May 5, 2011

Friday after the First Sunday after Easter


Lectionary

Morning – Ps. 40:1-16, Ex. 16:1-15, Heb. 4:1-13
Evening – Ps 39, Is. 42:10-17, 1 Pet. 2:18


Commentary

Hebrews 4:1-13 continues the theme begun in verse 7 of chapter 3, namely, love and obedience to Christ.  This is a pattern of the book of Hebrews.  Chapter 1 tells us Christ is the Son of God who is far greater than angels.  Chapter 2 tells us that since He is greater than angels, He is more worthy of our love and obedience than they.  Chapter 3: 1-6 tells us Christ is greater than Moses.  This is followed by an exhortation to honour and obey Him more than Moses.  Today’s reading is part of that exhortation.

Verses 1-6 use a word we don’t hear much anymore, “fear.”  “Let us therefore fear.”  And what does it tell us to fear? Coming short of entering into His rest.  The Bible is using the experience of the Hebrew people who were freed from Egyptian slavery, yet did not make it into the Promised Land.  We remember that they came to its borders, but failed to enter out of fear of the Canaanites.  According to Hebrews, their fear was the sin of unbelief.  They simply did not trust God enough to put their lives in His hand.  Therefore, they died in the wilderness rather than obey God.  The point being made is that many people will appear to start the journey of faith in Christ, but will not make it to Heaven because they will not really trust God with their lives and their souls.  They will go astray.  They will love the things of the world more than they love God.  They will pursue the things of the world, to the exclusion of God, because they will not trust God to provide for them in this life.  And if they cannot trust God with their lives, they cannot trust Him with their souls.  Therefore, they will be lost.  They will not make it to Heaven.  These people may be very religious.  They may keep the outward forms of the faith carefully.  They may pray and worship and read the Bible, and give money, but their hearts belong to them, not God.  You can see it in them that they are afraid to trust God.  They are afraid to give up their pleasures and amusements to serve Him.  They find their life’s meaning in toys and recreations rather than God, and when they face challenges in life, they turn to their amusements rather than God, to see them through.  At one time they “tried Jesus.”  At one time they started the journey of faith in Him.  But at some point they stopped trusting Him.  They couldn’t face the giants, so they entered not into the Promised Land, and if they do not return to God they will not enter Heaven.

Thus, verse 7 exhorts us to follow Christ “today.”  It is not to be put off.  The longer we wallow in sin the harder it becomes to get up and walk in faith.  The longer we put our trust in money, or things, or amusements, the harder it gets to put our trust in God.  The more we love these things, the more we fear losing them, and the less we trust God to be worth more to us than they are.  What if God takes them away from us?  What if I have to give up my Saturday night out or my Sunday morning golf  to go to Church?  What means more to me, these things, or God?  Today is the day to choose.  In fact you will choose today.  You are choosing now.  Today, harden not your hearts as the Hebrews did in the wilderness.  Do not turn away from God.  Today trust Him with all your heart, and enter into His rest.

Verse 12 is often quoted but little understood.  It means that the word of God sees into your soul and makes it plain whether you are following God or not.  It cuts through your defenses and the make-believe world you create to insulate yourself from God.  They are coverings of fig leaves, but to God your soul is naked, for He discerns your thoughts.  He knows whether you are following Him or turning back away from Him.

Thursday after the First Sunday after Easter


Lectionary

Morning – Ps. 28, Ex. 15:20, Heb 3
Evening – Ps. 29, 46, Is. 42:1-9, 1 Pet. 2:11-17

Commentary

The Old Testament is filled with the works of great prophets.  Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Samuel, were great men and great leaders, whose works have influenced the world for thousands of years.  Yet none of them can compare to the work and influence of Moses.  No other human being has left a stamp upon the mind and fabric of humanity that compares to that of Moses.  No philosopher, no religious leader, no political leader or empire has had the global historical influence of Moses.  Yet One has come among us who is far greater than Moses.  This One  is Christ Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our faith (3:1).   He is superior to Moses as the builder is greater than the building (3:3).  He is the builder of all things (3:4), and He is the builder of the Church, which is His house (3:6).  Moses was a servant in His house (3:5), but Christ is the owner, the Son to whom the house belongs (3:6).  Thus, the book of Hebrews emphasizes again the Divine identity of Christ.  He is not just a prophet and not just a man.  He is the One who sent the prophets.  Moses was His servant.  He created the world and all the people, and He is the owner as well as the creator of all things.

Verses 7-19 remind us to give unto Christ the honour and obedience that is His due.  The verses remind us that those who disobeyed Moses suffered death in the wilderness.  They were brought out of Egypt by the power of God, yet they did not enter into the Promised Land.   Their unbelief sealed their fate forever, for they did not make it to the Heavenly Promised Land ay more than they made it to Canaan (38).  Verse 14 is an important verse, for it tells us only those who continue in Christ to the end will be partakers of His eternal Kingdom in Heaven.  This is a conclusion based on the illustration of those who died in the wilderness.  They did not continue in faith in God, therefore, they did not enter Canaan.  Those who appear to begin to follow Christ, but do not continue in Him to the end, will not make it to Heaven.  Therefore, “Harden not your heart as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: when your fathers tempted me, and saw my works forty years” (3:8&9).  But exhort one another, and yourself, “lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (3:13).  Make no mistake, sin is deceitful, and can convince you that you are in Christ even when you are far away from Him.  Please abide in Him, steadfast to the end (3:14).