Sunday, 7 October 2018

Hold Firm - Hebrews 412 - 5:10

God speaks! God is not silent, He lets us know. We heard that back in 1:1 and now the author skilfully weaves that same theme through v12. The word of God is what God speaks - sometimes that reaches us written down, sometimes as a direct message to people, but ultimately in the form of a person - a messenger of God - His Son Jesus.

What God says cuts through - reaching parts other words cannot reach! God sees us inside out - there is no point hiding - God can speak right into the core of our being. So let us be confident in the words we have in scripture. See how the author often quotes the psalms, which reveal truths about God and the Son Jesus.

In this passage the author shifts focus to the concept of High Priest. Pretty much all faiths of any religion have some concept of a priest - the person you can go to, the person who seems to have a closer relationship to the Divine, the person who is chosen/anointed/ordained by God for a special conduit-between-man-and-God role

The Jewish faith was no different. Out of 12 tribes one - the Levites - was set aside for service. Within the Levites some would be priests to bring offerings and serve at the temple - the special place. Within that number would be an even smaller number, to select the 'High Priest', the one to go to that very special place.

For us a Christians we don't have that. We understand that every believer can go to that special place, can intercede (be a link between man and God), all because God has given us His Son, Jesus, who is the ultimate High Priest - who makes a way for each and every one of us to know God. The author spells out that work of Jesus - He had to identify with us (recall from previously). He becomes human and comes alongside us; He knows our weaknesses and our temptations. But a human priest can succumb to those temptations and need forgiveness for themselves ... yet Jesus was different. Jesus fully identified with us yet was different in that he did no wrong.

Jesus was fully obedient: everything His Father wanted He lovingly did. That obedience was put to the ultimate test. Would you give yourself up? Would you suffer, would you go even to death? Jesus' answer was Yes, and He did.

Another aspect of priest is you can't just walk up and say "I'll be priest". You have to be chosen or set apart by God. Our author throws a spanner in here. Jews were familiar with the Levites as priests, but the author brings up an episode way back in Genesis. In Genesis chapter 14 Abraham fights a big battle. When  he comes home, out of the blue, a bloke turns up - blesses Abraham - and then disappears again! We are only told that a) his name is Melchizedek, b) he was a king of somewhere and c) he was a priest of God. Thats all! It seems a bit weird, but Abraham gives him an offering of a tenth of all he had.

Psalm 110 - words inspired by the Spirit - then make a link between someone anointed by God to rule (to be God's Messiah), and 'the priestly order of Melchizedek'. That poem is quoted in Hebrews 5:6. So the author points to a different priesthood, ordained by God long before Moses/Levites or anyone else - a special order that Jesus belongs to. Thus he is a High Priest of a different kind, of a different order altogether.

So the author writes (back in 4:14) therefore Hold Firm. Stick to our faith in Jesus - he is a High Priest like no other. We ourselves live in uncertain times. We don't even know if our country will be functioning in just a few months time. Politicians around the world (even in the 'democratic free world') seem to say or sanction actions that were previously off the scale. We have global warming, extreme weather, calamity, catastrophe, and drowning in our own plastic. Yet through all this the call to us is still to Hold Firm.

Remember we have had previously: Pay Attention; Fix Your Eyes on Jesus; Stay Focussed; and now Hold Firm. It is indeed a messed up world out there, but Jesus is the High Priest to see us through.

The Pay Attention and the Stay Focussed are on the same theme - I will label it A. The Fix Your Eyes and Hold Firm similarly resonate, which I will label B. So through these early chapters the author is setting up a simple drumbeat: A - B - A - B, reverbing through the letter to call us to persevere.

A - B - A - B - Pay Attention - Fix Your Eyes - Stay Focussed - Hold Firm.
Pay attention, even in bad times; Stay focussed through the worldly mess.
Don't get distracted, Fix your eyes, Don't miss God's best, Hold firm.
However great the High Priest is, Jesus is greater than them all.

The High Priest identifies with us; Jesus does too, yet without sin.
The High Priest enters the holy place; Jesus ascends to the glory of God.
The High Priest intercedes for people; Jesus intercedes for the whole world.
The High Priest presents offerings; Jesus himself becomes the offering.

So no matter what swirls around us; Pay attention to Jesus.
Even as the whole world goes potty; Fix your eyes on Jesus
Stay focussed on Him always; Don't miss out on His blessings.
Hold firm to Jesus; Trust that He will see us through.

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