The end of Hebrews 4 informs us that Jesus is our Great High Priest and then the chapter ends. Hebrews 5 tells us why he is a better high priest than the Levitical priests of the Old Covenant. The high priests called by God to the priesthood were human beings and had the same shortcomings as the people they ministered to. They had their own sins to confess and be forgiven before they could attend to the sins of others. The Christ is God’s own Son and also a priest forever after the order Melchizedek. Abraham was blessed by Melchizedek in Genesis 14 and Abraham gives him a tenth of everything he has. This is centuries before the Law was given to Moses. The Levitical priesthood had not been established and there was no commandment, at least none recorded, to give a tithe. Genesis will not answer all of our questions. There is no recorded beginning nor ending of Melchizedek’s priesthood and this little detail is used to show what kind of high priest Jesus will be. There is no beginning and no end to his priesthood. He does not have his own sins to sacrifice for, and he is not called by God but is God’s own Son. Although he was the only begotten Son, through suffering in his mortal flesh he learned obedience.
The final verses of chapter 5 is a chastisement to an audience that should be eating “spiritual food” as mature believers but must still be given milk as infants. Hebrews will get to comparing Jesus to Melchizedek in a couple of chapters and list more ways in which he is greater.
The first two things we would typically do when beginning a study of a book of the Bible is identify the writer and the audience he was addressing. That’s usually easy to do by reading the first paragraph or two. Sometimes we need to add historical context in order to understanding what was happening in the lives of the intended audience. I’m going to try to keep this introduction short and get into Hebrews chapter 1 instead of dedicated a post to it. I don’t know who wrote Hebrews. If you believe the Apostle Paul wrote Hebrews, I’m not going to argue with you. As a well-studied and passionate Pharisee he would have certainly had the background into the Old Covenant. We also see numerous examples in his epistles that relate the ministry of Christ to the Old Testament examples, descriptions of Jesus and Adam as types of first men, and exhortations that that the grace that comes through Jesus Christ is superior to the Law. If you do not believe that Paul wrote Hebrews then I will not argue with you either. In the 13 New Testament epistles written by Paul he clearly identifies himself as the author and the writer of Hebrews is left anonymous. That would be a divergence from his usual style. I will not engage in any debate over the authorship of Hebrews but will defer a statement many Christians would do well to adopt and apply to a variety of topics: the Bible doesn’t speak to that. If it were important for us to know then God would not have allowed that detail to be lost to history. As far as identifying the audience is concerned it is more than suggested by the title. Hebrews is addressed to Jewish believers that have accepted Jesus as the promised Messiah and offers evidence that this was always God’s plan. Continue reading →
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. 2 And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. 3 And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, 4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. 5 Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins. -Isaiah 11:1-5
Chapter 11 begins with another prophecy that Messiah will come and another identifier, that he will be a descendant of Jesse (David’s father, making him heir to the throne of David). The next several verses tell us about his reign. Continue reading →
Every year during Advent we look at a few of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah. I try to make sure to vary the scriptures each year, from Genesis, Deuteronomy, Psalms, Hosea, Jeremiah and others, not just revist the well-known, often quoted ones found in Isaiah. There is more detail and description of the Messiah than the fact that he will be born but let’s start at the beginning. Continue reading →
If you’ve ever heard someone say they’ve had an epiphany, what they mean is that they have discovered something unexpected. It happens suddenly, not over a period of time, and the revelation must of be something of great worth. The January 6th Epiphany on the Christian calendar commemorates the day the wise men discovered Jesus. Epiphany is the celebration of finding something worth finding.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
In the first chapter of Acts, Jesus told the Apostles to wait in Jerusalem for the promise. He then ascended to Heaven to sit at the right hand of God the Father. In Acts 2 they were gathered in one place and the Holy Spirit filled the entire house. Each one filled with the Spirit began to speak in tongues, and they went out into the streets of Jerusalem. This event is known as Pentecost and is still celebrated 50 days after Easter Sunday. Some in the crowd that day objected that the Apostles were merely drunk and Peter responded with a turning point sermon in the history of the church.
There are many well-known passages of scripture that make their way onto Christmas cards and into sermons this time of year. Prophesies of Isaiah and Micah foretelling the Messiah are common, and the birth of Jesus is recorded in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. While Christmas celebrates the birth of the Christ child, there’s a lot more going on than just a birthday. The incarnation is about God robing himself in flesh. Emanuel is God with us, and the New Testament has much more to say about the incarnation than it does the night it happened.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:15-20, ESV)
The advent of anything refers to its first appearing. The season of Advent is a time of preparation, waiting for the arrival of Christmas. We celebrate the waiting (perhaps honor is a better word) by examining the Old Testament prophesies, and considering the lessons the shepherds and wise men and teach us still. Lighting the candles of the Advent wreath is a far more time honored tradition than waiting in line for Black Friday deals on Sony’s PS4. Continue reading →