Jesus is Greater (Hebrews)

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,” Hebrews 10:23-24 ESV

The book of Hebrews was written for Hebrew believers and has an anonymous author, although Pastor Chris would submit to you that Paul was the author. It is essentially a list of reasons why Jesus is greater than anything or anyone else.

He is greater than the angels in Hebrews 1:4. He is greater than Moses in Hebrews 3:3-4. He is greater than Joshua in Hebrews 4:8-9.  And He, the Eternal High Priest, is greater than human priests such as Aaron in Hebrews 7:26-28. This last greater than statement is best understand in light of Leviticus which we went over two weeks ago.

In Hebrews 11, often called the “Hall of Faith”, we are introduced to an impressive list of heroic figures from the Old Testament. Some are more well known than others but all are commended for their exemplary display of faith. Going forth we might read about the lives of some of these heroes such as Noah who was named as a righteous man or Abraham who responded in obedience when told sacrifice his one and only son. But we quickly see that all of these figures were flawed. Noah received the righteousness that comes by faith but he was also the first alcoholic in the Bible. Abraham was the father of the Jewish nation but in Genesis 12 and 20 we see him as a deceiver. Yet they are still commended, just like numerous others in the chapter. This should elicit two things from us.

The first is that we should respond in greater worship for we know that the God that we believe created and sustained the faith of every one of these believers. Not one of these heroes demonstrated a perfect life or earned their righteousness. They were all vastly imperfect, weak and needy. But God, in His abundant mercy, revealed Himself to them despite that. And then these heroes are named for their faith. This leads to the second effect the Hall of Faith should have on us. It shows us that Jesus’ sacrifice, His covenant, His ministry are all far greater, far better than anything mankind has to offer. Unlike them, He did in fact live a perfect life. And then He died for us to cancel out the effects of Adam’s disobedience.

So those are some things to keep in mind while reading Hebrews or listening to Hebrews being preached on Sunday. Now we get to the main purpose of this post. Although we could get into a more detailed breakdown, here’s a high level overview of the entire book:

– Chapters 1 – 10:18 show that Jesus is greater than anything. The New Covenant ushered in by Jesus’ sacrifice is far better than the Old Covenant.

– Chapter 10:19 – 13 show the role of faith in all things. In it we see the “Hall of Faith” and we see that Jesus Christ is the “founder and perfecter of our faith” Hebrews 12:2 ESV

Lastly I invite you to also see the connection this book has with Psalm 110, one of the Messianic psalms. In fact some would even say Hebrews is an exposition of this Psalm. But I’ll leave you to figure that out for yourself. Happy reading!

Our Great High Priest (Leviticus)

“You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine..” Leviticus 20:26 ESV

The theme of the book of Leviticus is Holiness. It is about how the people of God should live, eat and sacrifice. Leviticus serves as a guide to the chosen, though sinful, people of a holy God. But if you note the title, another important theme is one of atonement; atonement by blood that ultimately points to the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ.

“For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.” Leviticus 17:11 ESV

Leviticus picks up where Exodus leaves off where the people of Israel had just erected a tabernacle at Mount Sinai. God now proceeds to relay specific laws to His people through Moses. Although there is some narrative, this book is almost all a relaying of these laws, a rule book as it were (borrowing Pastor Chris’ favorite phrase). And many Christians may gloss over this book simply because of its contents. Perhaps they endeavor to work their way through the Old Testament, having finished Genesis and Exodus. However once getting to Leviticus they view it as dull and either skip it entirely or give up trying to read through the Old Testament.

But the book of Leviticus is important for a couple of reasons. First is that through the very specific laws we see God’s holiness in fine detail. Compared to Exodus where we see God’s holiness on a large scale with grandiose miracles such as the parting of the Red Sea. The second and more important reason has to do with the title of this post. In Exodus we see God telling Moses that He has chosen the Israelites to be a priestly nation (Exodus 19:6). And then in Leviticus we find that some of these specific laws or regulations are for priests. In light of our beginning the book of Hebrews, one cannot properly understand Hebrews 4:14 which reads “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession” let alone the entirety of the book of Hebrews without some familiarity of Leviticus. The point is this: Jesus is the simultaneous culmination and consummation of the Old Testament sacrificial system. John the Baptist realized this when he declared “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29

Here’s an overview of the entire book:

– Chapters 1-7 describe the offerings for both priests and the general people.

– Chapters 8-10 describe the key event of the ordination of Aaron and his sons. These chapters also contain instructions to the priesthood.

– Chapters 11-15 describe laws about being clean.

The remaining chapters are guidelines pertaining to practical holiness and they can be divided as such:

– Chapter 16 describes the Day of Atonement.

–  Chapter 17-27 describes laws for living a holy life. Because Israel is to be a priestly nation that through them “all the families of the earth” (Genesis 12:3) will be blessed, other nations would see their holy living and model that.

I have one parting word for this post. Through the law, through the sacrifices and rituals, there was a type of temporary holiness imparted upon the people. But this was all just a foreshadowing. In Hebrews 10 we learn that the law is “but a shadow of the good things to come”. One day that temporary holiness imparted through the blood of creatures would be replaced by the absolute holiness of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). Israelites back then looked to that day. But for Christians today, that day has already occurred.

The Gospel Advances (Acts)

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” Acts 1:8 ESV

The Acts of the Apostles is the fifth book in the New Testament. It’s sort of the sequel to the book of Luke. In the Gospels we read how Jesus lived, how He died, how He rose and how He ascended. But Acts tells us what happens next. It’s another narrative that details how the Holy Spirit came upon the church and how the gospel message spreads out from Jerusalem to all of Rome. Here’s a cool video I found showing the advance of the gospel: The Spread of the Gospel.

Acts begins with Jesus’ ascension and the Holy Spirit’s descent. The book continues on to show how the apostles preached Christ to the rest of the world. A pretty straightforward book, we get to see the church expanding from a small group of believers in a house (Acts 2:2) to a large fellowship of believers said to have turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6).

Here are a few ways to outline the book of Acts:

1) The primary human actors in this story are Peter and Paul and one way we can split the book is

– chapters 1 to 12 are where the gospel starts in Jerusalem and ends in Antioch with Peter

– chapters 13 to 28 are the gospel goes from Antioch to Rome with Paul

2) Another way to outline the book is by the pivotal point being the latter half of Acts 15 in which the council at Jerusalem discusses the gentiles being converted.

– Part 1 is the period before the clarification of the gentile question at the Jerusalem council (Acts 1-15)

– Part 2 is the period after the clarification of the gentile question at the Jerusalem council (Acts 15-28)

However you decide to split up the book, Acts clearly shows that Jesus is true to His Word: that after He ascends, the Holy Spirit will descend and empower them to work miracles and preach the gospel to the ends of the earth.



The Immutable Lord (Malachi)

“I the Lord do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord Almighty.” Malachi 3:6-7 ESV

The book of Malachi is one of the final books to be written in the Old Testament. By the time this prophetic book was written, the Jews had been exiled to Babylon for a number of years and finally allowed to return to Jerusalem. They had rebuilt the temple of God as commanded in Haggai and Zechariah and had obeyed the commands of the other prophets. They had done all of these things fully expecting great things to take place afterwards. The Messiah that was prophesied in Genesis, Isaiah and Psalms The Kingdom of God that is to follow the four great kingdoms described in Daniel. The divine war against all of their enemies. But none of that happened. None of the fantastical things the prophets predicted came to pass.

And when they eagerly expected these things but never received them what happened? Indifference. Disobedience. Why continue to obey when God did not deliver? So they looked to other things like “presenting the blind for sacrifice.. or [presenting] the lame of the sick…”(Malachi 1:8). They “[marry] the daughter of a foreign god” (Malachi 2:11). The priests were misleading the people, “[causing] many to stumble” and “[corrupting] the covenant of Levi” (Malachi 2:8). And then they robbed God. They withheld tithes and offerings (Malachi 3:8). 

But God does not repay in kind. We are reminded that God is unchanging in nature; He is the same yesterday and today and forever. He never goes back on His word. One of my favorite verses in the New Testament is this: “if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13 ESV)

Throughout the book we see Malachi saying to the people things to the effect of “This is what you have done, yet you say, ‘How have we done this?'” The people have become so alienated from God that they can no longer comprehend God’s nature. They doubt His love for them (Malachi 1:2) and proclaim the futility of serving God (Malachi 3:13–14). They do this because they cannot understand, even when Malachi plainly states how God sees things.

Thankfully, not all harden themselves. There are still some Jews who still fear and esteem the Lord. Together they write their names in a book and God declares they are His. And on that day God will punish the wicked and spare the righteous.

Here’s the breakdown of Malachi (spoiler alert for Raymond’s Focus Ministry):

1. God’s love for Jacob and the Jewish people (Malachi 1:1-5)

2. God’s discipline for the following reasons:

  • The sins of the priests (Malachi 1:6)
  • The intermarriages with pagans (Malachi 2:10-12)
  • The unfaithfulness of the husbands (Malachi 2:13-17)

3. God’s purification of His children (Malachi 3:1-15)

4. The book of remembrance (Malachi 3:16-18)

5. God’s charge (Malachi 4)

Malachi is also a really important book because before God promises to purify them He promises to send a future messenger (Malachi 3:1-6). This prophecy reveals an important detail concerning the coming Messiah: that His arrival will be preceded by this messenger that will clear the way. If this sounds familiar to you then that’s good. You’ve been paying attention in Flock Groups (Mark 1:2-4).

Malachi 4:5  further reveals that this special messenger will be Elijah the prophet. And we know this prophesied messenger to be John the Baptist.

“For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come.” Matthew 11:13-14 ESV

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