March 21, 2011
Have you ever wondered why the famous passage in Hebrews 4:12-13 about the word being living and active begins and ends with “the word”? Gene Smillie has written two excellent articles on the subject. He says,
The final usage of ho logos in Heb. 4:12-13, at the very end of the pericope, appears to be closely related to the better-known first occurrence of the term at the beginning of it. Many translations of the phrase pros hon hemin ho logos do not reflect this continuity of subject matter between the two instances of ho logos. While some translators opt for the commercial idiom, “to whom we must give
account,” study of that idiom throughout the NT shows that it is untenable. The second “word” is one of response, by the hearer, to the first word.
His articles are entitled:
“The ‘Other Logos’ at the End of Heb 4:13.” Novum Testamentum 47 (2005): 19–25.
“‘O Logos tou theou’ in Hebrews 4:12–13.” Novum Testamentum 46 (2004): 338–59.
February 26, 2011
18 Continue praying for us; we are confident that we have kept our conscience clean and acted nobly. 19 Pray fervently, so that I may be at your side even sooner. 20-21 And now, may you be strengthened by God himself, the very same one who raised our Lord Jesus, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, out of death’s clutches since Jesus’ blood enacted an eternal covenant. Yes, may you be strengthened by Him in every good work so that you may always do His will, as God continues helping you to please Him through the aid of Jesus, to whom is the glory forever and ever.
22 I challenge you, brothers and sisters, put up with this word of exhortation, for I have written you only a short letter. 23 I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released, and as soon as he comes we hope to visit you together. 24 Greet all your leaders and the whole church. Those here in Italy send you their greetings. 25 May grace be with you all, amen (This was written to the Hebrews from Italy through Timothy).
18 Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way. 19 I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon.
20 Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
22 Brothers and sisters, I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, for in fact I have written to you quite briefly.
23 I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released. If he arrives soon, I will come with him to see you.
24 Greet all your leaders and all the Lord’s people. Those from Italy send you their greetings.
25 Grace be with you all.
18-21 Pray for us. We have no doubts about what we’re doing or why, but it’s hard going and we need your prayers. All we care about is living well before God. Pray that we may be together soon.
May God, who puts all things together,
makes all things whole,
Who made a lasting mark through the sacrifice of Jesus,
the sacrifice of blood that sealed the eternal covenant,
Who led Jesus, our Great Shepherd,
up and alive from the dead,
Now put you together, provide you
with everything you need to please him,
Make us into what gives him most pleasure,
by means of the sacrifice of Jesus, the Messiah.
All glory to Jesus forever and always!
Oh, yes, yes, yes.
22-23 Friends, please take what I’ve written most seriously. I’ve kept this as brief as possible; I haven’t piled on a lot of extras. You’ll be glad to know that Timothy has been let out of prison. If he leaves soon, I’ll come with him and get to see you myself.
24 Say hello to your pastoral leaders and all the congregations. Everyone here in Italy wants to be remembered to you.
25 Grace be with you, every one.
February 15, 2011
1 Don’t stop loving each other. 2 Never tire of welcoming people into your home, for some have opened their doors to angels. 3 Be so concerned for those in prison, as if you shared jail cells together, and for those suffering wrong, as if your very body ached.
4 Keep your marriage vows impeccably and your marriage bed immaculate, for the immoral and unfaithful will be judged by God. 5 Don’t get cozy with your cash, be satisfied with the balance in your bank account, Knowing that God said,
“As long as you live
Never, absolutely never,
would I even think about leaving you in a lurch
or forsaking you.”
6 This emboldens us to declare,
“God is my help,
I will not be timid,
what will man do to me?”
7 Remember those leaders who spoke the word of God to you. imitate their faith by considering how they lived their lives. 8 Yesterday and today Jesus is the same, and forever! 9 Don’t be fooled by various obscure teachings — be enriched by grace, not by ritualistic, valueless rules about meats. 10 We have an altar — the cross — from which those looking for salvation in Jewish sacrifices have no part. 11 The high priest brings animal blood to sacrifice in the Holy of Holies (the animal itself is considered unclean and is taken outside the camp where it is completely burned up). 12 Like those sacrifices of the old covenant, Jesus also suffered outside the city in order to bring about holiness for a people by his own blood. 13 Let us go to him outside the camp, bearing the same disgrace he bore. 14 For we are not concerned about the transient city of this life, but are filled with anticipation for the city that awaits us.
15 Let’s never stop praising God through Jesus, confessing his name no matter the cost. This is the type of sacrifice we offer. 16 And speaking of sacrifices, let me remind you to do good and to share life with each other.
17 Express confidence towards those who lead you and have submissive attitudes towards them, since they will give an account for how they watched you. Do this so that their job will be pleasant rather than toilsome, and to avoid bringing harm upon yourselves.
1 Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. 2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. 3 Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. 5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.”
6 So we say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?”
7 Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
9 Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so. 10 We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat.
11 The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. 12 And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. 13 Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. 14 For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.
15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
17 Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.
1-4 Stay on good terms with each other, held together by love. Be ready with a meal or a bed when it’s needed. Why, some have extended hospitality to angels without ever knowing it! Regard prisoners as if you were in prison with them. Look on victims of abuse as if what happened to them had happened to you. Honor marriage, and guard the sacredness of sexual intimacy between wife and husband. God draws a firm line against casual and illicit sex.
5-6 Don’t be obsessed with getting more material things. Be relaxed with what you have. Since God assured us, “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,” we can boldly quote,
God is there, ready to help;
I’m fearless no matter what.
Who or what can get to me?
7-8 Appreciate your pastoral leaders who gave you the Word of God. Take a good look at the way they live, and let their faithfulness instruct you, as well as their truthfulness. There should be a consistency that runs through us all. For Jesus doesn’t change—yesterday, today, tomorrow, he’s always totally himself.
9 Don’t be lured away from him by the latest speculations about him. The grace of Christ is the only good ground for life. Products named after Christ don’t seem to do much for those who buy them.
10-12 The altar from which God gives us the gift of himself is not for exploitation by insiders who grab and loot. In the old system, the animals are killed and the bodies disposed of outside the camp. The blood is then brought inside to the altar as a sacrifice for sin. It’s the same with Jesus. He was crucified outside the city gates—that is where he poured out the sacrificial blood that was brought to God’s altar to cleanse his people.
13-15 So let’s go outside, where Jesus is, where the action is—not trying to be privileged insiders, but taking our share in the abuse of Jesus. This “insider world” is not our home. We have our eyes peeled for the City about to come. Let’s take our place outside with Jesus, no longer pouring out the sacrificial blood of animals but pouring out sacrificial praises from our lips to God in Jesus’ name.
16 Make sure you don’t take things for granted and go slack in working for the common good; share what you have with others. God takes particular pleasure in acts of worship—a different kind of “sacrifice”—that take place in kitchen and workplace and on the streets.
17 Be responsive to your pastoral leaders. Listen to their counsel. They are alert to the condition of your lives and work under the strict supervision of God. Contribute to the joy of their leadership, not its drudgery. Why would you want to make things harder for them?
January 29, 2011
I have the privilege of delivering the sermon tomorrow morning when the church assembles. When I was instructed to speak from any passage I wanted, I knew I would choose something in Hebrews. After much deliberation I landed on Hebrews 12:18-29, “For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched. . . .” This passage has provided some real challenges in study, some of which include:
-Why does v. 18 begin with “for”? What is the connection with the preceding sentences?
-How does the author interpret Haggai 2:6 in v. 26?
-What about the textual variants in v. 28? I take echo as a subjunctive, but latruo as an indicative, contrary to NA (of course, none of this jargon will be mentioned tomorrow morning).
-How should one translate charis in v 28, as thanks or grace? I lean towards “grace” — a seeming inclusio with v. 15, and fitting extremely well with the author’s usage elsewhere (4:16; 13:25).
-How does this paragraph relate with the argument of the whole book, and especially with the passage begun in ch. 10?
If you’re interested, the message will be posted online, and you can listen to it HERE. I recommend, however, that you listen to Jonathan’s sermon from the week before entitled “strong and courageous.” You will not hear a better message on boldness, seriously!
January 24, 2011
18 Unlike Israel, you have not come to a mountain that can be touched, that has been scorched by fire, to gloom and doom and a raging tempest, 19 to blasting trumpets and to audible words, such that those who heard them begged to be excused from having to listen any further. 20 They were too terrified by the command “If even an animal touches this mountain, stone it!” 21 The sight was so dreadful that Moses said, “I’m so scared my whole body is quivering.”
22 No, you all have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, to the heavenly Jerusalem, to angels beyond number all in joyful celebration, 23 And to the church of the First Born Son, whose names are engraved in heaven, and to God the judge of all humankind, and to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant, and to blood sprinkling that speaks a better word than Abel’s (which remember, still speaks).
25 So make sure that you don’t ask to be excused from the one speaking, for if the Israelites could not get by when they excused themselves from the one commanding them, then how much more will you be held accountable for turning from him who speaks from heaven. 26 That voice shook the earth, but now God promises,
I’m going to really shake things up again,
not only the earth, but also the heavens.
27 This verses signifies the transformation of the things that can be shaken, so that what is unshakeable will remain. 28 Therefore, since we are heirs of an unshakeable kingdom, let’s always be thankful, offering the thankfulness through which we continually serve God in a way that pleases Him, full of devotion and profound respect. 29 For, without question, our God is a raging fire.
18 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20 because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.” 21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”
22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.
28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”
18-21 Unlike your ancestors, you didn’t come to Mount Sinai—all that volcanic blaze and earthshaking rumble—to hear God speak. The earsplitting words and soul-shaking message terrified them and they begged him to stop. When they heard the words—”If an animal touches the Mountain, it’s as good as dead”—they were afraid to move. Even Moses was terrified.
22-24 No, that’s not your experience at all. You’ve come to Mount Zion, the city where the living God resides. The invisible Jerusalem is populated by throngs of festive angels and Christian citizens. It is the city where God is Judge, with judgments that make us just. You’ve come to Jesus, who presents us with a new covenant, a fresh charter from God. He is the Mediator of this covenant. The murder of Jesus, unlike Abel’s—a homicide that cried out for vengeance—became a proclamation of grace.
25-27 So don’t turn a deaf ear to these gracious words. If those who ignored earthly warnings didn’t get away with it, what will happen to us if we turn our backs on heavenly warnings? His voice that time shook the earth to its foundations; this time—he’s told us this quite plainly—he’ll also rock the heavens: “One last shaking, from top to bottom, stem to stern.” The phrase “one last shaking” means a thorough housecleaning, getting rid of all the historical and religious junk so that the unshakable essentials stand clear and uncluttered.
28-29 Do you see what we’ve got? An unshakable kingdom! And do you see how thankful we must be? Not only thankful, but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God. For God is not an indifferent bystander. He’s actively cleaning house, torching all that needs to burn, and he won’t quit until it’s all cleansed. God himself is Fire!
January 24, 2011
(If you’re wondering why I am translating these verse out-of-order, it is because our baby was born the week I was going to teach this passage in class at church. When I returned to teaching, the class was on ch. 11, so I had to put these verses off in order to keep up with the schedule)
19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have boldness to enter the most holy place by the blood of Jesus 20 (an entrance right through the inner veil available to all of you — made possible by his life and sacrifice) 21 and since we have a great priest in charge of God’s house, 22 Let’s draw near with sincere hearts and full of faith, which we can do since our hearts are purified from a wicked conscience and our bodies washed clean with purifying water.
23 Let’s keep clinging firmly and unswervingly to this hope we say we believe in, since the promise that backs up our hope is made by one who is faithful. 24 And let’s keep thinking of ways to inspire each other to love others and to do all sorts of good deeds, 25 which, of course, is impossible to do if you stop gathering together, as some have done. So, instead, keep challenging each other onward, and do so especially since you see that Christ is about to return!
26 There remains no other sacrifice for us who continue willfully sinning after grasping the full implications of Christ’s life and ministry, 27 but a dreadful anticipation of judgment and angry fire that swallows God’s adversaries. 28 Whoever put aside the law of Moses faced a pitiless death upon the testimony of only two or three witnesses. 29 How much more awful a punishment do those deserve who treat the son of God like a floor mat and consider the blood that sanctified them something ordinary, and even mock God’s grace. 30 We know who said,
Revenge is mine. I will definitely repay!
The Lord will judge his people
31 How horrendous it is to fall into the hands of the living God.
32 Remember how you suffered when you first came to the Lord, 33 how at times the world looked down on you for all the disgrace and trouble you endured, and then at other times how you stood alongside those being similarly treated. 34 To those in chains you acted as if you yourselves were in chains, and you rejoiced when people seized you possessions since you knew that there awaited better and lasting treasure for you. 35 Don’t throw your boldness in the dumpster as if it were worthless — boldness leads to valuable rewards! 36 What you need is endurance: after you do God’s will, then you receive the promise, 32 for
In a very, very brief moment
God will come without dilly-dallying.
Now, the righteous will live by faith;
if he turns back I will find no pleasure in him.
39 But we are not those who retreat and are destroyed, but belong to the people of faith in whom God delights.
19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.
36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For,
“In just a little while,
he who is coming will come
and will not delay.”
“But my righteous one will live by faith.
And I take no pleasure
in the one who shrinks back.”
39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.
19-21So, friends, we can now—without hesitation—walk right up to God, into “the Holy Place.” Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of his sacrifice, acting as our priest before God. The “curtain” into God’s presence is his body.22-25So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching. 26-31If we give up and turn our backs on all we’ve learned, all we’ve been given, all the truth we now know, we repudiate Christ’s sacrifice and are left on our own to face the Judgment—and a mighty fierce judgment it will be! If the penalty for breaking the law of Moses is physical death, what do you think will happen if you turn on God’s Son, spit on the sacrifice that made you whole, and insult this most gracious Spirit? This is no light matter. God has warned us that he’ll hold us to account and make us pay. He was quite explicit: “Vengeance is mine, and I won’t overlook a thing” and “God will judge his people.” Nobody’s getting by with anything, believe me. 32-39Remember those early days after you first saw the light? Those were the hard times! Kicked around in public, targets of every kind of abuse—some days it was you, other days your friends. If some friends went to prison, you stuck by them. If some enemies broke in and seized your goods, you let them go with a smile, knowing they couldn’t touch your real treasure. Nothing they did bothered you, nothing set you back. So don’t throw it all away now. You were sure of yourselves then. It’s still a sure thing! But you need to stick it out, staying with God’s plan so you’ll be there for the promised completion.
It won’t be long now, he’s on the way;
he’ll show up most any minute.
But anyone who is right with me thrives on loyal trust;
if he cuts and runs, I won’t be very happy.
But we’re not quitters who lose out. Oh, no! We’ll stay with it and survive, trusting all the way. (Hebrews 10:19-39, The Message)
January 17, 2011
4 In your fight with sin you have yet to withstand a blow that draws blood. 5 And you have completely forgotten that fatherly word of comfort, spoken to you as children, “Child, stop belittling the Lord’s discipline, and quit being exasperated when he points out your sins. 6 For the Lord continues disciplining the child he loves, and whips each kid in whom he delights.”
7 If you are enduring discipline, God is raising you up as his very own children, and every child is disciplined by his father, isn’t he? 8 Now, if discipline were absent from your lives (which it isn’t, we’re all disciplined), then you would be illegitimate and not children of the family. 9 Furthermore, as kids we had dads who disciplined us, and we revered them; shouldn’t we, therefore, be even more eager to obey our heavenly father and live? 10 Our earthly fathers used to discipline us as best they knew how, but God indeed knows the most effective punishment to make us share in his holiness. 11 Pretty much every punishment is painful in the present, not joyful, but later on those who have become spiritually “in shape” from discipline reap harvests of peace and righteousness.
12 Therefore, put some muscle on your feeble hands and bony knees. 13 And “make the track smooth for running” so that the lame don’t become disabled, but healthy. 14 Chase after peace with everyone and the sanctification, without which no one will see the Lord. 15 And while you do so, make sure: (a) that none of your brothers or sisters fall short of God’s grace, which will upset and infect many people; (b) 16 that no one is sexually immoral or living for the moment, like Esau who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 And you know that later when he wanted to inherit the blessing he was rejected, and even though he cried about it and tried desperately, it was too late.
4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 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 spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 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.
12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.
14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 17 Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.
4-11In this all-out match against sin, others have suffered far worse than you, to say nothing of what Jesus went through—all that bloodshed! So don’t feel sorry for yourselves. Or have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as his children?
My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline,
but don’t be crushed by it either.
It’s the child he loves that he disciplines;
the child he embraces, he also corrects.
God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God’s training so we can truly live? While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.
12-13So don’t sit around on your hands! No more dragging your feet! Clear the path for long-distance runners so no one will trip and fall, so no one will step in a hole and sprain an ankle. Help each other out. And run for it!
14-17Work at getting along with each other and with God. Otherwise you’ll never get so much as a glimpse of God. Make sure no one gets left out of God’s generosity. Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time. Watch out for the Esau syndrome: trading away God’s lifelong gift in order to satisfy a short-term appetite. You well know how Esau later regretted that impulsive act and wanted God’s blessing—but by then it was too late, tears or no tears.
January 11, 2011
13 All of these died in faith, not having received what was promised to them but gazing with anticipation at them in the dim distance, making it clear that they were aliens and pilgrims here on earth. 14 People with this kind of attitude ooze with patriotic excitement about their heavenly homeland. 15 If their minds had been fixed on the earthly land that they had left, they surely had plenty of chances to go back to it. 16 But they steadfastly longed for the better, heavenly land. Therefore God is not embarrassed when they call him their God—he’s even built a whole city for them!
17 By remaining confident while hoping, convinced without seeing,
Abraham, the eager receiver of the promise, offered Isaac, the son of promise, when God told him to. 18 He had been promised, “Your descendants will be traced through Isaac.” 19 As Abraham tried to reconcile both God’s promise and God’s command to sacrifice Isaac, he figured, “If God can give me a son when I’m as good as dead, then he can raise the boy from the dead.” And figuratively he did receive Isaac back from death.
20 Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, even concerning things to come,
by remaining confident while hoping, convinced without seeing,
21 As Jacob was dying he blessed each of the sons of Joseph and worshipped as he leaned upon his staff,
by remaining confident while hoping, convinced without seeing,
22 Joseph mentioned the Exodus at the end of his life and told the Israelites not to forget his bones,
by remaining confident while hoping, convinced without seeing,
23 Moses’ parents hid him for three months since they saw how special a child he was, and they did not fear the king’s decree, by remaining confident while hoping, convinced without seeing.
24 When Moses grew up, he refused to be called a son of Pharoah’s daughter by remaining confident while hoping, convinced without seeing. 25 He chose harsh treatment with God’s people over sin’s fleeting allurements. 26 Because Moses fixed his gaze on his future reward, he considered reproach for Christ a treasure more valuable than Egyptian riches. 27 By remaining confident while hoping, convinced without seeing, Moses left Egypt, not fearing in the least bit the king’s wrath. And Moses remained resolute by fixing his sight on the one who is unseen. 28 By remaining confident while hoping, convinced without seeing, he kept the Passover and sprinkled blood so that the destroying angel would not touch the firstborn.
29 The Israelites passed through the red sea as if it were dry ground by remaining confident while hoping, convinced without seeing, but when the Egyptians tried to do so they were swallowed in one wet gulp.
30 The walls of Jericho fell after they were marched around for seven days by remaining confident while hoping, convinced without seeing.
31 Rahab the harlot was not destroyed with the wicked people of Jericho by remaining confident while hoping, convinced without seeing, since she peacefully welcomed the spies.
32 And what more shall I say? I could talk all day about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jepthah, David, and then Samuel and the prophets. 33 By remaining confident while hoping, convinced without seeing, these conquered kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, closed lions’ mouths, 34 quenched powerful fires, eluded sword blades, became strong in their weakness, grew mighty in battle, overturned enemy camps, 35 women received back their dead by resurrection, but others, that they might obtain a better more lasting resurrection, chose to be tortured rather than set free. 36 Others were ridiculed and whipped, while some were chained and imprisoned. 37 They were stoned, sawn in pieces, murdered by the sword, wandered in sheep skins, in goat skins, they survived by scrapping out an existence, were afflicted, and suffered many wrongdoings, 38 people of whom the world is not worthy, wandering through deserts and on mountains and in caves and crevices. 39 And all these witnesses, despite remaining confident while hoping, convinced without seeing, did not live to see The Promise. 40 God oversaw the situation the whole time and was planning something better, that only alongside of us would they be perfected.
12:1 Therefore, let’s run this race without becoming winded, since we’re in the same race with such a vast multitude of companions, and let’s do so by putting aside whatever handicaps us and the sins all around us, 2 and by looking to Jesus, the one who pioneered and perfects our confident hoping and conviction of unseen realities, the very one who for the joy of crossing the race’s finish line endured the cross, thought nothing of its shame, and having completed his race, sat down at the right hand of God’s throne. 3 Consider that he bore such opposition from sinners so that your souls don’t become feeble and tire out.
13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.
20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.
21 By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.
22 By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.
23 By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.
24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.
29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.
30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days.
31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.
32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.
39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
13-16 Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. But they were after a far better country than that—heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City waiting for them.
17-19By faith, Abraham, at the time of testing, offered Isaac back to God. Acting in faith, he was as ready to return the promised son, his only son, as he had been to receive him—and this after he had already been told, “Your descendants shall come from Isaac.” Abraham figured that if God wanted to, he could raise the dead. In a sense, that’s what happened when he received Isaac back, alive from off the altar.
20By an act of faith, Isaac reached into the future as he blessed Jacob and Esau.
21By an act of faith, Jacob on his deathbed blessed each of Joseph’s sons in turn, blessing them with God’s blessing, not his own—as he bowed worshipfully upon his staff.
22By an act of faith, Joseph, while dying, prophesied the exodus of Israel, and made arrangements for his own burial.
23By an act of faith, Moses’ parents hid him away for three months after his birth. They saw the child’s beauty, and they braved the king’s decree.
24-28By faith, Moses, when grown, refused the privileges of the Egyptian royal house. He chose a hard life with God’s people rather than an opportunistic soft life of sin with the oppressors. He valued suffering in the Messiah’s camp far greater than Egyptian wealth because he was looking ahead, anticipating the payoff. By an act of faith, he turned his heel on Egypt, indifferent to the king’s blind rage. He had his eye on the One no eye can see, and kept right on going. By an act of faith, he kept the Passover Feast and sprinkled Passover blood on each house so that the destroyer of the firstborn wouldn’t touch them.
29By an act of faith, Israel walked through the Red Sea on dry ground. The Egyptians tried it and drowned.
30By faith, the Israelites marched around the walls of Jericho for seven days, and the walls fell flat.
31By an act of faith, Rahab, the Jericho harlot, welcomed the spies and escaped the destruction that came on those who refused to trust God.
32-38I could go on and on, but I’ve run out of time. There are so many more— Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets….Through acts of faith, they toppled kingdoms, made justice work, took the promises for themselves. They were protected from lions, fires, and sword thrusts, turned disadvantage to advantage, won battles, routed alien armies. Women received their loved ones back from the dead. There were those who, under torture, refused to give in and go free, preferring something better: resurrection. Others braved abuse and whips, and, yes, chains and dungeons. We have stories of those who were stoned, sawed in two, murdered in cold blood; stories of vagrants wandering the earth in animal skins, homeless, friendless, powerless—the world didn’t deserve them!—making their way as best they could on the cruel edges of the world.
39-40Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised. God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours.
1-3 Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!
January 1, 2011
1 Remaining confident while hoping,
convinced despite not seeing,
Now that is faith!
2 By this type of faith the heroes of old became examples to the faithful. 3 By faith we know that the universe was created by God’s spoken word–everything seen from what is unseen. 4 By faith Abel offered a better sacrifice than Cain, an act which testified that he truly was a righteous man, since God also testified about his gifts; and through his faith Abel still speaks even though he died. 5 By faith Enoch was taken before he died, and nobody was able to find him because he was taken by God. And he was taken because beforehand it had been testified about him that he really pleased God. 6 But without faith it is impossible to please God, since in order to approach God it is essential to have the faith that he exists and that he becomes a rewarder of the ones who seek him with all their heart. 7 By faith Noah, moved by godly fear after being warned about that which he had not yet seen, prepared the ark to save his family (and by doing so condemned the world). And by his faith he became an heir of righteousness. 8 By faith Abraham, when God said “Go”, obeyed and went for the place which he would soon receive as an inheritance; he journeyed even though he had no idea where he would end up. 9 By faith he managed to abide in the promised land, along with Isaac and Jacob, heirs of the same promise dwelling like strange foreigners in tents! 10 You see, Abraham yearned with steady anticipation for the city with real significance, the one that lasts, the one constructed and built by God.
11 By faith even Sara, despite being too old to have a child was enabled to do just that, since she considered God who made the promise to her one in whom she could rest her faith. 12 As a result, from the one man Abraham (who was so old he was as good as dead) so many children were born–as numerous as the stars in heaven and the sand along the seashore–beyond number.
1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.
3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
4 By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.
5 By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 6 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.
7 By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.
8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
1-2 The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.
3 By faith, we see the world called into existence by God’s word, what we see created by what we don’t see.
4 By an act of faith, Abel brought a better sacrifice to God than Cain. It was what he believed, not what he brought, that made the difference. That’s what God noticed and approved as righteous. After all these centuries, that belief continues to catch our notice.
5-6 By an act of faith, Enoch skipped death completely. “They looked all over and couldn’t find him because God had taken him.” We know on the basis of reliable testimony that before he was taken “he pleased God.” It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him.
7 By faith, Noah built a ship in the middle of dry land. He was warned about something he couldn’t see, and acted on what he was told. The result? His family was saved. His act of faith drew a sharp line between the evil of the unbelieving world and the rightness of the believing world. As a result, Noah became intimate with God.
8-10 By an act of faith, Abraham said yes to God’s call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home. When he left he had no idea where he was going. By an act of faith he lived in the country promised him, lived as a stranger camping in tents. Isaac and Jacob did the same, living under the same promise. Abraham did it by keeping his eye on an unseen city with real, eternal foundations—the City designed and built by God.
11-12 By faith, barren Sarah was able to become pregnant, old woman as she was at the time, because she believed the One who made a promise would do what he said. That’s how it happened that from one man’s dead and shriveled loins there are now people numbering into the millions.
December 8, 2010
1 The excellencies brought about by Christ were hinted at in law, but that’s just it, merely hinted at, which is why the endless cycle of sacrifices prescribed by the law could never perfect the worshippers. 2 Otherwise, wouldn’t the sacrifices have stopped being offered if the worshippers’ consciences had really been cleansed? 3 But instead the very opposite happened—the ongoing sacrifices were an endless guilt-trip continually reminding people of their sins and failures. 4 Animal blood was simply powerless to take away sin. 5 And so when Christ came into the world, he said,
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body which you prepared for me.
6 You find no pleasure in burnt offerings and sin offerings
7 Then I said, ‘Here I am, I have come.
It has been prophesied about me in the scroll.’”
8-9 Now, this verse makes it clear that Christ set aside the first covenant to establish the second, since it says “Sacrifice and offering you neither desired nor were pleased with” and “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” 10 This setting aside of the first covenant by the one time sacrifice of the body of Christ was God’s will, through which we have forever been made holy.
11 All these priests ministered day after day, offering again and again the same sacrifices that could never take away sin. 12 But after Christ offered his one sacrifice for sins, he took his permanent seat at God’s right hand, 13 where he eagerly awaits the time when his enemies will be made his foot prop. 14 He did what the old sacrifices never could—by one sacrifice he perfected for all time those who are in the process of being made holy. 15 The Holy Spirit also reassures us about this, having said
16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them,
after those days, says the Lord,
I will hide my law in their hearts,
and engrave it upon their minds.
17 Then I will in no way ever again remember their sins and lawless deeds.”
18 And where forgiveness has been achieved, it is no longer necessary to make any more offering for sin.
1 The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. 2 Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. 3 But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. 4 It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
5 Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
6 with burnt offerings and sin offerings
you were not pleased.
7 Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
I have come to do your will, my God.’”
8 First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. 9 Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
15 The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:
16 “This is the covenant I will make with them
after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds.”
17 Then he adds:
“Their sins and lawless acts
I will remember no more.”
18 And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.
1-10 The old plan was only a hint of the good things in the new plan. Since that old “law plan” wasn’t complete in itself, it couldn’t complete those who followed it. No matter how many sacrifices were offered year after year, they never added up to a complete solution. If they had, the worshipers would have gone merrily on their way, no longer dragged down by their sins. But instead of removing awareness of sin, when those animal sacrifices were repeated over and over they actually heightened awareness and guilt. The plain fact is that bull and goat blood can’t get rid of sin. That is what is meant by this prophecy, put in the mouth of Christ:
You don’t want sacrifices and offerings year after year;
you’ve prepared a body for me for a sacrifice.
It’s not fragrance and smoke from the altar
that whet your appetite.
So I said, “I’m here to do it your way, O God,
the way it’s described in your Book.”
When he said, “You don’t want sacrifices and offerings,” he was referring to practices according to the old plan. When he added, “I’m here to do it your way,” he set aside the first in order to enact the new plan—God’s way—by which we are made fit for God by the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus.
11-18 Every priest goes to work at the altar each day, offers the same old sacrifices year in, year out, and never makes a dent in the sin problem. As a priest, Christ made a single sacrifice for sins, and that was it! Then he sat down right beside God and waited for his enemies to cave in. It was a perfect sacrifice by a perfect person to perfect some very imperfect people. By that single offering, he did everything that needed to be done for everyone who takes part in the purifying process. The Holy Spirit confirms this:
This new plan I’m making with Israel
isn’t going to be written on paper,
isn’t going to be chiseled in stone;
This time “I’m writing out the plan in them,
carving it on the lining of their hearts.”
I’ll forever wipe the slate clean of their sins.
Once sins are taken care of for good, there’s no longer any need to offer sacrifices for them.