Tag Archives: Hebrews

Jesus Knows Exactly How You Feel

The words “I know exactly how you feel” can either be the best or worst thing to say to someone suffering. If you do know exactly how a hurting friend feels, then they will probably be comforted by the knowledge that they are not alone in this experience, no matter how painful it is. However, if you don’t know exactly how they feel, then… well.. you’re just a great big jerk. There are certain events in life that you just can’t sympathize with unless you’ve been there.

For example, when Connie was pregnant with Kara, half of me expected her to miscarry in order that we would be able to sympathize with other couples who have experienced that tragedy. It’s not that I wanted Connie to miscarry; but I knew that if it happened, God would use it as an opportunity for us to minister to couples who have experienced it. We would know exactly how they felt. To some degree, I still fear that God may one day take our daughter or even my entire family from me so that I will be able to sympathize with people who have endured similar loss. I certainly don’t want anything like that to happen, but I do realize that it is not outside the realm of possibility. But unless something like that were to happen, there are certain people with whom I will never be able to truly sympathize.

Many people have a similar understanding of God. It’s easy for us to think of God as far away and unable to understand what it’s like to be human. This is especially true when we are suffering. Consider, for example, the following passages:

Oh, that I knew where I might find him,
that I might come even to his seat!
I would lay my case before him
and fill my mouth with arguments.
I would know what he would answer me
and understand what he would say to me. (Job 23:3-5)

God has cast me into the mire,
and I have become like dust and ashes.
I cry to you for help and you do not answer me;
I stand, and you only look at me. (Job 30:19-20)

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? (Psalm 13:1)

O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? (Habakkuk 1:2)

 

I could find many more, but you get the idea: When we suffer, it’s easy to think of God as distant.

But that’s not where the story ends. If, as Job described it, we have all been cast into the mire (Job 30:19), then Jesus has entered into the mire with us. Jesus has not left us alone. Think about what Hebrews 4:15-16 says; this should blow your mind:

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16)

Or what about this one:

Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:35-36, emphasis mine; see also Mark 6:34)

When we suffer, we can draw near to Jesus because He knows exactly how we feel. He has compassion for us, because He has seen firsthand how off-course and wayward we are. In fact, Romans 8:34 says that Christ intercedes for us; he pleads on our behalf because He has suffered too! So when you suffer—not “if,” but “when”—consider it an opportunity to grow closer to Christ because He knows exactly how you feel.

Icons and Character

There’s something that has fascinated people for centuries about the creation account in Genesis. It says that Adam was made in the image of God:

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)

I had a hunch about something, so I did a little research into the Greek version of the Old Testament because that’s what the New Testament author of Hebrews quotes. (It’s called the Septuagint or abbreviated as “LXX”.) It turns out that in the Septuagint, the word used in this passage of Genesis is “eikón,” which is where we get our English word, “icon.” An icon is defined as “An image; a representation.” Adam was made as an icon of God, and he was meant to have children, exercise dominion over the animals, and, strangely enough, eat vegetables (Genesis 1:28-29). I have no clue what the vegetables part means, but either way something went terribly wrong and here we are still living in the consequences of Adam’s fall (Romans 5:12).

So why did I bother looking all that up? It’s because of a special word that only shows up once in the entire New Testament and it’s used to describe Christ. In Hebrews 1:3, we read that Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of God’s nature. I was especially interested in the “exact imprint” part. For some reason, it caught my attention, it jumped off the page at me! As it turns out, this Greek word is not eikón, but instead it’s “charaktér.” Look familiar? It’s were we get the English word “character,” which is defined as “The combination of qualities or features that distinguishes one person, group, or thing from another.”

If Adam was an icon that represented God, Jesus fully and flawlessly embodied God’s character, His nature! And where Adam failed to image God, Christ served as a perfect representation of God’s character. Perhaps it means nothing, but I find it interesting that the author of Hebrews quotes the Septuagint quite frequently, but chose to use a different word to describe Christ.

and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

(This is part eleven of a multi-entry blog series exploring the Apostles’ Creed.)

This entry looks at the next line of the Apostles’ Creed where it says that Jesus:

“is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.”

Hebrews 12:1-2 is one of my all-time favorite Bible passages. I’ve written about it in 2009 and in 2010, so I guess this will be the time in 2011 that I write about it. For this entry I want to look specifically at what Hebrews 12:2 says: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Because this passage is so stinkin’ amazing, it’s easy not to pay attention to the fact that it says Jesus “sat down at the right hand of God.” What, if anything, does it mean that Jesus sat down?

Well, think about it for a minute. If you walk into a work area and everyone is sitting down, what does that tell you? Let’s suppose you work at some warehouse where people are supposed to be loading merchandise into boxes, boxes onto pallets, and then pallets into trucks. You walk into the warehouse area and everyone is sitting down. It tells you that all the work is done. There’s nothing left to be accomplished. As Jesus put it in John 19:30, “It is finished.”

Hebrews 10:1 paints a picture of the Old Testament sacrificial system when is says that the Law “can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.” This verse is describing an endless cycle, repeated year after year, of sacrifices that did not take away guilt, but served as a reminder of guilt (Hebrews 10:3). In fact, Hebrews 10:4 says that “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” In this system, there is no sitting down; there is always more work to be done. Hebrews 10:11 paints this picture by saying that “every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.” The priests would stand in their service because their job was never finished; sin was never taken care of once and for all. This is the heart of religion; religion is a system that shows us what we must do for God.

Contrast this with Hebrews 10:12, where is says “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.” Why did Jesus sit down? Because, on the cross, Jesus finished His work “by a single offering” (Hebrews 10:14). Jesus now has the honor of sitting down and basking in a job well done. His work is complete. His work is sufficient.

This is exactly why a Gospel of “Jesus plus nothing” is the only Gospel there is. If anyone tries to add anything to Jesus, they are suggesting there is something more to be accomplished. They are suggesting that Jesus’ work is incomplete and insufficient. But Hebrews 12:2 describes Jesus as the “author and perfecter” or the “founder and perfecter” of our faith.

When you read this phrase, think of bookends. Jesus is the alpha and omega of our faith; He started it and He completed it; He is the author and the perfecter. Faith is a gift that God gives us and it’s something that God completes for us. That is why it is a gift. This is the heart of Christianity; it’s not about what we can do for God, but what Christ has done for us.

Hewbrews 4:12

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
This passage is really great for teaching new believers and explaining to them the importance of Scripture. I’ve always wanted to memorize it but just never did, so I’m glad I have it now.

This verse makes me think of a quote I once heard: “I read the Bible to find its faults, but it found mine.” The Bible is dangerous!

If you really read the Bible and compare yourself to it, the only response is to realize how great God is and how depraved we are. The Bible makes me very aware of my faults and how to fix them. The Bible challenges me and has, more than once, cut me very deep. It challenges me to grow in maturity, to draw close to God, and to live my life the way God wants me to.

God bless,
daniel

Hebrews 12:1

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

On Saturday, February 7th, I found out that a man who means a lot to me passed away. He had been battling cancer for a few years now, and it had always been considered terminal, so I’d had time to prepare myself. Nonetheless, when I found out Doug was gone, it really hurt. It’s especially been hard because I wasn’t able to make it for the funeral and really don’t feel any sense of closure. The good news is Doug is in Heaven…cheering his loved ones on as they continue this race called life.

Alhthough I memorized Hebrews 12:1 a long time ago, I wanted to spend the week reflecting and meditating on this one. In Chapter 11, we read about many of the Old Testament saints and how awesome and faithful they were. Then in Chapter 12, we’re told these saints are watching us and (I’d like to think) cheering us on. And that we should follow in their footsteps and throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. We’re told to run the race marked out for us.

This week I’ve really been asking myself if I’m living the type of life that will make my Maker smile. I certainly hope so!