Friday, June 26, 2009

Going Deeper (Week 3)

Going Deeper (Week 3 Day 2)
Verses 5 to 9 may be divided roughly into two parts: (1) an introduction followed by the quotation of Psalm 8:4 – 6 (vv. 5 – 8a), and (2) an interpretation of the psalm’s meaning (vv. 8b – 9). Again, there is a chiastic arrangement from verse 6 as the author states the quote and he interprets it in a reverse manner. Can you identify it?

A God’s grace to man (mindful and care for man, v6)
B Jesus’ humility & glory (made him a little lower than angels… crowned him with glory and honor, v7)
C Christ’s victory (put everything under his feet, v8a)
C’ Christ’s victory (left nothing that is not subject to him, v8b)
B’ Jesus’ humility & glory (made him a little lower than angels…crowned him with glory and honor, v9a)
A’ God’s grace to man (suffer death for everyone, v9b)

Some extra thoughts
The highlight of this section is found at the centre of this Chiastic structure: Christ’s victory. This seems to be overly triumphant view, implying we as Christian can also have victories like Christ. But the following phrase at the end of verse 8 (v8c) gives us the balance perspective of our understanding of victory in Christ: “Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him.” This is by no mean that Christian can have no victory at the present, it is only not everything we are having victory.

Therefore, our response should be not giving up praying for victory in life; pray for the sick, pray for deliverance, and pray for breakthrough. Though not everything we can see immediate result, we can be sure for two things: 1) we will surely have God’s victory in the end, and 2) there are still many things we will see victory over.

Going Deeper (Week 3 Day 3)
The author of Hebrews uses these two messianic passages (Ps. 22:22 and Isa. 8:17b – 18) in verses 12 and 13. There are actually three key reasons which help the author highlight the work of Christ in light of early Christian messianic interpretation.
Can you identify the three reasons?

1) to support the close family relationship established between the Son and the people of God;
2) referring Jesus as the Son’s living with God’s people.
3) to speak of the Son’s suffering as well as his posture of trust toward the Father.

Some extra thoughts
I am in favor that these two quotations are to help us to realize that we have a Messiah who understands us, with us and knows God. The author of Hebrew is probably building up to the truth of Suffering Christ or A High Priest who understands. These are important ground work for the author to lay before he plunges deep into these topics later in is message or letter.

Isn’t it comforting to know that we are not studying about a God who is unreachable, or too mysterious to be understood, or merely an object of worship? Jesus Christ is real, lives among you and I today, He is personal, He is closed beside you and I, and most importantly, He understands our struggles and able to eradicate it by dying on the Cross. He is both powerful and loving.

Going Deeper (Week 3 Day 4)
In the final two verses of this passage, the author sets up an effective transition to the central section of Hebrews on Jesus’ high priesthood, beginning with 4:14 and running through 10:25. Hebrews 2:17 – 18 shares no fewer than eight words or phrases with 4:14 – 5:3. Through these concepts the preacher introduces an expansion on his reasons for the Incarnation built around the high priest motif, which he expounds in 4:14 – 10:25. The Son had to become human because high priests are taken from among human beings (see 5:1), and he had to become a high priest in order to offer the ultimate sacrifice for sins (2:17).

Can you list down the list of words or phrases in 2:17-18 which will also be found in 4:14-5:3?

“Word/Phrase” (2:17-18 / 4:14-5:3)
“high priest” (2:17 / 4:14; 5:1)
“sin” (2:17 / 4:15; 5:1,3)
“merciful/mercy” (2:17 / 4:16)
“tempted” (2:18 / 4:15)
“help” (2:18 / 4:16)
“in service (matters related) to God” (2:17 / 5:1)
“the people” (2:17 / 5:3)
“he had to/he has to” - the obligation to do something (2:17 / 5:3)

Some extra thoughts
Watch out for how all these themes are being developed and explained in the later part of this letter. Maybe before we encounter these topics again, what is your understanding of these terms? What does high priest means to you? How about your understanding of sin? Journal them down, and as you study His word, may the Holy Spirit opens you mind, enlightens your heart and empowers you with strength to live in accordance to His word in Spirit.


Friday, June 19, 2009

Remember those earlier days… (Hebrews 10:26-39) 190609

Recently a friend of mine started a group in Facebooks, which reminds us of our good old days. We were together when we were younger, composing songs, having gigs and performing. We had great fun and many fond memories together. When this group in the Facebook was formed, we saw many old photographs being uploaded and all those who joined the group and saw those pictures, we had a good laugh and warmth filled our hearts.

Things in the past can be either good or bad. We can either have fond memories of the past or bad experiences which we would not want to mention about it anymore. There are also things of the past we are really took pride and others which we feel ashamed of. Do you have such past too?

I think the author of Hebrews is issuing a harsh warning (10:26 – 31) — arguably the harshest in the book — with a gentler reminder of past success (10:32 – 34), then rounding out the whole by calling this struggling community back to a life lived in light of the Parousia , the end days (10:35 – 39).

As I meditate on this passage, I am convicted that the Lord will judge (v30). There is no way I can just forget about my sinful past, though it already has no effect on us because of what Christ has done; it is nonetheless a reality of the past. And the warning is not of the past, but of the future. We don’t warn what is already past; we warn what is ahead of us. Similarly, we are not to dwell in the past, but look out for the future carefully.

What do we do with our past? Remember those earlier days when we stood the ground in a great contest in the face of suffering (v32). Remember the good old days. Remember the past success and past victory. The author did not say: Remember the past glory. I think the author just want to remind his readers that the good things of the past are not those glorious things; it is those when they preserved and stood firm in the face of persecution.

The author knows that what will hold God’s people for the future is not those good old days, so to speak; but it is those good old suffering days whereby they go through it together. Therefore, suffering may not be a bad thing after all. It is a good opportunity for God’s power to be shown through our suffering.

I am writing this, as my church’s Sri Lankan pastor is undergoing brain tumor treatment, one of my small group member’s child still having a hole in his heart, and another member has some genetic disorder which cause him to have joint stiffness from time to time, and others. I know that there are others, who are suffering for Christ in one way or another, being mock by classmates or colleagues for not able to join them on Friday night outing or Sunday morning game. Stood your ground, you will be able to remember these good suffering days in the future.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Going Deeper (Week 2)

Going Deeper (Week 2 Day 2)
From 1:5-14, the author stringed together seven Old Testament passages to support his argument that the Son of God is superior to the angels. Can you identify these seven quotations, the Old Testament references, and their key points?

Quotation in Hebrews (OT reference; Key Point)
Heb 1:5a (Ps 2:7; He is the Son)
Heb 1:5b (2 Sam 7:14; He is the Son)
Heb 1:6 (Ps 97:7; He is to be worshiped)
Heb 1:7 (Ps 104:4; He is to be served by angels)
Heb 1:8-9 (Ps 45:6-7; He is to rule with righteousness)
Heb 1:10-12 (Ps 102:25-27; He is the Creator)
Heb 1:13 (Ps 110:1; He has the Victory)

Some extra thoughts
The author of Hebrews or the preacher (if you like to call him this way) is deliberately building up the attributes of Jesus in an escalated manner whereby the audience or the readers will not miss the point. He skillfully begins by pounding the idea that Jesus is the Son of God, both from divine perspective and humanistic (the use of 2 Sam 7:14 quotation) perspective, so that we understand that the foundation of all His attributes builds upon His relationship with God, which is also the author central theme in Heb 1:2-3 (remember Week 1 Day 4 chiastic exercise?).

The author ‘quotes’ his way to the final result of Jesus, which is, His victory over Satan and sins (Ps 110:1). If your understanding of Jesus is only wanting the victory of Christ without accepting His relationship with God, your worship to Him, your service to Him and His people, your submission to His rule and acknowledge all things are from Him including your life; take some time to let all these truths sink in you.

Going deeper is not an intellectual exercise; but really understand what God is saying through His word (as in Bible) to us, specifically. May you enjoy your journey into the depth of His word.

Going Deeper (Week 2 Day 3)
Verses 10-12 is taken from Ps. 102:25-27. The author of Hebrews has been quoting almost directly from the Septuagint (LXX), which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament. This psalm begins with “Hear my prayer, O Yahweh,” and it is “A prayer of an afflicted man, when he is faint, and pours out his lament before the LORD.” This is the superscription of this psalm. Take some time to read through Psalm 102 and explain why the author uses this quotation (Ps 102:25-27).

Commentator, Willem A. VanGemeren, classified Psalm 102 as one of the seven penitential psalms (Pss 6; 32; 38; 51; 102; 130; 143). Some of these psalms are so designated because of their confessional nature; others are classed in this category because of their use within the Christian community. Psalm 102 is an example of the latter. It emphasizes the suffering and discipline often associated with sin (cf. vv.10, 23-24). The psalm exemplifies the literary genre of an individual lament. This lament arises out of an exilic situation, when the godly together with the wicked had been exiled from the land. For other exilic psalms, see 42, 43, 74, 79 and 137.

The structure of this psalm reveals two basic literary elements: lament and prophetic-hymnic. Kraus explains the prophetic-hymnic section as a special exilic development. The godly felt that they too had been rejected by the Lord and that the fulfillment of all the prophetic promises was in doubt. The purpose of the prophetic-hymnic section was to set ablaze a fire of hope in the promises of the Lord within the hearts of the godly.

Though the author of Hebrews ends the quotation at Ps 102:27, but I believe that the conclusion thought of the Ps 102 which is echoed in verse 28: The children of your servants will live in your presence; their descendants will be established before you; ring in the mind of his readers and audience. And of course, the author is also equating Jesus as the Lord described by the Psalmist here. This is an assurance for his readers that they are indeed the people who are living in the presence of the Lord and the Lord is Jesus.

Going Deeper (Week 2 Day 4)
"Salvation" is a general word, but among first-century Christians it was used to mean salvation in Christ, either in its present or, as in this passage, future aspect. The word "salvation" (soteria) is used in Hebrews seven times, the most in any NT book; so the concept clearly matters to the author. His use of it here without explanation or qualification shows that it was already accepted by the readers as well as the author as a technical term for the salvation Christ brought.
Can you explain what salvation in Christ means?

Salvation in Christ means to have confidence of his or hers destiny that he or she will finally be with God from now on until eternity. And such confidence comes from what a person knows and believes of what Jesus Christ has done on the Cross for them.

Can you also locate the other six times, the word “salvation”, is used in the book of Hebrews? What is the context for each?

Verses (Context)
Heb. 2:3a (We cannot be indifferent to the salvation of Christ.)
Heb 2:3b (How the salvation of Christ being brought to us.)
Heb 2:10 (Salvation of Christ is explained in the light of Christ suffering on the Cross)
Heb 5:9 (Jesus Christ is the source of this salvation)
Heb 6:9 (There are better things accompanying the salvation in Christ)
Heb 9:28 (Salvation is the effect of Christ work on the Cross as our sacrifice)

Some extra thoughts
I hope that this exercise of tracing the use of the word ‘salvation’ gives you a better understanding that salvation is not only a technical Christian terminology. It actually has very explicit and clear meaning to it. Our salvation in Christ is not an abstract idea whereby we embraced without thinking. Our salvation is concrete as it builds on our understanding of what Christ has done on the Cross, both historically and spiritually.


Friday, June 12, 2009

Going Deeper (Week 1)

Going Deeper (Week 1 Day 3)
The author presented divine revelation in parallel contrasts between the “older” forms of communication during the time of the prophets and the “newer” form of communication through the Son. He contrasts four areas: the era of the revelation, the recipients, the agents, and the ways in which the revelation was manifested. Can you identify them?

Era In the past (Older Communication) In these last days(Newer Communication)
Recipients To our forefathers(Older Communication) To us (Newer Communication)
Agents Prophets (Older Communication) His Son(Newer Communication)
Ways Various ways (Older Communication) One way (implied) (Newer Communication)

As God has made a definite way to communicate to us, which is through His Son Jesus Christ; we can be assured that God doesn’t want us to miss His message. His message of the Cross is such a simple and clear one, which speaks of His love and grace, there is no way we can miss the point. Be encouraged that as we earnestly seek the Lord, we will surely be able to hear Him speaking to us.

Going Deeper (Week 1 Day 4)
The author does not use his ability with stylistic flair to impress but to rivet the hearers’ attention and center it on God’s act of communication, especially heard in the person, works, and status of the Son. He accomplishes this objective by presenting a theological framework he shares with other early Christian writers. This framework presents Christ in his preexistence (His relationship with God from the beginning), incarnation (cosmic action – became man and suffered for us), and exaltation (enthronement). The author presents this theology in a chiastic structure within verses 2 and 3.
Can you identify it?

Enthronement A He appointed heir of all things
Cosmic action B He made the universe
Relationship with God C Radiance of God’s glory
Relationship with God C’ Exact representation of His being
Cosmic action B’ Sustaining all things
Enthronement A’ Sat down at the right hand of the Majestic in heaven

For the author to make an effort to express these thoughts about Jesus in such a manner, they must be very important attribute of Christ. And these three attributes of Jesus do run through the entire book of Hebrews. To put it in another way, enthronement speaks of Christ position (where He is now), cosmic action definitely speaks of His action (what He does) and relationship with God of course speaks of His relation (who He is).


Dear readers...

I am sorry that I have not been updating my blog, because I am being lazy and being distracted. I don't want to give any excuse to make myself feeling better. I can try to blame the workload, family demands, and even God-given-unforeseen-circumstances; but I think I have a part (great part) to play when coming to being distracted.

I was supposed to upload some going deeper materials for the Hebrews Bible Study, but I didn't. Of course I can blame my laptop being corrupted and needed to be reformatted, but I am the one who ignorantly introduced the virus into my own laptop! Sound absurd? So, I have not been working on my going deeper. (I am giving myself excuse.)

Anyway, I have now a temporary computer to work on. I should get it out by this Saturday, I hope. I hope I don't procrastinate.

You waiting for something you happen here? Coming soon...