posted on Feb, 10 2017 @ 05:02 PM
The epistle to the Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians, perhaps to a specific Jewish church.
The message of the letter is that Christ has brought “completeness”.
That is, God is making available, through him, a much greater and more decisive revelation than anything they have received from him previously
The writer’s motive appears to be an anxiety that his readers may be in danger of losing their commitment to Christian teaching and relapsing into
Of course this resembles the problem which Paul was tackling in writing to the Galatians.
Not surprisingly, we can see him using much the same kind of approach.
When he calls them “children” and complains that they have become “dull of hearing” (ch5 vv11-14), that is the equivalent of “Foolish
Galatians, who has bewitched you?” (Galatians ch3 v1).
When he gives them the severe warning that those who apostatize effectively re-crucify the Son of God (ch6 v6), that is the equivalent of “You are
severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace” (Galatians ch5 v4).
When he switches to a more encouraging tone, as in “Yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things that belong to salvation” (ch6 v9),
that is the equivalent of Paul’s more personal appeal, beginning “Brethren, I beseech you, become as I am” (Galatians ch4 v12).
And he also, like Paul, claims for the church the blessing which God promised to Abraham.
Paul focussed on the promise of Genesis ch15, which was made just after the Lord had called himself “your shield”.
This writer brings in the further promise made in Genesis ch22, just after the non-sacrifice of Isaac.
The significance of the later promise is that it was re-enforced with an oath;
“For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no-one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself” (ch6 v13).
In human relations, an oath was thought to be more binding than an ordinary promise.
A man would “swear by” his god, or some other power greater than himself, and the understanding was that this power would hold him to the oath and
punish him if he broke it.
So the oath made the promise more dependable, which increased the confidence of the person receiving it.
In Greek literature, gods might swear by the River Styx, in the absence of any other “greater power”.
Strictly speaking, of course, there is nothing greater than a true God.
So if God wanted to swear, he could not swear in any other way but “by myself”.
Therefore that is what he did when he wanted to show his unchangeable purpose “more convincingly”.
Thus we can find encouragement “through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible that God should be proved false” (vv17-18)
The other “unchangeable thing” can only the first promise, the “shield” promise which Paul quotes.
The writer seems to assume that his readers will recognise the allusion even if he does not quote the reference himself.
In other words, I think, he takes it for granted that they know the argument of Galatians.
The moral is that we should follow Abraham’s example.
He received the promise with trust and patience.
Therefore once he had “patiently endured”, he received what he had been promised.
We are people who have “fled for refuge” (v18).
“From the wrath of God’s judgement” should be understood here, remembering the rhetorical question which was posed in a previous chapter;
“How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” (ch2 v3)
This ought to remind us of the Old Testament image of the fugitive claiming refuge from justice by seizing hold of God’s altar.
Since we have received, through Abraham, the doubly unbreakable promise of God, that should encourage us to “seize hold” of the hope that he sets
There is nothing diffident and uncertain about the New Testament understanding of “hope”. Hope is simply Faith as applied to the future.
The culture of the Sixties gave us the remarkable mixed metaphor of “We’re on our way to freedom, we shall not be moved”.
The absolutely immobile image of “the tree that’s standing by the waterside” was somehow combined with belief in travelling on a journey.
We get the same thing here.
On the one hand, our hope is like a “sure and steadfast anchor”, which prevents us “drifting away” from Christ.
On the other hand, hope itself moves beyond the altar into the inner shrine behind the curtain.
This hope is represented by Jesus, who has made the same journey on our behalf, as our fore-runner, and therefore, in a sense, carries us along with
He does this in his capacity as High Priest “after the order of Melchizedek”, which enables the writer to return to that interrupted theme in the