“The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” The writer of Hebrews quotes Scripture in the closing passages of the letter, sharing things to do SO THAT we can confidently say these words… the LORD is my HELPER. I will NOT fear. What can MAN do to me?
Wouldn’t we all love to confidently say these words and sincerely mean them? No fear. No doubt about getting help when we need it. Not seeking approval, affirmation, security, safety, support from man who will always let us down. So, what does the writer tell us to do?
Let brotherly LOVE continue.
Show HOSPITALITY to strangers.
Remember those in PRISON.
Remember those who are MISTREATED.
Honor MARRIAGE and FIDELITY.
Keep your life FREE FROM the love of money.
Be CONTENT with what you have.
“Do not neglect to DO GOOD and to SHARE what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God,” the writer goes on to say.
In submitting and in giving, we are filled and satisfied. In our high-tech, high-information, self-help surroundings we tend to over-complicate things. But God’s message has always been clear and simple: Love God; love others.
The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?
Hebrews 12 • Day 216 of 260 • #NTin2018
Assured faith full of conviction. We want this, but how do we do this?
“Lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely”…What is holding you down? Keeping your feet from moving forward? Pulling you under? Is it comparison, sin, pride, control, insecurity, fear, doubt? Whatever it is, take it off. TAKE IT OFF! And if you have tried and tried and can’t seem to pull it off and lay it aside, spend today again in prayer. God WILL help you.
“And let us run with endurance the race that is set before us”…KEEP RUNNING YOUR RACE…not your neighbor’s race, not the race of that person you follow on social media, not the race of your mentor or your best friend…YOUR race. The race set before YOU. Run hard, friend; run with endurance.
“Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith”…Don’t look to the side, don’t look to self-help books or podcasts, don’t look to others…they don’t know your race; they don’t know the path set before you….LOOK TO JESUS.
Why Jesus? “For the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God”…The ultimate example of faith and a long, eternal view, rather than a quest for human comfort and accolades. The perfect example of living fully in God’s plans for Him. The greatest example of eyes focused on the true prize.
Consider what Jesus endured and do not grow weary. “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” Consider Jesus. Do not grow weary. You can do this hard thing. You can get through these hard times. He has been there…all the way to death. He won’t leave you.
Friend, “lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet.” Keep adjusting; keep an eye on your path; keep running.
This life is HARD. In it we will be lovingly disciplined by God, and we will also be hit from all sides by things not condoned by Him. But He is in it all and will use it all. Don’t let the lies of the world shake your faith and alter your course. Don’t let culture tell you following it will be better than following God. Keep the faith. Look to Jesus. Get rid of all that is holding you down and holding you back. Keep running YOUR race. Do not grow weary. God is good and God is faithful. Love wins. God wins. The endurance and suffering are nothing compared to the reward. Praying for all of those who may be feeling pressured off course and weary today.
Faith. “The assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” THIS is faith, the writer of Hebrews tells us. Assurance and conviction. Strong words.
“And through this faith, the people of old received their commendation,” the writer continues, followed by example after example of faith in the Old Testament…Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses’ parents, Moses, Israelites crossing the Red Sea, Israelites watching the walls of Jericho fall, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets.
Their faith was in something beyond the now or short term. Their faith was not in their current circumstances or immediate outcomes. Their faith was rooted in obedience and Heavenly, not earthly, rewards from seeking God.
They believed what they could not see. They went not knowing where they were going. They kept building when there was no rain in sight. They were willing to sacrifice when it made no sense. They hid their child without knowing what would happen. They chose God’s people. They stepped into the water. They marched around the city walls. They welcomed enemy spies. They conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to fight. And….
…they didn’t receive the things promised in their lifetime, but greeted them from afar. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, others suffered mocking and flogging, chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, sawn in two, killed with the sword. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves. But…
…they are now in a better country; a city prepared for them…the thing hoped for that they held onto with assurance and conviction, despite not being able to see it at the time.
Faith isn’t faith if it is only in seeking comfort, security, earthly rewards. Faith is far-looking and future oriented. It is in something bigger than we can see here. The opposite of fear isn’t courage; it is faith. Faith overcomes fear because faith believes God is truthful, trustworthy, powerful, and good. We won’t be as scared of obedience and short-term outcomes if we have assurance and conviction about who God is, what He can do, and the future He has prepared for us.
The Hebrews writer says, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”
Without faith it is impossible to please God. Why? I think it is because we would never – could never – do what is pleasing to Him without faith. It goes against our nature, our protective shells, our desire for control, our need to please others, our weakness with regard to cultural pulls. Only through faith is it possible.
God, expand our faith. Help us believe You. Trust You. Seek You and something bigger and better than our eyes can see here. Give us conviction and assurance to choose You; to please You through our faith.
We are sold out for Jesus. We genuinely believe that He is the answer to everything. We believe He came, died, rose from the dead, and will come again to bring us all home. We believe He is good; that He sees us and loves us. But, right now…
Things are so stinking hard. There is still so much suffering. People are so difficult. We still don’t have that thing we have been faithfully working toward and praying over for years. Watching disease and death and depression envelop loved ones we are earnestly and steadfastly praying for is so painful. The liars, cheaters, persecutors seem to be winning.
As a result, we become discouraged in the watching and waiting, and we tend to withdraw. But the withdrawing does far more harm then help. We need each other. Real life each other too. In our withdrawn state we can scroll through social media to feel connected, but it is actually often pulling us further away. In fact, The University of Pennsylvania just published a research study finding a link between time spent on social media and increased depression and loneliness.
The writer of Hebrews has something beautiful to say about what we should do instead, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:23-25)
Hold fast. Don’t let discouragement cause you to withdraw or wander. Stick to and with your people. Don’t neglect time together. Stir one another up in love and good works. Set your eyes above and on other. It is an antidote to loneliness and discouragement. Encourage one another, and then encourage each other more. Remind yourself and each other of this truth: HE WHO PROMISED IS FAITHFUL!
What if all you ever saw of a human was a shadow? You would have some idea of what a person was like; the shape of their body, how they move, things they do. But it wouldn’t at all give you a true picture of the fullness of a person. Once you finally met a real person, the shadow wouldn’t be of value to you in your understanding of a person. You would want to engage with the real person to learn more about people. You realize there is so much more to a human than what you gathered just looking at the shadow.
The writer of Hebrews is painting the picture of the signs, rituals, high priests, sacrifices, temple worship, etc. the Jewish people are clinging to as being the shadow of the real thing.
The old things are not unimportant, but they are a mere shadow of the actual substance, which is Jesus. Once reality is realized, the shadow is no longer the thing. The shadow gives us clues about the real thing, but it isn’t the thing. Jesus is the thing, and He has come.
So, what does this mean to us in our lives today? We also have a shadow in a sense. We have ways we should live, love, serve, behave, etc. The problem is when we make these the thing, we miss THE thing, a relationship with God through Jesus. How we live is intended to be a reflection of the main point, not the main point.
Following rules and obeying God’s commandments are good things no doubt, but we must always be careful that we are chasing after the REAL THING (Jesus), rather than the shadows that only point to or reflect the real thing.
God, help me to seek you FIRST and always remember that YOU ALONE are THE point. You alone are the way, truth, and life.
Only the high priest can enter this space, the holy of hollies, and only once a year. On the Day of Atonement (or “Yom Kippur”), the high priest, following very specific instructions, goes in and makes a sacrifice offering on behalf of all the people. He steps into the tabernacle, beyond the curtain and approaches the mercy seat, sprinkling sacrificial blood over it. Blood is shed for forgiveness of sins. Fitting that it is shed over the ark of the covenant, the place where the law is kept. The law that no one can ever keep.
This is a day to acknowledge the sins of the people and make a sacrifice to be temporarily reconciled to God. It is temporary because it has to be repeated every single year.
Much is required to approach a holy God. It is not to be taken lightly. The priest is to bring two young goats and a bull. At God’s direction, one goat will be sacrificed with the bull, and the other one set free.
The blood from the sacrificed goat and bull is sprinkled on God’s mercy seat; on the Ark of the Covenant. The priest then puts his hands on the other goat and confesses the sins of the nation, transferring them onto the goat. The goat is brought deep into the wilderness and released with the sins of the people.
Two goats – payment for sin and removal of sin. Bloodshed and freedom.
It is a shadow of the sacrifice Jesus came to offer. Hebrews 5 shows Jesus as the great high priest, both sacrifice and sacrifice. Not only does Jesus come to die on the cross to shed blood in payment for our sins, but He also transfers His righteousness to us. He takes our punishment AND sets us free. Free from guilt and condemnation. Free to approach a holy God. One sacrifice for all time. Only Jesus…the great high priest and spotless lamb.
The Bible – the inspired word of God -- was written over a 1,600-year period by more than 40 authors … royalty, farmers, fishermen, a tentmaker, homeless prophets, a doctor, a professional scribe, vocational musicians, pastors … in three continents (Asia, Africa & Europe).
The Bible was written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. In the original languages, the Bible has about 611,000 words.
The full Bible has been translated into over 500 languages, and partially translated into over 2,800 languages
It is the most owned item in the world.
The Bible is the best-selling book in history, with total sales exceeding 5 billion copies.
Discoveries regularly come to light that support the historical accuracy of the Bible.
An edifying word can encourage you.
A smart word can enlighten you.
A motivating word can inspire you.
A witty word can improve your mood.
But only God’s Word can change you; transform you; save you.
“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.” Hebrews 4:12
What other book of words could be read, re-read, and studied for thousands of years and still not fully understood? Indeed, the Bible is LIVING and ACTIVE. So much more than mere words. Life.
God, let me never lose the awe and wonder of your gift to us.
We are in the midst of a great war…a battle deep in enemy territory. Clothed in comfort and freedom and luxury, we are at risk of hard hearts, unbelief and lukewarm faith.
We love the stories of the beginnings of the early church…a community of believers on fire for Jesus, in constant fellowship, studying and praying and eating together...even amidst persecution. We crave radical sold-out living for Jesus, but do we do much to pursue it? The alternative is to position ourselves for deceit and falling away.
The writer of Hebrews warns, “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.” (Hebrews 3:12-13)
We know our mission includes loving God and making disciples, but Hebrews is emphasizing the importance of Christian community; of deep relationship with other believers. To exhort one another. Every day. Lest we may be led astray in this great battle waging within us and around us.
Some of you may be great at Christian community, but if I am honest, I’ve let this one slip over the past year or so. This is a weakness for me in this season of my life. Though I have been in the past, I am not currently in a small group. Though I study the Bible a lot on my own and even teach it to teens, I am not part of a group of peers or mentors at this time. I love my church, but it is BIG and I haven’t taken steps to make it small. I pray often for friends and even strangers, but I am no longer part of a face-to-face prayer group. Today I am convicted by the message the Spirit has given me through Hebrews. What about you? We can’t fight this war on our own. We were meant to fight with and for each other, as fellow warrior, consoler, and cheerleader.
What is the most special part of Christian community in this season of your life?
You know what everything means? It means EVERY THING. All. Things. And the writer of Hebrews tells us that EVERYTHING was put in subjection to Jesus. NOTHING was left outside of His control.
That addicted loved one? Part of everything. That wandering child? Yep, part of everything too. That chronic illness? Still everything. That financial burden? Everything. That bully and abuser? Every. Thing. That missed opportunity and broken relationship? Also in the everything category.
Like me, you might be asking, “If Jesus is in control of everything, why can’t He just fix this situation? Why do bad things happen? Why is there so much pain and suffering? Why is life so hard? Why does it sometimes feel like Jesus isn’t in control of everything?”
The author answers these questions in the next statement. “At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to Him.” (Hebrews 2:8b)
God’s story is unfolding, but it has not yet been fully revealed or executed. We are further along than our biblical ancestors, but we are not yet at the end. We live in a fallen world, so suffering and pain and death are still part of our lives. However, the Bible tells us that one day God will fulfill all of His promises. His story will be complete and those who have put their faith in Him will spend eternity in heaven. There will be no more tears, no more suffering, and no more pain.
The writer of Hebrews tells us we must pay closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. In other words, we must be anchored in God’s truth or slowly and steadily – perhaps without even noticing – the tides and currents of culture will have us drifting away. To do nothing is to drift.
Though we do not yet see or understand many things in our world, it is still absolutely true that EVERYTHING is under the control of Jesus. HE’S GOT THIS! When we turn to Him, He will help us overcome. It’s ALL under His control. Our job is to remain anchored in His truth; His word.
Jesus is better. Even when I don’t have it all figured out or understand it all. Even when the more I study, the more clear and less clear it all simultaneously gets. Still I can say without a doubt, JESUS IS BETTER!
When Ruth decided to go with Naomi back to Bethlehem, Ruth, a Moabite, didn’t have all the answers, but she believed Naomi’s God was better. When Rahab, the prostitute from Jericho, hid the spies and tied the scarlet cord outside her window, she didn’t understand it all, but she believed the God of Israel was better. When Peter remained despite Jesus saying hard truths that drove many away, he didn’t understand how it would all go down, but he believed Jesus was better.
Jesus is better. He is alive and sitting at the right hand of God the Father. With all power and authority until at just the right time; the ordained time, He will come again.
Hebrews opens with the assertion and truth that God speaks. Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke through the prophets. But in these last days, He speaks through His Son. Jesus didn’t just bring a message…He IS the message. Jesus wasn’t just another prophet and spokesperson…He is the radiance of the Glory of God; He is the exact imprint of the nature and character of God. He is God. Jesus is better.
Jesus came to earth and made purification for our sins. By one offering, He made righteous all who believe. And then He sat down. His offering was perfect and complete to make us perfect and complete in Him.
Do you believe Jesus is better? You don’t have to have it all figured out. None of us will on this side of heaven. Ask God to reveal Himself to you through Jesus; through His word. He may be sitting, but He is still powerful; He is still watching and still working and still rooting for you.
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