Hebrews 1:5-6, Mark 9:7

Worship Jesus, worship God

Jesus is far superior to angels. Jesus is the only begotten “Son” of God and thus the heir of all things. Angels are simply “messengers” who were both created by Jesus and sent in service to Him. Verse 5 says, “For to which of the angels did God ever say, You are my Son, today I have begotten you? Or again, I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son?” These two Old Testament quotes serve nicely as a pair that supports the Old Testament teaching that Jesus fulfills the requirements as “heir” according to Psalm 2 because He’s first born of God and has the priority in the family of God. The second quote from the Davidic Covenant in 2nd Samuel explains the permanent role of the heir to the throne of David. David wants to build a house for God and informs the prophet Nathan accordingly. Nathan agrees at first, then hears from God (as was the custom in times past) and brings David God’s message. “You won’t build a house for me,” God says, “But I will build a house for you.” It’s not about what you do for me. It’s about what I do for you.

Jesus was not “a” son as the angels were referred to collectively. He was “The Son” of the Old Testament messianic prophecies. Jesus is not “a” son in the same sense that Christians are, as they are collectively called in the New Testament. Jesus is “The” son and the fulfillment of all the Old Testament from the first mention of the child to be born of a woman in Genesis 3 throughout all the Old Testament prophets and writings. Thus, He was both the most important message from God and He proclaims the most important message from God. That’s why God opened the heavens and spoke Himself as recorded in Mark 9:7, “This is my beloved Son, Listen to Him.” Jesus is the actual physical manifestation of God! When we hear from Jesus, we hear from God. That’s why we worship Jesus.

The angels did too! Verse 6 contrasts Jesus with the angels. It’s sometimes easier to understand something and communicate it when you contrast it with something rather than compare it with something. The writer of Hebrews wants us to see the weakness of one and the strength of the other. That’s why he quotes the Old Testament in which God says, “And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,’ Let all God’s angels worship him.’” He is not only the heir of all things in contrast to the angels; He’s worshipped by the angels. This is the most frequently recorded activity of angels. They worship God. Check out the following verses: Job 38:7; Psalm 103:20; Isaiah 6:1–3; Revelation 4:8; 5:9–12.  I like what Hughes said in his commentary here; “Angels (unless they are fallen angels) do not worship other angels, for that would be angelolatry! The only one they can and do worship is God. Our job is to lift up Jesus!”[1] Jesus must have the priority! The Old Testament is all about Jesus and the New Testament is all about Jesus. Keep Jesus at the center of it all. It’s all about keeping our eyes and thoughts on Jesus! When we look at the wind and the waves around us and take our focus off Him, we begin to sink.

[1] R. Kent Hughes, Hebrews: An Anchor for the Soul, vol. 1, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1993), 38.

Hebrews 1:5f, Psalm 2

The Message is in the Music

The writer of Hebrews knows his Old Testament well and uses passages from it to prove the superiority of Christ and His message to us and the world. In verse 5, he begins a commentary on Psalm 2:7 (ideas repeated by the way in 2 Samuel 7:14). He chooses verses that deal with Jesus’ superiority to angels. In verse 5 he writes, “For to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you?’ Or again, ‘I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son?’” It is not surprising to me that the quotes the writer uses in the first chapter of Hebrews are all from their songs. Kistemaker acknowledges this in his commentary; He gives the source of every quote: “indeed in his first chapter he avails himself of five passages from the Psalms and one from the Hymn of Moses (Deut. 32). The quotations are from Psalm 2:7 and 2 Samuel 7:14 in verse 5; Deuteronomy 32:43 (according to the readings in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Septuagint) in verse 6; Psalm 104:4 in verse 7; Psalm 45:6–7 in verses 8–9; Psalm 102:25–27 in verses 10–12; and Psalm 110:1 in verse 13.[1]

The writer of Hebrews wants us to grasp the reality of how the Old Testament is truly about Jesus! Everyone recognizes Psalm 2 as a song about Jesus or in the case of the Jews, about the Messiah. Again, let me lean on a much better scholar than I, to explain this truth. Kistemaker says, “The Jewish people understood Psalm 2 to be messianic, and their use of the psalm in the synagogue reflected that understanding. The individual writers of the New Testament also interpreted messianically all the quotations and references from the second psalm. For example, when Paul preached in Pisidian Antioch, he said, ‘What God promised our fathers he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: You are my Son; today I have become your Father’ (Acts 13:32–33). Quotations from Psalm 2 are given in Acts 4:25–26; 13:33; Hebrews 1:5; 5:5; Revelation 2:26–27; 19:15. Allusions to verses 2, 7, 8, and 9 can be discerned in Matthew, Mark, Luke, Acts, Hebrews, II Peter, and Revelation.[2]

Visiting many churches over the years and having attended hundreds of chapel services as well, I’m often moved by how the music contains better theology than the messages. Whereas the messages seem to stray from the person and work of Jesus into the need for submission, obedience, and commitment on the part of the listeners. We’re frequently exhorted to try harder, give more, serve more, study more, read more, do more, etc. etc. etc… But the music nearly always remains faithful to the message contained in the person and the work of Jesus. Pay attention to that yourself sometime. The messages sound much more like that which the Pharisees and religious leaders of Jesus day might preach and not what the writers of Hebrews is preaching about.

[1] Simon J. Kistemaker and William Hendriksen, Exposition of Hebrews, vol. 15, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 35–36.

[2] Simon J. Kistemaker and William Hendriksen, Exposition of Hebrews, vol. 15, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 36.

Hebrews 1:4-5, Colossians 2:18, Galatians 1:8, Mark 9:7

Don’t listen to Angels! Listen to Jesus!

Hebrews 1:4 ends with a transition from Jesus being far better than the prophets to Jesus being far better than the angels. It says that Jesus sat down next to the Father in heaven after having made atonement for our sins and “having become as much superior to angels as the name He has inherited is more excellent than theirs.” Names and titles were nearly the same things in the day the author penned this idea. The writers of the UBS handbook for translators acknowledge this when they comment, “In this type of context, greater must be understood in the sense of “more important,” or “of higher rank,” or “of greater authority.” They go on to elaborate: “In a number of languages one must distinguish clearly between a personal name which identifies an individual, and a title indicating rank. In this context the emphasis is upon the title which was given to Jesus.”[1]

The first part of this Epistle explains that God used to speak through the prophets but today He speaks to us through His Son. Jesus’ message to us is superior to the message of the prophets that foretold Him and His life. Jesus’ message is so important because that’s what Moses and the prophets spoke about and Jesus is the fulfillment. So Jesus is more important, or greater than, the prophets. Many Jews believed that the OT, especially the Law of Moses, was delivered to Moses through angels. So when the writer of Hebrews turns his attention to Jesus’ superiority to the angels, he does so to give even further credence to Jesus and His teachings. This was important because in the early church people were drawn to angel worship at times. Paul warns against that in Colossians 2:18 where he writes “Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels.” Then again we read in Galatians 1:8, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.”

What the author of Hebrews is doing in this Epistle is saying pretty much what God said to those at Jesus’ transfiguration as recorded in Mark 9:7, “And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, ‘This is my beloved Son; listen to him.’” I’m arguing that God doesn’t speak to us through prophets anymore! Anyone claiming the gift of prophecy is on shaky ground biblically. God doesn’t speak to us through angels today which would have been a good thing to acknowledge when Joseph Smith met the angel Moroni. Jesus is the message of the whole Bible from beginning to end. True preaching is about Jesus; who He is, what He’s done and what He says. Pay attention to him, listen to him!

[1] Paul Ellingworth and Eugene Albert Nida, A Handbook on the Letter to the Hebrews, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1994), 13.

Hebrews 1:2-4, John 5:45-46

Receive Jesus – Receive Eternal Life

The religious leaders, scribes, and Pharisees had a tradition of understanding God’s message to man in the Scriptures to be about personal behavior. They seemed to miss the fact that every generation before them failed in being faithful to God. From Adam and Eve through the days of Noah, the tower of Babel, and onward through the desert exodus, even through the period of the Judges and then the united and the divided Kingdoms, there was nothing but failure in living up to God’s righteous standards for life. Yet the focus of these religious people remained on being better, trying harder, and doing good. Even the greatest of their heroes was a gross failure in his own personal life, becoming both an adulterer and murderer not to mention his family failures. They continue to pick out episodes of his life as the example for everyone to follow, ignoring the fact of his gross sins. This is still done today from church pulpits presenting topics like  “Standing up to our Giants” like David did, or being faithful like all the Judges were, etc. The point of those passages in the Bible is not that these people were good and we ought to follow their example. The point is that they were all sinners and needed a savior!

The religious leaders were searching for eternal life in the Scriptures and Jesus informed them that yes, it was there, because the Scriptures are all about Himself. But Jesus advised them there will be a witness to testify against them when they fail to acquire “eternal life.” “It won’t be me,” Jesus says, “but the very one you are trusting in.” John 5:45-46 gives us Jesus’ words to the religious leaders of His day. They were laying burdens on the back of the people that were too heavy for them to bear. They were enforcing the law even to the point of stoning adulteresses in spite of their own sinfulness. They presented a standard by which to live up to in order to merit God’s favor. But Jesus says, “Yet it isn’t I who will accuse you before the Father. Moses will accuse you! Yes, Moses, in whom you put your hopes. If you really believed Moses, you would believe me, because he wrote about me.”

Stop focusing on being better, trying harder, or doing more! The Scriptures are not about keeping the law. They are about our failure to keep the law and our need for a savior to stand up to our enemy for us and wipe out our sin. This is what the author of Hebrews is talking about when speaks of Jesus being the most important thing. It’s about who He is and what He has done for us. Hebrews 1:2-4 concludes, “but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom also He created the world.  He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name He has inherited is more excellent than theirs.” Let me put the important phrase in red!

Hebrews 1:3-4, John 3:16, John 5:39-40, John 1:5

Hear Jesus, Hear God!

I did not make up the idea that Jesus is the subject of the entire Bible. I got that from Jesus himself. In John 5, Jesus is confronting the religious leaders. They claim to be disciples of Moses because they know he came from God, but they don’t know about this Jesus. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day claimed to hold Moses’ teachings as the cornerstone of their faith. They lean on Moses and the rest of the Old Testament as the most important thing in life. Jesus points this out to them in John 5:39. He says as translated by the Amplified Bible, “You search and investigate and pore over the Scriptures diligently, because you suppose and trust that you have eternal life through them.” Jesus isn’t correcting their assumption of being able to find “eternal life” in the Bible. The Scriptures do point us in the way of Eternal Life!

He’s telling them that their focus when reading and studying the Bible is misdirected. In the very next verse, John 5:40, he adds, “And these [very Scriptures] testify about Me!” He is affirming the reality of eternal life being found in the scriptures in that the whole of scripture is about Him who is the “heir of all things, through whom also God created the world. Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and Jesus upholds the universe by the word of his power.” This is the Good News directly from God who “so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that anyone who believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

The religious leaders, scribes, and Pharisees of Jesus’ day were reading the scriptures to understand the prerequisites of earning God’s acceptance and inheriting eternal life. They were looking for either loopholes in the law that might excuse them from perfect obedience or they were writing lists of things to do or not do to win God’s favor. That’s all they could see in the Bible and that was all they were interested in. I’m afraid there are still some Pharisees, scribes, and religious leaders today who still focus on the wrong thing and mislead many into believing that they can earn or deserve God’s acceptance by trying harder or doing more. Jesus says to them and to us in the next verse, John 5:40, “And still you are not willing [but refuse] to come to Me, so that you might have life.” A literal rendering of John 1:5 from the Good News Bible says this about Jesus, “The Word was the source of life, and this life brought light to humanity.” If God has spoken, and Jesus is the message, there is nothing more important than to listen to what He has to say!

© Chuck Larsen 2011. Powered by WordPress.