Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

"Every time you make a statement, you must back it up with the evidence."

In my last years of secondary school, that was one Mr Morrison's (my English teacher) favourite phrases. He later left teaching and became a lawyer. Or so I heard, but I really need to see some evidence.

I really don't know if it was good advice or not. Over subsequent years I slowly realised that there was really no such thing as proof. No matter how damning something may appear to be, it only takes one human imagination to come up with another possibility. I also came to doubt people rather a lot.

This is a challenging outlook to overcome when you're a Christian. I doubt most sermons that I hear before they've even started. I read the Bible, and see a lot of holes, the biggest being the absence of any apparent cause for the worldwide belief that it's true. And - it's a fair question - how can we really know that God can be trusted to tell the truth and keep his promises?

The book of Hebrews doesn't answer these questions. But it does feature longer arguments that contain more depth and reasoning than usual.

A lot of people (myself included) believe in the importance of seeking to understand the culture in which these books were originally written. The author of Hebrews actually takes the time to do this.

In the case of a will,[same Greek word as covenant] it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, because a will[same Greek word as covenant] is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. When Moses had proclaimed every commandment of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. He said, "This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep." In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

- Hebrews 9:16-22 (NIV)

He/she's explaining all that to underpin Christ's sacrifice of himself. There are other expositions that I found illuminating.

When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, "I will surely bless you and give you many descendants." And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.

Men swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged.

- Hebrews 6:13-18 (NIV)

Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already men who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: "See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain."

- Hebrews 8:3-5 (NIV)

Hebrews also contains other nuggets that I found either helpful or food for further thought.

By calling this covenant "new," he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.

- Hebrews 8:13 (NIV)

Then he adds:
"Their sins and lawless acts
I will remember no more."[Jeremiah 31:34]
And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.

- Hebrews 10:17-18 (NIV)

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

- Hebrews 11:6 (NIV)

By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, "It is through Isaac that your offspring[Greek seed] will be reckoned." Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.

- Hebrews 11:17-19 (NIV)

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

- Hebrews 12:7-11 (NIV)

And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

- Hebrews 13:16 (NIV)

I'm not saying that these quotes answer a lot of questions for me, just that they're a bit like doing a big jigsaw puzzle and finding a few previously missing pieces.

And finally:

During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.

- Hebrews 5:7-10 (NIV)

It's that line in verse 8 - he learned obedience from what he suffered - that gets me. To learn obedience suggests that, prior to this, Jesus was either disobedient, or less obedient.

I find that a little wondrous. I can speak English. But I am also daily learning more English.


2 comment(s):

At 8:05 pm, Anonymous Rhett said...

Hey Steve. That verse about Jesus "learning" obedience is fascinating! We were talking about it a bible college and the lecturer was talking about one of the theories regarding Jesus was that he "became" God's Son when the Spirit descended on him as a dove after his baptism. That he recieved the nature of God then.

I don't agree with that, but your comments just made me think of it.

At 5:25 am, Blogger Steve Goble said...

Cheers Rhett.

I can't recall ever having heard that theory before, but it's certainly a thought-provoking one.


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