The book of Hebrews offers a thorough explanation of faith, redemption and salvation by demonstrating how Jesus Christ fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies and the Old Testament religion, and how salvation has always been by grace through faith from the beginning of time.
It was written to encourage 1st Century Jewish Christians to avoid slipping into the legalism of the Pharisees religion, and to hold on to their faith. The book accomplished this goal by showing how Christ fills the role of High Priest, and how the Old Testament Patriarchs acted on faith, not out of religious duty.
For all of the great Theological truth in Hebrews, one thing remains a mystery. Who wrote it? No one put their name on it, and the author didn’t introduce himself at the beginning.
For centuries, Theologians and scholars believed that the Apostle Paul wrote Hebrews. That theory makes sense as Paul skillfully used logic in his writings to combat Judaism and to teach salvation by grace through faith. However, Hebrews doesn’t exactly match the style Paul had used in his other writings. In fact, the writing style doesn’t match any other book of the New Testament.
Some believe Apollos wrote the book. Indeed, Apollos was a skilled orator, had a way with words, was well educated and was capable of such. However, questions remain as to whether Apollos would have been the one to write a letter to Jewish Christians in Jerusalem. Sure, he spent a lot of time in Asia minor debating Judaizers, but that fact in and of itself does not prove authorship.
Timothy is also seen as a possible author, but the letter references Timothy in verse 13:23. It’s uncertain whether Timothy would have referred to himself in the third person like this.
Other names have been postulated… Clement, Priscilla, Luke the Evangelist. We could study the writings of each of these early church leaders and formulate theories, or, we could make life much simpler.
If you have ventured to read any of the New Testament, you’ve probably noticed that the authors tend to identify themselves at the beginning. So, following that pattern, let’s look at the beginning of the book of Hebrews:
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
Boom! Mystery solved.
The Author of Hebrews was identified in verse 1. “God.”
Now the likelihood of God coming down and handwriting this letter on a scroll of paper is minute, but it is important to remember that, even though we may not know whom God called to write Hebrews, the words are inspired by God none the less. So never mind who put the ink to the paper. Hebrews is God’s word, and thus we should learn it and obey it as we would any other book.
Let’s be real. Sometimes life just stinks. Pain is real. Problems continue to pile up, and you get to the point where you are sick and tired of being sick and tired.
When life stinks, it can be hard to find comfort. No one understands your pain, and the trite little phrases like “too blessed to be stressed” only compound the agony. How are you supposed to just “speak victory” into your child’s cancer diagnosis, your wife’s passing, or the foreclosure of your home.
Yet, society expects us to just put on a smile and fake it through the day. “Fake it till you make it.” However, when the day ends, you’re right back at home, face to face with your problems.
Pain and suffering, grief and bereavement are not foreign to the Christian experience. In fact they are a real part of the Christian’s life. Christians face problems, feel pain, and experience periods of hopelessness. You’re human.
When the Apostle Peter authored his first epistle, he was looking at thousands of Christians who had been displaced by severe persecution. Roman Emperor Nero had allegedly set Rome on fire, then blamed Christians for the devastation before burning many of them alive.
He made sport of Christians by drafting them to be gladiators. He fed them to the lions. He executed them in ways he found entertaining. Imagine having your wife kidnapped from your home, and brutally murdered by being tied to the horns of a bull for the entertainment of Roman nobility. This is what 1st Century Christians faced.
Can you imagine the pain and grief that one would naturally experience under those circumstances.
Peter, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, could not sit idly by and just watch this persecution happen. And he wasn’t in a position to mount a successful civil rights movement. The best Peter could offer would be a word from the Lord to the persecuted saints. Thus, we have 1 Peter.
In reading 1 Peter, you will notice that he directs your attention away from the things happening in the world, and toward the coming Kingdom of God. His words of hope center around the fact that Christians have been redeemed by God, and He is coming to put an end to the suffering and usher in an eternity of peace and prosperity. If you know Jesus as your savior, you will see that day, regardless of what happens here. If you die, Christ will resurrect you from the dead so that you will see that day.
In chapter 1, Peter reminds us of how God chose us for this redemption, and how He purchased this salvation through Christ dying on the cross. He then encourages us to stay faithful and to trust the Lord even through those hard times. In Chapter 2, he points out how Christ suffered for us, pointing out that God isn’t allowing us to go through anything He Himself hasn’t endured.
There are no magic words to make the pain go away. What scripture does accomplish is reminding us of what God has done for us, giving us a purpose for our experience, and encouraging us to make a difference in the world around us.
If you would like to know more, join us for Bible study Wednesdays at 6 p.m. at our office at the Early Chamber of Commerce, 104 E Industrial Dr., Early, TX 76802. If you’re unable to make it, consider reading 1 Peter on your own. It would make a good devotional for those experiencing hard times.
When we pray to God to work out situations in life, often we wish that He would just wave a magic wand and fix things for us. Sometimes He does. Other times, He calls us to be part of the solution. That’s when things get daunting, just as they were for Moses when God called him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.
It’s hard to think about the suffering that is happening on the Gulf Coast right now. Whether you see images of the devastation in the Corpus Christi area, or the flooding of the Houston-Galveston area, your heart goes out to those who have been impacted by Harvey, a category 4 hurricane turned tropical storm which is currently unleashing torrential rainfall and flooding on Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana.
Looking at the devastation, hopelessness, resiliency and community recovery efforts, we can be moved to want to help. Helping those in need is a natural desire, and is actually commanded in scripture. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some scriptural tips to offering aid to the Texas coast.
Galatians 6:10 tells us, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”
This verse tells us three things about helping.
As you have opportunity, do good unto all men.
We all want to help. Many of us would be on the Texas coast right now helping clear debris, handing out supplies, and comforting those who mourn. The problem is that not all of us have the opportunity to do that. If you have opportunity to go down to the coast, please do. However, before you go, check ahead with relief organizations to see where you would best be able to serve. To find out where, contact your local Red Cross, Salvation Army, non-profit organizations, and churches. If you need additional information, check out the Texas Tribune’s story on how to help.
If you don’t have the opportunity to go to the coast, you can donate money to a number of qualified non-profit organizations listed with the Texas Tribune.
Other opportunities include donating food, water and cleaning supplies. This can be done through a local supply drive. Many communities are hosting those supply drives, chances are there’s one near you.
The scripture goes on to say, do good unto all men.
This is the Biblical mandate to engage in benevolent efforts. So, by all means, find a way to help, and do so. You’ll not only please the Lord in doing so, but you’ll stand out as a great representative for the Lord in doing so.
And lastly, the scripture says “especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”
There is nothing wrong with sending support through, and to, your denomination’s offices affected by the storm, and sister churches in the area which have either been hit by the storm, or are doing their best to help those who have. Feel free to direct support to your brothers and sisters in Christ who are along the coast. This doesn’t mean to help them exclusively, but show support for your brothers and sisters who have been impacted by this storm.
May God bless you as you endeavor to help others and serve Him in the process.
What’s the point of rebuilding when you’ve already lost everything?
That’s a question the prophet Zechariah likely faced on a daily basis as he continually encouraged the people of Israel to rebuild Jerusalem and, more importantly, the Temple. As one of the first Israelites to return to Jerusalem after the Babylonian Captivity, Zechariah saw first hand the devastation that was left after the Babylonian conquest.
The rubble, the wreckage, and the devastation must have been an extremely disheartening sight for those returning home for the first time in 70 years. Zechariah’s prophecy taught the Israelites that reconstruction was more than a matter of national pride. The Israelites needed to rebuild to set the stage for the coming of the LORD.
In Zechariah 13, Zechariah told the Israelites about the coming of the LORD.
- In the day of the Lord, the false prophets would be shamed.
- In the day of the Lord, we will see Jesus.
- The day of the Lord is coming because of what Christ accomplished on the cross.
False prophets, false teachers and unGodly activists will one day be ashamed of their words and works. Zechariah 13:2 says:
And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered: and also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land.
Imagine a life without crime, social unrest, drug abuse, illness and temptation. That’s what the world will look like after Christ returns and cleanses the land of idols, false prophets and unclean spirits.
When Christ returns, He will cleans the world of evil. When that happens, we will no longer be troubled.
Those who taught false doctrine, who spoke against Christ, and who promoted unGodliness will be ashamed of their words and their works, for they shall be their condemnation. Zechariah 13:4 says:
And it shall come to pass in that day, that the prophets shall be ashamed every one of his vision, when he hath prophesied; neither shall they wear a rough garment to deceive:
Knowing the false prophets will be judged, do not allow yourself to be deceived.
The day is coming when we shall see the Lord. Zechariah 13:6 says:
And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.
The One with the wounded hands in this verse is Christ. He appears in Zechariah 12:10, where the people “look upon Me whom they pierced,” and mourn. That mourning sets of a series of events in the latter part of Zechariah 12 and in early Zechariah 13 where the people regret their sin, mourn the lost fellowship with God, and then prosecute the false prophets who taught them to betray God.
Zechariah 13:6 turns the attention from what’s happening with the false prophets to the Lord. The scars in the hands of the Lord remind us of the betrayal of Christ, and how He turned that betrayal into our redemption.
In verse 6, He says he received those wounds in the house of his friends. Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem just as Zechariah had predicted in chapter 9, verse 9. That was Jerusalem’s moment, but they betrayed the Lord and turned Him over to the Romans to be crucified. However, it was on that cross that Jesus endured God’s wrath on our behalf, and purchased our salvation.
Those wounds remind us of the cost of our salvation, and the love of the Lord for us in that He paid that price on our behalf.
We will see those scars again, because Christ will return. When He returns, it will be a physical, visible return. We will see Jesus again, and when we do, our faith will be validated.
The day of the Lord is coming. Are you prepared?
When Moses approached the burning bush, God called out to him from the midst of the bush, telling him to take off his shoes for he was standing on holy ground.
At that point, Moses met the God he had trusted since childhood. All throughout Exodus 3, Moses sees the attributes of God on full display.
First, Moses saw the awesomeness of God, as He appeared in a burning bush that was not being consumed by the fire.
Secondly, he saw the life of God, as God described Himself as the eternal “I AM” who was still the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as they had entered eternity with him after passing on this Earth.
Thirdly, he saw God’s deliverance, as God told Moses that He had come down to deliver His people from the bondage of Egypt.
Lastly, he received God’s call, as God directed Moses to be the one to lead the people out of Egypt.
From this, we learn that God is to be revered, that He is the source of our life (both eternal, and Earthly), that God delivers His people and responds to their prayers, and that God works through His people to accomplish His mission.
Want more? Check out the above-posted podcast.
Faith is not something you possess, neither is it something you express. Faith is a deep-rooted trust or belief that drives you to action. Period.
Hebrews 11 explains faith by demonstrating how it propelled the Old Testament heroes, like Moses, to do great things.
The Bible tells us in Hebrews 11:23-26
By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment. By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.
The life of Moses was driven by faith. It was driven by the faith of his mother, his own faith, and God rewarded that faith.
Exodus 2 shows us this faith in that it recorded how Moses’ mother was moved by faith to save his life, thus directly disobeying an evil law given by an unGodly king. Moses was moved by faith to identify with His people instead of enjoying the life of luxury in the King’s palace. And God rewarded that faith by using Moses to bring the Israelites out of slavery.
Hebrews 11:23 says, By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment.”
Now obviously, Moses’ birth was not a demonstration of his faith. No, the faith that was demonstrated in Moses’ birth was on the part of his parents. They, by faith, rejected the king’s commandment to kill all the male babies born, and hid him as long as they could. Then, they expressed faith in placing him in a box in the reeds by the Nile, where he would be discovered by Pharaoh’s daughter. Pharaoh’s daughter then hired Moses’ biological mother to nurse him, which gave her an additional five years with her son.
As Moses’ mother nursed him and raised him, it is very likely she taught him about the Lord and the promise that the Hebrews would be delivered by God out of Egypt. This must have happened, because when he was grown, he went down to check on the Hebrews. The only reason he would have done this would have been that his heart was with them. The only reason his heart would have been with them is that his mother and father would have taught them about the Lord.
As Moses went down to see the plight of the Hebrews, he observed an Egyptian assaulting a Hebrew man. Moses defended the Hebrew and killed the Egyptian. Hebrews 11:24-26 tell us when this happened, Moses made a big decision:
By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.
Moses faith drove him to identify with the Hebrews, take up their cause, to turn his back on Pharaoh’s house, and ultimately to flee Egypt. He did this because he valued the things of God more than the things of man.
The rest of the story is captured in the Old Testament book of Exodus.
What we learn from Exodus 2 is simple. Our faith will be reflected in our actions. If we have faith, we will follow God’s word above man’s, we will value the things of God above the things of this world, and when push comes to shove, we will side with God.
Choosing God vs. the world is a daily choice. Every day, we choose whether we will follow God and represent Him, or whether we will pursue the pleasures of the flesh. Highlight that choice in your mind, then decide accordingly.
In ancient times, Egypt was the world’s lone super power. The Egyptians were architectural geniuses, having built the pyramids, the sphinx, and massive cities. Their architecture still captures our imaginations today, as many adventure movies and novels center around the pyramids and their ancient wonders.
Egypt was also good at agriculture, perfecting the cultivation and harvesting of grain while being fed by the Nile river.
The Egyptians also boasted the world’s most powerful military at the time.
This superpower enjoyed peace and prosperity for centuries, but that all came to an end under the rule of one evil, foolish Pharaoh.
In Exodus 1, we’re told that a new king arose which new not Joseph, the Israelite who warned a previous Pharaoh about a terrible famine, and thus not only saved Egypt, but solidified its place as the world’s lone superpower.
When this Pharaoh saw the Israelites in Egypt, he didn’t see a people who had played a part in his nation’s rise to power, he saw a national security threat. The Bible tells us in Exodus 5:2 that this same Pharaoh didn’t know God, and didn’t care to know God.
As a result, Pharaoh began persecuting the Israelites, God’s chosen people, and that drew God’s attention. The fallout from this would involve God pouring out plagues on Egypt, and destroying that nation as the Israelites left in mass exodus.
From this, we learn that sin, evil, and destructive tendencies are born out of a rejection against God.
Born the son of his old age, Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his brethren. He gave Joseph leadership roles within the family, made him a fine, multi-colored coat, and had the young man check in on his brothers who worked in the field.
Joseph dreamed dreams that indicated that God would one day set him in a prominent role, not only in the family, but also the world.
His brothers tired of his dreams, and his reporting their bad behavior, so one day, the threw him in a hole before selling him to slave traders. They covered their crime by tearing his coat and dipping it in animal blood to make it look like Joseph had been killed by a wild animal.
As a slave, Joseph was taken to Egypt and sold to a high-ranking nobleman by the name of Potiphar.
At this point, the Bible tells us one key detail about Joseph, that the Lord was with him. In fact, the Lord was with him to the point that he prospered every thing that he did, and Potiphar saw that. Therefore, Potiphar made him the manager of his entire estate.
Things went well until Potiphar’s wife, angry that Joseph had rejected her advances, falsely accused him of trying to assault her. Joseph was then thrown into prison.
Yet, despite his circumstances, God was still with Joseph, to the point that even the Egyptian jailer could see it. Therefore, Joseph was placed in charge of all the other inmates.
While serving as jail trustee, Joseph interpreted dreams by two inmates, one the former butler of Pharaoh, the other, Pharaoh’s former baker. The dreams foretold that the butler would be restored to Pharaoh’s house, but the baker would be executed.
That prophecy came true, which led to Joseph being invited to Pharaoh’s palace to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams, which foretold of a coming famine. Having interpreted Pharaoh’s dream, Joseph was placed in charge of the entire Egyptian nation, and led the Egyptians through the worst famine in their history, and was able to save his own brothers (who had sold him into slavery) as well as his father from starvation.
Joseph’s story, chronicled in Genesis 37-50, tells us how God uses even the worst of situations to our benefit, and how He plans our lives in the process.
Looking at Joseph’s story early on, his dreams involving his brothers’ sheaves of grain bowing to his sheaf not only indicates that he would become the family’s leader, but also that he would provide his family with sustenance. The sheaves of grain very likely pointed to the fact that it would be a lack of grain that would not only propel Joseph to his position of leadership, but also create the situation where he saves his brothers by providing grain for them.
The dream about the sun, moon and stars bowing to him showed that his prominence would even rise above that of his parents, possibly to the point of global prominence. That eventually happened when he became ruler of Egypt.
In order for all that to happen, Joseph would have to go to Egypt. When his brothers sold him into slavery, God used that to place Joseph where he would need to be in order to save his family and become their patriarch.
One final note from the life of Joseph, when his brothers came to Egypt, after a quick test to check their character, Joseph forgave and reconciled with them. There’s a lesson we can all learn from that example. Check out the above-posted “Point” podcast, and feel free to come visit with us Sunday.