Thursday, March 27, 2014

In Search Of Truth, Hebrews 1:1-4


The author of Hebrews writes in a way that meets his presumably Jewish audience where they are at. He validates The Tanakh (Old Testament), recognizing it as the words of Yahweh. But immediately he  demonstrates how Jesus has ushered in a way of relating to God that is superior to the Old Covenant. Jesus is more than a prophet, speaking on behalf of God. Jesus has a unique relationship to God, that of a "Son". And as this unique "Son" of Yahweh, Jesus is entitled to ownership of the universe. More than that, Jesus is somehow also God himself, and is actually the agent through which the universe was created.

All of this as if to say:"If you thought it was important to listen to the prophets, you have GOT to pay attention to what THIS guy says!"

On the subject of Jesus' status as "Son" of God, it's important to understand the significance of this relationship in it's historical and cultural context, rather than imprinting on it our view of "sons" today. In ancient Jewish culture, a firstborn son had more authority and was entitled to a double portion of the inheritance. (Deut. 21:17) The Greek word used for "heir" here also does not imply the events resulting in one acquiring their inheritance. (In other words, it does not imply the "death of God" or anything similar.) The terms "heir" and "Son" are about relationship and status, not about origins.


Just as the radiance of the sun is inseparable from the sun itself, and presents us with a clear image of the sun, Jesus is inseparable from God. He is the radiance and the perfectly accurate visible representation of God. But make no mistake, he is not just a representative, he is God himself, and is responsible, at every given moment, for the continued existence of the universe. Science eventually fails to explain why the laws of the universe continue to hold reality together. One step beyond science is the answer: Jesus himself holds the laws of science together, keeping them consistent and in operation by a continual act of his will.

If God ever seems too big and distant to us, un-relatable in his "otherness", we can turn to Jesus, knowing that when we look at his personality, we're not seeing some junior representation of God. We're seeing God himself.

A reference to a "priest-like" function for Jesus is implied by him "making purification for sins".   Doing so was the work of a temple priest. We'll see more and more of this understanding of Jesus throughout the rest of this book.

Sitting at "the right hand of the Majesty on high," implies that Jesus has the position of the greatest honor possible. This refers to Psalm 110:1, which described the future Anointed One or "Messiah", who would serve as a priest, or mediator between God and his people, and who would also judge the nations of the world.

One commentator observes that "sitting is the posture of rest, and the right-hand position is the place of honor. Sitting at God's right hand, then, is a way of saying that Christ's saving work is done and that he is now in the place of highest honor." (Expositor's Bible Commentary, Zondervan Publishing, 1979)


The author goes a step further than comparing Jesus to the prophets, and compares him to the angels themselves. As middle men go, angels are a step above prophets in their impressiveness as messengers of God. But the author says that Jesus is superior to them as well, with a "name" superior to theirs.

In ancient Israel, names were more than simply ways of differentiating between people. They were intended to provide a summary of who someone was. So Jesus should be recognized as superior to angels, rather than being equal or even chief among them. The author will make this comparison even more clear in the next few verses of this chapter.

These verses led me to think about my "connectedness to God" a bit.

I can stay pretty detached from God if I want to. Part of the way I'm wired as a geek makes it enjoyable to evaluate ideas on a purely intellectual level. This is also a much safer way to evaluate ideas when compared to letting them stew in my heart for awhile. I can read scripture and say in my best Spock or (insert your favorite cold, intellectual, unemotional sci-fi character here) impression, "Fascinating". I can come away from it, smugly satisfied that I pursued examination of truth, without ever allowing that truth to get inside me and challenge, comfort or encourage me.

Yahweh has never wanted that kind of disconnection from himself. Jesus came to say, "All of these things you've heard about me from angels and prophets are not just nice ideas for you to consider or dismiss. But that's what you have been doing, so I came here myself to tell you who I am, how much I love you, and prove with my actions everything I'm saying."

If we find ourselves at a distance from God, some time with the words of Jesus is a good step in the right direction. We can of course choose to remain cold toward him. Or we can give his words the value they deserve, allowing them to take us into uncomfortable revelations about ourselves while also providing relief and encouragement in light of his tireless love for us.

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