HEBREWS, Part 2

We are so impressed with celebrities these days. And celebrities come cheap, don’t they? Just dance a little bit, and you’re a celebrity. Get some cosmetic surgery done, and you’re a celebrity…even more so if the surgeon botched it up! Stand waist deep in some toxic sea foam, and you’re a celebrity. It doesn’t take much to impress us these days. It’s really too bad that so many Christians remain unimpressed with Jesus Christ. Maybe it’s because we are so familiar with Him, we just take Him for granted. We see volcanic eruptions, or hurricanes, or earthquakes, and we are taken aback by the sheer power of nature. Yet, Jesus Christ is One who holds all of nature together, but we’re not all that impressed with that.

In the introduction to his letter, the author of Hebrews points out the excellence of Jesus Christ, and with this next group of verses, he expands on it. The first thing you notice is how many quotations from the Psalms there are; 5 all together. It’s interesting that the writer goes back to the Old Testament to strengthen his teaching about the superiority of Christ. Why do this? Remember to whom he is writing: Jewish Christians, who were beginning to struggle with aspects of their Christian faith. Some of then were in danger of drifting back into the strict observances of their former faith. Maybe some of them were starting to question the divinity of Jesus Christ. So the writer brings out the fact Christ has a greater dignity than any other being; so great is Jesus Christ that He is far above all things. He is closer to being God than any other being in the universe. Now, the writer to the Hebrews isn’t discounting the Incarnation in any way, because he certainly emphasizes the real humanity of Jesus. But for now, the main point of emphasis is the reality that Jesus is above all creation.

1. From Psalm 2:7 and 2 Samuel 7:14

For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father” ? Or again, “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son” ? (verse 5)

In verse 5, there are two Old Testament quotes, one from the Psalms and one from 2 Samuel. Both quotes are used to illustrate the uniqueness of Christ.

No angel, nor anyone else for that matter, was ever singled out by God and given the status Jesus Christ was given. In rabbinic teaching, the “Son” of Psalm 2 is seen as Aaron, David, the people of Israel, or the Messiah himself. But here, the author of Hebrews takes Psalm 2 as Messianic and sees the psalmist as conferring upon Jesus Christ the highest honor possible:  being given the title of Son of God.

As Psalm 2 asks, did God ever call any angel “His son?” The answer is, of course no; no angel was ever called “God’s son” in the Old Testament. The implication is that as mighty and as powerful as angels or even demons may be, they don’t come anywhere near the greatness of Jesus Christ because only He is the Son of God. Only He is like God.

The second quotation is from 2 Samuel 7 (also 1 Chronicles 17). The context of this quote reflects David’s desire to build a Temple for God. Nathan the prophet informed David that it wouldn’t be he that would build the House of God, but his son, Solomon. And we know, in fact, that King David’s successor, his son Solomon, did indeed build a magnificent Temple for the Lord.

The writer to the Hebrews has taken Nathan’s prophecy concerning Solomon and, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, applied it to Jesus Christ. Why did he do that? Among the Jews is the understanding that the Messiah would be a descendant of David; the quotation stresses this relationship. Not only is Jesus a descendant of David, but He is also the Son of God! No angel can claim that kind of relationship.

2. From Deuteronomy 32:43

And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” (verse 6)

Technically, this verse is from the LXX (the Greek Old Testament), but it is taken from the Hymn of Moses. It was used frequently in Temple services and sung in local synagogues. The Jews considered these verses to be Messianic, and the readers of this letter would have been familiar with it. To what is being referred in this quote? Is it the birth of Jesus or the Second Coming of Jesus? The Greek may be a bit ambiguous, some translations favor “but when God” as opposed to the NIV’s “when God brings” but is seems appropriate to prefer “when,” which would be the birth of Jesus, when, in fact, the angelic host praised God in the fields near Bethlehem (Luke 2:13).

“Firstborn” is used to to show the Son of God’s priority over everything else. It doesn’t mean Cheist was born the Son of God, for He is the eternal Son of God. “Firstborn” is merely representing His “social significance.” This is why when Jesus was born, all heaven praised and worshiped Him. There wasn’t one angelic being who did NOT worship the Son of God, for the One the angels worship is clearly superior to them. He, not they, came to earth, as the perfect God-Man; no angel had ever or could ever do that!

3. Psalm 104:4

In speaking of the angels he says, “He makes his angels spirits, and his servants flames of fire.” (verse 7)

Angels belong to the Lord; they are His to command. They may be superior to human beings in many ways, but Christ is superior to them in every way. Christ is the “heir of all things” but angels were created to be mere spirits and are as elemental as wind and fire. God commands the angels and they merely execute His will, completely obedient to Him. The fact that the psalmist compares them to “spirits” or “wind” and “fire” shows how transitory they are. Angels come and go; they go out and perform the task asssigned them by God, then they humbly return to Him. Yes, angels may be able to perform mighty deeds, but they are mere servants.

This was vitally important for these Hebrew readers to understand. The Jews had an exalted view of angles, so it was necessary for them to understand that the Son of God is far, far superior to them.

4. Psalm 45:6–7

But about the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.” (verses 8, 9)

These two verses form a quote from one of the great Messianic psalms of the Psalter. The essence of this psalm is that there is One coming in the line of David who will rule in righteousness. David, the author of Psalm 45, was so excited about this that he wrote:

My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer. (Psalm 45:1)

According to the inspired writer to the Hebrews, the One who is coming is the Lord Jesus Christ, the One who will rule in absolute righteousness. God has NOT given the right to rule this planet to any angel or any man. Only the Son of God has been given this honor. Not only will the Son of God rule the Earth, He will rule it forever; His kingdom will never end. Kingdoms rise and fall; they conquer and get conquered, but the Kingdom of the Son will endure for enternity. He is the perfect King.

Can you imagine this planet being ruled by One who “loves righteousness and hates wickedness?” Today, political rulers are more concerned about lining their pockets, lording it over their people, or merely getting re-elected. But one day, when Jesus Christ, the great Son of God, returns in glory, He won’t be like any political leader the world has ever seen! What a kingdom the Kingdom of our Lord will be!

Three words or phrases need to be understood so as to grasp the significance of these couple of verses:

a.  Scepter of righteousness. The scepter was something the king held in his hand, which symbolized his absolute authority. With a wave of his scepter, the king could allow a subject to approach his throne or have him carried off to prison. In the hands of Christ, the scepter will be used justly, in complete righteousness.

b. Oil of joy. This phrase describes the continual admiration of His just and righteous rule. When King Jesus rules in absolute justice, He will be filled with joy and happiness; His people will finally be treated with respect and not mistreated.

c. Companions. The companions of Jesus, His followers and subjects, will share in His joy for they share in His heavenly calling. He is the Christ, we are the Christians, proceeding from Him like rivers from the ocean.

You, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you. (1 John 2:27)

5. Psalm 102:25-27

...and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.” (verses 10-12)

Psalm 102 is actually the prayer of a believer who is grieving for Zion, which ends with a song of praise for the unchanging God. The writer of Hebrews applies Psalm 102 to Christ, the eternal Son of God. This is a tremendous statement that tells us that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Creator, and that all praise belongs to Him as the Creator.

This must have really struck the Hebrew recipients of this letter. To the Jew, Yahweh was always the great Creator-God and Psalm 102 always applied to Him. But what was formerly applied to Him, is now applied to the Son of God! It is the Son of God who is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, and so He is far superior to the angels.

The startling thing about Psalm 102 is that all the created works of the Son will “perish.” All created things will either wear out or die out, but the Creator, the Son of God, will remain. This places Christ on a whole different level from any created being or thing. The created will vanish, but the Creator transcends time and space and will forever remain. Therefore, He who is unchangeable is far superior that that which changes.

6. Psalm 110:1

To which of the angels did God ever say, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet” ? (verse 13)

This verse is a quote from Psalm 110, the most quoted psalm in the New Testament. Interestingly, the psalms teach us more about the deity of Jesus Christ than the Gospels do!

The way Hebrews 1:13 is worded, it cannot be applied to angels or any other created being. Only the Son of God has been invited to sit at the right hand of God. Every time this verse is quoted in the New Testament, it is applied to Christ to stress His deity. Since angels stand before God, it is a mark of superiority and superior dignity that the Son sits. To make enemies a footstool means to subject them completely. How this must have struck the Hebrews! The great and mighty angels were created to serve the Son of God and all the enemies of the Son are, or will be, made irrelevant and completely powerless.

Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? (verse 14)

From the throne room of heaven, the angels are commanded to work on behalf of believers, the ones who will inherit salvation. Jesus is enthroned in heaven, but the angels are seen doing His bidding for His people. Angels must obey and they must serve, even the great archangels Gabriel and Michael are sent by God to work in the interests of the saints.

What have the Hebrews learned about Jesus Christ? He is the eternal Son of God; angels are but His servants. Christ is the King; angles are merely subjects. Christ is the great Creator; angels are part of the created. Christ is, at this moment, waiting for the day when all His enemies will be utterly subject to Him. God the Father never gave that promise to any angel. One day the Son of God will rule as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The Hebrews just learned something we know to be true: Jesus Christ is the Son of God and He is higher than any angel.

(c)  2011 WitzEnd
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