February 16, 2014

Hebrews 1:1-2 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.

The writer could say this freely because he was writing to Jews, to the physical descendants of Abraham to whom the revelation of God had been given from Moses on. Gentile believers could rejoice in the truths recorded in this letter, but probably not with the same level of response, both positive and negative, of those who had been raised on the Old Testament. Many, indeed the vast majority, of Jews today deny the truth expressed here. To them it is blasphemous to say that Jesus of Nazareth is a clearer expression of Adonai Elohim than the Torah. This passage in no way negates the validity of the Old Testament; this letter is an excellent exposition on the Old Testament, quoting from it extensively. The Old Testament provides a foundation to be able to understand and appreciate the truths of the New Testament, but the Old Testament by itself presents a somewhat veiled picture of God’s plan of salvation. We need the Gospels as a direct record and description of the Messiah, and we need the rest of the New Testament to help us grasp the implications and application of what we now know of God’s plan. It is entirely possible to present God’s plan of salvation using only Old Testament Scriptures. That’s exactly what the early Christians did, and we have examples recorded of Peter, Paul, and others doing it. However, they too used various collections of Jesus’ sayings (Peter did it from memory) even before Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John wrote the organized accounts that bear their names. What is expressed in these first two verses of Hebrews was the common understanding of them all, so we need to have that same understanding and appreciation of the whole Bible.

I keep being reminded of what a huge blessing and privilege it was to be raised in a home that was steeped in Scripture, both the Old and New Testaments. Reading the Bible was a totally natural activity, expected of each member of the family. I do wish I had gotten into a secure habit of daily devotions much earlier than I did, but I am still very grateful for the foundation I was given. As a pastor in Japan, hardly anyone I deal with has that same sort of foundation, and at times I forget that, expecting people to grasp what I am saying when they don’t have the tools to do so. That’s not good! I need to be like Paul, who was likewise steeped in Scripture but became “all things to all people, so that by all possible means [he] might save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22) I need to seek God’s wisdom in expressing His truth in words and ways that will penetrate the linguistic and cultural barriers, so that people will be set free indeed. (John 8:32)

Father, thank You for Your incredible grace toward me. Help me be an increasingly effective channel of that grace to those around me, that together we may be brought into all that You have prepared for us in Christ, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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