Tag Archives: Hebrews

Draw Near

Direct deposit of your paycheck is convenient, but it lacks the personal touch between you and your boss.  Imagine how different it would be to stand before him and have him ask how things are going and then open his wallet, pull out a few twenties and settle up with you. That would feel different.  How would it feel to ask your boss to pay you for work that you had not done – perhaps you had gotten sick or maybe just couldn’t accomplish what he wanted?   You go stand before him and ask him to please pay you anyway.  There are some things about that interaction – both awkward things and good things – that could not happen by direct deposit.  

It strikes me that when it comes to receiving mercy and grace from God, it’s not a matter of direct deposit into our accounts.  It’s not impersonal.  God invites us to draw near to Him in the throne room.  Not hesitantly or fearfully, but confidently.

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 4:16)
It’s personal, this mercy thing.  Face to face.  It’s not, “Check’s in the mail” or, “You don’t need to ask, I’ve got you on autopay.”  It’s, “Come on in, I’m glad to see you.  Let’s talk about how you are doing.”  That’s a bit of why you hear people say, “God is so good…”

The Rest of the Story

Violently persecuted in his home land, he joined a group who fled by boat, hoping for safety on some different shore.  But, what they found was terror – from pirates, from storms at sea and even from one another.  In desperation, he jumped overboard.  Soon, he was exhausted from his futile attempts to swim, surrounded by sharks and coughing up sea water with every breath.  A ship drew near and a life ring was thrown.  Should he take it?  Nothing to lose, he thought, and grabbed it.  The next thing he was aware of was waking up in a comfortable bed, washed, rested and fed.  He made his way up on deck, found a place to hide and watched intently for any kind of danger.  When the men working on deck noticed him, he raced away to the rail, preparing himself to fight or jump.

That is when he heard the voice of the captain, saying, “You are safe here and we will not hurt you.  You do not need to hide, or dash back and forth, watching and worrying about who is coming.  If you trust me, you can rest from all that.  Of course, if you are too frightened to trust me, too used to scheming and fighting to protect yourself, you can keep doing so.  I cannot force you to rest, but rather, I invite you to do so.  How about it?  Don’t you want to leave all this stress behind and rest?”

Could this be real?  Could it be true?  He had to decide: either listen to his old fears, try to protect himself and jump overboard or trust the captain and rest.

Hebrews 4, an extended warning about failing to trust God and missing out, also contains these lines about His promise of rest for those who trust:

“Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.”   (Hebrews 4:1)

“Now we who have believed enter that rest, …”  (Hebrews 4:3a)

“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”  (Hebrews 4:7b)

“There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest,…”  (Hebrews 4:9-11a)

His Words

Compare these two, clear statements from the Bible, written 1500 years apart:

I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him.  –  (Deuteronomy 18:18 – Words of God to Moses, approximately 3500 years ago)

Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.  –  (John 14:10 – Words of Jesus)

And then, this:

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways,  but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.  –  (Hebrews 1:1–2  –  Unknown author, roughly 2000 years ago)

The reason the Bible fits perfectly together, even over the span of a millennium and a half, is because it was inspired by One Eternal Author Who knew what He would do from before the beginning.  His words have therefore been relevant in all ages, including our own.  Knowing that, pay further attention to the rest of what God told Moses about the One in Whom He would put His words:

If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account.  –  (Deuteronomy 18:19)

Probably a good idea to really listen to Jesus…

Basic Faith

Perhaps if I gave it a chance, I might get into Downton Abbey, but something about watching stuffy aristocrats having tea just makes me restless. Give me heart-pounding, thriller action. Maybe that is why I’m drawn to Hebrews 11. It is about giants of faith who resolutely held on to what they believed was true, in the face of painful and life-threatening coercion. Some of those guys (and gals) were sawed in two and thrown to the lions because they would not deny their beliefs. Dozens of jaw-dropping acts of faith are attributed to sixteen individuals by name. But the first act of faith listed isn’t specific to any one of them; it was shared by all of them – and, hopefully, you too. After first explaining what faith is (See: Loud and Clear), the author of Hebrews gives examples of faith, beginning with this one:

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. (Hebrews 11:3)

Since that was written, we’ve advanced quite a lot, from swords to drones, from parchment to the cloud. But how the universe came about is still being actively debated. Faith understands that God formed it, by commanding it to be. That sounds old and religious. But, more contemporary and mind-bending, it says faith knows that the tangible universe was formed out of something invisible. Scientists in the field of quantum mechanics talk like that.Notice, please, that the quote from Hebrews didn’t say faith knows when God did it, but that He did. The understanding that God made everything out of nothing (or at least out of something intangible) is a foundation stone for faith. Why start there? Perhaps because, with that understanding and perspective, everything else we do in life is colored by deep respect and reverence for God. We live with a profound awareness that this is His place, He made it.

The antique tea cart in our living room was hand-made by my wife’s great grandfather. It is a thing of old beauty, adorned by hand-carved, swirling trim, and slender, wood-spoked wheels. It is a visible expression of great skill and passion. We don’t put cans of paint on it, don’t use it as a workbench. Sometimes I gaze at it, losing myself in the details of its construction. I imagine the man I never knew, hunched over in his shop, wiping sawdust off his glasses and leaning in to get just the right cut from his old, but carefully sharpened gouge.

That type of humility and reverence (greatly multiplied), in the midst of God’s awesome creation, is foundational for the faith that connects us to Him in a living relationship. Conversely, the arrogant attitude that dismisses such awe and humility disconnects us from that relationship with God. With tragic consequences. As the Apostle Paul said, it’s not that people don’t know that God created the tangible universe, but that they suppress this truth.

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:20-21)

Looking for faith, real faith? Open your heart and mind and take a good look around at all that God has crafted so intricately and beautifully.

Stay tuned; there’s more…