The Lord is My Helper

A Short Study of Hebrews 13:5-8

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?”
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

If you were to take a scenic view of Hebrews, you would see that chapter 11 is the “faith chapter,” chapter 12 is the “hope chapter,” and chapter 13 of Hebrews is the “love chapter.” Or, another way to look at it this: chapter 10 deals with the Christian’s privilege, chapter 11 the Christian’s power, chapter 12 outlines the Christian’s progress and finally chapter 13 shows us the Christian’s practice. (McGee).

Chapter 13 is a wonderful chapter to study, and it becomes obvious that believers should be concerned with the needs of others because Christ died for believers. He acted for others, demonstrating that love means work and that in faith there must be action. The writer to the Hebrews shows the readers what it means to live a life of love.

1. Independence toward money, verses 5-6

Throughout Hebrews, the author, who was clearly a Jew, continually makes allusions to the Old Testament, comparing it to Christ and His New Covenant with believers. Most times the comparison is in favor of Christ and the New Covenant: Jesus Christ is superior in every way to Moses and the patriarchs, as great as they were. The New Covenant in Christ is vastly superior to the Old Covenant. But here, in chapter 13, the writer to the Hebrews makes allusions to the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments, and what is noteworthy is that he writes as though they are still in force.

Verse 5 deals with sins of covetousness. The selfish man lives a life, not of live, but in pursuit of his selfish aims, whether sexual or financial, without the slightest regard to others. The KJV renders the opening of this verse like this: Let your conversation be without covetousness, and is a broader way of translating the Greek. The NIV reads: Keep your lives free from the love of money. The sense of wording deals with a believer’s way of life; it should be lived without wanting what one does not have. There is kind of play on words here; two kinds of “affection” or love are encouraged in verses one and two. The Greek word is phileo, or “brotherly love,” but here is a kind of love to avoided: for money and the things it can buy. How does one show love or affection for people: by being concerned about their well-being and by demonstrating faith and love the way Christ did for helpless sinners. Jesus did not simply tell people He loved them, he demonstrated that love by action. However, when one spends their time in pursuit of money or things, they do so at the expense of being concerned about others. On this point, the words of Richard Taylor are illuminating:

Restless eyes and feverish desires are incompatible with the rest of soul and incongruous with a profession of holiness. If we would be satisfied with fewer things and less pretentious houses, we would have more poise, more quietness of spirit, more inward happiness, and certainly more time for prayer, worship, service, and the cultivation of the finer values in life.

No, the Bible does not teach laziness or resignation to a life of poverty. The writer to the Hebrews is not anti-ambition. However, many times Christians elevate the “protestant work ethic” to heights out of line with overall teaching of Scripture. Hard work is a virtue for we glorify God with the work of our hands. Sadly, too many Christians put their work or careers above the needs of others; they foolishly believe that their security in life depends on what they do. According to this verse, God’s people are secure no matter what happens because God is always with them.

There is nothing wrong with material possessions, as long our depth of love for and faith in God exceeds our desire for things. For the devoted Christian, the choice should always be love for God, not love for things; the devoted Christian should prefer the possession of God’s presence to the possession of things. The devoted Christian need never worry about security because God’s promise of His abiding presence is the best pledge of security.

Yet, even the most devoted Christian occasionally gives into the sin of fear or the temptation to covet what they do not have. The antidote to fear and temptation is the confidence they have in God’s provision, as verse 6 indicates. To the readers of this epistle, fear of punishment was always on their horizon, and they needed to be reminded that God was never going to forsake them.

Leon Morris makes the observation: Despondency is foreign to Christians. Believer should be able to “speak with confidence.” The Greek word is is tharrountas, and indicates an attitude of courage and trust. There are three point to this confidence.

  • The Lord is the believer’s helper. This means that, based on the previous verse, God is always with the believer, He may be counted on to be there in times of need.
  • The believer has no fear. The One who promises to help is the all-knowing, all-powerful I AM. There is no reason to fear.
  • No power is greater than the Lord, therefore no mere human being can succeed in anything they attempt to against the one who trusts in God.

2. Christian Leadership, verses 7, 8

There are some who take verse 7 to mean that church members should be absolutely loyal to their pastor. This is probably due to the way the KJV translates it in the present tense. However, most modern translations interpret this verse as referring to leaders of the past. We could read this verse like this: Be mindful always of those who were ruling you, whose faith you should continually imitate, making note of the outcome of their way of life. We don’t know exactly who the writer has in mind; some have suggested he is thinking of elders in the church who have gone on, other think he has in mind the martyrs he wrote about in previous chapters, and still others think he is referring to the patriarchs of the faith. We can get a clue when we notice what these leaders did: they “spoke the word of God to you.” This suggests that the writer has in mind those who preached the Gospel to them in the past; the apostles and the first generation missionaries, many of whom were martyred on account of that very activity.

The word translated “outcome” is a rare word in the Bible, seen only one other time, in 1 Cor. 10:13, and is taken by some to refer to their deaths. Since their life of faith is what these leaders are to be remembered for, it seems more likely that the author to the Hebrews has in mind the ultimate fruit of their lives, which was good, not evil. Their way of life was one of practical holiness, marked by love for others.

This is, I think, a great need in the Church today. There is a tendency to rewrite history and belittle the great spiritual leaders of the past. However, what is evident is that what Church needs is not newer programs or more memorials, but rather a careful study of the lives of those who founded it. Instead of belittling or despising them, or a “new way of doing things,” we should be inspired by their lives of devotion, and strive to match them in depth of commitment to God. No human being is perfect, but it is only as we line up with our founding fathers and the faith that motivated and sustained them, that we can steer a straight course for our future.

Verse 8 is actually a “transition sentence,” introducing a brief section on doctrine. However, we will limit our observations only to this profound and succinct verse. Earthly leaders, no matter how spiritually powerful they are, come and go. Only Jesus is always there. The faith by which we live is not based on the leaders we study, even though we have just been encouraged to imitate their lives. The focus of our faith must always be Jesus Christ. For only He is eternal and unchangeable.

Jesus of Nazareth, who walked the plains of Galilee, was the Messiah. This must forever be a part of the believer’s thinking. What Jesus was yesterday, in the days of His incarnation, and what He is today at the right hand of God the Father, He will be forever. This is a profoundly moving verse, for it shows that when the Son of God became a man, He became a man for all eternity. Part of Him changed forever, so that today, there is a glorified man at God’s right hand, the intercessor for all people.

For the readers of this epistle, and for believers today, this is a powerful motivator in the believer’s quest to live a life of love. We should never fear that Christ is somehow different today than He was in Bible days, and that He will be different at some point in the future. Past or present or future makes no difference to Him. The word “forever” is really a Greek phrase which means “into the ages” and refers to the never ending future. There is no adequate way to convey the depth of meaning in this short verse. No matter what the future hold, no matter how long eternity is, no matter how many ages the universe passes through, Jesus Christ will remain the one fixed, never unchanging point. As God’s revelation to us, Jesus Christ is final, and will never “be superceded or supplemented.”

How a believer lives their lives is based on this certainty. Jesus Christ will never be superseded.

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