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Hebrews 1

February 12th, 2012 by Vic

February 12, 2012

Hebrews 1

“Listen! God is Speaking!”

 

Think about words.  Why do we have words?  Some people have the ability to communicate with very few words.  They have the ability to improve on silence.  We know that communication is more than words.  We can communicate a lot with our silence.

 

Communication is at least a 2-way street.  Sometimes poor communication is the fault of the hearer rather than the speaker.  Maybe the language is different.  I don’t listen as well as Nancy.  Maybe we don’t know where the speaker is coming from or where he is going so he is hard to understand.  When Nancy and I talk, we do not have to use a lot of words.  When my brother and I used to work together, we did not have to use a lot of words to communicate.  I do not have to use a lot of words with my dog.  When we know the speaker, fewer words are required to convey the meaning.  Nehemiah did not have to pray a long prayer because a relationship was already established.

 

Where do words begin?  Words begin in the mind of the speaker.  When do words end?  They end when they are forgotten, when we die, or when the book is destroyed.  When does God forget?  When will His words end?  Why do we need words?  Why did God need words?  To tell His story.

 

Words are what we use to communicate and develop relationships.  God wanted a relationship with man.  God spoke and is still speaking.  He said, “Jesus.”  Jesus is the eternal living Word of God.

In Hebrews the writer uses 4,942 Greek words, 1,038 different words, 169 words are not in any of the other NT writings.  Hebrews is different from Paul’s letters.  When Paul quotes from the OT he says, “It is written” or “it stands written”.  In Hebrews the verb ‘to say’ or ‘to speak’ is used rather than a form of the word ‘to write’.  The writer often says, “The Scripture is saying”.  For him the OT is speaking.  The text of the OT is presented dynamically.  The writer is saying that God continues to speak today in the passages of the OT.  What is said in the past continues to be said now as well as being said completely in Jesus.  The eternal word is always in the mind of God.

 

This writer of Hebrews chose his words very carefully.

 

Hebrews 1:1-3  Did God have to repeat Himself because He was a poor communicator or because we were poor listeners?  The answer to that is obvious.  In verse 1 God speaks and in verse 2 God speaks, but the grammar is different.

 

In verse 1 the word ‘spoke’ is a first aorist active participle and it should be translated like our past participles, having spoken.  It refers to a past-completed event.  It sums up all the previous speaking of God and the participle points forward to the main verb.

 

In verse 2 ‘spoke’ is a first aorist indicative form and it could be translated like a simple past, did speak or has spoken.  This is the main verb and carries a note of finality.  Having spoken (vs1), God spoke (vs2) completely in Christ.  “Be careful that you do not disregard the one who is still speaking.” (12:25)  Are you listening?

 

This means that the God who spoke in the OT is the same God who spoke in the NT.  The complete revelation He spoke in the OT was preparatory for the later and final revelation.  And God still speaks today through the final revelation.  He is not speaking any new revelations, but He is saying what He has always said.  Listen O heavens, give ear O earth; the Lord hath spoken and it remains spoken today.  The Word abides forever.  When God speaks, considering that He is infinite and not related to time, can His words/Word ever stop being spoken?

 

If God’s word cannot end, should we listen?  Remember the Christmas story?  Temple priests in Jerusalem had the words that God was speaking.  They knew the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem.  They believed the words, but they were not doing anything about it.  The wise men believed God was speaking and they did something about it.  The difference between the wise and foolish builders is obedience (Matt. 7:24 & 26).  This is a reminder that having a Bible and reading God’s word is not enough.  Believing God’s word is not enough.  We must obey.

 

Today I want to encourage you to read your Bible.  Listen to what God is saying.  Walk with Him in your garden.  Live like a citizen of the Kingdom.

 

Let me define a couple more words.  This Hebrew sermon actually begins with the 2 Greek words which the KJV translates “at sundry times and in divers manners”.  These 2 adjectives are only used here in the NT.  They are unique words, but precise in their contrast with Jesus.

 

Both words begin with the prefix ‘poly’ which means many or great.  It was the habit of Greek orators, like Demosthenes, to weave majestic adjectives into the first few paragraphs of a speech.  Many believe that the writer of this letter was trained in Greek oratory and used his talent for the Lord.  Another fact that points to a skilled writer is that 5 Greek words in this first verse begin with the letter ‘p’.  There is alliteration.

 

The first ‘poly’ word means many portions, different times, many parts, some big, some small, many pieces, many facets.  God did not make one big speech.  Many prophets spoke God’s message to their age.  God spoke to their minds and they used words and concepts they felt the people could understand.  How does God speak to you?  If God wanted to get your attention, what would He have to do?  The fact is that God is trying to get your attention and He is speaking.  If you could see the invisible, what would you see?

 

The second ‘poly’ word means many ways, different methods, various ways.  The prophets had many methods and God had many methods: visions, dreams, voices, nature, writings, rituals, buildings, symbols, angels, stars, politics.  But it was all fragmentary.  The prophet used human methods to express the truth of God as He had received it.

 

The 3rd ‘p’ word is ‘palai’ which means ‘of old’ or ‘past’.  The 4th is ‘patrasin’ fathers.  The 5th is ‘prophetais’ prophets.

 

Now all these facets and fragments are complete in Jesus.  In Him God displayed Himself.  He is not part of the truth; He is the complete Truth.  He revealed God by being Himself.  He spoke in parables.  It was not just what He said and did that shows us what God is like; it is what He is.  What Jesus spoke, what He lived, and who He was were all the same.

 

The prophets were the friends of God, Jesus the Son.  The previous revelation was in portions.  It had no unifying center.  In Jesus, all that the prophets said now has a focus.  The previous revelations had been impersonal.  Now the Truth of God is in a person.  A personal revelation was required to know a personal God.  Words, rituals, symbols, etc. will never give you a complete understanding of God.  It’s like trying to find a meaningful symbol for water.

 

God spoke, not by words, but by Son.  Do you know what that means?  God spoke with life.  Words can be misunderstood because they are only symbols of meanings.  God’s Word became flesh, spirit, life.  A perfect revelation required a perfect medium, which words are not.  Jesus became the visible reality of the invisible God.

 

Literally this verse reads, “In many parts and in many ways of old, God, having spoken to the fathers by the prophets, in these days characterized by lastness spoke to us in Son.”

 

The Son is greater than the prophets.  God spoke to the prophets.  It is appropriate for us to honor them.  They are our fathers.  But now something greater has come.  God has spoken His final Word.  This final Word does not nullify all the previous words.  It is the consummation.  It unifies, summarizes, and fulfills everything that has been said before.

 

God is the author of both revelations.  The external communications of the prophets is now lived out.  The ceremonial rituals and sacrifices pointed to Christ.  All the visible revelations of the OT pointed to the reality of the invisible.  Now those meanings have been revealed in Jesus.  Obedience is better than sacrifice.  Mercy is better than justice.  Grace is better than law although one does not exclude the other.  The many words of the OT had a meaning that few understood.  The whole was greater than the sum of its parts.  The invisible was greater than the visible.

 

Listen to what the Bible says about the Son.  First He is the Heir of all things (2).  This refers to original purpose.  He was Heir before He was Creator.  He was Heir of all things before creation so obviously He existed before creation, contrary to what some religions say.  The word Heir literally means to possess a portion and is usually connected with an inheritance.  But here it does not carry the thought of coming into possession after the death of a former owner.  It means a possessor, a sovereign, a lord.  In addition, He also purchased a possession by His blood.

 

The second thing the Bible says about the Son is that He is Creator.  God’s relation to all things outside Himself is through the Son.  Jesus is Heir of all things.  That is comprehensive.  Also He is the Creator.  He is the mediator between the created and God.

 

The third statement made about the Son: He is the brightness of glory (3).  He is the radiance, brightness, fullness, of God’s glory.  He is the effulgence of glory.  The Greek word is used only here in the NT.  It means to give off light.  The Son is the sole expression of divine light in its fullness.  He is the ray-image, a living image composed of more than rays and an image.  He is the person in whom all the rays of God’s glory are concentrated for communication.  All of the many words of the OT are brought together as the whole truth in Christ.

 

The fourth statement: The Son is the exact representation of the substance and essence of God.  There are 2 words here that need to be defined.

 

carakthr is translated exact representation, image, copy.  It comes from the idea of a seal or an engraving like a typewriter character.  It may refer to the person or tool that does engraving, but more commonly it referred to the stamp or image that resulted from using a seal.  It is an exact likeness.  Your character is a result of all the impressions made on you.

 

This word character occurs only here in the NT, but Philo uses it 51 times.  He applies it frequently to man, whose soul bears the imprint (character) of God.  Philo states that God’s nature is such that nothing, and no one can be said to be an exact representation of His nature or character, but this is precisely what the writer to the Hebrews declares concerning the Son.  Jesus has provided a perfect, visible expression of the character of God.

 

The Son is the exact likeness of the ‘substance’ or essence of God.  This word ‘substance’ means that which stands under as a support or foundation.  It came to mean reality, the essence of a thing.  It is the underlying reality, the DNA of something.  The Son is the exact likeness of the divine essence of God.  If you have seen the Son, you have seen the Father.  In the Son, God is fully revealed so there is perfect identity.  There is no stronger way to say that the Son is God.  We understand that a little better because of cloning.

 

The fifth statement about the Son: the Son continually upholds all things by the utterance (word) of His power.  The KJV says the word of His power.  There are 2 different Greek words translated by our English word, ‘word’.  One is logos which occurs 330 times in the NT.  The other is rhma  which occurs 70 times and is the one used here.  ‘Rema’ is more of a normal conversation while logos is reasoned speech, an expression of thought.  Jesus just talked the worlds into existence, He continues to sustain them.

 

The sixth statement about the Son: having made purification of sins.  The theme of this letter is the priestly work of Christ.  The cleansing of sins symbolized in the OT ritual sacrifices has now been completed by Himself, acting upon Himself, offering up Himself as a sacrifice.  The verb is in the middle voice.  He acted upon Himself to cleanse our sins.  The provision for purging or cleansing away sins was completed once and for all by Christ’s death and before His ascent to heaven.

 

The seventh statement: He sat down on the right hand of majesty on high.  His work as our high priest is finished.  No priest under the old covenant ministered except in a standing position because his work was never finished.  But Christ is greater than the priests and the angels.

 

Hebrews 1:5-14

Now we have seven statements in proof of the superiority of the Son over the angels.

 

1. His name is superior (5a).  God calls Jesus “Son” before He assumed human nature and acquired the name “Son” again.

 

2. His unique relationship with God is superior (5b).  From God’s point of view, Jesus is His Son.

 

3. God commands the angels to worship Him (6).

 

4. The ministry of angels is subject to change (7).

 

5. The Son is seated on the throne for ever and ever (8-9).  The Son has a throne; the angels have none.  Jesus is Lord; the angels are subjects.

 

6. The Son has power to change creation but He will remain the same (10-12).

 

7. The Son is seated at God’s right hand, the place of highest honor (13-14).  He habitually sends out his ministering angels to serve.  The pathways of the kingdom of God are filled with messengers of grace and mercy.

 

This sermon is written to Christians.  It assumes you believe in the resurrection. This letter is concerned about your living in the Promised Land.  It will explain a purified heart that is brought into perfect harmony with the will of God.  It will explain how you can be cleansed from all sin.  When OT Scriptures are used, the emphasis is not on the people’s deliverance and freedom from Egypt but on their refusal to enter Canaan and enjoy their promised inheritance.  Don’t be stupid.  Consider what God is offering you.

 

In the past God used angels, dreams and visions to speak to man.  But that never has to happen again.  For God has spoken unto us in His Son.  The revelation of God to man is complete in Jesus.  The revelation was not just in words, not just in good deeds, not just in death and resurrection, but love.  The thick veil of separation has been torn so that man can come into relationship with God.  God spoke in Jesus.  God is speaking Jesus to our hearts today.

 

God is speaking.  Do we care?  Do we hear?  Are we interrupting?  God! Is! Speaking!

 

May His kingdom come and His will be done in our lives this week.  May we listen and obey.  Honor Him and give thanks.

 

Next week we hear the warning against apathy and neglect.

 

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