Hebrews is not the first book of the Bible that most people choose to read. There are people who love it and there are people who steer clear of it. Having spent some time reading Hebrews I think this book is more relevant now, in this crazy world of today, than ever. There is indeed much we can, and should learn from the book of Hebrews.
As I worked my way through Hebrews, I realised that, for most of my life I had been chasing shadows. As much as I am grateful for the religious upbringing that my parents blessed me with, I understand now, looking back, through the lens of Jesus, that He is all I need, all I needed and all I want.
So for the next while I will be writing about Hebrews and specifically what it means for us today, in the world today. my hope is that if you follow along you will learn some of what I have learnt and that you will come to see what I have seen, that the Holy Spirit will open your eyes, open your heart and speak to you as we read the Word of God.
There is deep, transformational power available in this book and if you spend some time here, you will find that Hebrews uplifts Jesus, exposes religion, stimulates spiritual growth, helps us to interpret Scripture and brings us to the realisation that we have the ‘real thing’ in Jesus Christ – we no longer need the un-real copies. We can stop chasing the shadows.
Hebrews is a book of practical exhortation (don’t worry too much about that word, it just means to give urgent advice, recommendations, or warnings). Hebrews is not just a book of theology, or a book of ideas and concepts. Hebrews is practical and it provides both negative and positive exhortation – it gives us things to start doing, and things to stop doing.
The book was written to people who had become Christians, followers of Jesus. Jewish people who had come to know about Jesus and had decided to leave the ‘religiousness’ of Judaism. By the time the book, or the letter, was written to them, these people had spent some time in this new belief system. They had had some time to leave the altars and the priests, the rituals and the incense but they are at a point where they start looking back to these things and they are wondering if this new belief, this simple system of relationship, is good enough. They are looking at the pillars and foundations of Judaism, of their previous religious beliefs and practices and wondering if ‘just Jesus’ is enough.
The writer addresses these questions in intricate detail and he gives them the answers, all of which are built on the fact that Jesus is better. Being a Christian is better. Jesus Christ is enough. Jesus Christ is all we need. When we look to Jesus, when we focus on Jesus we find all we need and all we want.
Hebrews is full of Old Testament references and it is important to realise that the writer is bringing the Old Testament writing to the readers so that He can show that Christianity, the New Testament is a continuation of God’s plan – the New Testament is a continuation of the same narrative. Hebrews also shows us that although this is ultimately the same story, there is a contrast to be found between the old and the new. There is a turning point that we need to reach but when we do, we don’t leave the Old Testament behind, we start to see how it speaks of Jesus and points to Jesus and how the practices and rituals, the complexity and rules of Judaism, are in stark contrast to the simple, distilled simplicity of Jesus Christ and our direct access to that one relationship we desperately need.
In Hebrews we find that Jesus is complete.
The Old Testament gives us pieces of a grand puzzle. We find pieces of the puzzle through the words of the Prophets. We find pieces of the puzzle through the words of the Angels. We find many, often seemingly unrelated pieces of the puzzle throughout the Old Testament. The writer of Hebrews, obviously under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, pulls all of these pieces together and shows us the finished, final picture.
Throughout the book of Hebrews we are shown the Old Testament shadows and types, and we see how God has put things together perfectly. As you draw back from the words you can clearly see that picture. Instead of seeing just the shadow, you start to see the reality.
It is a picture of Jesus Christ.
The word ‘True’ used in Scripture, is the same as the word ‘Real’. When Jesus told us that He is the Truth , we can understand that He has told us that He is ‘Reality’. As we live our lives in this world, we can easily be led to believe that reality is in the ‘stuff’ of life. We can start to think that Church is a place with ritual and ‘stuff’ and when we take that stuff away we can start to question whether we are walking in the right direction. As we watch people ‘doing’ Christianity, through complicated religious words and practices, we can start to think that perhaps we need more than just our relationship with Jesus. When we can no longer go to the building we called ‘Church’ we start to wonder if we are missing out on something. The Holy Spirit reveals through Gods Word, and specifically through this beautiful book, that going to Church is simply going to Jesus. What we miss about Church is not the building and the ‘stuff’ it is the people. We start to realise that we are, indeed, the Church.
Hebrews convicts us that religion contains much truth but, it has been mixed with man’s ideas and, in many cases, satans perversions. We come to realise that religion is simply a copy, a shadow. In the Old Testament God’s people needed to see things, they had to have a physical temple and altar and priests because that is what God required at that time in His story. But the truth is that once you come to Christ, once you are born-again and filled with the Holy Spirit (and I do understand that this is with Godly sorrow and true repentance) you can leave your religion behind.
With Jesus you no longer need the shadows and copies – you have the real thing – you have the Son, you have Jesus Christ.
The writer of Hebrews is telling us that when we come to Christ that we learn to Fear the Lord, we learn to hold fast to our confession of faith in Jesus, we realise that we can boldly draw near to the throne of Grace, that we can press on to perfection and that we can run the race to the finish. When we are born-again we have access to the Father through the Son – we don’t need any other access points – access is granted fully in the name of Jesus.
Wherever you are in your journey with Jesus today, take a moment to pause and remember that you are the Church and you need to fellowship with others who are the Church – that is Church. It isn’t the building or the rituals, it isn’t the priest and the traditions, it isn’t the altars and the statues, it isn’t the stained glass and the flowers – it is the heart. Church is family, a group of brothers and sisters in Christ seeking His presence and following His Word.
My prayer is that you are set free as you read the book of Hebrews. My prayer is that you come to understand the direct access to God. My prayer is that you will go to Him today in prayer and thank Him for the perfect design of the Church – the design of your heart and the heart of your fellow disciples who have been transformed by the Holy Spirit.