Jesus is the ultimate
Have you ever been with someone you feel really needs encouragement? Maybe someone you think is at the end of his or her rope and you’re trying to find words to help? Well, that’s similar to the situation occurring at the time the book of Hebrews was written. The group had suffered persecution and some of their leaders had even died. They needed encouragement because some must have been thinking of leaving the faith and returning to the Jewish rites and practices they inherited from their youth. With all this in the backdrop, the writer (no one really knows who it is although there are many guesses) focuses on the only one that can bring real encouragement, Jesus.
Some writers have suggested the theme for Hebrews should be, “Jesus is better,” because in Chapters 1 & 2 He is seen as better than angels. In Chapter 3 He is better than Moses, and in Chapter 4 the rest that He offers is better than the rest that was provided for the people of Israel in the Promised Land. In Chapters 5 and 7 His high priesthood is better than the Levitical priesthood. In Chapter 8 the new covenant is better than the old and in Chapters 9 & 10 He officiates over a better sanctuary than the tabernacles and offers a better sacrifice.
I should point out here that none of this means the Old Covenant was bad; it simply means it was not the ultimate. In Hebrews 3:1-6, Moses is described as “faithful in all God’s house. He was faithful as a servant in all God’s house, testifying what would be said in the future.” There’s not a hint of reproach in these words. But Jesus is better and He is the ultimate. Moses was faithful in the household of faith, but Jesus is the builder of that household.
So when we’re helping those struggling, or when we are having a hard time ourselves, we are called to “fix our thoughts on Jesus (Ch. 3:1),” the one who is the ultimate and amazingly enough the one who knows what we are going through because he has suffered in a similar way that we have (Ch. 2:9).
Tips for Reading - (Application tip # 1)
Note: This section is help for Bible Reading in general. It has been building throughout the year under the topics of Observation (what the Scripture says), Interpretation (what it means) and Application (what it means to your life). Feel free to look back over past weeks to get the whole picture.
Before I launch into tips on application I want to explore why we need application. Look at Hebrews 4:1-2, “Therefore since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard it did not combine it with faith.” This is probably one of the greatest temptations in religious circles - to listen to the truth and miss applying it to our lives. This passage shows how the covenant body heard the truths for 40 years and the relationship God offered them and missed it. How did they not hear? Maybe they were lazy about applying the truths to their lives, or maybe they believed alternative truths. Whatever it was, the call to us is to make sure we don’t allow this to happen to us. After we have observed the truths of scripture and tried to figure out what it means, we must take the important step of asking the Spirit to apply this to the way we live day by day. Since we’re talking about Hebrews 4 and God’s rest, what are the ways that He is calling you into His rest today? How does that connect you to Him relationally? Is the rest a day or a person (Jesus)?
Notes from David’s Journal
As we finish reading the Psalms, focus on the majesty of Hebrews. Some suspect the apostle Paul wrote Hebrews. Others doubt it. They don't feel it fits his style or prose. Actually, we don't know who wrote the book. But it is beautifully written!
In the first chapter, spend some time noticing how often the author says that Jesus "is greater than." You'll see the preeminence of Christ perfectly outlined. There is nothing on earth or heaven, anything of the created order, which can compare to Him. Now, try to list the "greater thans," and it will make you worship in greater depth the One we know as Lord and Savior, Jesus. He is the fulfillment of everything in the Old Testament, the One worthy of all our worship.