We begin today through the book of Hebrews. This is my favorite book of the Bible. I am reserving the last 10 years of my ministry to preach through the book (the trick is knowing when that last 10 years starts…). There is so much in the book that, for our purposes, we are only going to be able to look at the tip of the iceberg from 10,000 feet up.
We will refer to this as “the book of Hebrews” and refer to “the writer” of it, even though many, including me, believe it originated as a sermon. I believe this was preached after the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D., and the preacher is pointing to Christ as our only need, and not the Temple or the worship observed through the Mosaic Law. Like Christ is superior to all of the Old Testament types and shadows, so our worship in Spirit and in truth is far greater than the Law.
The writer of Hebrews starts off with the idea that Christ is greater. Greater than what? He is greater than the prophets (i.e., any previous revelation – 1:1-2). He is great enough to be called God (v. 3). He Who for a while became a little lower than the angels (see 2:6-9 and Psalm 8, which is ultimately about Christ) has ascended (v. 3) and is far greater than angels (v. 4). In verses 5-13, the writer quotes Psalms 2, 89, 97, 104, 45, 102, and 110 to prove his point that Christ is greater than the angels, who were created to serve us, God’s elect.
In chapter 2, the writer draws an application. Since Christ is God, greater than all previous revelation, and greater than the angels, we need to heed what we know of Him and His salvation (2:1). If what angels have mediated (the Law of Moses – see Gal 3:19) has been proven 100% true, how much more reliable is the revelation of Jesus Christ, and how necessary His salvation (vv. 2-3). Verses 5-8 draw from Psalm 8 to reinforce the idea of Christ being greater, and therefore more reliable, than angels bases on His Lordship of everything. And His kingly glory was gained through His death in our place (v. 9).
Verse 10 makes an astounding declaration. It was fitting – it was proper, it accords with what God has already revealed – that He Who created the world should enter into the world and suffer to earn our salvation. And in verse 11, we see that Jesus calls us His brothers and sisters. The writer then quotes Psalm 22, Isaiah 12:2, and Isaiah 8:18 to prove his point. And now, understanding that we are Christ’s brothers and sisters, we can understand why He become flesh for our sake (v. 14, 17). Note the idea that the devil has already been destroyed (also v. 14). This is a theme the New Testament brings to the fore multiple times. Also notice the conclusion here. If Christ is greater than the angels, and became one of us to save us from the prince of darkness (an angel), then we too are greater than the angels because of our identification with Christ (v. 16).
Having established Christ’s superiority to the angels, including Satan, the writer now tells us that Christ is greater than Moses. This is the beginning of his exhortation that the new way of worship is better than the old way. Christ was like Moses (3:2), but also greater than Moses (v. 3). In verses 5-6 we see the idea of a servant and a son contrasted (see Gal 4:1-7) to show how Christ is greater than Moses. Moses is called repeatedly the servant of God (see Josh 1:13, 1 Kings 8:53, 2 Kings 18:12, 1 Chron 6:49, 2 Chron 1:3, Neh 10:29, Dan 9:11 to show just a few) – but Jesus is called the Son of God. And the Son is over the house, and we, God’s people, are that house (v. 6)!
Then, the writer calls us to obey the Son whereas the Israelites failed to obey Moses by quoting Psalm 95 (vv. 7-11). And he exhorts us to keep an eye on our own hearts (v. 12) and each other’s (v. 13). In verses 16-19, we see that obedience and faith are equated, because disobedience (v. 18) is unbelief (v. 19) (see John 3:36).
Chapter 4 begins by showing that the rest God offered was not the rest of the Promised Land, because the offer of God’s rest still stands (4:1) and because the physical taking of the land was not the rest David spoke about years after the conquest (v. 8). And that rest comes by faith (v. 2). This is the rest that the Sabbath pointed to (v. 4, 9). And we see faith and obedience equated again, as the requirement of faith (v. 2) becomes the requirement for obedience (v. 6). And we see that faith is a rest from our works (v. 10).
Verses 11-13 take a verse that we commonly use to show the power of the Word of God (v. 12), and it shows that it is powerful in judgment! Yes, the Word of God saves, but the Word of God reveals our disobedience. It “discerns” (or judges) us. As we read the Word of God, it reads us.
Verse 14 begins the argument that Christ is greater than the priesthood, and is, in fact, Who the priesthood pointed us to. We have a great High Priest that did not just pass through the veil into what represented the presence of God, but our High Priest passed through the heavens to make atonement for His people. He left heaven to come as one of us! And whereas we have seen that there were special requirements for the priests – they were treated differently than everyone else and had different rules – we see that Jesus instead became exactly like us to suffer as we do, be tempted as we are, and yet had no need to make atonement for Himself (like the priests) because He is perfectly sinless. He is our offeror and the offering before God.
And the chapter ends with an exhortation. We should draw near to the throne of grace to receive mercy. And we should do it with confidence! The high priest could approach God once per year under penalty of death if there was any uncleanness found in him. How confidently do you suppose Aaron performed his work on the Day of Atonement? But Jesus, our Brother, our God, our Savior, our Sacrifice, our High Priest – He has made us perfectly clean, to the point that we can with confidence draw near to God!