Dear Student of the Word,
Well, here it is - the final installment of our Hebrews study. Having worked through this letter again, I have gained a new appreciation for the writer and his intent, which was to urge believing Jews who were wavering in their faith not to return to Judaism. The message to them is the same to us today and that is that Christ is supreme and no other doctrine, movement, religion or person can supplant Him as Lord of all. In a few weeks, we will take another look at the book of Luke, but for now, here is what I wrote this week in the first day of this seven-day study from Hebrews 13:
Study Twelve, Day One
6 So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?" 7 Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
13:6 – This verse could have been the motto and the summary for Jesus and His earthly ministry. He completely and totally entrusted Himself to God. On many occasions, He made men angry and they threatened Him repeatedly. Eventually they killed Him. Prior to that happening, Jesus had warned His followers:
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matt 10:28-31).
What can man do to you? He can reject, criticize, impoverish, torture and even take your life. That is about it. And in the midst of it all, God can help, save and preserve you. Daniel’s friends knew all this when the king threatened them and then threw them into a red-hot furnace when they refused to bow down to him:
Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, "Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?"
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." (Dan 3:13-18).
You have to admire the attitude they had. They said that God can deliver them, but they knew He may not. That fact did not shake their faith or cause them to waver in their commitment. Does that same knowledge give you the same resolve as they had – that God can but may not deliver you from trouble?
13:7&8 – It seems that the writer was not referring to readers’ current spiritual leaders, but those who had given their lives to follow Jesus before the letter was written. Those would have been James the brother of John, Stephen the first martyr and unnamed others who had done the act to which the writer was referring: They did not fear what man could do to them and paid for it with their lives. Remember, the writer’s target audience was Christian Jews who were wavering in their faith. James and Stephen would definitely have made an impression on those Jewish believers and would fit into the overall context here. Who are your spiritual heroes of the past that still speak to you? Honor their memory by doing what they did.
The writer pointed out that Jesus is the same, the results of faith in Him are the same, and the benefits to His followers who obey Him are the same yesterday, today and forever. Isn’t it good to know we follow Jesus who never has a bad day, a bad mood, or a “shadow of turning”? He is consistent and now the challenge is for you to be consistent in following Him, just as those of old were.
As always, I welcome your comments to this week's study. For additional Bible studies, check out my website archive, which contains a complete collection of all my verse-by-verse New Testament studies, along with the daily devotional entitled What Would Jesus Ask You Today? Thank you and I hope you enojoyed this study of Hebrews from God's word (the previous installments of the Hebrews study can be found online at my Bible study site.