HEBREWS 4 [The Message]
8-11 And so this is still a live promise. It wasn’t canceled at the time of Joshua; otherwise, God wouldn’t keep renewing the appointment for “today.” The promise of “arrival” and “rest” is still there for God’s people. God himself is at rest. And at the end of the journey we’ll surely rest with God. So let’s keep at it and eventually arrive at the place of rest, not drop out through some sort of disobedience.
12-13 God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God’s Word. We can’t get away from it—no matter what.
14-16 Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.
Lori and were up this morning, having our tea, and eggs, and listening to this passage being read. It was one of those passages that you know you have read or heard read, and heard expounded many times before. I for one had preached on this passage several times, and taught the Book of Hebrews several times in a small group study and adult class. But this was not that kind of intentional book study with all the historical, contextual and grammatical tools on hand to assist in our understanding and application. No, this was not that. This was letting the Spirit use the narrative to speak to us, in this case quite literally, through a person reading this to us.
We were the audience, hearing the voice, and hearing the words as if were were the intended audience. I was hearing this part of the Letter to the Hebrews, as if it was actually intended for me. I don’t always find myself in that position, in that place or “zone”, where I take words like these as if they were directed to me in such a profound and personal way.
I have always had a “soft” spot for verses in this chapter. They have always struck me as been so visual and you can imagine what is spoken if you let the narrative wash over you.
I observed several things.
1. This promise is still very much ‘alive’ and that while God has entered His rest, we can enter into that rest, if we believe. I know that may sound simple enough, but for many it is not that simple. People in all kinds of places are obsessed with striving for God’s favor, failing to realize that salvation, their personal relationship with God, has been firmly established and fully implemented by God Himself, through the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself said, “It is finished!” And… believe it… He actually meant it. The problem is not with God, but with us. Our perception, our understanding, and our beliefs, distorted and confused theologies, miss the fact that the work of the cross is complete. It is finished. There is only, ONLY one thing that you and I contribute to our salvation. And that is our sin. So we are in the only place we can be. We can take God at His word, and come to Him on His terms, and receive the gift of grace and eternal life, that Jesus purchased for us. It is all done. You can trust God. God is resting, and He is offering to us that same rest for our souls.
2. No one is impervious to God’s word. The ‘word of God’ describes the written revelation of God given to us and preserved through the ages in what we now call ‘the Bible’. The ‘Word of God’ is one of the names of Jesus, as the ‘Living Word’, the ‘oracle of God’ who spoke, and speaks, the ‘words of God’ that bring about action. Here it is described as living and active and that it cuts, as one translation says, ‘to the joints and marrow’, which speaks of where our blood is produced in the bone marrow, which sustains our lives. God’s words, contained in the Scriptures, speak the words of life to us, much like the bone marrow produces the blood cells we need to live. We should never take God’s words to us lightly. We ought to comprehend that in the end God will hold each one of us to account. He will look at us and engage with us all with the intention of knowing through our confession, what we have done with His words revealed and spoken to us. God already knows all things. The point is that He wants us to reflect upon and meditate upon the reality presented in and through His words to us, and wants us to confess what is deep in our hearts. As we confess we become transformed through the words of God and through our confession. Confession is more than an admission. It also implies a profession, a calling forth of those things deep within out souls. So, yes I will “confess” my sin, my short comings, but I will also profess my love for Him, and my desire to please Him and live by His words, and I will profess that I will walk by faith and trust and love for Him.
3. Take the mercy and accept the help. Perhaps this is the most difficult thing and yet the most simple and most humbling thing any one of us can do. Jesus has been our sacrifice, who freely offered Himself for us. Jesus is our Great High Priest, who gives us ready access to God. To comprehend fully what this means, to sit here, to reflect on what is read to us, spoken to us, the exhortation to “not let it slip through out fingers”, to not let this precious gift given to us through the obedience of Jesus Christ. Do we even comprehend a fraction of the kind of priest Jesus is? Do we have a clue? This barely blows the dust off the surface and doesn’t even scratch the surface of what depth of vitality and life is in the this whole sacrifice offered by the priest Himself FOR us. Jesus did this for you. For me. As it says, he is a priest who is not “out of touch with OUR reality.” Jesus knows you. Jesus knows me. He knows our world. He knows all the things and aspects of our daily living and existence. There is nothing that He does not know. On a human level, Jesus has been tested through all the same kinds of trials and adversities that we have, yet without sinning. The part that really struck me, is that we are read, we are spoken to, with fervent hope and encouragement, with an exhortation and an invitation to come to Jesus Christ with a boldness and zeal and determination to receive directly from Jesus, what He is already willing to give, no holds barred, without hesitation, the mercy, grace and help that you and I need.
Audio Bible Link: https://www.biblegateway.com/audio/dolan/msg/Heb.4
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A reading of Julian of Norwich’s “All Shall Be Well”.
Short narration of selected lines from chapter 27 of the book by Mother Julian, medieval Christian contemplative: Revelations of Divine Love, the earliest known book in English written by a woman. These words are from the oldest Chaucerian-style manuscript.
The musical backing is the hauntingly lovely, rare middle 8 from the full length version of the Moody Blues song Isn’t Life Strange, played by the magnificent Moody’s Mellotron master maestro Mr Mike Pinder.
Music : “Isn’t Life Strange” by The Moody Blues
NOTE: Revelations of Divine Love can be downloaded here: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/julian/revelations.html