“In these last days God has spoken to us by his Son…”
The letter to the Hebrews is someone standing in front of us, preaching an inspired sermon. Can you hear it? Things begin with an abrupt start. “Long ago, at many times and in many ways.” Other New Testament letters allow us time to warm up with introductions but this letter starts without even the chance to say “hi”. The reason? Hebrews is not just a letter, it’s a sermon. It was intended to be heard, not just read.
What we hear is that, “In these last days, God has spoken to us by his Son…” Just like us, the difficulties from suffering and setbacks were taking their toll on the 1st century Christians in Rome. They’re wondering if it’s all worth it. How can they keep going when they’re wearing down?
I’m sure you can hear their friends now. “Well, you just need read your bible, brother. I know it’s a struggle. Just take it to the Lord. It will be ok. Keep your chin up. You just need to keep going.”
The “just give a little more” speeches are beginning to wear thin. We’re failing. We feel like we’re losing ground. Trying harder isn’t working. We need something else. Hebrews gives us a different solution. Just listen. “In these last days, God has spoken to us by his Son…”
It’s very appropriate for those who need their faith strengthened and their hearts refreshed to hear. That’s why hearing is the classic analogy to faith. “Faith comes by hearing…” To hear and receive words of good news. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Rom 10:17)
And what is the good news, the word of Christ, that us weary and wandering Christians need to hear? Very briefly…
1. Jesus is the superior Son.
We need to hear that Jesus is the superior Son. We need to hear that the creation (including our very lives) exists for and by Christ. And that, when we are dealing with Jesus, he is, by his very nature, God himself.
“…in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature…” (Heb 1:2-3)
2. Jesus is the sustaining Son.
But we also need to hear that Jesus as creator and heir is not an absentee landlord, but actively attending over this world of his. The universe itself, from unseeable subatomic particles to unmeasurable supergalaxies, weather to world events, all continue at his word.
“…and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” (Heb 1:3).
3. Jesus is the saving Son.
“…after making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…” (Heb 1:3)
Yes, God is powerful. But what if our weariness is an offense to this God of might? What if my wandering puts me on the outs and jeopardizes my good standing with this all-powerful being? Can he handle my faithlessness? Can I go another round of mustering up enough strength to keep the big man happy? What’s keeping me from throwing in the towel all together?
That God is all-powerful is not good news if he’s angry with me and I am his enemy. Whats good for me to hear in my weariness and wandering is that Jesus has made purification for my sin. And let’s call it that, because that’s what my wandering is. I am the wandering sheep he left the ninety-nine for. When I’m tempted to throw in the towel, he comes to me in with a towel around his waist to wash my feet. When I run from home and come to my senses, he sees me from afar and runs to me, not even accepting my “I’m sorry” speech. I need to hear again and again, that Jesus is the saving Son, otherwise his power is nothing but a threat to me. But hearing he made purification for sin lets me know that his power will be at work, not against me, but for me.
Now when Hebrews says “we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard” (2:1), we know who we are hearing from. It is not Angels who delivered a law that read “Do this and live”. Angels whose word proved reliable and every transgression was met with retribution. But we hear from the Son who has said, “Look at all this I have done. I will never leave or forsake you.” We are warned that we will not escape if we neglect his voice. But we have so much to gain when we hear.
And that’s what is being asked of us. Just listen.
Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:1-4
(1:1-4) Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs…
(2:1-4) Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.