2008-06-08pm Lord’s Day 13 Q&A 33 Hebrews 1
What is the purpose of the Bible?
Why do we read it?
Why is it still the bestselling book in the world?
Why has it lasted for so long?
Well, we know why! It is God’s Word. It is truth. It explains the meaning of life. It explains the origin of life, the origin of the universe. It explains who God is.
It is the revelation of God.
It tells God’s story. How he created the world. Why he created the world (His love). Why there is evil. How He dealt with evil. Who he is.
Now, a lot of modern scholars and Christians have a funny attitude toward history. They presuppose that we’re smarter than everyone else who has ever lived. They believe that because of our technological advancements, because of our liberal thinking, we’re better, a superior civilisation than any previous civilisation, as though technology or liberty is the benchmark for human success.
If we were to compare the advancement of other things at the same time as the advance of technology, peacekeeping, for example, then one would have to conclude that we’re the least advanced civilisation that has ever existed. They say that more people died in wars and conflicts in the 20th century than in all previous centuries combined.
But there is something about progression that Christians and scholars do get right. Our passage in Hebrews explains a progression of revelation in the scriptures.
The Old Testament pointed to, prophesied concerning, Christ. But though they are true, they don’t actually come close to the full revelation of Christ, as when He came in the flesh.
But why? Why were the Jews so looking forward for a Messiah? Why was it necessary for Jesus to come? Why, apart from the obvious, which was to save the world?
Well, our passage reveals that Christ came, yes, to save the world, but Christ also came to bring the fullest revelation of God. Instead of books about God’s love, His faithfulness, His care, his concern, his sacrifice, his promises, in Christ we have God with us! God fully revealed, though veiled, it is true, in human flesh.
In Christ, we have the full revelation of God. Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God.
The entire Old Testament points to Jesus Christ.
That, I must say, is what really caught my attention when we were looking at different Sunday school curriculums. The God’s Story curriculum is focused on Christ, focused on revealing, showing, teaching Christ to our children. In this way, the Old Testament is explained, understood as pointing to Christ.
Apart from Christ, all sorts of tensions exist in the Old Testament. Why did God permit, or even command Joshua and the Israelites to perform ethnic cleansing, genocide? God commanded them to destroy the inhabitants of the Promised Land. Why did he command it? It seems so out of character of a loving God.
But in Christ, we see true righteousness and holiness. In fact, in Christ we see God himself. Jesus Christ is God’s Son! And in seeing Christ, seeing his righteousness, then everyone else pales in comparison, we see that our good deeds don’t add up to anything worthy at all.
In Christ, we understand that all humans have fallen short of the glory of God. Apart from Christ, we’re nothing. The Canaanites were nothing. They were sinful, like us. And apart from Christ, they deserved to die. Make no mistake, though they had access to the truth they didn’t respond to it, although Rahab did.
Jesus Christ is unlike sinful humanity. He is the eternal, natural Son of God.
And the Old Testament prophesied that He would come. Gen. 3:15 says that though the serpent would strike his heel, Christ would crush the serpent’s head. Psalm 1 tells all about Jesus’ righteousness. Isaiah 53 describes Christ’s suffering. Jesus himself quoted a Psalm about him from the cross: Psalm 22.
Now, what I find very strange is the attitude among some Christians. At the seminary, there is a desire to understand the Old Testament as it was understood by the Jewish culture when it was first written. They say this as though those ancient peoples understood it differently than we do.
I can’t get my head around it. If it is God’s revelation about himself, then isn’t it obvious that they would have understood it in the same way that we do, although somewhat differently because they lived before Christ and we live after Christ. I don’t really understand.
But it happens. I once came across a Mark Driscoll video clip on YouTube. If you want to check it out later, just Google “Mark Driscoll tolerance rant”, really, it is worth your time, though you’ll find he is not a typical preacher.
In the clip, Mark is very frustrated. He’s expositing the book of Nehemiah, chapter 13 and he’s talking about a priest who was violated God’s law. According to God’s law, as a reflection of God’s holiness, no foreigners were permitted in the temple. But the priest Eliashib allowed Tobiah, not only into the temple he’d even appropriated one of the Levite storerooms and let Tobiah use it. As a result, the Levites left, they had no provisions and had to abandon their priestly tasks to fend for themselves.
It would be like the elders allowing a Mormon pastor to help out our congregation. It would be like the elders taking over the office bringing in a Mormon pastor and telling me to go find work outside the church to support my family. And in some churches, I wouldn’t be surprised if something like that was done, under the tentmaker guise, most likely, under the desire to be tolerant and to reach out to as many people as possible.
In fact, what got Mark Driscoll going was the tolerance that he sees in the church today.
He describes driving in Seattle and hearing an ad on Christian Radio. It promises to help Christians unlock the mysteries of the Old Testament. “Great!” Mark says to himself, “sign me up for that.” But then he hears more of the commercial, “unlock the mysteries of the Old Testament as taught by Rabbi so and so.” This is not a messianic Jew, this is a real bona fide, Jesus Christ denying rabbi who is supposed to bring out the mystery of the Old Testament? The mystery of the OT is Jesus! This guy denies Christ; this guy is on the other side!
We have to be so on guard. It is so easy to be swayed. I can picture the pitch, come hear the Old Testament as it was understood in Jesus day. That’s kind of what some of the Profs are saying at the seminary, though I hope they recognise that the Old Testament, as it is about God, is mostly concerned with revealing Christ!
These attitudes are so sneaky. They so subtly take the focus from Christ, and they do it so innocently. I’ve heard of a Sunday School lesson on David and Goliath. The point of the story was to teach the children that they too have to face their giants, bullies at school, or something like that.
That’s not the point of the story! Goliath was mocking God! The Israelite army, under their petrified commander, Saul, had no faith in God. The little boy David knew more about faith than they did. He trusted God. He knew that the battle belonged to God. He knew that Jesus would one day defeat the greatest giant of all, Satan. So, David placed his confidence in God, whether he won or lost. We don’t have to face our giants; we have to have faith in God through Christ! It isn’t about us, it really is about Jesus!
These old reformers got it. Though I should hardly call them old, Ursinus and Olevianus were in the 20’s when they penned the H.C.
Did they anticipate a day when it would be necessary to teach the elemental truths of scripture? Did they anticipate a Biblical illiteracy that threatens to rival their own, which is all the more astounding since back then very few people had Bibles, and today most Christians have several.
Some Christians or perhaps more aptly, some people who call themselves Christian don’t know the simple basics of the scriptures. I’m curious to see how this year’s overtures will go at Synod. Not only the ones concerning the form of subscription, but also another one which exhorts churches to maintain two services with the second one being like this one, a teaching sermon on the Catechism.
We have to know that the scriptures, all the scriptures point to Christ, who is the full revelation of God. We have to teach our children to know that the scriptures teach about Christ. We have to introduce them to Christ, to show to them that the Old Testament pointed to, anticipated, and could not wait to see the Messiah.
We have to be real with them, and tell them that though the Israelites had such a long relationship with God, that they spurned him. That when Jesus finally appeared, the majority of church leaders denied him rejected him and killed him.
We should not be surprised when we see that happening today. We have to be realistic. We have to be determined. We have to be diligent. We’re going to answer to God. He will ask us what we’ve done with the gifts He’s given. What have we done with the children we’ve received? What have we done with the time, the talents, the treasures, the neighbours God has given us?
How have we shone for Christ? How have we reflected Christ?
How have we demonstrated the lordship of Christ in our lives?
Do our lives prove that Jesus is our King? The angels serve him. They worship him. Are our lives truly living sacrifices?
Have we appreciated Jesus for who He is? He is God’s Son! He has instantaneous access to the Father. He’s adopted us as children, providing us instantaneous access to the Father.
No longer enemies of God, we’re now God’s children. God looks at us with love. God disciplines us with love. The discipline we receive, no matter how harsh, is not unto eternal death, but unto eternal life. It is to make us righteous, to make us more like Christ.
But Jesus is so amazing. From our text this evening, we understand that Jesus is God’s eternal Son. He’s always existed with Father and Holy Spirit, as Son.
But though He had all that power and authority, all those rights and privileges, somehow, he never thought himself as being entitled to them.
Have you heard the complaints about staffing issues in Edson? Employers are having tremendous difficulties keeping employees. They’ll show up for work one day, and then disappear for three. They believe they are entitled to the job they have, that they can work on their own terms. They have no respect for their bosses.
In so many ways, Christians can fall into the trap of entitlement. We start thinking we deserve God’s goodness. The Israelites were guilty of it. The Pharisees sure thought so. But we have to have a different attitude, and not just on Sundays. We need to maintain our confidence in Christ. We need to search the scriptures diligently, to reflect on them, and learn more about Christ from them.
We need to maintain fellowship with other believers, so that when we fall and fail, we can be lifted up and encouraged by one another. So that we can remain faithful, intolerant of anything that diminishes Christ.
Above all, we have to keep in mind that Jesus is the right answer. We’re called Christians because we follow Christ. We share in Christ’s anointing, and we share in His Sonship. We are God’s brothers and sisters! Imagine that! What a privilege we have! Amen.