It is unfortunate that the bulk of the book of Hebrews as landed on the days when I normally do not post a blog. There is so very much in this book, and so much of it can be kind of confusing. I wanted to make mention of that before I talk specifically about today’s reading.
One thing we have to be very careful to remember when reading this book is that it was written to Hebrews who had become Christians…hence the title of the book. Some of what the author talks about is very difficult for us to relate to, even after we’ve journeyed through the “Hebrew” scriptures in the Old Testament over this past year. Our reading through the Old Testament should help you understand Hebrews a bit more, especially in its conversation about sacrifices and the priests and how Jesus fulfills and perfects both of those. But there are cultural and religious references in Hebrews that are challenging, even with a fresh reading of the Old Testament under your belt.
One of the basic messages of Hebrews is that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law. He is the ultimate priest who ministers in heaven on our behalf, and he is the ultimate and final sacrifice that pays for the penalty of sin. It is in light of those two key truths that the author of Hebrews enters into this final section of the book. Of course Hebrews 11 is a categorical listing of some of the key personalities of the Hebrew faith, the superheroes of Jewish children. They key to chapter 11 is this understanding that they were working toward the fulfillment of the Law in Christ, a fulfillment none of them got to experience first hand; but a fulfillment they all believed God would be faithful in completing.
This understanding is important to the point I want to draw out from chapter 12. The author makes a point of reminding us at the beginning of chapter 12 to carry on this tradition of faithful service that these men and women from days past began. This striving toward something that we may never see fulfilled with our fleshly eyes but that have faith God will fulfill in his perfect timing. The word the book of Hebrews uses in this discussion is the word endurance. We are to endure in our faith, to push forward, to always be striving for what is to come (namely the second coming of Jesus and our arrival in our true home in heaven).
It can be tempting, as we live our lives, to forget that there is something greater we are called to be part of. We forget that there is something more important than our day jobs, our kids hockey games and what we are going to do with the next pay check. Hebrews 11 and 12 shows us what it looks like to spend our lives working for something that we may never actually get to see or experience on this side of eternity. That concept flies in the face of our “get it now”, immediate satisfaction society. I am suddenly reminded of that song by Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: “I want it now!”
The author of Hebrews makes a point of saying that those “greats” of the faith from chapter 11 were working for our benefit, fulfilling God’s plan for their lives knowing that they would never get to live out the reward that you and I have the privilege of living through Jesus. But in a lot of ways, our faith journey is exactly like theirs. While they were looking forward to Jesus’ first coming, not knowing if they would live to actually see it happen, you and I are looking forward to Jesus’ second coming, again not knowing if we will actually live to see it happen.
So you see, the stories of those men and women of faith from the Old Testament are not merely nice stories from God for us to learn in Sunday school, they are the pattern laid out for us that shows us how to live faithfully and work toward a goal we may not actually experience. The parallels are incredible; and I am thankful that God has given us these incredible mentors who have shown us how to walk in faith.
- What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
- Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
- How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
- What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?
Tomorrow’s Reading: 2 Timothy