Thursday, May 1, 2014
In Search Of Truth, Hebrews 3:7-19
In previous verses, the author of Hebrews established the greater authority and glory of Jesus when compared to angels and prophets, including Moses, who was revered by ancient Jews above all other prophets. The author then indicated that, if we hold fast to our confidence and hope in Jesus, we can be a part of the "household affairs" of Yahweh, our God.
This quotation is from Psalm 95:7-11, using the then-prominent Greek translation of the Old Testament (which accounts for the minor differences you may notice and the translation of the proper nouns "Meribah" and "Massah" to"rebellion" and "testing"). Similar to the context here, this Psalm also establishes the might, character and authority of God and then calls for obedience in response.
The Israelites in the wilderness with Moses rebelled against Yahweh, choosing their own preferences over obedience. As a result, they missed out on the reward and rest that God offered them. The author of Hebrews, by quoting this text, indicates that followers of Jesus can also miss out on rest and reward if they choose to disobey Jesus and choose their own will over his.
In this verse we see that it is possible for believers (indicated again by "brothers" here) to have evil, unbelieving hearts that result in "falling away" from the "living" God. The Greek word used for "fall away" here is often used relationally, as opposed to describing something that drops from a higher place to a lower one by the forces of gravity. The author's use of the adjective "living" when describing God also lends to this verse the idea of relational rebellion. Even those who have been forever rescued from judgment by Christ can choose to withdraw from him. Not only withdrawing from a set of doctrines or beliefs, but withdrawing from a living, personal God who loves them.
The Greek word for "exhort" means "to come alongside". It's a word that implies calling someone to a higher standard, or teaching a higher standard, but in a way that is encouraging, and humble. As the root of the word implies, it's about one person urging another to join them in something better, rather than one person telling another what to do.
"Exhorting" each other is a vaccination against becoming hardened and deceived by sin. The expectation from scripture is that followers of Christ live in community with each other, encouraging and teaching each other, learning to follow Christ together.
The Greek used for the phrase "share in Christ" includes the word "metochos", meaning "sharing, partaking or partnering". Considering the previous context of "household affairs" as well as the immediate context of "rest", "reward" and "relationship", it seems likely to apply the "partnership" aspect of this word here. We are actually able to not only serve, but partner with Christ. We do this by confidently trusting in him on a moment-by-moment basis.
Faith (or "trust" as we might better translate this concept today) repeatedly seems to be the means by which we communicate our love to God. It is also what he, in turn, rewards us for.
The author repeats part of the earlier quote from Psalm 95, and then makes further application of it. The Israelites who left Egypt were witness to some of the most incredible acts of God in history. Yet they are best remembered for their rebellion and unbelief. The original readers of Hebrews, and those of us who read it today, have not had the benefit of seeing such miraculous, immense and direct examples of God's character. So the importance of guarding against rebellion or indifference toward Jesus may be even greater.
A withering trust and lack of involvement with Christ and his affairs results in a personal hardness toward God. But growing trust and involvement with what Christ is doing results in rest and reward, some of which may be experienced now and much more that will be experienced in eternity.
Many of us geeks are loners. That is certainly my tendency and preference most of the time. But following Christ is not the quest of the lone "Dark Knight". This is not a self-help lifestyle in which we each pull ourselves upward and improve ourselves by our own strength of will. To keep the superhero metaphor, we're not taking on the Joker or even Darkseid. We're taking on the Anti-Monitor, the destroyer of Universes. We can't be the lone hero. The job is too big for that. We've got to be the Justice League. (Or The Avengers if you're a Marvel fan.)
If we want to be fully involved with Christ, partnered with him in his household affairs, we unavoidably need to be involved in our local church communities. Don't get me wrong, online communities like Christian Geek Central are a great benefit to Christ-following geeks, and can serve as a wonderful first step and supplement. But in-person, ongoing relationships with other believers is what we're called to. The household affairs of God's kingdom can primarily be seen and participated in through involvement with the local, bible-teaching church.
I feel some of the discomfort of those words as they come out of me. I recently spent a weekend in which I was surrounded by other believers from my church almost non-stop. And I was blessed that they were mostly all geeks like myself! But coming away from that weekend I was immensely drained and felt ready to crawl in a hole for about a year. For me, whether they are fellow geeks or not, people require energy to spend time with. Some more than others. So it was pretty rough near the end of that weekend.
But with a few days distance now I look back and see the spotlights on Yahweh throughout the weekend. Times of encouraging and being encouraged. Moments where I got to see some amazing things that God is doing in the lives of my friends, and other moments where I got to be a part of sharing the "exhorting" words of God with others, inviting them to walk forward together with me in pursuit of Jesus.
So many things I'm passionate about will quickly fade and lose significance in very little time. But investing in relationship with Yahweh and other believers has significance that will last forever.