Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Discouragement and anxiety are vices that are recurring warts in the lives of even the most seasoned believers. These problems have the potential of stealing our focus from where it should be and can land us in a bad situation. Such was the case when I came to the end of my senior year of undergraduate training. Although God had allowed me to experiences every level of success I could have hoped for and then some, the uncertain future gnawed away at my confidence, brought me to tears, and kept me up many nights as I wondered where I would work, what I would do, and If what that was would even really matter. As irrational as this sounds, similar feelings often plague our minds at some point or another. Elijah faced a similar and more acute case of this syndrome in 1 Kings 19:1-4. Today we are going to make THREE OBSERVATIONS of Elijah’s struggle and hopefully learn how we can keep our wits about us when the winds of discouragement begin to blow. People are grieving, men are suffering as no one would wish on their worst enemy, people we love to fellowship with are missing, but God has a message for us today and it is all to do with His provision to get us through it.
I. OBSERVATION #1: The Problem is Presented-19:1-2
In the passage leading up to 1 Kings 19, a competition took place between God and Baal on Mt. Carmel. Following an embarrassing display by team Baal and their priests and a healthy dose of heckling on Elijah’s part, when it was Yahweh’s turn to show His stuff, He did not disappoint and totally consumed a drenched altar with fire that came down from the sky. After God reigned victorious, the prophets of Baal were captured and slain alongside a riverbank. This was the post-game report that Ahab (a wicked ruler) relayed to Jezebel (an embarrassed an even more wicked woman). This was not something she wanted to see on the prime time news highlights. This was not the victory she was hoping for. How embarrassing for her and the gods she worshipped and required of her people to worship!
Ever meet one of those sports fans that simply cannot accept defeat. You know those guys or even girls who love their team so much that even when they lose big, they find some way to explain that defeat away, thus instilling a false sense of pride in them concerning their losing team? This was Jezebel’s sentiment here, “…So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, ‘may the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make you lifelike that of one of them…” (19:2). Although her gods had been exposed as total and complete frauds, she simply cannot accept it and swears by them that she is going to kill Elijah. Perhaps she waits twenty four hours to do so because few would be willing to go against the guy who was able to call down fire from heaven right away. Perhaps she was just blowing off steam and reacting the only way she knew how. Whatever the reason, she gets under Elijah’s skin.
Herein lies the problem. Though Elijah had just experienced a great victory, a dark cloud of discouragement soon followed in the form of this threat, spoiling the joy God had brought about in this prophet’s life. This same situation is often experienced by saints today, who, after reaching a mountaintop with God’s help, are then knocked off that pedestal by something relatively small and yet altogether defeating. As in Elijah’s situation, joy in the Lord is so often robbed from us when we in our fragile humanity stare down new threats at the hands of this world.
II. OBSERVATION #2: The Prophet is Petrified-19:3-5
Ever been there? God brings an incredible victory your way and it is followed by a threat to your livelihood that seems to just cut your legs out from under you? Elijah was there and in a moment of spiritual weakness, despite the victory that had immediately preceded this threat, he flees the scene and is completely petrified in fear of this powerful woman, “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life” (19:3). The event that he had hoped would finally settle the score between Baal and Yahweh, an event that showcased God’s almighty power, did not silence Jezebel nor did it keep her from defying Yahweh and swearing by other Gods.
As an obnoxious fan who even after losing the championship game cannot accept defeat, Jezebels persistence keeps this false God alive in the minds of her people and continues its memory.
Rather than remember all that God had been teaching him for the past 3 years as a prophet, Elijah quickly forgets God’s hand of provision and puts a visor on, keeping him from maintaining a proper perspective (cutting off his vertical perspective and delimiting his gaze horizontally). Fear and discouragement are improper responses to even the most troubling of problems, even those that are life-threatening. They reveal an exaltation of the situational circumstance rather than an undying love and devotion to an all-powerful God.
So where did Elijah run? He ran for his life all the way to Beersheba, 95 miles south of Jezreel on the southern tip of Judah, “…When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die…” (19:4a). Desiring to go the rest of the way alone, the prophet relieved his servant after the three days journey. Either the lad was too exhausted to go any farther or Elijah was so discouraged that he no longer wanted any company. Elijah also understood that there was no reason why his faithful servant should be subjected to the uncertainties of the desert to which he now subjected himself.
When he could walk no further, he curled up underneath a juniper tree to die. There he sat at the conclusion of his journey. Exhausted physically, depressed psychologically, isolated relationally, and despondent spiritually. These characteristics even drove him to suicidal ideation.
He communicates his discouragement by saying, “God, I’m at the end of my rope, take me now, I am a disappointment,” “I have had enough, LORD,’ he said. ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.’ Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep’” (19:4b-5a). It does not take much in Elijah’s life to get his mind off of God and His glory and put all his attention on his circumstances or present condition. Notice where this brings him…to a point of desperation and depression. He says in this short plea that his circumstances are beyond his ability and that his life has ended in failure. However, he failed to realize, as is seen all throughout Scripture, that nothing is beyond God’s ability (He had, in fact, called down fire from heaven hadn’t He?) and that when God’s will is accomplished, there is no failure.
Elijah’s literal wilderness experience is not unlike what many experience in our world figuratively. Something threatens our joy or our very lives and we immediately run away in fear. In our running away, we separate ourselves from fellowship with others, and ultimately, if unchecked, we separate ourselves from fellowship with God Himself! This leaves us in a spiritual wilderness that can lead us toward personal destruction. Moments of victory and great celebration can so easily be cut short by anxiety in the face of this world and its perceived threats. These threats give way to discouragement and then self-defeating remarks toward one’s ability. Perhaps it is similar for you. The doctor after performing a successful surgery some weeks later tells you there is an unforeseen complication. Shortly after your loved one get over their battle with illness, you are thrust upon the operating table. Or while your family continues to prosper and grow, you can’t seem to enjoy it because of all the pain and suffering experienced by those around you. Or perhaps, effort is made to tell people about the Lord and invite them to church and yet the body does not grow. You like Elijah say, “I’ve had enough!” “Get me out of this situation!” This is the destination for all of us when we become consumed with our problems, our difficulties, ourselves, or our strength, rather than God, His unique ability, and His subsequent glory.
So, what is supposed to pry Elijah out of this rut? What hope does God give us in these ruts we face?
III. OBSERVATION #3: The Provision is Provided-19:5b-9
In the darkest moment of Elijah’s life, God intervenes (even though Elijah did everything he could to die instead of trust in the Lord). However, the way in which God intervenes demonstrates His desire to teach Elijah an important lesson. Rather than immediately eliminate his suffering and massage his self-confidence, God gives him a simple and concise command to follow, thereby testing Elijah’s faith and heart. God in this moment proves that while He is able to relieve suffering and save from despair, He will more than likely take His people through it, teaching them important lessons along the way. Asleep beneath the tree, God, through an angel, wakes him and calls him to eat a meal, “All at once an angel touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat’…” (19:5b).
“…He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again…” (19:6). In simple obedience, Elijah sees this miraculous provision and obeys, trusting God to lead Him the next step of the way when necessary. It is important to understand that although he desired much more than a meal, Elijah is faithful to God’s small command. In essence, like a good coach, God is drilling Elijah with small and simple tasks in order to get His prophet back in the game. Slowly but surely, we see Elijah less concerned about the queen’s threat, the future of his ministry, or the past success of the event on Mount Carmel, and more and more we see him focusing on God in real time, seeking Him and trusting Him once again for his most basic needs.
With drill one completed, the Coach asks him to run the same task a second time “…then the angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you’…” (19:7). Through this exercise, Elijah is relearning how to hand his life over to the Lord, only this time, he is learning this in the midst of a real threat while anticipating a long and arduous journey. In this second text, the angel discloses a discreet message concerning what lies ahead. The journey ahead is too much for Elijah, it always would be.
The same is true in our lives. What you are going through now or ever will go through is too big for you to handle without the intervention of the LORD. Just as Elijah, hungry and exhausted, relied on the food provided for by the Lord, we too whether we realize it or not are just as dependent on the Lord for everything.
“…So he got up and ate and drank…” (19:8a). Elijah obeys a second time, slowly mastering the technique of faith and trust that the coach is drilling into him. No hesitation, no questions, no problems, Elijah, having forgotten God before, is now stepping up to the plate and obeying His every call.
God provided for Elijah’s essential need, and because of this, he was strengthened, “…Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night…” (19:8b). He was strengthened enough for the next leg of the journey. When he prayed for his problems to cease (asking for God to kill him) Elijah was answered with enough strength to continue the next step of the journey. The important thing to realize here is this, although the alleviation of our existential problems may or may not be in God’s will, strength to do what God has called one to do in spite of these problems is always in His plan.
Although we pray for people to be saved from this or that struggle, a prayer that is more near to the spoken will of God would be for strength to get through the trial they are facing. This sort of prayer is possible when God is the focus rather than ourselves or our circumstances. It is up to Him!
Are you facing a struggle today that has discouraged you or brought you to the point of desperation? Maybe you feel guilty for being that way because you know, upon further recollection how God has blessed you in the past. Because of this, maybe you are discouraged, shaken, and emotionally drained. Perhaps as a result of your experiences, what you see, or, as it so often is in my case, what I don’t see, you have run away from those who are there to help and have even placed some distance between you and God. Today is the day to refocus your life toward God rather than your problems, yourself, your circumstance, or your own power. Elijah learned through a step by step process to trust the Lord, and maybe it is about time that you do the same. Call upon the coach to re-teach you the fundamentals of following Him and trusting Him with your life. He is a guide, He is our very present help in time of need, and He is far greater than anything you face. May we as a church, in spite of the discouragement around us, have a higher view of God than the issues, lack, and problems we face. May we, like Elijah, learn to celebrate what God has provided us in His wonderful grace, get up, and eat of His wonderful bounty so that we might be strengthened to head into the future undeterred by the threats of this world!
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
As different candidates for the presidency begin to show their stuff in debates on the national stage and radio ads and signs surface around our community for local candidates for public office, I cannot help but begin to consider whom I support and why for different positions. Certainly, my level of commitment for some far outweighs my commitment to others for various reasons. However, as I go to the poles this November and next November, I’m sure that I’ll be motivated to cast my vote in ways that are in keeping with my deep-rooted convictions in another candidate on a far greater campaign—Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God. As in any party, Republican and Democrat, conservative or liberal, there are purists and there are capitulators/moderates that are given names like “rinos” (republican in name only) and “dinos” (democrat in name only--I made that last on up myself!). These capitulators reveal that their labels may not match up with their actions which are a window into their heart’s convictions. The same is true in the church and its supporters. There are real believers and there are “chrinos” (Christians in name only). However, the implications of this distinction are far greater than political points earned or lost. This is why the preacher in Hebrews is careful to expose the chrinos and point the way to authentic faith in Hebrews 3:12-19. Today we are going to witness three parts of an important passage dealing with the result of inauthentic Christianity.
THE CALL TO REMAIN IN REST-3:12-13
The sharp warning of this passage takes place immediately after the preacher reminds the congregation of what happened to the Israelites in the wilderness when they provoked God. As a result of their behavior and lack of faith, many were not able to “enter [God’s] rest” in the Promised Land. However, as the case was made last week, if Jesus is greater than Moses, how much more severe will the consequence be for those who lack faith in Christ (as Christ is superior to Moses)? The preacher answers this question in 3:12-19.
Applying the situation in Moses’ day to his contemporary situation, the preacher says, “Take care, brethren, that there not be any of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God…” (3:12). In other words, in light of the pervasive faithlessness in Moses’ day, the preacher encourages those listening to him to make sure that none of the people in their churches are “chrinos” (Christians in name only). Although these they look like believers, chrinos are those whose outward association does not reflect the inward condition of their hearts.
The result of an “unbelieving heart” is falling away from the living God. To “fall away” means to rebel against or reject the authority of. This is that larger consequence for faithlessness that the preacher compares to the Israelites who were not able to enter the rest of the Promised Land. While unbelief and railing against Moses kept people from the Promised Land in the Old Testament, unbelief and railing against Jesus keeps you from the living God Himself!
Ultimately, the people of God in the first century, and in this century, are called to be watchful for those who are in the church who may not be a part of the body of Christ. The preacher says, “be watchful that you and those around you are not out of God’s rest—i.e. relationship with Jesus.” Not only do we have to be concerned about the souls of those who are home on Sunday mornings, we must also be on the lookout for those souls who need saving in the pew. No matter how many small groups someone has attended, no matter how much someone gives, no matter how involved someone has been, if they have an unbelieving heart, they will fall away from God. “Take care, brethren, that there not be any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God” (3:12).
In addition to being on the lookout for unbelief, the congregation to which the preacher is writing, is commanded to “encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (3:13). The people of the church need not only be watchful, but even more than watchful they are to be encouraging. The persistent and ongoing nature of command is made clear in the verb used and is reiterated by “day after day, as long as it is still called ‘today.’” In other words, encouragement should always be on the lips of believers in the church. Why? Because “today” is the present opportunity for a right relationship with God.
Therefore, people ought to be vigilant in the encouragements they give to others that directs them to the power and salvation of Jesus Christ. This is what the preacher suggests will prevent those in the believing community from “being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” This hardening or stubbornness comes ultimately in the form of being obstinate toward the person and work of Christ.
In our political season today, we cannot help but be inundated with messages from all kinds of candidates that are repeated time and time again on the TV and radio. These messages are reiterated by the signs that people have in their lawns and at their places of business. Truly, during a campaign season, there is an all ought media blitzkrieg that is intended to encourage people to make a specific decision at the poles. It would appear as though these candidates and their teams have no problem whatsoever understanding what it means to “encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called today” (i.e. as long as there is still time before the election is held). However, we have been given the greatest campaign of all—the kingdom of God—that is presently being built! Not only that, we have the greatest of all leaders to look forward to in Jesus Christ who will one day rule the world! He will one day get rid of our need for elections and in His power will one day rule perfectly. Why should we not match the urgency politicians demonstrate in our vastly superior cause for Christ?
The call to remain in rest is accomplished in two ways: watching for unbelief in the community, and saturating that community with the encouraging message of the gospel.
THE ABILITY TO REMAIN IN REST-3:14-15
The Ability on has to remain in rest is explained by the preacher when he says, “for we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end.” In other words, the ability to remain in Christ is made possible by being “in Christ” through faith, and this results in perseverance. Real Christian experience contains the quality of durability, lasting till the end (Guthrie, 130). Perseverance to the end is a guarantee for those who are truly in Christ. Remaining in his rest, therefore, is an indicator of whether or not the individual is really a partaker of Christ. Those who do not hold fast firm to the end reveal in their falling away that they are not really in Christ—
they are Christians in name only.
Building off of this idea, the author makes reference to what has been said in Psalm 95:7, “today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked Me.” (3:15). Here, the preacher reiterates the message he has been in the process of giving since the beginning of chapter 3—“listen to God’s voice carefully lest you harden yourselves like the Israelites of old and fall away.” Given what was mentioned in verse 14, one must hear God’s voice, listen carefully to it, respond appropriately, and hold fast its message. How is one able to accomplish this? By becoming a partaker of Christ through saving faith in His person and work. Only then will one be able to live in consistent belief and persevere to the end.
Like a consistently presented campaign message that we hear time and time again on the radio or on TV, the preacher gives another nuanced statement of the same ideas he has been presenting for some time now in his sermon. One might being to apprehend a sense of how important he believed it was for his original audience to here this message. In a world of pressure and persecution, believers were tempted left and right to dilute the message or settle for appearances rather than firm convictions. This would not do and would certainly not lead anyone to persevere in Christ. This is why the preacher sets out on this campaign of encouragement, a campaign he encourages his listeners to join him on, that calls for real faith, assurance, and perseverance under pressure and all of this in Christ!
THE EXAMPLE OF THOSE WHO FELL OUT OF REST-3:16-19
Unfortunately, while one might expect that a campaign like this to be more suitable for those outside the faith who do not claim to believe in Jesus at all, the preacher is very clear who his target is in this passage—those who claim Jesus outwardly, but reject Him inwardly. This is made clear in the story the preacher gives in verses 16-18 of a group that fell out of rest, “For who provoked Him when they had heard? Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient?...” (3:16-18). In this story, who provoked God in unbelief? Those who were supposed to be the people of God! This is the preacher’s point, God is greatly displeased with those who pretend to be believers, pretend to listen to Him, pretend to follow Him, and yet when tested in the wilderness of life, fall away, betraying the unbelief that was there all along. These will not enter the rest of God and will not
persevere to the end.
This might be comparable to someone who seems to endorse a certain candidate, placing the bumper sticker on their car, and erecting a sign in their yard, etc., but doesn’t commit enough to vote for him or her. Sounds outrageous right? And it would be! However, this is exactly what many presumed believers do with God. They champion Him before a friendly crowd at church and even look like they have every intention to follow Him. Maybe they even give to His causes! However, succumbing to the pressures around them, they do not commit, fall away, and vote for someone else in the end (themselves, money, family, etc.). This is what is truly outrageous—some are more committed to political candidates than they are to Jesus. Some are more open about who they would vote for than who they are following to eternity. Some hold fast to their political convictions more tightly than biblical truth!
Jesus is more than just a candidate, He is God Himself! Therefore, the church is encouraged here to buy into Him hook, line, and sinker, and encourage others to do the same in light of His amazing power, salvation, love, and glory. It is not enough to be a Chrino!
What is ultimately at issue here is unbelief, “so we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief” (3:19). It is not enough to be close, look the part, or seem right with God. One must really believe in Him, that is trust in Him in faith. These are those who enter a real relationship with Christ, persevere to the end in spite of everything they face, encourage others to do the same, and ultimately enter the rest of God in heaven.
While campaigns for various positions and offices come and go with some regularity in our world today that are largely limited to different governing bodies over various jurisdictions, there has been one singular campaign that has spanned the millennia in all cultures, in all times, and in all nations—God’s campaign of redemption through Jesus Christ. Commitment to Him and His message of grace through faith is far more important than any other agenda out there. Those who support the mission of God and look forward to His kingdom demonstrate the authenticity of their position through their perseverance under pressure and the encouragement they give to others in an effort to add to His party. However, as this passage reveals, there are Chrino’s hurting the campaign who will inevitably fall away and demonstrate in their fickle support that they were never the real deal to begin with. This passage compels us, much as it did for those in the first century, to do two things. First, we are to check our hearts to see whether or not we are just pretenders (Christians in name only) or real participants in the saving work of Jesus Christ. Second, we are to become encouragers of authentic faith in the greatest leader ever—Jesus Christ—in the way that we live, speak, and love, so that in our perseverance, others may join the ongoing campaign for the kingdom of God.
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
The first five books of our Bible were written by one of the Old Testament’s most beloved characters—Moses. Viewed by many in the Jewish community as one of the greatest saviors of God’s people, Moses has always been one of my favorites. In his account of the Exodus, we catch a glimpse of the awesome power of God who intervenes on behalf of His people when they cry out to Him for saving. After God’s people spent hundreds of years enslaved in Egypt, Moses was eventually used of God to lead them to the Promised Land through a program of miracles and grace.
This is an inspiring story that I yearn to be realized in my own life, not just for eternity, but for this day. Though I must admit that I’m not enslaved in the same way that the Israelites were and not on a journey to the same Promised Land, so often I find myself inhibited by discouragements, frustrations, confusion, and subsequent despondency as I journey toward the destiny God has for me in heaven. I tire often of the journey to this Promised Land, and like the Israelites of old, grow hardened to what God is doing and complain about what I perceive to be unnecessary delays in the wilderness, in spite of the many miracles I’ve beheld and the provision that God has so faithfully given me.
This saga is in large part due to a lack of understanding concerning the Savior God has given me who, as is taught in Hebrews 3:1-11, far exceeds Moses—Yes, even Moses! Today we are going to witness two historical presentations that demonstrate Jesus’ superiority to Moses in Hebrews 3:1-11 and learn how Jesus is the Savior who leads us out of a more worrisome Egypt.
I. PRESENTATION #1: Historical Comparison-3:1-6
Having introduced the concept of Jesus as a “high priest” in the previous passage (2:17), the author now transitions to a detailed explanation of what this means. In fact, the preacher encourages a close examination of Jesus as the High priest in verse 1 of chapter 3 saying, “Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession…” (3:1). So then, let us follow the instructions of our preacher.
Two ideas are shared when Jesus is called “the Apostle and High Priest of our confession…”(3:1). First, “apostle” (“sent one”) suggests that Jesus is God’s representative among human beings. In the incarnation, Jesus was sent from heaven to man for redemption. Second, “high priest” means that Jesus is man’s representative before God, who intercedes on their behalf and makes adequate sacrifice for sin. As the sent one of God (“Apostle”), Jesus is the perfect revealer of God (see John 1, Hebrews 1). As man’s representative before God (“high priest”), Jesus provides the perfect response to this revelation.
In both His apostolic and high priestly office, Jesus was found faithful, “He was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was in all His house…”(3:2). The combining of the two roles (apostle, “sent one,” and high priest) is not common in the Old Testament aside from a few exceptional characters. Moses is one such character. As Moses was sent to a captive people in a dangerous land, Jesus was sent to captive sinners in a wicked world. As Moses was an advocate for his people before God, enjoying private meetings with God and special revelations, Jesus is the believer’s advocate before God as He enjoys the most intimate of relationships with Him in the Trinity. To be sure, others around Moses received communications from God via visions or a dream, but Moses enjoyed more direct contact: “Not so with My servant Moses, He is faithful in all My household”(Num. 12:7). Moses was acknowledged by God as chief steward over his household,--his household being the family of God in his day. Similarly, others around Jesus heard from God and were even used to write the New Testament. However, the greatest of all revelations (as argued in Hebrews 1), is Jesus Christ—God Himself— the ultimate head of the household/family of God for all eternity.
It is here where the preacher takes a bold stance on Jesus’ superiority. In making his case for Jesus as a high priest, the author has compared Jesus to Moses. However, here he says that Jesus is superior even to this most beloved character in the Old Testament, “for He has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, by just so much as the builder of the house has more honor than the house…”(3:3). The implication of these words is clear, the era that Moses ushered in (the era of the law and sacrificial system), is inferior to the era that Jesus has created (the era of grace under the ultimate sacrifice).
In fact, while both Moses and Jesus were used to build exceedingly wonderful houses, it is inferred by verse 4 that Jesus built the builder, Moses, Himself! “For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God…” (3:4). Unlike Moses, Jesus is the uncreated founder and inheritor of His household. In fact, Jesus is the uncreated builder of all things.
In continuing this juxtaposition of Moses and Jesus, the author moves suggests that “Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later,…”(3:5). In other words, Moses served and administered the household God gave him as one who was himself part of the household. In this service, Moses provided a testimony of things to come (i.e. a foreshadowing of greater things). Hebrews 10:1 calls what Moses provided in his ministry a “shadow of the good things to come.”
However, while Moses was a servant in the household, Jesus is an heir of the household. When Moses administered as one who was himself part of the household; Christ rules over the household as Son of the Owner. While Moses service was a sign of greater things to come, Jesus’ ministry is that greater thing. This is what is meant when the preacher says in verse 6, “but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house—whose house we are…”. Though some sects of Jewish Christians believe that Jesus was primarily a second Moses; here He is presented as being much more than that and far greater than this beloved Old Testament figure.
This historical presentation is part of the preacher’s bold plan to establish Jesus as better than one of the most beloved Old Testament heroes. Truly, in all Old Testament stories, God is ultimately the hero as He appoints these fascinating and flawed men and women to do His bidding. Because Jesus is God Himself made flesh, He is not flawed, and therefore totally capable of serving as the world's best and only ultimate Savior.
II. PRESENTATION #2: A Historical Quote-3:7-11
These ideas are reiterated in the second part of this passage in which a historical quote is given in verses 7-11. The first part of the quote includes an important warning, “Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, ‘Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me, as in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your father tried Me by testing Me, and saw My works for forty years…” (3:7-9).
Before this quote from Psalm 95 can be appreciated for all that it is worth, we must understand something about how early Christians interpreted the redemptive work of Christ. Many, drawing from the obvious similarities between what Jesus did and what Moses was used to accomplish, interpreted Jesus’ redemption in terms of the Exodus. For instance, the death of Christ is itself called an “exodus” in Luke 9:31 (that is in the original language). The Last Supper is given by Jesus at Passover—a festival that was originated in the exodus. The lamb used to cover the doorposts is likened to Jesus—a lamb without blemish and without spot (1 Pet. 1:19). Similarly, the baptism of believers into Christ is the antitype of Israel’s passage through the Red Sea (1 Cor. 10:1ff). Also, the observance of the Lord’s Supper is compared to the nourishment the Hebrews found in the wilderness (1 Cor. 10:3ff). These ideas would have been firmly in place by the time this sermon was written and near common interpretations of Jesus’ life and ministry for both the preacher and his audience. Therefore, the author of Hebrews is well within bounds when he gives the warning he does in verse 7-9.
Ultimately, this warning is against disobeying Christ. This advice is then reinforced by a reminder of what happened to Israel in the wilderness because of their rebellion. The Psalm referenced calls to mind the rebellion of God’s people at Meribah when the Israelites threatened to revolt against Moses because there was no water there. On that occasion, Moses asked “Why do you rebel against me? Why do you put Yahweh to the test?” (Ex. 17:2, 7). Repeatedly this same situation must have played out in the forty years of wandering. Repeatedly the Israelites tested God’s patience and the patience of His appointed servant. However, the specific situation that Psalm 95 has in mind is found in Numbers 14:20ff. On the edge of the Promised Land, Moses sent out several scouts to do a preliminary survey of its contents and inhabitants. When the majority of these spies brought back an unfavorable report, the people revolted and even began to choose new leadership that would take them back to Egypt. Moses interceded on behalf of his people and God refrained from wiping them out with a plague. However, God did say, “None of the men that have seen my glory, and my signs, which I wrought in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have put me to the test these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice, shall see the land which I swore to give their fathers, neither shall any of them that despised me see it.”
Hebrews 3:10-11 reiterates this sentiment when it says, “Therefore I was angry with this generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, and they did not know My ways’; as I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest’…” (3:10-11).
The preacher’s point in this: just as the Israelites were kept from knowing the rest of the Promised Land because of their rebellion against God in spite of His many acts of grace, so too will people be kept from entering the rest of Jesus’ salvation if they harden their hearts when God speaks to them through the voice of a messenger or a miracle. If it was grim for those in the ancient world to rebel against Moses, how much worse is it for those in today’s world to rebel against Jesus who is far greater than Moses?
Ultimately, the historical comparison and the historical quotation in this passage demonstrate that in Christ we have been given the greatest of all Saviors. He traveled a far greater distance (from heaven) than Moses did (from Midian) to meet us. He found us in a far worse land than Egypt. He provided a way out of slavery under a far worse regime (Satan and this world) than was witnessed under Pharaoh. And He leads us to a far greater Promised Land—Heaven. Jesus is more than just a second Moses; He is God and He is with us. Therefore, we would do well to listen to Him and not harden ourselves to His voice. Neglecting the voice of Jesus spell disaster, not rest.
To be sure, Jesus is not just a Savior ultimately for salvation in the future. He is a Savior presently in the many things that you face today. Just as we are called not to harden ourselves to His salvation for our sins, so too are we called not to harden ourselves to His voice that speaks in the midst of our everyday struggles. Like the Israelites in Exodus, when we harden ourselves to the voice of God we are in some ways asking to return to the Egypt from which He saved us. When we do this, when we complain as the Israelites did time and time again, we forget that Jesus does not just promise the Promised Land to be realized one day, He also promises provision to accomplish His will for this day. Therefore we must be careful to listen to His saving voice—a greater voice, calling us out of a greater slavery, to a greater destiny.
Wednesday, September 9, 2015
I speak with many people who for a whole host of reasons prefer college football over professional football. Some cite that professionals are in it for the money and serving themselves rather than playing their heart out for the good of the team. Others seem to think that the soul of the game that is so prevalent in college football is lost in the fog of endorsements witnessed in the professional world. Others believe that the game is purer in college football because the entire team is involved instead of just a small group of players. However, one strident difference between college and professional football I want to draw attention to involves the role of the coach. With few exceptions, it appears as though the coach is more intimately connected to the team’s success in the college world than in the professional world in which owners and money men make decisions that are in some cases contrary to the advice offered by the coaching staff. In fact, some who coached in the NFL have chosen instead to coach college ball, freeing themselves from pre-madonna players and being micro-managed by those with little or no experience (Jim Harbaugh moved from the 49ers to the University of Michigan, Nick Saban from Miami Dolphins to LSU, Alabama, etc.). In college football, the coach is appreciated and plays a more intimate role in the outcome of a game as his strategy is executed by dutiful players who seek to serve rather than be served. In college football the coach can also be a savior in times of crisis, when something happens in the game that requires a different assortment of carefully designed plays. While, we are not here to dissect college football dynamics, we can draw several analogies between the college football coach and Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. In fact, the list of credentials given in Hebrews 2:10-18 elucidates some of the same qualities one might find in a leader of a successful team. As we are a team in the church, let us observe five reasons why Jesus is a fitting Savior, in fact, the greatest Savior of our lives and the only one capable of leading us to victory in the game of life.
I. Jesus Sacrificed for Men-2:10-13
As the preacher wraps up his case for Jesus’ superiority to the angels, he lays out five reasons why Jesus is a fitting Savior. The first reason is that Jesus sacrificed for men (as witnessed in verses 10-13). Although the idea of Jesus as a sacrifice is relatively common and fundamental to Christian teaching, this was a concept that proved to be a stumbling block to the Jews. Though the Jews, and Christian Jews of the first century had little difficulty embracing Jesus’ exalted status as Lord (see 1:1-2:9), Jesus’ humble position as a sacrifice was hard to grasp. However, this is absolutely essential to His role as Savior. First, the fittingness of Jesus’ sacrifice is described in verse 10, “for it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.”
It fits that the Creator and Sustainer of the universe be the one who appoints a Savior to bring many to glory. It fits, because of the punishment due to sin, that this Savior had to suffer to the point of death, taking on the consequence that the world deserved. It fits that the “sons” who take advantage of this sacrifice follow Jesus from earth to heaven (i.e. to “glory”). It also fits that the One who makes this heavenly journey possible for believers be called the “author of their salvation.” This word, “author” can also be translated “trailblazer” or “guide” emphasizing Jesus’ role in a new program of salvation for a new covenant people. However, the word also might be better translated “champion”—a word commonly used in Greek folklore/pop culture of that time. For example, Hercules was called a “champion” and “savior.” If this is the author’s intention, it is comparable to a preacher today saying that Jesus is “the real superman” (Guthrie, 107-08). Either way it is taken, Jesus blazed the trail from earth to heaven that all believers follow because of their faith in His suffering. In so doing, Jesus has come to our rescue as a real hero on our behalf, rendering Him a unique and appropriate Savior.
That Jesus is a Savior for His people means that He relates to them in special ways, “for both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren” (2:11). In other words, both Jesus as the sanctifying agent and believers as those sanctified demonstrate by their sanctification that they are indeed related, playing for the same team. The solidarity between the Son of God and the heirs of God results in Jesus not being ashamed to call believers “brothers”/”brethren.”
Coaches who drafts players and players who play for the team are part of the same family. The coach who sets players apart by calling them to his team and the players who in their rigorous preparation are set apart reveal that they are members of the same family in the unique way that they play the game.
Jesus ‘sacrifice sets this team in motion and puts this unique family together, lending to His credibility as an appropriate Savior.
To highlight these sentiments of solidarity between Christ and believers, the preacher draws from two psalms in verses 12-13: Psalm 22:22 and Isaiah 8:17b-18. The first is Psalm 22 which states, “I will proclaim Your name to My brethren, in the midst of the congregation I will sing Your praise…” (Heb. 2:12). Many early Christians believed that this psalm prophesized Jesus’ suffering (alluded to in verse 10) on the cross. This interpretive choice seems obvious when Jesus quotes the first words of Psalm 22 on the cross saying, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”. It is clear that, at the beginning of Psalm 22, the songwriter is not having a good day. However, when verse 22 of psalm 22 comes around, the songwriter takes a turn and begins a declaration of trust in which he expresses joy and praise for God’s attention to his cry for help. For this, the psalmist praises God saying that he will “proclaim Your name to my brethren” and that he will praise Him “in the midst of the congregation.”
These ideas of trust are reiterated by the next passage the preacher references, Isa. 8:17b-18, “I will put My trust in Him” and “Behold, I and the children whom God has given Me’…”(2:13). This quote also comes from a prophetic context. In Isaiah 8:14, the Lord God is described as a “stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall,” an idea applied to Jesus by the apostle Paul (see 1 Cor. 1:23). In the preacher’s use of this passage, he emphasizes trust in Jesus and His sacrifice and the subsequent familial relationship enjoyed between God and believers.
Jesus is a fitting Savior first because of His sacrifice that included suffering and allowed men to join his family. Those who are on his team, wear the same colors of sanctification that the coach endorses because of their understanding of the sacrifices made to draft them and train them to play uniquely for this elite squad—the church.
II. Jesus Became Flesh and Blood-2:14-15
The second reason Jesus is a fitting Savior is witnessed in His becoming flesh and blood. “…Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He himself likewise also partook of the same…” (2:14a). Jesus’ incarnation (His becoming man) allowed Jesus to “render powerless him who had the power of death, that is the devil” (2:14b). Inasmuch as the devil rules over the realm of this world, Jesus had to enter this world as a man to nullify the devil’s work. He did this by being fully man and yet totally perfect, never giving in to the myriad of temptations that were thrust in His direction and never not doing what he was purposed to do.
After living a perfect life, Jesus was the perfect sacrifice offered in his death for the forgiveness of sin. The world had killed someone who didn’t deserve to die for the very first time, rendering Satan’s program of sin and death, null and void. Jesus did not die because of a natural consequence of sin, He died on His own terms for an entirely different reason—to be a Savior for His people. This is something that He could not have done without first becoming flesh and blood.
However, Jesus’ death on the cross did not only nullify the work of Satan, it also freed those who were enslaved to sin, “and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives…”(2:15). Before Christ, the world’s system prevailed in a program of wickedness that led to death. We had everything to fear in death because of sin. However, in Christ, “A believer’s fear of death no longer paralyzes and enslaves because Jesus has disabled death’s master. As our champion He has stormed the very gates of the enemy and laid hold of his stronghold, opening wide the doors of our captivity and pointing us to the path of freedom” (Guthrie, 111). This victory, over Satan and the slavery of death came about because Jesus died as a man though He didn’t deserve it—rendering Him a superior Savior.
III. Jesus Serves as a Helper -2:16
As we look at the third reason for Jesus’ fittingness as a Savior we must remember what the preacher is addressing in the larger context. All of chapter 2 is dealing with Jesus’ superiority over the angels. As the angels cannot save, Jesus is superior to them. This theme is picked up again in verse 16, “for assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendants of Abraham.” In other words, all of the saving work of Jesus described so far, that He became man, lived a perfect life, suffered and died on a cross, etc. was not for angels, but for the spiritual descendants of Abraham—that is those who are of faith (See Gal. 3:7; Heb. 6:13-17). Jesus’ work was intended for mankind. Like a coach of an elite team is not obligated to help the stadium staff or teach courses at the college they belong to, Jesus’ focus is relatively narrow, helping believers by providing a pathway to victory on the field of life.
IV. Jesus Ministers as a High Priest-2:17
The fourth reason Jesus is a fitting savior involves His ministry as a high priest, “therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (2:17). With verse 17 and 18 the preacher makes a transition from exalting Jesus as above the angels to Jesus serving as the greatest intercessor. However, Jesus’ ministry as high priest is one of the many characteristics that sets him above the angels and makes Him a fitting Savior. This is why it is appropriate to mention this here.
As high priests of the ancient world were appointed from the human race, the greatest of all high priest also had to come out of the human race in order to make intercession on behalf of men and women. This is why the preacher says, “he had to be made like his brethren in all things.” Therefore, Jesus’ incarnation was not only necessary to provide adequate sacrifice (see above), but it was also necessary for Him in order to serve as the greatest high priest who could intercede on behalf of His people before God.
One of the primary roles of the high priest was to offer sacrifice in the holy of holies to atone for the sins of his people each year. As the greatest high priest, Jesus offered Himself as a sacrifice before God to atone for sin once for all! In fact, one of the reasons Jesus is the greatest ever high priest is because He alone can offer the greatest of all sacrifices, Himself!
V. Jesus Has been Tempted-2:18
However, Jesus is not the kind of high priest that is aloof and distant. Instead, He is the kind of high priest that sympathizes with us and our struggles/temptations as one who has Himself experienced the same, “for sine He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted…” (2:18). This is the fifth reason for His fittingness as a Savior.
Many of the best coaches are those who once served as players themselves (Urban Meyer, Nick Saban). As former players, they know in a more intimate way what their teammates are going through and can coach them accordingly. This is what Jesus offers in our lives. As the One who has lived as one of us, walked as one of us, and has been tempted as one of us, He is able to guide us in a greater capacity, rendering Him a most fitting Savior.
Jesus is the greatest of all saviors because of the following credentials: He sacrificed His life for men, became flesh and blood, serves as our helper, ministers as the greatest high priest, and has been tempted and yet did not fail. His intimacy with us as believers might compared to a head college football coach who is closely related to his team, in real (not just perceived authority) over his team, and acutely integral to the success of his team. Jesus is the greatest coach we could ever have in this life. However, many people live as though they want to be a part of the professional football world, complete with multi-million dollar salaries, an emphasis on individual player’s performances, and all of the hype and drama that comes with significant endorsements. These make life more about themselves, doing what is in their best interest, chasing after the things of this world. However, we live in a world of injuries, upsets, and unforeseen circumstances that cannot be overcome by money or people. In these moments, you are going to wish you had a coach and belonged to a team that listened well to him—a coach who can save the team from defeat by adapting to the situation at hand and leading all involved to victory. You are going to wish you had a coach to lead you who was willing to sacrifice on your behalf, someone who was willing to come to you in order to ask that you play on his team, someone who is willing to help you out and who has been in your situation before. You are going to wish you had a coach who could save you from the real bind in which you find yourself. That someone is Jesus Christ. Do you know Him? Are you yet playing on His winning team?
Wednesday, September 2, 2015
In order to symbolize status and capture a person’s position of power, portraits are often drawn up and photos taken of individuals and others standing in any number of positions. In the famous painting of “Washington Crossing the Delaware” our first president is shown standing tall above everyone else in the center of the portrait, demonstrating his central role in the revolutionary war and his authority over the troops around him. In this picture the profile of Washington is witnessed as he looks toward the left of the painting, resolutely focused on his goal of crossing to the other side of the river. Portraits of royal families also demonstrate status and power in the way they configure different members of the family in different ways depending on the occasion and their connection to the throne. Where one stands in any number of these portraits says a lot. However, as we have already come to realize in our study of this incredible book, our subject for consideration is far greater than any president or royal, He is God, He is Jesus Christ. No single portrait or photo could ever capture His status in connection with the myriad of roles He satisfies. However, the preacher of Hebrews believes that he can capture something of Jesus’ rank by painting word pictures in Hebrews 2:5-9. In this passage we will witness two places in which Jesus stands that speak of His matchless glory and superior rank.
Jesus Stands Above the World to Come-2:5 & 8b-c
In returning to his original Christological program, the preacher sets out to describe two places where Jesus stands over and above the angels. He does so by first describing how Jesus stands above the world to come saying, “For He did not subject to angels the world to come, concerning which we are speaking…” (2:5). “Ancient Judaism held to the belief that angels had been placed by God over the nations of the world” (Guthrie, 97). This was based largely on an interpretation of Deuteronomy 32:8 in which it is said that God set up boundaries for the nations according to the number of God’s angels and Daniel 10 & 12 where angels are given assignments over specific nation states. This theme of rule over the nations extends to fallen angels in passages like Eph. 6:12 which describes the evil work of principalities over governing bodies. However, according to this passage, neither good nor bad angels will stand in position over the government that will be established in the “world to come.”
This will happen in large part because the whole world will be “subject” to Him as Ruler. This act of submission describes a yielding to the perspective or position of another. As reiterated in other places in the New Testament, all of the powers of the universe, either willingly or unwillingly, will and must submit to Christ (1 Cor.. 15:27-28; Eph. 1:22; Phil. 2:10-11; 3:21; 1 Pet. 3:22).
Psalm 110 (from which these ideas are drawn), seems to suggest that this will happen in the future, (“The Lord says to my Lord; ‘Sit at my right hand Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet’”). However, Heb. 2:8b seems to suggest that his has already occurred, “for in subjective all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him” (2:8b). The idea presented here is that Jesus already rules it all because there is nothing left that is not already under His control!
The last part of verse 8 helps us understand how this not yet, yet present juxtaposition can be satisfied when it says, “but now we do not yet see all things subject to him…”(2:8c). In other words, Jesus has rule over all and stands in authority above the world (past, present, and future); people just cannot perceive this yet.
Jesus Stands Like and Above Men -2:6-8a, 9
The next position Jesus is described as standing in is like and above men. In order to make this case, the preacher draws from a very important song, Psalm 8. Psalm 8 interrupts the laments heard in Psalm 3-7 with “a beautiful praise-filled counterpoint” to the grievous remarks made earlier in the songbook. Attributed to David, this psalm is an informed reflection on Genesis 1. In it, the king of Israel praises God for His matchless glory as evidenced both in creation and in elevating human beings to the glory and honor of vice-regency over other creatures.
This interpretation is reached after carefully examining the Psalm’s content. In the song David marvels at the exalted position God bestowed on mankind when He appointed humans to “rule over the works of Your hands” and “put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, whatever passes through the paths of the seas” (vv.4-8). Alluding to Gen. 1:26-28, David celebrates the fact that the Creator gave dominion over all animal life to Adam and his descendants in the current world. Therefore, the quote that is used in Hebrews 2 is, in part, an allusion to an even earlier literary work--Genesis.
Because of this, it is important understand the context of Genesis 1-2. In these first chapters of Scripture the crescendo of God’s creative work finally reaches its fortissimo in Genesis 1:26-28 (the exact verses to which David alludes). These important verses establish humanity as the crown jewel of God’s creative order. From the dawn of history, the Creator, who powerfully ordered the cosmos and now sustains it, decreed that the first humans and their descendants were to serve as the Lord’s vice-regents over everything that exists in the world. Once made in God’s image, mankind is commanded to subdue the earth, rule over it, and to be fruitful in it. In essence, Adam as the first man is given a sort of kingship over the earth—a kingship that David, king of Israel, celebrates with humble appreciation.
The superiority of mankind in God’s creative order is a theme Psalm 8 endorses. In David’s lyrical bars, he indicates that the all-glorious Lord has bestowed unparalleled dignity on human beings (“…You have made him a little lower than God, and you crown him with glory and majesty!”). However, the poet also admits that people are mere mortals who seem especially tiny and frivolous against the backdrop of the vast and mysterious universe (“What is man that You take thought of him…?”). Psalm 8:3-8, from which the quote in Hebrews 2 is derived, demonstrates a reverent wonder in response to these ideas and expresses a great deal of appreciation for God’s dealings with humanity and the special role man has been given in the creative order. This Psalm and its context demonstrate David’s understanding of humanity’s place as a little lower in rank than the angels and the governing authority over the non-human realm and other natural forces upon the earth that God has bestowed. As a king himself, David considers the kingship every man enjoys by considering the first human king along with his entirely different kind of kingdom—Adam in the garden of Eden. In light of all God has done for humanity and the authority he gave them over the world in this way, it is appropriate for mankind to express continuous thanks to the Creator.” This is exactly what Psalm 8 seeks to do following several songs of lament in its own Old Testament context.
Men have been given a special place in God’s creative order as rulers of this world who have special dignity. However, there is one who is above mankind, Jesus Christ Himself. Originally, God intended for men to rule as kings over the world, placing everything in perfect subjugation and glorifying God in this uniquely appointed role.
However, this did not happen. Psalm 8 (quoted here by the preacher) requires fulfilling because the perfect and original kingdom of Adam at the beginning of time that was celebrated by David was lost in sin. Not everything is subject to humanity as was originally intended. Enter Jesus Christ. Verse 9 of Hebrews 2 says, “But we do see Him who was make for a little while lower than the angels, namely Jesus,…” (2:9). Like mankind, Jesus was made a little lower than the angels, not in rank, but in position on earth, to walk and live as a man on the physical plane of this planet. In this way, Jesus stands like one of us.
This verse highlights the doctrine of the incarnation. In his usage of Psalm 8, the writer of Hebrews is not only interested in the psalm for what it says about humanity’s rule in the past; he is also interested in the inaugurated rule of the “son of Man” that began in his incarnation and will one day culminate in the world to come. At a crucial moment in the book of Hebrews where Jesus’ glory is juxtaposed alongside His identification with humanity (in the transition marked between Hebrews 1 and Hebrews 2), the psalm employed is able to celebrate both the divinity and humanity of Christ. As Christ is at the same time divine and human, the author means to say is that it is only Christ as the true representative of humanity [the second Adam] who can fulfill this psalm in the eschaton --when the paradise that was experienced in Genesis under Adam will be restored.
Through the eyes of faith made possible in Christ, believers can understand how Jesus fulfilled the theological ideal the psalmist described in Psalm 8 perfectly and in response anticipate a future when everything will be subject to Him. In Hebrews 2, Jesus is portrayed as the last (or second) Adam.. To fulfill this ideal, Jesus, though divine, had to become a real human being (like other people, Jesus was make lower than the angels for a little while). As the God-Man, Jesus did not sin; rather, He obeyed the Creator even to the extent of dying for the sins of humanity. For the Son’s obedience, the Father “crowned him with glory and honor” (Psalm 8:5).
While Jesus stands with us, He also stands above us, “because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone” (2:9b). The glory and honor ascribed to Him here is not the same that was mentioned of mankind in Psalm 8. Instead, the preacher stretches this to means something far greater.
Christ, the true and perfect representative of humanity, fulfills the psalm in the most perfect way
essentially at present and practically in the future when He will rule as was intended in Genesis and remembered in Psalm 8. Jesus alone is capable of enjoying this rule because in His humiliation, God exalted Him, giving Jesus the name that is above every name. This is reiterated by Paul in Philippians.
Philippians 2:8-9-“Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the pint of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name. So that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
This passage summarizes the ideas covered in our message today. Though Jesus stands above the world, He was willing to humble Himself by standing like a man in this world. However, in His sacrifice of death, Jesus showed Himself to be the one true king over all creation, a creation that was lost and never ruled well because of sin. For this reason, Jesus stands above men, while a man, as the one who alone possesses the name above all names.
In this passage, we have taken a long look at where Jesus stands in connection with the world to come and with mankind. He stands above the future kingdom and like and above men. These considerations immediately demand of us to ask a simple question, where does Jesus stand in my life’s portrait? Is Jesus prominently figured in the way that you live, standing resolute and taller than all others in your vessel? Or have you painted Him in the distance, directly behind you, or is He even there? Is Jesus in the center of your family portrait and you as close to Him as possible? Or is there distance between the two of you communicating tension and/or an internal struggle for power? Whether it is true yet or not in our lives at present, one day Jesus will take His rightful place above your world and above you. Why not situate Him there now? Then and only then will we be able to cross river of this life to the other side with any success. Then and only then will our family leave a legacy that others are inspired by. Then and only then will we be able to stand against the pressures and persecutions of this world. Knowing where Jesus stands and where we stand in relationship to Him allows us to live a life that stands for God’s glory. This is the preacher’s message to the church in Rome and it is this preacher’s message to our church today.