Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Hebrews 5 part 2

There are several words in the New Testament that are translated "obey." One word simply means to obey. One word means to submit to those in authority. One word means to "listen to" or "listen under." It is used of the winds and waves in Matthew 8:27 and Mark 4:41. When Jesus speaks the wind and waves listen. In Mark 1:27 the unclean spirits listen when Jesus speaks. In Ephesians 6:1 children are to listen to their parents, and in Colossians 3:22 slaves are to listen to their masters. In 2 Thessalonians 3:14 the Thessalonians are to listen to these words penned by Paul. In 2 Thessalonians 1:5 they are to listen to the gospel.


In Hebrews 5 we find this last use of the word. It literally means to "listen under." It is the idea of placing yourself under what you are hearing. In Hebrews 5:8 Jesus "learned obedience through what he suffered." The word learned carries the idea of learning by experiencing. By experiencing suffering Jesus learned to bring himself under what he was hearing from the Father. Having learned by experience to listen to the Father he becomes the source of eternal salvation to those who listen to him.


This raises a significant question: What does it mean to listen to or obey him in this verse? This passage cannot be separated from the priesthood of Jesus nor from the discussion of Sabbath Rest in the previous chapter. We can draw near to the throne of grace and find mercy and grace because Jesus is our high priest. It is in mercy and grace that we find rest. Jesus was appointed as our high priest. He suffered all the way to the cross even though he could have been delivered. To obey then does not carry the idea of keeping God's rules. Rather it is about bringing ourselves under what he has told us. What he told us was that the disobedience of the Jews in the wilderness resulted from unbelief. What he told us was to fear lest we fail to enter his rest. What he told us was to strive to enter his rest. What he told us was to come confidently before the throne of grace to find mercy and grace. What does it mean in this passage to obey? It means to come confidently to the throne of grace believing that we will receive mercy and grace. It means to trust Jesus just as he trusted the Father in the midst of suffering.


Jesus' Gethsemane prayer, "Not my will, but yours be done," demonstrated that he trusted the Father. Similarly we are sometimes called to suffer. We are sometimes faced with uncomfortable situations. We are sometimes called to experiences we would rather run from. We are even tempted to ask the questions: Where is God? Has he abandoned me? Is he not real? But we can trust him. In our darkest hours we remember that Jesus chose and was appointed to go through the "valley of the shadow of death" for us. Because of that he understands our weaknesses. He identifies with our pain. He is nearest to us when we have the most difficulty sensing his presence. He offers grace and mercy in time of need. We can trust him.


Father, forgive me for my unbelief. Forgive me for constantly defaulting to the idea that a relationship with you is somehow dependent on me. Today may I rest in your grace and trust you in the darkness.


By His grace,

Rick Weinert

Hebrews 5 part 1

Hebrews 5:11 (ESV)

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.

The last four verses of Hebrews 5 list four contrasts. The Hebrew believers:

  • Are dull of hearing (vs 11) rather than able to distinguish good from evil (vs 14)

  • Ought to be teachers, but need to be taught (vs 12)

  • Need milk, not solid food (vs 12)

  • Are unskilled, not trained in powers of discernment (vss 13-14)


This raises several questions: Why are they unskilled? What contributed to their immaturity? What needs to change? How does one move from being unskilled to skilled, dull of hearing to discerning, milk drinkers to meat eaters? None of these questions are directly answered. In fact, the author of Hebrews simply says, "Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God." (Hebrews 6:1) He is essentially saying, "I'm going to feed you meat anyway, whether you are ready for it or not.


The bigger question behind this passage is: What does it have to do with the High Priesthood of Jesus? Chapter 5 flows out of the end of chapter 4, "We have a great High Priest … Jesus, the Son of God." It is followed in chapter 7 by a discussion of the Melchizedekian priesthood to which Jesus belongs. These verses at the end of chapter 5 and into chapter 6 become a parenthetical statement of warning. They should challenge us to ask two questions of ourselves:

  1. Am I dull of hearing when it comes to these things?

  2. Do I really understand the significance of having Jesus as my High Priest?

These are questions for us to humbly and prayerfully consider as we move into Hebrews 5.


By His grace,

Rick Weinert

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

More thoughts on Hebrews 4

Hebrews 4:14 (ESV)

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.

Hebrews 3 and 4 are a single unit of thought. Chapter 3 begins with a challenge to "consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession." Chapter 4 ends with the challenge to hold fast our confession because Jesus is our "great high priest." This raises the question: How do we hold fast our confession? The answer is tied right back to Jesus.


Faithfulness in holding fast our confession is not about working harder. In fact, Hebrews 4:10 reminds us that, "whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his." The challenge in these two chapters takes the form of a warning, but they are not a challenge to double down on our commitment and give it all we've got. Rather, they are a challenge to let go and trust. "Strive to enter that rest," Hebrews 4:11 tells us. The word "strive" means to hurry toward or fervently act. We are told then to move quickly to enter God's rest. Don't hesitate. Don't wait. But, again we come back to the question: How?


Chapter 4 ends with these reminders which may help us answer the "how" questions:

  1. God's word judges, decides or discerns the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. (Heb 4:12)

Notice that it does not say, "God's word reveals the commands we must obey. They may be true, but that is not the point here. The point is that rest has to do with thoughts and intentions, not external submission and obedience. Perhaps that is why Romans 12 reminds us that transformation begins with renewing the mind, not with hard work and deep commitment. All real, substantive change must begin with our fundamental beliefs. Lies are at the root of sin, truth is the foundation for holiness.

  1. God sees everything and everyone will ultimately answer to him. (Heb 4:13)

Remember Jesus warning to the Pharisees in Matthew 7:22 (ESV)

On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'

How could they be "workers of lawlessness" if they were casting out demons in his name and doing mighty works in his name? The answer lies in understanding that God is not primarily interested in actions, but in hearts. How and why we do something is more important to God than what we do. Do an "act of love" out of coercion, fear, envy or resentment and it is not an act of love in the eyes of God. When Hebrews says that everything is exposed to God's eyes it is reminding us that God sees not only what we do, but how and why we do it. God sees the heart.

  1. We have a high priest who understands our weaknesses. Therefore, we can confidently "draw near to the throne of grace. (Heb 4:14-16)

Rest begins at the foot of God's "throne of grace." It begins with recognizing our own weaknesses, accepting the reality that Jesus already knows and understands those weaknesses, and falling on our faces at the foot of his throne fully expecting grace, not condemnation.


So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God (Hebrews 4:9) May we fervently run to the throne of grace and find rest.


By His grace,

Rick Weinert

Hebrews 4

Hebrews 4:1 (ESV)

[1] Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it.


 Hebrews 4 is an application chapter. It begins with the word "therefore," necessarily connecting it to the argument preceding it. Chapters 1-3 build up to chapter 4. Notice the significant application words throughout this chapter:

  • "therefore" – verse 1

  • "for" – verses 2, 3, 4

  • "since therefore" – verse 6

  • "for" – verse 8

  • "since then" – verse 9

  • "for" – verse 10

  • "let us therefore" – verse 11

  • "for" – verse 12

  • "since then" – verse 14

  • "for" – verse 15

  • "let us then" – verse 16

 This is clearly a chapter of action, but what action is being called for?


 As we wrestle with this chapter we need to think through four questions:

  1. What does it mean to enter God's rest?

  2. What is the connection between entering God's rest and the power of God's word?

  3. What is the connection between entering God's rest, the power of God's word and the priesthood of Jesus?

  4. What is the connection between entering God's rest and drawing near to the throne of grace with confidence?


 Father, teach us what it means to enter your rest.


 By His grace,

 Rick Weinert

Reflections on Psalms 77-78

Psalms 77:7 (ESV) [7] “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable?   The first nine verses of this psalm express abso...