Exact Means Exact

And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, – Hebrews 1:3 

I said yesterday that most days this is my favorite verse in all of scripture. But why?

In just eight words, the writer gives me a Christology, an understanding of Jesus. It covers my core theological belief. Clear up the pronouns and this is what you get: Jesus is the exact representation of God’s nature.

Jesus is God’s will.

Look at Jesus and see God’s heart for every situation imaginable.

Much time is wasted either trying to find God’s will or assigning random life or natural events to the will of God. But there is a really simple test. Compare it to Jesus.

Do what?

I’m glad you asked.

(Heard from a pew a few rows back…hypotheically of course)

My something-in-law just lost her battle with cancer. I’m so glad to know God’s in control and this was according to His plan. She learned so much from this ordeal and so did I.

Really?

Warning – the following paragraph might make you mad. Please forgive me.

God, in control, gave your something-in-law cancer so that she could learn some stuff and then die and go to heaven? Aside from the obvious question that pops into my mind, (Why not kill her up front and teach her in person?) when did God’s express image ever do such a thing?

When the disciples said to Jesus, “Teach us to pray,” Jesus gave them a prayer, not a tumor. He could have said–“Here’s some cancer–you’ll sure pray now.” NO! Not Jesus. That’s not the way Jesus did things, and therefore CANNOT be the way God does things.

If you have a God who kills, steals and destroys, you are worshipping the wrong guy. The thief comes to do all that–never the Good Shepherd.

Here’s another one. The insurance company won’t pay a claim on a home ruined by a tornado. They call it an act of God. (Maybe they don’t use that phrase anymore, but we still think that way.) When Jesus told the storm to shut-up out on the lake, was He undermining the will of God?

It kind of makes that “God is in control” thing a little fuzzy.

lightning and tornado hitting village
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Don’t get me wrong. I believe that God is in control of the story arc of history. I don’t think man or devil could have stopped Jesus from walking that road to the cross.

But are there things in our lives that Jesus would have put a stop to, if He were here, that you just let ride?

News flash–He is here! Moreover, He gave you the power, the authority and the example to deal with the thing yourself.

This is a big deal.

Circumstances and conditions oppress many in the body of Christ. This misunderstanding about God’s will ransacks the church. It affects all aspects of our lives. Sickness and disease rob us of so many loved ones. Poverty and lack keep us from walking in generosity like our Father, the giver of all good gifts. Guilt and shame hold us back from sharing our faith and preaching the good news. In fact, our misconceptions about what God is like makes it hard for us to believe it really is good news. So we remain silent, trapped in religion, with no concept of a New Covenant that is frankly, better than the Garden of Eden.

OK – enough for one day. The New Covenant is one of our main themes for Hebrews, so we’ll have time to dig in deeper in future days.

I’ll be back soon with more, and I’ll still be in verses 3 so don’t turn the page just yet.

BTW–I tagged this post with a little geek speak if you’re interested. (See below)

cropped-BenHeadshotBlessings

See you soon.

Ben

If you’ve missed anything – check out the Hebrews page to get caught up.

Geek Speak:

I wanted to tackle the Greek word for exact today. You know how preachers do that “In the Greek, all means all” or “always means always” or “whosoever…”

So I was going to pull one of those, (see post title) but imagine my surprise when I found that exact is not a separate Greek word in this text. In English, it’s an adjective telling us what kind of representation. But in Greek, one word (charaktēr) translates to “exact representation” or “express image” as it says in the KJV.

Jesus is the charaktēr of the Father.

Interesting…

Ok – done geeking for the moment.

Enter Jesus

in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. – Hebrews 1:2 NASB

In His consummate wisdom, and as part of His eternal plan, the Lord decided to dress His Word–His Will–in flesh.

Let’s break it down:

These last days

I hear it said a lot of late, we are in the last days. Jesus must be returning soon.

That’s what they said during the cold war.
When I was in High School we used to sing, The King is Coming.
That’s what they said during WWII.
Hey, they called the war before that one, the war to end all wars.
What about when China closed it’s doors and started killing Christians?
It goes all the way back to Nero using Christians as lampposts.

That’s right! These are the last days and Jesus is coming soon. This truth endures and demonstrates what a long-suffering Father we have. (2 Peter 3:9)

In this sentence-fragment-verse, He tells us three things about this “last days” expression of His Word.

1 – His Word is His Son. This tells us (and we will elaborate on this more tomorrow) His Word is the expression of His nature.

2 – His Son stands as the designated heir to all that God is and has. Nothing has been held back from the Son.

Remember the story of the father who had two sons. One son demanded his half of his father’s wealth right away. We know he went and squandered it. When he returned the party was on. But the other son, we are told, asked his father, why no fatted calf, why no robes and rings. What did the father answer?

And he said to him, ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours.Luke 15:31

Back to Hebrews: That’s what the Father has told His only begotten Son.

Ponder that for a second. “Heir of all things” can get lost in the fog of religious jargon. But just think for a second about this phrase–“all that is mine is yours.”


Scene-

black and white production scene take tool
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You’re standing in front of a grand palace. The king comes and stands beside you. He puts his right hand on your shoulder and says, “all that is mine is yours.” You begin to protest, but he takes the signate ring off his finger and places it on yours. As you struggle to take it off and give it back, he’s wrapping his royal robe around your shoulders.

Then he takes all the badges of his military honors–a dozen or more pins, stars, ribbons, and the like and pins them to your chest. Again you protest. “I didn’t earn a single one of these,” you say, trying to resist.

He says again, “all that is mine is yours.”

Cut–end scene


Ok – I know we’re talking about Jesus and I put you in the hot seat. I wanted you to feel the honor bestowed upon Jesus. I wanted you to understand that it’s not just what God owns that He passes on to Jesus, but it is everything He is. All the glory, all the holiness, all the righteousness, all the honor, all the worth, all belong to Jesus.

But then, right on the other hand, do we belong in the scene? Isn’t that what Paul’s talking about in Romans 8?

and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. – Romans 8:17

It’s staggering.

But again, today we’re talking about Jesus, so let’s not get all up in His glory.

3 – His Son is eternal. The Word God spoke in creation was Jesus. It’s really amazing when you start thinking about it.

God spoke all things into being. And those words were Jesus.

I love this verse from Jerimiah:

Then the LORD said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over My word to perform it.” – Jeremiah 1:12

When God sends His Word–Jesus is that word. Jesus is the performance of the will of God. God’s will made flesh.

He sent His word and healed them, And delivered them from their destructions. – Psalm 107:20

And who was that word? Jesus.

God spoke to us in His Son.

There’s one more thing we need to notice today.

The Contrast

For all those centuries God spoke through prophets, but NOW He spoke through Jesus.

Why change tactics after centuries? The writer will get to that. He’s going to prove that without a doubt Jesus is superior to the word spoken through the prophets.

But–but–isn’t it all God’s word? Isn’t it all equal? Isn’t it all Jesus?

Well–yes and no. Let’s not get lost in the weeds yet.

Our next installment is going to be awesome! It’s basically my favorite verse in the whole book (most days.)

cropped-BenHeadshotDon’t miss it.

Shine on.

Ben

If you’ve missed anything – check out the Hebrews page to get caught up.

After The Beginning

OK – here we go:

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, – Hebrews 1:1 NASB

As I mentioned yesterday, the epistle, or letter, to the Hebrews is somewhat unique in that it doesn’t include any opening statements. Not a “To” or a “From,” nor a ‘the servant of Jesus Christ’ or a ‘by the grace of God.’

This book starts right in, not unlike Genesis and John. They both have their “In the beginning…” beginnings. Hebrews starts as though it’s opening a sequel to one of those “In the beginning…” books. It’s a sort of “Next, after a couple millennia…” launch.

What He’s got in store for us is a new beginning.

The writer spends a lot of time building contrasts, old with new, lesser with greater, weaker with more powerful.

But before we get there, let’s notice a couple keywords in this first verse.

God spoke.

Hallelujah!

This is a BIG deal. The voice of God, the Word of God is the most powerful force in the universe. Did I say force–that’s not right either. God’s Word is not a force, it’s a person. God’s Word is the embodiment of God. It is, in the end, the only tangible revelation we have of Him.

He reveals himself through nature, through all creation, but all that pales with one look at Jesus. More on that tomorrow.

Many, many…

Not only did God speak, but He spoke in many portions and in many ways. That’s two manys! God spoke many, many.

He spoke to the fathers–the fathers of our faith. We’ll be introduced throughout the book to many faith fathers.

Abraham
Moses
Enoch
Noah
And lots more…

He spoke in “many portions.” The Old Testament, based on our canon of scripture, has thirty-nine books, each one inspired by God. The Spirit breathed on men of old, and they recorded His words. These “long ago” words spanned thousands of years, hundreds of generations and dozens of human authors.

After

What about that after? Something changed! God created, and it was very good. God delivered His people from slavery. God gave the law, a stone reminder of His own character. God spoke through His servants the prophets over and over, many and many. But all this fell short.

What now? What came after? Well–I think you know–but come back next time and well get to see the “Enter Jesus” moment.

cropped-BenHeadshotThanks for stopping in.

Read on!

Ben

 

If you’ve missed anything – check out the Hebrews page to get caught up.

Hebrews – Our First Date

Today, I’m going to share what I have read about the book of Hebrews. I have no personal scholarship in these matters. Yet it seems fitting to share some of the who, when and where before we begin.

Author

As to the author, pretty much nobody knows for sure. Most of the New Testament letters start with a ‘from’ verse right at the top, and some, a sign off at the end. Not so with this letter. It jumps right in.

Some translations and editions of the Bible put Paul in the title of the book, (The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews) but it’s not so in the original.

I’m cool with ambiguous if you are.

Time

Some say it was written as early as the 60s AD, others as late as the 90s. The argument for the mid 60s makes sense to me since the author doesn’t talk about the destruction of the temple. That would be a significant event in light of the topic at hand.

Audience

Hebrews…Most likely written to people with a Jewish background, who would know the Old Testament. However, as I understand it, most of the Old Testament quotes come from the Septuagint. The Septuagint is a Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures written during the silent years between the writing of the Old and New Testaments.

What does that mean? I don’t know. Maybe it speaks to the authorship, maybe to the identity of the readers. But it does clear one thing up. It explains why some of the quotes from the OT don’t match exactly.

The author heavily quotes the OT. In Ryrie’s introduction to the book, he says there are 29 direct quotes and 53 clear allusions to other passages.

Theme

When you boil it down to pure essence the letter tells us Jesus is the best. Moreover, it makes no bones about the fact that the new covenant completely replaced the old, and stands head and shoulders above it in every way.

This is one of the reasons I want to camp here for a while. The new covenant with its ‘in’ rather than ‘on’ or ‘near,’ is thrilling to my heart. The author brings a case against the old and presents the new in wonderful detail.

(I gleaned most of this information from the introduction to the book of Hebrews in The Ryrie Study Bible, copyright 1976, 1978 – Moody Bible Institute of Chicago.)

Tomorrow we’ll jump into the text in earnest.

cropped-BenHeadshotThanks for coming by.

Come back soon.

Ben

 

If you’ve missed anything – check out the Hebrews page to get caught up.

Coming Soon…

I have a request. (It’s down near the bottom, the rest is a fuzzy plan for my next few months.)

Hebrews-name

I’ve been pressing into the book of Hebrews. It’s one of those books of the Bible that holds some mystery for me. This time through, I wanted to be able to put it together in one package in my mind. I hoped, by the time I got to the end, I would have a clean narrative in my heart and mind for the book.

I’m getting close.

But I realize that I am a verbal processor. I’ve been writing with pen and paper and filling my notebook with quotes, reinterpretations, ideas, and questions. I know this about myself, though. I learn best when I’m teaching.

My plan is to get back to a nearly daily blogging habit and walk through the book verse by verse. This is mostly for me, but you’re invited to listen in.

Some posts will cover a chunk and others times, it will probably take me days to process one verse.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Be warned, there will be rabbits to chase.

Another fair warning, I’m not a scholar and anything I know about original languages comes from books (good ones) and preachers, pastors and real scholars (some good and some–well–never mind that.)

This will take months, and I promise, there will be things I say that are dead wrong, other things that will make you mad, or make you scratch your head.

Here’s the request.

Talk to me. Give me your feedback. Agree–or–Disagree. Share the good ones with friends. Teach me if I’m missing it. Learn with me if I get it right.

Most of the posts will not be long reads. I’m going for bitesize pieces.

There will be some longer posts. Sometimes I just can’t help myself.

In the end, I expect we will get a good dose of Jesus, and a fresh look at the New Covenant.

I’ll be starting soon, so keep your eye’s peeled.

cropped-BenHeadshotThanks for coming by,

Be good soil.

Ben

Today Means Today

I’ve been Sunday driving through Hebrews lately. And as I drive slowly past 4:12, I pulled over and took a walk around the neighborhood.

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. – Hebrews 4:12 NASB

This is one of those verses we use all the time to talk about the power of the Bible, and that’s appropriate. But if you pull over and look at its surroundings, it becomes clear that’s not all it’s talking about.

Chapters 3 and 4 of Hebrews reference back to what we call the Old Testament or the Hebrew scriptures.

[This next bit is a rabbit trail. Feel free to jump down to the next bracket.]

I get a kick out of how the writer references the scriptures. Of course, I realize he didn’t have his own copy of the scriptures. He would have to go to a synagog, or the temple to hear it read, or possibly read it Himself.

In 3:7 he says “The Holy Spirit says….” But my favorite is in 4:4 the writer uses, “For He has also said somewhere….” The ‘He’ in this verse is God and the somewhere is His word.

So, those of us who are scripture address nerds need to get over it. It wasn’t written in chapter and verse. The writer of the book of Hebrews (the authorship remains uncertain 2,000 years later) is perfectly fine with vague references. So I’m determined to get over it when people can’t pinpoint a reference.

[Ok – back to the point.]

The scriptures he’s referencing here are about God’s cry to His people, “Today, harden not your heart.” He talks about how the call went out in Moses’ time and David reiterated it hundreds of years later. Then he draws this conclusion: If the word for Moses was “Today” and it was still “Today” for David, then it is “Today” today.

And why?

Because (or you could say “For…”)

…the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. – Hebrews 4:12 NASB

You see. The point of the verse is not “the Bible is awesome.” Rather it is saying Today means Today.

So I’ll join with the writer and exhort you.

TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS. – Hebrews 4:7 NASB

cropped-BenHeadshotThanks for stopping by,

Stay tuned…

Ben

Hostility: A Profile

For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; – Romans 8:6-7

Hostile–not exactly a passive kind of word.

What does this hostility–this warfare look like? In what way does my wandering mind take up arms against the lover of my soul?

Try this on for size.

There’s the pile of bills sitting on the dining room table. There’s the checkbook that’s not quite as tall as the stack.

God says “I will supply all your needs according to My riches in glory.” (From Philippians 4:19)

I look at the heap. I look at the balance. I look at the pile–the problemthe circumstancesthe giant and I start looking for a part-time job.

God says “I am your provider.” (From Genesis 22:12)

I pull out the want ads and tell God, I’ve got this covered.

God says (perhaps a bit more emphatically):

For I am the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, I will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. (From  2 Corinthians 9:10-11 NLT slightly tweaked)

My mind set on my own ability to provide militates against my ability to trust God. My flesh based solutions undermine my ability to hear God’s voice.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t take that part-time job. I’m not saying God won’t use your job–your overtime–your next gig–to provide for your needs.

I AM saying that as soon as you look at your own ability as your source, or your employer as your source, your next gig as your source, you’re making war against God’s provision.

A mind set on the flesh doesn’t always look like a porn addiction or an inordinate interest in sports or entertainment. It’s not always related to seeking pleasure or plotting evil.

A mind filled with worry is a mind set on the things of the flesh.

A heart that hoards every last penny for the future rather than stewarding with open hands–yep–mind set on the flesh.

And it’s all hostile toward God. It all fights against God’s will in your life. It closes the door to God. It closes the door to faith. It says, “No Lord.”  As our text in Romans 8 continues:

…because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. – Romans 8:7-8 NASB

The war for ownership (Lordship) of my soul takes place in my mind. Worry, preoccupation, distraction–these are the weapons or my warfare. These are the tools I use to flex my will and drive off the will of God for my life.

I must put down the weapons of my warfare today, and let the Lord Jesus rule. I need to set my mind on things above.

How is it with you?

I hope this helps.

cropped-BenHeadshotThanks for stopping by.

Don’t forget to shine where you’res screwed in.

Ben

Crucible

A quick thought for the day:

The crucible is for silver and the furnace for gold…

I came across this Proverb today, and the simile surprised me.

What do you think Solomon pegged in a person’s life as similar to the crucible or the furnace? What one thing in life tests you, tries your character?

…and each is tested by the praise accorded him. – Proverbs 27:21 NASB

Does that surprise you? I was thinking of some kind of trial or attack from the enemy.

But Solomon learned that accolades and honor test a persons character as well as any trial.

My mom (or Muth, as our family called her) would call after me in the mornings as I left for school or work, “Remember who you are.” Oh, yeah, there was something about my underwear too. I’ve been thinking about “remember who you are” a lot lately. It’s great advice. Don’t think too much of yourself and don’t think too little of yourself.

When you’re tempted to go the wrong way, remember who you are.

When you’re tempted to think of yourself as better than those around you, remember who you are.

I’m not suggesting you’re a nobody.

Far from it.

You’re a child of God by the grace of God.

All you have you received from Him.

All you know barely scratches the surface of what He knows.

So then…

How do we receive praise from others?

Do we lay it all off on Jesus? You know that–Oh, it’s all Jesus–uber-humble nonsense. Let that one go, OK. If it were all Jesus, it would have been way better.

When others praise you, accept it with thanksgiving to them, and thankfulness toward your Father, from whom all blessings flow.

Don’t let it go to your head. It’ll fill up all the space intended for meditating on our awesome Father.

OK – I’m done.

Hey – walk in God’s blessing today.

And by all means…

cropped-BenHeadshotRemember who you are! (and don’t forget to change your underwear)

Love you,

Ben