Wednesday, April 2, 2014

In Search Of Truth, Hebrews 1:5-14

In verses 1-4 of this chapter the author of Hebrews tells us that Jesus, The Anointed One (or "Messiah"), is superior to the prophets of the Old Testament and says in verse 4 that he is also superior to the angels. In verses 5-14 he develops an argument from scripture to support this idea.


Psalm 2:7 is quoted here, and in the original Hebrew text of that verse, the word used for "beget" might be better translated "to declare lineage or pedigree", rather than having a connotation of actual birth. The Psalmist is recalling a revelation he received in which Yahweh said to his Anointed One, "you are my Son." And we know from the context of the previous verses that this term refers to status in relation to God rather than referring origins. This is also reflected in the author's quotation of 2 Samuel 7:14, in which Yahweh foreshadows the Messiah by telling David that his son will be like a son to Yahweh himself.


The term "firstborn" here once again refers to entitlement and position rather than actual birth or origins. The author quotes from the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Tanakh (Old Testament), which is why it reads a little different here than where it is originally found in Deuteronomy 32:43.

This quoted material had no noticeable foreshadow to the Messiah in its original context, but the author of Hebrews makes an application of it here. The quote is from a song Moses recited to Israel as he anticipated his own death, warning Israel to stay true to what he had taught them. In that chapter of Deuteronomy, Yahweh is described as a defender of his people and a judge and destroyer of evil. In his first entrance to the world, Jesus came to rescue. But he is also the one who will ultimately judge and defeat evil.

v. 7-9

Verse 7 is a quotation of Psalm 104 (verse 4). The theme of the entire Psalm is God's rule over his creation, highlighting him also as the source of all life. Verse 4, quoted here in Hebrews, compares angels to the natural elements of wind and fire, which even in our civilized world are still as powerful and life-threatening as ever. But the context also reveals that the angels were made this way by a power above them. "he makes his messengers..."

Contrast this with the scripture applied to Jesus from Psalm 45:6-7, which teaches that he is not a subject, but a ruler. In addition, his throne, his rule, will never end. It is eternal. All the more reason to be grateful that, as a ruler, his "scepter" (the symbol of his authority) was of uprightness. He loves what is good and perfect and hates what is wicked and unjust.

Above and beyond this, "God's God" has inaugurated him as King (the "oil of gladness" was an inaugural tradition in preparation of marriage but here celebrates the beginning of a king's reign). So this Psalm also points to the concept of the Trinity, and the fact that Jesus was God, but also a distinct person from someone else who could rightly be called "God". ("Your throne, O God, is forever...Therefore God, your God has anointed you.")


These verses are a quotation of Psalm 102:25-27. Again, unlike the angels, who are compared to created and temporary physical elements, Jesus is responsible for the creation of earth and the universe. This universe will eventually wear out, but Jesus will remain and will actually replace it with something better. ("You will change them like a robe")


This quotation of Psalm 110:1 omits the opening phrase "The LORD says to my Lord," which could be translated "Yahweh says to Adonai". This, again implies two persons involved. And Adonai is given the place of highest honor next to Yahweh, sitting at his "right hand". Later in the same Psalm being quoted here, this "Adonai" is described as the judge of the nations, a characteristic reserved only for Yahweh.

(Psalm 110:5-6, ESV) The Lord is at your right hand; he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath. He will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses; he will shatter chiefs over the wide earth.

In summary, angels are created and limited, subject to the rule of another. Jesus, in his divine nature, is un-created. He is the maker and ruler of the universe and will be forever. Angels will serve both him and those humans who are rescued and transformed by him. But they cannot even remotely compare with who Jesus is. It's the difference between the infinite and the finite. A difference beyond our capacity to measure.

This passage reminds me a little of the "angel movement" in the 90's. For a little while everybody was really into angels. There were TV shows and books about angels and tons of little porcelain angels you could fill your shelves with. And I just kept thinking, "Why is everyone settling for angels? They could be fixating their obsession on Jesus!"

All the other gods worshipped around the world all have one thing in common. They are inferior to Yahweh. I don't say that out of arrogance, because I certainly have nothing to do with who Yahweh is. My point is that as you begin examining the nature and character of every other object or focus of worship in the world, whether it's a mysterious force, an angel, an energy, or a deity with a name and personality, you start seeing the shortcomings in their power, knowledge, and morality when compared with Yahweh  Jesus. They are all sad imitations that would be much better off if they would actually imitate Yahweh better. As it is, countless people are turning to weak and powerless creatures and ideas, when they could be turning to the highest, the greatest and best.

Of course this also turns my attention to myself, and my own tendency to turn to inferior objects and make them my focus and my hope for happiness and fulfillment. That "inferior focus" is likely to be different for everybody, but I imagine for us geeks there is a great tendency to turn to our geek passions for intellectual stimulation, interesting and imaginative ideas, comfort, purpose or even our sense of self-worth. My natural tendency is to turn to my geek interests for all of those things. And as I shared recently, that road has only led to frustration with my favorite geek hobbies, as well as unsettled emptiness that haunts me.

Angels are reportedly beautiful, mesmerizing and often terrifying creatures, and I can't wait to see them, interact with them and understand them more. That will be amazing! But Jesus is so much more amazing. So much more present and able to comfort, guide and encourage. So much more worthy of examination and bewildered contemplation. So far superior as a source of purpose and self-worth.

I love my geek hobbies, but I'm seeing more and more that their intended place, the place where they will actually be enjoyed the most, is beneath Jesus.

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