Embarking on Hebrews at the beginning of this New Year invokes the memory of tackling Romans in 2010. God had clearly spoken to me at a Desiring God Conference in Minneapolis about stepping up to teach a book with theological substance, a book that would cause me to think as well as feel. It took a year to go verse by verse. I discovered that I loved a book that had previously intimidated me.
Hebrews can be equally daunting though I am in a different place than I was nine years ago. I have come to know a faithful God who, through His Spirit, reveals things a little bit at a time and only as needed. Mornings are no longer a crisis. If I do my part and come to the throne as a beggar for truth, God will open the door wider to a world that is not perceptible unless the Spirit guides me.
Knowing the author of any book is beneficial. With Hebrews however, we do not get to know who wrote it. There are speculations but no proof. He was no lightweight, however. He was Jewish as evidenced by his references to his Jewish heritage. He was also Greek-speaking. Skilled with the Greek translation of the Old Testament, this would have made him a Hellenistic Jew.
And though he was obviously an intellectual, he was not lost in his head. He did not have a need to prove that he was brilliant. He was a passionate intellectual. The very reason for writing the letter dispensed with an aim to write a dispassionate discourse on sophisticated theological arguments. The Jewish people were suffering horrific persecution and they needed courage and a reason to persevere. It’s hard for us in the Western world, at least until now, to understand the pressures and temptations of living in the face of persecution. (I can cave if I think I’m going to be ostracized. I can only imagine how much more difficult it would be to align with Jesus if your family and friends might die because of your confession of faith.)
The persecuted Jewish people didn’t need to go to school. They needed to know that Jesus was who He said He was. They needed to be comforted by knowing that He remained with them, through the indwelling Spirit, to hear their prayers and meet their needs.
It is not unlike why it’s important for me to take on a book like this in this New Year. While study is beneficial, I am not a professor with degrees behind my name. I am a shepherd and a teacher who has been called to ministry because of a life lived with Jesus. I need to study so that I know – that I know – in whom I have believed. These times in our world call for a foundation of spiritual steel. You agree? You looking for a fresh wind? You wondering how you’re going to deal with the complicated issues in your home, in your own heart, and in your extended family? You second guessing your career or call to ministry? Hebrews has something to say and is full of surprises for any one of us who need to go deeper for trust and divine wisdom.