on
– in a sense, the author began making his point in verses 1 and 2
• the Son is greater than all the prophets
◦ they revealed bits and pieces of the word of God
• the Son is the Word of God

The whole idea of angels has become messy and muddled

C. S. Lewis observed how depictions of angels were diminished in visual art
– he wrote,
“ Fra Angelico’s angels carry in their face and gesture the peace and authority of Heaven. Later come the chubby infantile nudes of Raphael; finally the soft, slim, girlish, and consolatory angels of nineteenth century art, shapes so feminine that they avoid being voluptuous only by their total insipidity—the frigid houris of a teatable paradise. They are a pernicious symbol. In Scripture the visitation of an angel is always alarming; it has to begin by saying ‘Fear not.’ The Victorian angel looks as if it were going to say, ‘There, there.’”
• through history, the tendency has been make too much or too little of angels
• I think most people living in North America,
◦ find it easier to believe in existence of demons than angels
– at any rate, they appear in the pages of Bible from Genesis to Revelation
• they are messengers
(both the Hebrew and Greek word “messenger” is used for angel)
◦ it is obvious that they are intelligent spiritual beings
◦ they have access to God’s immediate presence (Is. 6:1-3; Heb. 12:22)
◦ they are powerful – God’s “heavenly host” or army (2 Ki.19:35; Ps. 148:2)
◦ they watch over and assist God’s people (Ps. 91:11)
◦ every nation has an angel (Dan. 10:21; 12:1)
(and perhaps every church; Rev. 2-3)
◦ there are angels for individuals (Acts 12:15)
◦ there are especially angels for children (Mt. 18:10)
◦ people can interact with angels without knowing it (He. 13:2)
(if a New Testament Christian were with us today, he or she would likely believe angels were present too)
there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents (Lk. 15:10)

When reading the quotations in Hebrews 1, keep in mind two thoughts

First, we may not see the logical connections that holds two quotes together
– the author uses various methods of interpretation, Hebrew and Greek
• Hebrew scholars could find a link between verses that shared a thematic word
◦ e.g., the word “son” connects the quotes in verses 5 and 6
◦ in both, the father is God and the Son is royalty, a king
Frank Matera, “Hebrews generates its theology by a creative and insightful reading of Scripture. Rereading Israel’s Scriptures in the light of Christ, it provides its audience with new ways of understanding the person and work of Christ and the nature and destiny of the community that believes in him.”
◦ I agree, except for “creative” I would prefer “inspired”
• it would not hurt to read each quote in its original context
◦ we may see other reasons why the author chose them
◦ and we may discover additional insights from them

Second, keep in mind how the Old Testament regarded King David
– he was Israel’s ideal king – the one who was God’s pick
a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:14)
He chose David his servant
and took him from the sheepfolds;
from following the nursing ewes he brought him
to shepherd Jacob his people,
Israel his inheritance.
With upright heart he shepherded them
and guided them with his skillful hand
(Ps. 78:70-72)
• God’s promise to Israel through the prophets was:
◦ he would give them another king like David
◦ a descendant of David, but more
– all the kings of Judah were measured by David’s example
• at a coronation, the king was anointed with oil
◦ so they were referred to as God’s “anointed one”
◦ this translates the Hebrew word for messiah and the Greek for Christ
• Christians found Jesus in every Old Testament reference to the Messiah

The first three quotations establish the Son’s relation to God

For to which of the angels did God ever say,
“You are my Son,
today I have begotten you”?
Or again,
I will be to him a father,
and he shall be to me a son”?
And again, when he brings the firstborn into the word, he says,
“Let all God’s angels worship him.”
Hebrews 1:5-6

The string of quotations begins and ends with a rhetorical question
(the answer is already known – the question is asked for its effect)
– the first quote is from Psalm 2
(the answer to the question would be, None)
• the psalm celebrates God’s absolute rule over the nations
◦ he laughs at their rebellion
◦ he hands over his universal authority to his Son
• in verse 5, “today” looks like it applies to a definite time
◦ but what it suggests is more like a definite happening
◦ in chapter 3 today applies to
when the psalm was written
when it was read by its first audience
and when its been read every time after that, to the present
– the second quotation is from 2 Samuel 7:14
• the prophet Nathan predicted Solomon’s reign
• but for all his greatness, Solomon turned out to be a disappointment
◦ so the interpretation of Nathan’s prediction was expanded–and intensified
– the third quotation may be from Psalm 96:7 or perhaps Deuteronomy. 32:43
• “brings the firstborn”
◦ brings: “introduce” – like bringing someone up on stage
◦ firstborn: let’s just say, Jesus has gone before us
into the new way of being (in God’s kingdom)
through death into life
And because of this, he made it possible for us to follow him
(later Hebrews will refer to Jesus as “the pioneer … of our faith”)
angels worship him – every time we get a peak in heaven’s door
◦ we see angels worshiping God
◦ the Son is also worshiped by the angels

The next two quotations compare the essence of angels and the Son

Or of the angels he says,
“He makes his angels winds,
and his ministers a flame of fire.”
But of the Son he says,
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness beyond your companions
Hebrews 1:7-9

In Psalm 104, angels are winds and fire –
– for winds, perhaps “spirits” would be a better translation here
• if so, it would harmonize with verse 14
• angels are ministers or servants
– verses 8 and 9 provide the longest quote yet
• in contrast to angels, the Son has an eternal throne
◦ but what is more–and very surprising–he is referred to as God
• it seems that he met certain qualifications: love and hate
◦ his anointing is referenced in Isaiah 61:1, Luke 4:18, and Acts 4:27

The next quotation compares creation with its creator

“You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
and the heavens are the work of your hands;
they will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment,
like a robe you will roll them up,
like a garment they will be changed.
But you are the same,
and your years will have no end”
Hebrews 1:10-12

“Heaven and earth” are frequently paired throughout the Old Testament
– together, they represent the entire creation
• the nature of created things is that they change, wear out and perish
• God’s nature does not change and does not perish
you are the same will be echoed at the end of the book of Hebrews
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Heb. 13:8, “same” is the same word in both places)

The final quotation excludes angels from the honor given to the Son

And to which of the angels has he ever said,
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet?”
Hebrews 1:13

I find the psalm quoted here, Psalm 110, particularly fascinating
– the author will return to, and emphasize this psalm further on
• the first Christians quickly picked up on verse 1, applying it to Jesus
• Peter quotes it in his first sermon (Acts 2:34)
– before that Jesus used it to stump his critics (Lk. 20:41-44)
How can they say that the Christ is David’s son?
• in their culture, it didn’t work
◦ honor was always paid to the fathers, never the other way
◦ so how could David ever address a descendant as “Lord”?
• Jesus did not divulge the answer to them
◦ it was an insider secret
◦ Jesus is both David’s son and David’s Lord

The final verse is not a quote, but a summary statement about angels

Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation? Hebrews 1:14

Angels are sent out to serve–us
– of course, this is not all about us; it is about the Son
• yet we are the focus of the Son’s life and work
• Jesus inherits everything (v. 2)
◦ we inherit salvation
◦ salvation, not as a hoped-for future, but our current experience
◦ we are already being put back together–healing toward wholeness
– to assist us, there are these invisible helpers
• they are serving our Lord in their care of our souls
• we’re never alone and on our own

Conclusion: These last couple of weeks,

We have either been amused or disturbed by the panicked purchase of toilet paper, paper towels, hand sanitizer, and whatever else people feel they must stock up on and hoard
– panic itself can be lethal
• even in a situation that is not deadly, panic can kill
◦ as when a crowd is rushing toward an exit
◦ a person trying to rescue someone from drowning; panic causes the victim to grab on to their rescuer tightly, with the result that the rescuer is unable to swim and they both go down
• but knowing panic can be lethal isn’t enough to prevent us from feeling it
◦ panic can hit our bodies before we realize what’s happening

Even so, we can also learn to recover quickly
This is a skill we gain through practice
And for us, practice comes through prayer,
through running back to Jesus, everyday,
and by doing this in times of peace
our hearts are conditioned and prepared
for times of hardship, trial, and emergency
The name of the LORD is a strong tower;
the righteous person runs into it and is safe (Pr. 18:10)

We have not yet made much progress in Hebrews,
but we’ve come far enough to know
that our Lord Jesus is great enough
to keep us in his care through all things,
including life and death

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