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Posts Tagged ‘Hebrews’

New Testament Reading for Today:  Hebrews 13: 1-21

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.

17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

Introduction:  The New Testament reading is the pastor’s encouragement to the Church in times of persecutions from without and within.  The meditation below is by Pastor Scott Murray (Pastor, Memorial Lutheran Church, Houston, TX) from his book  A Year with the Church Fathers: Meditation for Each Day of the Church Year (I am not paid by Pr. Murray to so advertise but gladly do so!)  The meditation is on the verses cited above.

Meditation

We presume that something is better than nothing. This truism is not always true. It is better to be without a leader than to have one who teaches us into hell. If we are to imitate the faith of those who lead us, we need someone leading us who has sound teaching, someone who is faithful to Christ the Word and His Holy Scripture. Without that faithful instruction, we are being led into misbelief, which is the worst vice. It is the worst evil, because it has such horrible results. We are all sinful, even and especially our Church leaders. If we wait until the Church leader arrives who has no fleshly weaknesses or spiritual peccadilloes, we will be waiting forever. Such a person ministered visibly only once among men.

So what should we look for from leaders? The faith. We need them to teach us Christ, His death, His life, His sacrifice for our sins—all that He has done “for us men and for our salvation.” We should imitate the faith that leaders teach. The substance of what is taught, of what is to be believed, should be the outcome of their lives. Like us, our leaders are imperfect clay pots. The excellence of what is preached should commend them to us. Let’s expect neither more nor less.

“When should we obey an evil leader? What kind of evil do we mean here? If he isevil in regard to faith, flee and avoid him. Not just if he is a man, but even if he is an angel from heaven. But if his life is evil, do not pry. This case I am not arguing from my own opinion, but from Holy Scripture. Hear Christ say, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat’ (Matthew 23:2). Having previously spoken many fearful things concerning them, Christ says, ‘Practice and observe whatever they tell you—but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice’ (Matthew 23:3). They have the dignity of office but have an unclean life. Pay attention not to their life but to their words. As regards their character, no one would be harmed by it. Why? Both because their characters are manifest to all, and also because, although they might be ten thousand times as evil, they will never teach what is evil. But in regard to the faith, the evil is not apparent to all, and the leader with a wicked faith will not decline to teach it” (John Chrysostom, Homilies on Hebrews, 34.1).

20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

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Introduction to Hebrews:

About our study: Hebrews is the appointed Epistle lesson this Sunday, Pentecost 19 and for 4 more Sundays in the three-year Lectionary.

Hebrews is part of the General or catholic (universal) Epistles.  These are all addressed to larger church/churches and not individuals.  Hebrews heads up this section.   The following is from the introduction to Hebrews in  The Lutheran Study Bible, page 2103, published by Concordia Publishing House.

 “The Epistle to the Hebrews is actually a sermon (“word of exhortation”; 13:22) with a brief  letter attached (13:20-25). The writing describes the temple sacrifices as though they were still in use (cf 9:6-10) and describes a persecution, which may be Emperor Nero’s persecution of Christians at Rome (cf ch 12; 13:24). The sermon-writer’s name was not provided, nor was his name recorded by early Christian historians…

The writer of Hebrews, or his scribe, had an excellent education in classical oratory. Recent study of Hebrews has demonstrated that it is written in high Greek style, which distinguishes it from Paul’s more common Greek style. The writer’s doctrine depends on the apostles (2:3) and has important connections to Paul’s use of the OT (cf 10:38; Rm 1:17; Gal 3:11) and John’s theology of the Word (cf Jn 1:1- 2; 10:30; 14:11; Heb 1:3; 7:3; 13:8). But the writer includes many unique insights and shows an interest in the priesthood that is not found in other apostolic writers.”  

I think Hebrews demonstrates itself as a thoroughgoing Christian sermon also in these ways:

1)      The preacher puts himself in with his congregation by the use of “we” and “us”, e.g. “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.”  As Jesus Himself  shared our flesh and blood ( Hebrews 2:14), to make holy sinners by faith in Him, the Preacher is the same as his congregation.  Since Jesus is not ashamed to call them “brothers” (Hebrews 2:11), the preacher should not be as he is part of the brethren for whom Jesus died and rose again, the pioneer of Faith. Using cliché verbiage: the preacher identifies with the Lord’s people in their suffering and resultant flagging zeal for the Gospel and knows the inherent dangers in the possibility of even more severe persecution: see Hebrews 12:4 .

2)      He uses questions to engage his hearers in the sermon, e.g. Hebrews 3: 16-18. 

3)      A preacher quotes Scripture to attest to the truth of the message, as a preacher should.  The Preacher of Hebrews has copious Biblical citations: some 27 quotations in 13 chapters. Note that the 1st chapter employs many of the Scripture quotes as questions!

4)      The Preacher makes comparisons.  This is a clean rhetorical device for a speaker to make his case.  So in Hebrews these are the comparisons: 

      (a)  Angels and Jesus: Chapters 1-2: 4

     (b) Angels and Jesus and humankind: 2: 5-16

     (c)  Jesus and Moses: 3:1-4: 13

              1) rest in the wilderness wanderings/rest in Christ

     (d) The Sermon’s Central Sermonic Comparison: Old and    New Covenants: 4:14-10:16                                           

  1. Jesus the Great High Priest/priests:  4:14-5:10

  2. Melchizedek, the priest/Levitical priests: 7:1-8: 13

  3. Temple/tabernacle of Israel/heavenly Temple:  9:1-10

  4. Blood of sacrificial animals/Blood of Christ:  9: 11-20

Repetitive sacrifices in the Temple/One and For all Sacrifice: 10:1-16

Interspersed in the comparison sections  above are the exhortations.  He prefaces each with the “indicatives” of  “such a  great a salvation” (2: 2), then exhorts.  It is like a father saying to his child, “I love you” and she knows it.  Then, “You can do better in school”.  It never should be or implied to be by a mother or father the following: “Do well in school, then I will love you.”  

The word translated “exhortation” in this verse is in Greek, paraclesis.  Paraclesis is normally translate “encouragement”.  Please note it is related to a Name for the Holy Spirit:  Paraclete which is variously translated as Advocate, Counselor.  Paraclesis flows out of the Gospel of “so great a salvation”.

The Epistle for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost:  Hebrews 2: 1-18

Note:  These study questions are cited and adapted from a downloadable Bible Study from Concordia Publishing House:  A Longer Look at the Lessons: Year B – Pentecost II (Downloadable)

Study Questions

  1.  What is an angel?  Take the new and improved Angelic Quiz below!
  2. Which verses are the first exhortation section? Which verses is the basis of this first exhortation? What is the Preacher’s encouragement to the congregation?
  3.  What was the message declared by angels? How seriously binding was it?
  4.   Why is response to and faithfulness to “such a great salvation . . . declared at first by the Lord, and . . . attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to His will” of far greater importance? (See John 3:34–36.) The writer quoted Psalm 8, applying its statements about mankind to Jesus.
  5.   For what surprising purpose was the Son made “lower than the angels”?
  6.  How was “the founder of their salvation [made] perfect through suffering”?To emphasize the Son’s full identification with our humanity as Jesus, the writer said that both Jesus and we have one ___, and that Jesus is not ashamed to call us ___. To back this up, he quoted from Psalm 22: “I will tell of Your name to ___” and “in the midst of ___ I will sing Your praise.”
  7.  As the author of Hebrews used these quotes from the Old Testament, who did he say said them?   We might expect the text to read, “He shared our flesh and blood humanity to live with us.” Instead, it focuses immediately on the supreme evidence of His complete, redemptive identity with us, His death.
  8.  What is it about the death of Jesus that destroyed the one who holds the power of death? How does the death of Jesus free us from slavery under the fear of death? (See 1 Corinthians 15:50–58; 2 Timothy 1:8–10.) For what does the death of Jesus free us? (See 2 Corinthians 5:14–15.)
  9. The  emphasize that the destruction of the one who holds the power of death and the freedom of those who were slaves under the fear of death is not just some spiritual imagery, the writer states that it is not ___ that the incarnate Son of God helps, but it is ___.
  10.  Why did Jesus have to be made like us in every respect to be our merciful and faithful high priest and make propitiation for the sins of the people? What comfort is there for us when tempted in the fact that Jesus shared the full human experience, including temptation, and overcame? What encouragement does it give us?

 Angelic Quiz

  1. The most reliable source about angels is Jewish folklore. 
  2. The word “angel” literally means a woman with wings.
  3. Angels are created.
  4. Angels sing.
  5. Angels are ministering spirits sent to serve us.
  6. Human beings can “earn their wings” and become angels.
  7. Angels are dumb.
  8. There are ranks of angels, kind of like in the army.
  9. Lucifer, or the devil, is a fallen angel.
  10. We are to pray to angels because they are heavenly beings.
  11. Angels are spiritual beings.
  12. There was war in heaven.
  13. We know the name of some of the angels.
  14. There are guardian angels.
  15. Angels usually provoke fear in people.
  16. Jesus was made lower than the angels yet He is superior to them.
  17. The angels’ favorite musical instrument is the harp.
  18. This is the best quiz on angels I have ever taken!

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Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, through Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, You overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life. We humbly pray that we may live before You in righteousness and purity forever; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

 Lessons:

Psalm 114

Additional Psalm: Psalm 136

Old TestamentReading: Exodus 17:1-16

New Testament Reading: Hebrews 11:1-29

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.  Hebrews 11: 8

Meditation:

“Great was the faith of Abraham…. For what God did and said seemed to be opposed to what was from God. Faith opposed faith. Command opposed promise.

“This is what I mean: God had said, `Go from your country and your kindred and … to your offspring I will give this land’ (Genesis 12:1, 7). But `He gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot’s length’ (Acts 7:5). You can see how what was done was opposed to the promise. Again He said, ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named’ (Genesis21:12), and he believed. But again He says, ‘Sacrifice to Me this one, who was to fill all the world from his offspring! Can you see the opposition between the commands and the promise? He enjoined things that were in contradiction to the promises, and yet this righteous man did not stagger because of it, nor did he say he had been deceived….

“He heard the opposite of the promises from Him who had made them; and yet he was not disturbed, but he performed them as if they had been in harmony. For they were in harmony. Although they were opposed according to human calculations, they were in harmony by faith. (John Chrysostom, Homilies on Hebrews, 25.1-2)

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