Heads Up! New Blog Location and New Bible Study Coming Soon

I just wanted to give a quick update for those of you who follow me. I will be heading over to join my husband at his blog, davidhuffstutler.com, within the next couple of weeks. If you are interested in continuing to follow me, you can head over there and follow at his blog.

I have also started working on my next Bible study through the book of Joshua. Some have expressed interest in my sharing my studies on the blog, so I will start doing that once I’ve moved over to my husband’s blog site. The format will be similar to the Hebrews study I posted last year. Again, if you’d like to follow along, be sure to follow davidhuffstutler.com.

If you want to start prepping for the study, I recommend reading through the whole book of Joshua once or twice. If you’re really ambitious and haven’t studied Genesis–Deuteronomy lately, you could read through these 5 books to help cement the context of Joshua better in your mind. Happy Studying! 🙂

Lessons I Learned Through COVID-19.

In December, our family was exposed to Covid, and all six of us (ages 4-38) experienced the illness to one degree or another. My husband recently wrote a post about what he learned through this difficult experience, and here I’m going to share what I learned.

Photo by Vera Davidova on Unsplash

Before I continue, let me say that I know that our difficulty was really so small compared to so many who have suffered/are suffering from various health issues in general and even specifically from more serious cases of Covid itself. Yet the Lord still teaches various lessons to various people based on their various circumstances and trials. These are a few of the big lessons I learned.

Covid is real, and it can be really bad.

Although it’s true that mild symptoms of Covid can be as minor as cold symptoms (like my kids experienced to varying degrees) or as uncomfortable as influenza (like I experienced), serious Covid symptoms are incredibly distressing and potentially life-threatening.

My husband (healthy, no pre-existing conditions, Crossfit member) experienced 11 days of high fevers (102-103), chills, 14-pound weight loss, GI symptoms, lack of appetite/taste, dehydration, etc. The day he finally went to the ER, he could barely walk and started to develop respiratory symptoms: chest pain, difficulty breathing after walking only a couple of steps, decreased oxygen levels, etc. He was diagnosed with Covid pneumonia and finally began to feel a little better around day 17.

And of course, we probably have heard of those who have it even worse or have died from it.

Covid should be taken seriously, but it should not be feared.

Being a nurse, I have always taken Covid seriously. I’ve understood that it’s not just another flu bug. I’ve understood that it can be very dangerous and even life-threatening for healthy people, as well as for those more at risk. But being a Christian, I have also realized that Covid is under the control of God, just like everything else in this world.

Don’t get me wrong—fear was knocking on my door when I dropped my husband off at the ER, unsure when and if I would see him again. (Thankfully, he was released after only a couple of hours.) I worriedly strained my eyes at night to watch and see if Dave was breathing while he slept. I monitored his fluid intake and his oxygen levels with nurse-like regularity.

The fear was there, but I had to constantly replace that fear with trust. The very afternoon I learned that we had possibly been exposed to Covid, I had taught in Sunday School that morning the truth that Jesus is in control over disease. He is omnipotent (all-powerful) and sovereign (he controls all things). These truths rolled over and over in mind as I dealt with the realities of my husband’s illness and the unknowns of how bad it might get.

Caregivers of those with illness need much encouragement, prayer, and love.

I have a newfound sympathy for those who live with someone needing care—whether short-term or long-term. It is so incredibly draining to watch someone suffer and be able to do basically nothing. It was physically draining for me personally as I fought the illness myself and had to take care of my 4 kids, as well as my husband. But it was also emotionally draining to watch him suffer, attempt to help, make decisions, monitor text/phone updates to friends/family, and continue with the rest of life.

I found that it was also lonely. My husband was there, but he was absent in the sense that he didn’t talk much or want to be touched, and he often slept. My kids didn’t quite understand the gravity of his illness, so that added to the aloneness I felt. With being quarantined with Covid in particular, the loneliness is accentuated in no one being able to visit, talk face-to-face, or give a hug.

God’s people can be a visible extension of God’s love.

When you pray for healing and God doesn’t answer as soon as/how you’d like, it’s easy to feel like God’s mercy, love, and compassion are not being shown. It is easy to despair in the midst of a trial, especially when the outcome is unknown. It’s easy to wonder as Job did, “Why?”

God showed his love to us through the love of many during this time. Meals, texts, Vernors, gifts, groceries, cash, and prayers helped us remember that not only did these people love us, but God loved us too.

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:11-12 ESV). 

Accepting help from others is a humbling process, but it allows God to show grace through others and bring joy.

Speaking of all that help our friends and family gave us. . . It is hard to accept help from others. To do so admits that you are a weak human who does not always have everything perfectly under control. And isn’t that the uncomfortable truth?!

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:9-10 ESV).

The first week, we had many offers from others to bring food, which we refused, because we had no appetite and we literally had no room in the fridge (I had just shopped for two weeks’ worth of food). As the days went on with no improvement for my husband, my children continued to have as much appetite and energy as ever (their illnesses were very short lived). After trying to pull one real meal together and feeling like I was going to collapse after that, I eagerly accepted every meal that was sent our way. I needed help, and God was gracious to me through these people.

I also learned that the meals and groceries sent our way were in a way God’s grace to the very people who gave them. Just as I was eager to help my husband and was sad when nothing I offered was helpful, so were the people who surrounded me. They were so thankful to be a help and feel like they could make a difference.

“For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us” (2 Cor 8:3-5).  

And this cheerful generosity led to thanksgiving to God. God was glorified through their gifts to help us.

“You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God” (2 Cor 9:11-12).

Any contagious illness presents risks, and sometimes love is willing to take a risk.

Everyone believes differently concerning Covid and its risks. People take different precautions, and some take little to none at all. Love, I believe, is key to helping navigate these differences and to serving in spite of risks.

Because we are not harming ourselves or others by wearing masks, we generally wear masks when in public, including our church. We do this—whether or not it can be infallibly proven to work—out of love for those around us. When we are only with people who do not care in the least about masks, we may choose to remove them because we are not overly concerned for ourselves at this point and are not out to make a statement.

For those who are more concerned or at known risk for the disease, we don’t invite them to our home, give hugs, or insist they attend a function. Out of love. For those who would be encouraged by a hug, a time of safe fellowship, etc, we are willing to be creative to make that happen. Out of love.

This is the kind of love we ourselves were shown. When we were quarantined, I needed to take my husband to the hospital, and I couldn’t take my kids. A friend offered to come watch them. Was there risk? Yes, but sometimes love trumps risks. We worked out how we could do that in a safe way, but I was so grateful that her love was greater than fear in that case.

 I’m sure there’s more I could say, but these lessons are the highlights. Already, just a few weeks out, I’m forgetting the impact that the illness had on our family. I feel foolish for having feared that Dave might die when he is now already almost back to 100%. So I write so that I won’t forget and that perhaps you might know how to pray better and care for someone going through a similar trial.

New Year, Old Hope

Yesterday, my husband started preaching through an overview of Colossians. The whole chapter is just brimming with truth, but verses 3-5 attracted my attention.

“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel” (ESV).

Paul wrote that he and his companions thanked God since they heard of the Colossians’ faith in Christ and their love for the saints. What struck me was the cause of that faith and love. It was the hope of the truth of the gospel.

As we enter a new year, and especially as we leave a year that most of the world found to be a very difficult one, everyone is looking for some hope to hang his hat on. If nothing else, this past year has taught us that our plans, our political parties, our health, our economy are not those things in which our hope can reliably rest. And, unfortunately, this brought a sickness to many hearts.

            Hope deferred makes the heart sick (Prov 13:12 ESV).

And then we ask ourselves,

Why are you cast down, O my soul,

and why are you in turmoil within me? (Psa 42:5 ESV)

The psalmist gives the answer, the one we all know:

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,

my salvation and my God. (Psa 42:6 ESV)

Yet I think that when we try to hope in God, we often hope in what we think God should be doing rather than hoping in who God is and what he has done.

So, what is this hope that we have? Who is this God and what is the gospel that we have heard in which we should hope? Paul goes on to say in Colossians 1:

“Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard (Col 1:12-23 ESV).

Now this is hope worthy of our attention. This hope will never be deferred, never make our hearts sick.

What is the evidence that we have this kind of hope, hope in the God of salvation who sent his Son Jesus to redeem us? Well, look again at verses 3-5 of Colossians 1. Faith in God and love for other believers are the fruit of a life that hopes in God. This is so practical that it somewhat blew my mind. If you have hope in God, then no matter what is going on in the world, your faith in God is secure and your love for other believers (evidenced in tangible ways, seeing that Paul was able to observe that love) is abounding.

What a beautiful, encouraging truth for the New Year! The year is new, but this hope is as old as God’s first revealing it to man. I pray that others can thank God because they see my hope-filled faith in God and love for others.

Monday Meditations: In Christ

My husband recently finished preaching through Acts, and he’s now preaching through surveys of Paul’s epistles, the current one being Ephesians. He encouraged us to spend time on our own in studying the phrase “In Christ.” This morning I did that, and I was so encouraged.

Below I’m simply going to list what I found to be true in or through Christ, but let me just remind us how important it is to know these truths for ourselves. Paul prays in chapter one that we would truly understand the depths of what it is to know and be in Christ. My husband summed up the book with these statements: “You are in Christ. Know what this means, and walk like him.”

It’s easy for believers to state that they are in Christ. It’s harder for us to know what this means and walk like it. Thus we have Paul’s earnest prayer in chapter one, as well as three chapters of Paul’s urging us “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (4:2). What is that calling? Well, according to 1:4-5, God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world “that we should be holy and blameless before him,” and he predestined us to adoption as his sons for his glory. And according to verse 18, Paul prayed that we might know the hope to which he has called us. We are called to hope, holiness, and blamelessness as the adopted sons of God for his glory. We should internalize these truths and externalize them through our worthy walk, summarized so well in 4:2-3:

“With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (ESV).

So what is it to be in Christ? Here’s what Paul tells us:

“In Christ. . .”

  1. Saints are faithful in Christ Jesus (1:1).
  2. The Father is blessed because he has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing (1:3):
    • The Father chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless before him (1:4).
    • The Father predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, in love, according to his will, to the praise of his glorious grace (1:5).
    • This glorious grace the Father has blessed us with in the Beloved (1:6).
    • In Christ we have redemption through his blood (1:7).
    • In Christ we have forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished on us (1:7-8).
    • The Father made known to us the mystery of his will and purpose which he set forth in Christ to unite all things in him (1:9-10).
  3. In Christ we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the one who works all things out exactly as he has willed (1:11).
  4. He does this so that those who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory (1:12).
  5. In Christ, at the point of our believing in him/the gospel, we were sealed by the Holy Spirit to guarantee that promised inheritance (1:13-14).
  6. Paul prayed that believers would know and understand the depths of power that God worked for us in Christ when he raised him from the dead and put all things under him (1:17-23).
  7. We were once dead in our sins, walking in them and following the world and the prince of this world as sons of disobedience and children of wrath, BUT our merciful God in his great love toward us made us alive together with Christ, raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (2:1-6).
  8. The Father did this so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (2:7).
  9. We have been saved through faith through God’s doing not our own, because we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works (2:8-10).
  10. We should remember that once we were separated from Christ, alienated from Israel, strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world, BUT NOW in Christ Jesus we who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ (2:11-13).
  11. Christ himself is our peace, through his death creating unity and peace in himself, reconciling us to God (2:14-16).
  12. Christ preached peace to those far and near, and through him all (Jew and Gentile) have access in one Spirit to the Father (2:17-18).
  13. All believers are members of the household of God, with Christ Jesus the cornerstone, in whom the whole is joined together in the Lord and built together as a dwelling place for God in the Spirit (2:19-22).
  14. The mystery Paul preached to the early church was that Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel (3:1-6).
  15. God’s plan to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ and God’s manifold wisdom made known through the church have been realized in Christ Jesus our Lord (3:8-11).
  16. In Christ we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him (3:12).
  17. To God, who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever (3:20-21).
  18. Though once we were darkness, now we are light in the Lord (5:8).
  19. Children are to obey their parents in the Lord (6:1).
  20. We are to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might (6:10).

A Model for Prayer in a Time of Fear

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

I’m currently working on re-writing my Genesis Bible study into a study for kids aged about 8-14. This morning I re-read Jacob’s prayer for deliverance from Esau in Genesis 32:9-12. I was so encouraged, so I just had to share!

I was struck this time with what a great model this is for us to pray, especially when we are fearful of something that is a very real possibility. In verse 9, Jacob recognized God for who he is and what he had said. Although believers today don’t have any special, individualized promises from God apart from his written word, we do have many, many promises in his word.

V. 9: “And Jacob said, ‘O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O LORD who said to me, “Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good,”‘

In verse 10, he verbalized his own unworthiness and God’s great blessing to him already.

V. 10: “I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps.”

In verse 11, he admitted his fear and asked for deliverance from Esau. The threat of Esau harming Jacob was very real. We were already told in Gen 27:41 that Esau hated Jacob for stealing his blessing and planned on killing him. Jacob’s fear now was that Esau would come and kill his wives and children. His fears were based on his imagining what might happen, and those fears were based on very real possibilities.

V 11: “Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children.”

Jacob’s next three words are my favorite: “But you said. . .” Jacob had said I am afraid this is going to happen, but you said that you would do this instead. Jacob combated his (very real) fears not with a denial of the reality of the fearful situation, but with the reality of what God had already told him. He asked for deliverance, based on the promises of God. In this case, since God had promised to make his offspring numerous, they couldn’t be all killed off.

V 12: “But you said, ‘I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’”

I thought this was so encouraging, especially from someone like Jacob, who struggled with his sin and his faith as we all do. God was faithful then, and he is faithful now. Bring your fear–real or imagined–to him. Remember his promises to you. Combat your fears with his truth.

 “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. GOD IS FAITHFUL, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor 10:13, emphasis added).

“He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'” (Heb 13:5b-6).

“Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7)

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Studying Genesis through Deuteronomy {A.K.A. Transforming My View of Scripture}

Have you ever started a Bible reading plan? Have you ever quit a Bible reading plan, say, in the middle of Exodus or Leviticus? 🙂

Many Bible reading plans start at the beginning, in Genesis, which is really quite interesting to dig into. Exodus starts off pretty exciting too, but starts to decrease in the excitement factor as details of the tabernacle and priestly garments get described. . . and described again. Leviticus and Numbers especially are challenging to get through with all the many laws, and the few narratives (stories) in Numbers feel like a breath of fresh air. And then Deuteronomy. . . well, it kind of says much of what Exodus-Numbers already said.

A while back I wrote and led a study on Genesis for the ladies in our church. I was incredibly intimidated to study not only such a huge book in the Bible (50 chapters!), but a book in the Old Testament. But I absolutely loved it. And I couldn’t stop. It was like reading the first book in a series and then stopping (which, in truth, is exactly what it is).

So then, we studied Exodus. Even then, I felt like I couldn’t stop. So, I did a study for myself on Leviticus, Numbers, and today I finished Deuteronomy. As I studied, I really tried to focus on the big picture. Today, we are not under the law, yet still God tells us that ALL Scripture is profitable.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV).

So, what profit is there in studying Genesis through Deuteronomy? How can I be trained for righteousness, completed, and equipped for every good work by studying these books?

I learned much about the character of God throughout all five of these books. I learned about how needy mankind is. I learned about God’s purposes and plans in early history. I learned much about the sacrificial system and priesthood, which is the basis for understanding Jesus’ sacrifice and his position as my priest. I learned about the background for the entire rest of the Old Testament, in which psalmists sing of God’s redemption, kings–good and bad–point to the need for a righteous ruler, and prophets plead for a return to worship of God alone. I learned about the background for the Gospels and the importance of a son of Judah to come as Savior.

I have loved my studies, and I am hoping to whet your appetite to study these books too. You can simply study these on your own, but I have written a study (not professional or perfect by any means) for each of these books if you are interested. Genesis is a 12-week study (I am currently in the process of writing a version for kids). Exodus is a 10-week study. Leviticus is a 2-week study. Numbers is a 6-week study. Deuteronomy is a 4-week study. As you can see Leviticus – Deuteronomy are much shorter studies, with the focus being the big picture of the books, rather than being bogged down in deep study of individual laws or ceremonies (although these are touched on).

Comment below with your email if you are interested, and I can send them to you.

 

 

“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:5-9 ESV).

 

 

Completed 14-Week Hebrews Bible Study

I’ve had a couple of ladies ask me for permission to use my Bible study for their own ladies’ studies. One of the ladies is looking into translating the study into Spanish! I’m so excited to share this resource with others!

I have arranged the weekly questions into  a 5-day/week format, making it a little easier to stay on track throughout the week and leaving room to write answers. If you are interested in doing the study, this might be an easier format for you to use, if you are willing to print over 100 pages! 🙂 I hope this is a blessing to you! Here is the pdf: Hebrews Complete Bible Study

I also remembered I had written a hymn text about 18 years ago(!) after having read through Hebrews. I thought I’d share (with some minor edits), as it sums up some of the beautiful truths of Hebrews.

 

“His Throne is Forever”

{December 16, 2002}

 

Made lower than angels, Christ died on a tree.

He suffered through death, then was crowned with glory,

So that through God’s grace He might taste death for me

And loose me from sin and its chains of slav’ry.

 

Alike to His brothers in all things but sin,

Our High Priest is Christ, with great mercy within.

To appease God’s wrath over men and their sin,

Christ suffered and died for all those who know Him.

 

The priests, although many, could not meet God’s goal.

We have greater hope in Christ’s high priestly role.

This hope we do have made to anchor the soul,

Both sure and e’er steadfast and unchangeable!

 

The source of eternal salvation is God.

Be wary when lightly His grace you do trod,

For, though great in mercy, He handles a rod.

Therefore, we do fear in the presence of God.

 

Eternal salvation for us Christ did gain;

And now at God’s right hand forever He reigns.

Drawn near unto God, as His sons we’ll remain,

And ever in heaven will sing this refrain:

 

Refrain:

Christ is God’s Son; His throne is forever;

Heaven may perish, but He will remain.

All hail His name, our mighty Creator

And praise Christ Jesus, who’s always the same.

 

Final Thoughts from Hebrews

At the end of my questions for Hebrews 13, I encouraged those doing the study to summarize things they learned/deepened their understanding about God and themselves and how they could change. I thought I’d post my summary here.

What struck me was that our response to all that Jesus is (as I’ll note in part below) was summed up in part by our reverent and acceptable worship and service of God. Our works that evidence our faith are part of the means by which we persevere in our faith. The practical commands that are given as being part of our service to God and part of our perseverance in the faith  are things like show hospitality, be generous, care for the imprisoned and mistreated as if it were you imprisoned. I think I’ll write more on some of these ideas later, but I was struck by the “everyday” nature of our perseverance. We don’t always (usually!) persevere by amazing feats of faith in which we stand in lion’s dens. We persevere in doing good to the elderly in our church, teaching others to be faithful, being hospitable to the travelling missionary, writing a check to a struggling family in your church, visiting shut-ins, etc.

This is in part how I plan to apply Hebrews in my life. As I stand amazed that I can enter the presence of God because of the blood of Jesus, my gratefulness, my focus is on him. The values of my life shift as I realize how passing this world is. My love for the Savior is reflected in my love for people. Especially as my youngest is no longer a baby, I am looking forward to expanding my ministry to include more visiting and encouraging those in my circle.

Below are my summary thoughts on Hebrews.

This book has been a celebration of Jesus Christ—we were asked to consider him, to look at him while we endure and finally to give glory to him forever. (I could have listed more, but I chose to focus on the broad, main themes the author presented.)

Consider Jesus:

  • Superior to angels
  • Sitting at God’s right hand
  • Sovereign of everything
  • Founder of salvation
  • Merciful and faithful high priest
  • Superior to Moses and the Old Covenant
  • Obedient Son
  • Perfect Sacrifice
  • Founder and Perfecter of the Faith
  • Enduring completer of the race
  • Unchanging
  • Great Shepherd of the sheep

Looking to Jesus, I should:

  • Pay close attention to what he says
  • Exhort each other to continue in the faith, strengthen those who are weak and tired
  • Fear lest I fail through disobedient faithlessness
  • Live with the mindset that this earth is temporary and heaven is my forever home
  • Strive to persevere and hold fast with confidence
  • Draw near to God (Jesus died for this purpose)
  • Lay aside sin
  • Run with endurance and be strengthened when I get weak and tired
  • Not get tired, weary, and discouraged
  • Strive for peace with everyone
  • Strive for holiness (essential to see God)
  • Not refuse God’s words
  • Be grateful for all God has done, has given me, and has for me
  • Offer God awe-inspired and reverential worship and service
  • Love fellow believers
  • Be hospitable to strangers
  • Care for those imprisoned and mistreated as I would want to be cared for
  • Instead of being covetous, stingy, and greed, be generous
  • Honor marriage
  • Remember former spiritual leaders and imitate their faith
  • Obey and submit to current spiritual leaders in a way that makes it a joy for them to shepherd me
  • Not be led away by strange, unbiblical teachings
  • Be willing to suffer reproach and shame for Christ
  • Do good
  • Pray for others
  • When I am overwhelmed, I should look to Jesus. I can be reminded that God will powerfully and effectively work faith and these works of faith in me through Jesus Christ. His blood is effective for my salvation and my sanctification.

To Jesus Christ be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Hebrews Bible Study Week 14: Chapter 13 {The Final Chapter!}

This is it! We’ve reached the last chapter in Hebrews. We started the week of Jan 20, and here we are just over 3 months later, nearly finished with the book. I hope you have been as awed as I have at God’s great love for us shown in Jesus, as well as been encouraged to continue to endure in your faith. If you’ve reached the end of the study (whether it’s now, in 5 weeks, or 5 years from now), would you mind just commenting below? There is something very sweet about studying God’s Word together. It would be an encouragement to me and to others to hear from you!

If you came to the end of this study and said something like, “That was nothing special; I could do that on my own,” then I have accomplished my purpose for this online study. Bible study always takes work, but it is not impossible work. I hope you’ve been encouraged and emboldened to embark on your own studies. If you still feel like you’re not quite ready to do your own, I recommend one of the studies by Jen Wilkin. I’ve done her 1st Peter study, read a couple of her books, and listened to her speak.  You can also join in on her current study here. I don’t always agree with Jen, but for the most part, she is a great teacher and teaches straight from the text.

I also have written a few Bible studies for my former ladies group (Colossians, Genesis, Exodus, and Leviticus). If you are interested in those, mention something in the comments below. I will also be formatting this Hebrews study into a weekly study with questions for 5 days a week of study.

I will say that studying a narrative like Genesis is very different than studying an epistle. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth is a good book to help you understand the Bible’s different genres. Perhaps I will do another study like this, if people are interested, on Deuteronomy in a few months (I’m finishing up Numbers after this). I’d really like to get to Isaiah in the near future as well, which I admit is a little intimidating, but I know it will be good!

Well, enough of my rambling. . . Let’s finish up Hebrews! Chapter 13 is full of commands, ending with a beautiful benediction (sung at my wedding!) and final greetings. One of the questions I ask is what connection chapter 13 has to the rest of the book. It’s important that we don’t separate these commands from the doctrines that have been so beautifully and powerfully presented. It is the truth of the doctrines that motivate us, that allow us to work out our faith in practical ways. Both faith without works and works without faith are dead. Let us respond to the truth of what we have learned with both humble worship and fervent obedience!

Hebrews 13 Questions and pdf: Hebrews 13 Questions.

1. What should continue?

2. What should not be neglected? Why?

3. Who should be remembered? In what way and why?

4. How should marriage be viewed?

5. What should be undefiled? Why?

6. How should our lives be characterized according to v5? Why?

7. Because God promised to not forsake us, what can we confidently say? (Note the source of the quote.)

a. What is the Lord?

b. Because the above is true, what should our response be?

 8. What is the connection between the command in v5 and the reasons for the command in vv 5-6?

9. Who else should be remembered?

10. What should be considered?

11. After we consider the above, what should we do?

12. What is true about Jesus Christ? (How does this verse fit in with the commands surrounding it?)

13. By what should we not be led away? Why?

14. What strange teachings may have been related to foods do you think? And what benefit does devotion to foods have?

15. What kind of altar do we have? (With what aspect of the Levitical sacrificial system do you think this might be contrasting? Cf. Lev 6:24-30)

16. After the high priest made atonement for sin in the holy places with the blood of the sacrificed animal, what was done with the rest of the animal?

17. The author compares this Day of Atonement sacrifice with Jesus’ (“So also Jesus. . .”). How did Jesus suffer? What do you think this means? Why did he do this?

18. What should be our response? (This answer might help answer the above.)

19. What do we not have here, and what is “here”?

20. Instead, what do we seek?

21. What should we then do through him?

a. Who is “him”?

b. What is the connection (note the “then”) between verses 14-15?

c. What should we offer? How often?

d. A sacrifice of praise to God could also be described how, acc to v15b?

22. What else should not be neglected? Why? What is such generosity considered to be?

23. How should we respond to our spiritual leaders? Why?

24. In obeying and submitting to our spiritual leaders, we allow them to lead how?

25. If spiritual leaders groan in their caring for us, how does that effect us?

26. How do all of these commands in chapter 13 connect with the rest of the book?

27. What request did the author make of his readers in vv 18-19?

28. What was the author’s view of himself and those with him?

29. After asking for prayer for himself, the author closes his letter with a prayer for the Hebrews.

a. How does he describe God? What did God do?

b. How does he describe Jesus?

c. What does he ask that God do for them? (How does the description of what God had already done regarding Jesus bolster what the author is asking God to do for his readers?)

d. For what purpose did the author pray that his readers would be equipped with everything good?

e. What did the author pray that God would work in them all?

f. Through whom would this good work be accomplished in believers?

g. Who would then receive the glory forever?

30. The author appealed that his brothers would do what? Why?

31. What did he want them to know?

32. Whom did he want them to greet?

33. He sent greetings from whom?

34. What did he want to be with them all?

Closing Questions (I encourage you to actually write the answers to these questions out. It will force you to really verbalize the vague feelings and thoughts you have in response to what you’ve learned.)

1. Take a look at your book theme you wrote at the beginning of the study. Was it pretty accurate? Adjust it if you need to.

2. Did you learn anything new about God/Jesus during this study?

3. Was a truth you already knew about God strengthened?

4. Has your appreciation for and worship in response to a certain truth about God deepened?

5. Have you learned something new about yourself? How have you already responded to what you have learned? How should you respond to what you have learned?

6. What are you going to study next? 🙂

 

“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20-21).

{If you’re just seeing this post and are interested in doing the study, check out the Hebrews Study tab on the right. Head to the Invitation and Instructions posts, then start with week 1.}

4.29. 20 Updated to add: Spoiler Alert! Below are my notes, which I do not recommend reading until you’ve completed your week’s study on your own. I think I will write one more blog post about my final thoughts on the book, which will include some of my thoughts of application.

13:1-17. Worship and Everyday Life

“Following on from 12:28–29, the passage suggests that an important dimension to our worship is serving others in the way that God directs (16). However, it is also true that we serve God by offering him praise through Jesus Christ, in every area of our lives (15). When the writer turns again to show how Christianity fulfils and replaces the way of worship associated with the tabernacle (10–14), it becomes clear that traditional ways of thinking about ‘religion’ must be radically transformed by the gospel.”[1]

13:1-8. Chapter 13 continues the thoughts of chapter 12. We are to lay aside sin and run with endurance, looking to Jesus who ran before us and knowing that God trains us through difficult things so we may share his holiness. As a result, we ourselves should be strengthened and strengthen others, strive for peace and holiness. We have an approachable God because of Jesus, and we should not ignore their words. Instead we should be grateful for the kingdom he’s given. We should respond with service and worship characterized by reverence and awe, because we see who God is. We should also respond in the following ways outlined here in this chapter:

We should continue to love our brothers, our fellow believers.

We should be hospitable to strangers. I think the author is alluding to the example of Abraham who was very hospitable to strangers who turned out to the Angel of the Lord, accompanied by two angels (cf. Gen 18-19).

We should remember those imprisoned and mistreated as if we were in the same situation and because we are one in Christ. I think the thought here is treat them how you would want to be treated, with compassion and care.

We should honor marriage and be sexually pure, because God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

We should not love money and instead be content with what we have. Following verses that have just spoken of showing love, hospitality, and care to others, this command would be essential to being able to be generous in this regard. Why should we be content? Because God has said he will never leave or forsake us (cf. Josh 1:5). This truth of God’s not forsaking us gives us confidence to claim the Lord as our Helper, so that we will not fear what man can do to us (cf. Psa 118:6-7).

There is a connection between being content/not loving money with confidence in God’s presence and help/lack of fear of what man can do. People who love money and are discontent are not satisfied with the presence of God. If their satisfaction is not in him, then they are placing their satisfaction and trust in man’s currency. This is never stable (and also indicates that one is living for this present world rather than the next) and can lead to fear. “The secret of such contentment is learning to trust God for what is needed (as the quotations from Dt. 31:6 and Ps. 118:6–7 indicate).”[2]

We are to remember our former spiritual leaders—those who spoke God’s word to us. We are to consider the outcome of their lives and imitate their faith.

The author reminds his readers that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I had difficulty understanding exactly how this connects to the commands surrounding it. Maybe when we remember our former leaders, sometimes we are disappointed and can be encouraged that Jesus is always the same? Or perhaps that Jesus is always the same, so we shouldn’t be led away, in contrast, by diverse teachings (v9)?

One commentator helped answer my question:

“This verse at first appears unconnected to the context and is so taken by some. However, there is indeed a connection. It can be viewed as providing the grounds for the exhortation to follow in v. 9, or the grounds or reason for the preceding statement in v. 7. It is best to see the verse as transitional, connecting to both v. 7 and v. 9, stating the object of the former leaders’ faith and the grounds for the exhortation in v. 9. Earthly leaders of the church come and go. They live and they die. However, Jesus lives forever, unchanging and unaffected by mortality or anything else that would hinder him from providing leadership, counsel, encouragement, strength, and whatever else might be needed by his people. . . . This verse implies at least three truths: the divinity of Christ; the immutability of Christ; and the constant faithfulness of Christ to his people.”[3]

13:9-10. We should not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, one of which would be the teaching that the heart could be strengthened by food (I’m thinking the belief that OT food laws should be continued), which bring no benefit to those who follow them. Grace, on the other hand, does strengthen the heart.

The OT priests used to be given the meat of most of the sacrifices as their payment for their priestly work (cf. Lev 6:24-30). We, however, have an “altar” from which none may eat. I think this refers to Christ’s death on the cross contrasted with the priestly sacrifices and all the food regulations that went along with it.

“Certain foods, and maybe some kind of ritual meal, were being presented to the readers as helpful for the nourishment of their spiritual lives. Yet, it is by God’s grace, and not rules about food, that our hearts are to be strengthened (cf. Rom. 14:17; 1 Cor. 8:8; Col. 2:16, 20–23). Food laws are among the ‘external regulations’, now surpassed and outmoded by the work of Christ (9:10). . . . Those Jewish priests who minister at the tabernacle, and who are authorized to benefit from its sacrifices (e.g. Lv. 7:5–6; Nu. 18:9–10), have no right to eat from the altar of the new covenant. They, along with anyone else attached to that way of worship, are pursuing the ‘shadow’ instead of the reality (8:5; 10:1).”[4]

13:11-14. When the high priest burned his day of atonement sacrifice and brought the blood into the Most Holy Place, the carcass of the animal was then brought outside the gate to be burned. Even the one who brings the carcass to be burned must wash his clothes and body before he can re-enter the camp, because of the uncleanness (cf. Lev 16:27-28). Jesus’ suffering and sacrifice of his body was also “outside the gate,” one of uncleanness, shame, and reproach. We need to be willing to share and endure his shame and reproach. We do this by having the right perspective: we seek the city to come, recognizing that earth offers no lasting habitation.

“The death of Jesus marks the end of a whole way of thinking about religion and worship. Christians who have been cleansed and consecrated to God by the sacrifice of Christ must no longer take refuge in holy places and ritual activities but must go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore (13; cf. 12:2–4). For the first readers, this meant breaking decisively with Judaism and identifying with the one who was regarded as cursed because of the manner of his death (cf. Gal. 3:13). The place of Christian service or worship is the uncleanness of the world, where there is unbelief and persecution![5]

13:15-17. Because we have been cleansed by Jesus’ sacrifice, through him we can continually offer sacrifices that are acceptable and pleasing to God (cf. 11:6) in this new covenant: praise to God/lips that acknowledge his name, doing good, and being generous to share what you have.

This mention of generosity in contrast to a discontent love of money in v5 made me think how important these truths are. Generosity recognizes the temporary nature of this life/earth. It recognizes the shame of Christ’s death and a willingness to share it. It recognizes the presence of God and evidences trust and faith in him.

We are also commanded to obey our current spiritual leaders—our pastors, and we are to submit to them because they watch over our souls as those who must give account to God for their watch-care over us. We need to obey and submit to them in such a way that their care for us is a joy and not done with groaning. Those who have a pastor who groans over them have no advantage in his care for them, because they have made it a difficult, painful thing for that shepherd to care for those particular sheep. In other words, make your pastor’s job a joy by not fighting his leadership (as long as he himself if following Christ and scripture); this will be to your advantage.

13:18-25. Personal Messages and Final Blessing

13:18-19. The author asked for prayer, being sure that he and his fellow laborers had a clear conscience and desire to act honorably. He asked them to earnestly pray so that he could be restored to them sooner.

13:20-21. After asking for prayer from them, he prays for them: May the God of peace who raised from the dead the Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip them with everything good to do his will, working in them that which is well-pleasing in God’s sight. This is done through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever.

God has the power to raise Jesus from the dead. (I noticed that this is the only mention of the resurrection that I recall in a book that repeatedly talks of the death and ascension of Christ.) That same God equips believers to do God’s will. It’s not an empty promise!

Jesus cares for us as a Shepherd cares for his sheep (cf. 1 Pet 2:25; 5:4). He is both Shepherd and the Lamb who was sacrificed that his shed blood can be the means by which we can be well-pleasing in God’s sight. What is it that God works in us that is well-pleasing? He works faith in us (cf. 11:6) and the works of faith (v16).

This whole book has been about the superiority of Christ, so it is a fitting end to give glory forever and ever to Christ.

13:22-25. His final words are an appeal that they bear with his “hard to explain” (5:11) word of exhortation, which was “brief.” He informs them that Timothy has been released from prison and tells them that he hopes to visit them with him soon. He greets all the leaders and saints. He sent greetings from those in Italy and concluded with a prayer that “Grace be with all of you.”

 

[1] Peterson, D. G. (1994). Hebrews. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 1352). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Allen, D. L. (2010). Hebrews (p. 612-613). Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group.

[4] Peterson, 1352.

[5] Ibid.

Hebrews Bible Study Week 13: Chapter 12

We have reached the penultimate chapter! (I love using that word. 😉 ) I feel like we have just started, yet we are now so near the end. After 10 chapters of fairly hefty doctrine (containing more meat than milk!) and a whole chapter of examples of faith, we have now come to the last two chapters containing heavy application. These applications would lose much of their power, I think, without the doctrine to back it up. For example, how can we truly consider Jesus as the model for our own endurance if we haven’t actually considered him throughout the entire book? What should motivate us to do the right thing, to endure, and to have faith is not simply checking off a to-do list. It should be love for and following the example of a Savior who has done the same. It should be a reverent fear of the God who loves us and holds us accountable.

Here are the questions for the week, and here is the pdf: Chapter 12 Questions.

1. What are we surrounded by? Who/what is that (note the “therefore”)?

2. Since the above is true, what all should we do?

a.  What should we lay aside?

b. How should we run the race set before us?

c. What should be our focus as we run/who should we be looking at?

3. Describe Jesus in relationship to our faith.

4. What did Jesus endure? Why?

5. How did Jesus view the shame of the cross?

6. What was the joy set before Jesus? Where is he now?

7. The author of Hebrews has used the word consider frequently. He urged us to consider Jesus who was a faithful high priest (3:1-2). He urged believers to consider how to stir up each other to love and good works (10:24). In chapter 11, he gave three examples of how OT saints considered: Sarah considered God faithful (v11), Abraham considered that God would be faithful to his promise so he might raise Isaac from the death (v19), and Moses considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt (v26). If you didn’t define the word consider earlier, do so now. In 12:3, who are we to consider?

8. What did Jesus endure?

9. Why should we consider the enduring Jesus?

10. What was not the nature of the Hebrews’ struggle against sin (compared to Christ’s)?

11. What exhortation did the author remind them of?

12. In this context, what do you think is the nature of the “discipline” the Lord gives?

13. Why do they have to endure? In so doing, how is God treating them?

14. An undisciplined son is compared to what?

15. If we respect earthly fathers for their discipline of us, what is the comparison to our relationship to God who disciplines us?

16. Why do earthly fathers discipline their children?

17. Why does God discipline his children?

18. How does all discipline seem in the moment?

19. What does discipline later yield? For whom?

20. Because all of the above is true about the discipline the Lord sends that we must endure, what should be our response (vv 12-13)?

21. How else should we respond (vv 14-17)?

a. What should we strive for?

b. What three things should we see to?

22. Who is given as a negative example of these things? What did he do? What happened in response to his actions, his being a “root of bitterness”?

23. What is the “for” in v18 connecting to?

24. What have we not come to? What do you think this is referring to?

25. What order was given then (at Mount Sinai)?

26. How did Israel as a whole and Moses in particular respond to what they saw and heard?

27. In contrast, where have believers now come, described in several different ways? To whom have believers now come? To what have believers now come?

28. How is the God whom believers come to described?

29. Who do you think are the “spirits of the righteous made perfect”?

30. How is Jesus described to whom believers have come?

31. How is the blood described to which believers come? What does this description mean?

32. What warning is given in v25? Who is speaking (cf. 1:2)?

33. What was the result of those who refused he who warned them on earth? Who was this one warning on earth, do you think?

34. What is the danger if we reject he who warns from heaven? Who is the one warning from heaven?

35. What was the voice of he who warned from earth like?

36. What has he now promised about his warning?

37. What does the phrase “yet once more” indicate? What does this mean?

38. Therefore, what should our response be?

39. Our response should be thus, because God is described how?

 

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV). 

{If you’re just seeing this post and are interested in starting the study, check out the Hebrews Study tab on the right. Look for the Invitation to join the study and the Instructions, then start with Week 1.}

4.23.20 Updated to add: Spoiler Alert! I recommend not reading my notes below until you’ve completed your own study of the chapter for your own benefit.

12:1-13: A Call to Endurance

12:1. Because we are surrounded by all these witnesses (from Greek word martys, meaning witness, testifier, martyr; similar to the Greek work martyreō, from which comes “commend” in 11:2, 4, 5, 39)—those who were commended by their testimony of faith—we should also persevere in our faith.

“We are not to picture the great cloud of witnesses in ch. 11 as spectators in an amphitheatre, cheering us on in the race of faith. It is ‘what we see in them, not what they see in us, that is the writer’s main point’ (J. Moffatt, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews [Clark, 1924], p. 193). They are witnesses (Gk. martyres) of true faith for us because God ‘witnessed’ (Gk. emartyrēthēsan, 11:2, 4–5, 39) to their faith in the pages of the Bible. They demonstrate the nature and possibilities of faith for believers in every generation. As contestants in the race, we are to look to their example for encouragement.”[1]

{My husband preached an excellent message on vv 1-3, with a basic outline that I will share that really helps think through these things: 1. Look around (at the surrounding witnesses who have finished the race—v1a); 2. Look within (at the sin which clings so closely—v1b); 3. Look ahead (at the race set before us—v1c); 4. Look up (at Jesus who endured and finished the race—vv2-3a); 5. Don’t look down (at your tired, weary feet and become faint—v3b)}

We should lay aside every weight—sin which clings so closely. Sin weighs us down and does not help us in our running the marathon of faith and obedience.

We should run with endurance the race set before us.

12:2-4. While we run, we look to Jesus as an example of endurance. He is described as the founder and perfecter of faith. “The word ‘our’ does not occur in the original. Faith in an absolute or general sense is meant (he is ‘the author and perfecter of faith’). Jesus is the perfect example of the faith we are to express. The word translated author (Gk. archēgon, as in 2:10) literally means that he is pioneer or leader in the race of faith. However, the context also suggests that he is the author or initiator of true faith since he opens the way to God and enables us to follow in his footsteps.”[2]

He perfected the faith by enduring the cross and despising the shame (considered the shame of the cross as not important enough to be a concern when compared to something else). Jesus’ suffering was considered nothing compared to the joy of his exaltation in which he sat at God’s right hand.

We should consider Jesus’ enduring hostility from sinners, so we can endure, so we don’t grow weary and faint-hearted. In the Hebrews’ struggle for sin they (and many of us too!) haven’t had to shed blood over it (perhaps indicating that whatever persecution they were then enduring was not “bloody” at the time).

12:5-8. The author reminds them of another exhortation addressed to sons from Prov 3:11-12. All discipline, reproving, and chastisement is evidence of God’s love for his children, thus his children should not be wearied by it nor regard it lightly.

It seems like “discipline” includes the ideas of being chastised/reproved when sin is involved. But it also seems like it involves being trained to endure something difficult—like training to run the race. Every earthly father does this with his children, whether disciplining concerning sin or training a child to learn something difficult to help them grow up into responsible adults. When God does this with us, he is treating us as his children.

Instead of seeing the trials and hardships of life as wearying, pointless, and a sign of God’s lack of concern or love for us, we should recognize them as marks of his claiming us as his children.

12:9-11. When earthly fathers disciplined us as they saw best when we were young, we recognize their love for us and respond with respect. How much more should we correctly respond to our heavenly Father with submission (resulting in life in the end), even when at the moment the discipline is painful. Discipline trains us in righteousness, with the end result being our good—sharing in God’s holiness.

12:12-13. Here is the positive command mirroring the negative in v3 (Don’t be weary or fainthearted). Here, the picture seems to be someone hunched over in exhaustion, walking off-track because they are looking down. The encouragement is to straighten up and look ahead straight toward the goal. “It is a challenge to abandon fear and despair and not become exhausted in the race of faith (cf. Is. 35:3–4). The quotation from Pr. 4:26 (‘Make level paths for your feet’) is a warning about following the way that God has provided, not swerving to the right or left.”[3] Those really struggling need to be especially strengthened so that there can be healing instead of permanent “injury.”

12:14-13:25: Appeals for a God-Honoring Lifestyle

If we are being disciplined for the purpose of sharing in God’s holiness, then we actually need to strive for holiness. Following are practical ways, mixed with more exhortation and encouragement in which to pursue holiness.

12:14-17: A Final Warning Against Failure

12:14. Believers are encouraged to strive for peace and holiness. This striving for a holiness (that God also works in us (v10) is a requirement for seeing God. Those who don’t strive for holiness prove that God has not done a work in our hearts allowing us to share in his holiness.

12:15. Here is another warning that none fail to obtain God’s grace. How could that happen? A “root of bitterness” could spring up among them, cause trouble, and defile many. “Such imagery recalls Dt. 29:18, where Moses warns about the bitterness that can be spread throughout the community of God’s people by one rebellious member.”[4] This would hinder others from enduring the race, the exact opposite of strengthening the lame (vv 12-13).

12:16-17. They are called not to be sexually immoral in their pursuit of holiness. Then Esau is named as a specific example of one who evidence his unholiness by selling his birthright for one meal. He considered the comfort of the moment greater value than God’s promises and future blessings. When he later realized the consequences of his actions and sought blessing, he found no repentace and was rejected.

12:18-29: Responding to the Call of God

12:18-21. Following the author’s exhortation, he includes—as he often has—an encouragement for believers to respond appropriately to the Jesus to whom they are looking. He begins this with a contrast. He describes what coming in to God’s limited presence was like for Israel—but not for us. When they came to Sinai, God had descended to deliver the Covenant (cf. Ex 19ff) and came with darkness, fire, thunder, and lightning. No one, including animals, were to touch the mount on threat of death. Israel begged that they would not have to hear God’s voice speak anymore, and even Moses said that he trembled with fear.

12:22-24. The Israelites’ experience at Mount Sinai in which they begged not to hear God’s spoken voice again is contrasted with believers’ experience today (“But you. . .”).  This is what we have come to:

 1. Mount Zion/the city of the living God/the heavenly Jerusalem. I think this refers to heaven itself, the place where God dwells (cf. Rev 14:1). This is the city to which OT believers were looking to (cf. 11:10, 13-16), and one which we have already come to because it has been guaranteed through Jesus’ work and our ability to draw near (cf. 4:16; 7:25; 10:22; 11:6).

 2. Innumerable angels in festal gathering (cf. Jude 14)

 3. The assembly of the firstborn (Jesus; cf. 1:6) who are enrolled in heaven (all believers who are the “brothers” of Christ; cf. 2:11-13; Eph 2:6-7; Rev 7)

 4. God, the judge of all (cf. 9:27)

 5. The spirits of righteous made perfect (probably saints who have died, like those listed in ch. 11)

 6. Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant

 7. The sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. Abel’s shed blood spoke of his righteousness and faith (cf. 11:4) which brought commendation by God. Jesus’ blood speaks of even better things, opening the way of entrance to God and cleansing hearts (cf. 10:19-22).

“The mention of Abel is unexpected since it does not belong to the developed comparison between Sinai and Zion. It may have been suggested by the reference to ‘the spirits of righteous persons’ in the heavenly city (v. 23). Abel was the first in Hebrews 11 to have been explicitly mentioned by God as ‘righteous’, and the author of Hebrews may have intended to draw attention to the whole sweep of redemptive history, from the righteous Abel to the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus.”[5]

12:25-27. Here is another warning that we make sure not to refuse the one speaking (cf. 2:1-4; 4:12-13). Israelites and others who refused to listen to God’s warning when he came to speak to them on earth did not escape (cf. 2:3). How much more will we not escape if we reject His warning coming from heaven. God’s voice shook Sinai (cf. Ex 19:18), but he promised a future shaking of the earth and heavens (cf. Hag 2:6). The author explains that this phrase “yet once more” means that things that are made will be removed, and things not shaken will remain (cf. Psa 102:26). God’s kingdom will remain forever (cf. Dan 2:44).

12:28-29. Those who receive this kingdom should respond with gratefulness and an offering of acceptable worship—defined as being worship with reverence and awe. Why such worship? Because we understand who God is—a consuming fire (cf. Deut 4:24).

“The Greek verb here (latreuein) may also be translated ‘to serve’, as it is in 9:14. Christian worship cannot be restricted to prayer and praise in a congregational context. As ch. 13 illustrates, we are to worship, or serve, God by faithfulness and obedience in every aspect of our lives (note particularly 13:15–16; cf. Rom. 12:1). However, the writer also insists that acceptable worship is characterized by reverence and awe, and supports his challenge with a description of God as a consuming fire. This alludes to Dt. 4:24 (cf. Dt. 9:3; Is. 33:14), where the Israelites were warned not to indulge in idolatry, but to remain faithful to the Lord and to serve him exclusively, lest they provoke him to anger. The certainty of God’s grace must never blind us to the truth that a terrible judgment awaits the apostate.”[6]

 

[1] Peterson, D. G. (1994). Hebrews. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 1349). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., 1350.

[4] Ibid.

[5] O’Brien, P. T. (2010). The Letter to the Hebrews (pp. 490–491). Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, England: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

[6] Peterson, 1351.