Resurrection as Evidence (Acts 17:22-31)

Spring is such a wonderful time. The days are longer and warmer. The grass and trees are greener. During Spring we get a special day for Christians called Easter when we remember and celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. He was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, healed the sick, raised the dead, died a sacrificial death, was raised from the dead and ascended into heaven where He waits until His return back to earth. On this special day, we will discuss the resurrection of Jesus from Acts 17 and how it functions to prove the certainty of Judgment Day.

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Our Special Day of Creation

First, Paul began his sermon by declaring that everyone has been created by God. God “gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation.” In contrast to idols, God is not made but is the Maker. Whereas idols consist of “gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man” (Acts 17:29), God is neither created nor made but exists eternally. Stephen, in his speech before the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, quoted Isaiah 66:1-2: “The Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands, as the prophet says: ‘Heaven is My throne, and Earth is the footstool of My feet. What kind of house will you build for me?’ says the Lord, ‘Or what place is there for My rest? Was it not My hand which made all these things?’” (Acts 7:48-50). God has made you and placed you where you are. This truth should help you when you are feeling anxious and troubled. God himself has determined the time and the location for you. Why are you living where you are living? Why are you in this year in this area? Because God willed it to be so and it was. Psalm 115:3 says, “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases Him.” It pleases God for you to be where you are at. God has placed you where you are for a reason.

Our Appointed Day of Judgment

Being our Creator, God is also our Judge. This is a major point of the gospels and must never be forgotten. God “has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness.” Romans 14:10 says, “You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.” 2 Corinthians 5:10 says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” There is a day of judgment for everyone and everyone will stand before God to give an account of himself. The righteous will face a judgment with their Lord to give an account of themselves as Christians with rewards given for faithfulness. The unrighteous will appear before God’s great white throne and “if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev 20:15). What does this day of judgment have to do with Easter? Paul told the gathered crowd: “He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” Consider this very closely: Jesus’ resurrection is proof that judgment is coming.

There is a day of judgment for everyone and everyone will stand before God to give an account of himself.

A Call to Seek God

Thankfully, our sermon does not end there. You see, God has placed us where and when we are so that we “would seek God…might feel their way towards Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.” In Romans 10:5-13, Paul says:

Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law: “The man who does these things will live by them.But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?(that is, to bring Christ down) or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).” But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 

Romans 10:5-13

A Command to Repent

We are to seek God but what do we do when we find Him? Paul said, “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness.” Repentance means a change of mind that results in a change of action. Paul later said in Acts 26:20 that he declared “that they should repent and turn to God, practicing deeds appropriate to repentance.” John the Baptist told those who came to him for baptism to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matt 3:8). When we repent, we acknowledge that we are wrong and God is right and we obey God and seek to honor Him. 

Repentance means a change of mind that results in a change of action.

When some heard about resurrection they began to mock, rejecting this as nonsense. Others, however, believed and were saved. What about you? What will you do with this Easter message? Will you hear it and reject it? Will you hear it and think it is true but not true enough to justify repentance? Will you hear it and believe it? Better do something with it soon, judgment is coming. Will you be ready?

Jesus: Our Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16)

We are now entering into a new major section of the book of Hebrews. Thus far we have seen that Jesus is greater than the Prophets (He is the Final Word), the Angels (He is the Son), and Moses (He is the Builder of the House of God). In this section (4:14-10:18), we will learn that Jesus is greater than Aaron: the first High Priest of Israel because He has greater access to the Father and is sinless. But first, let us consider what the Bible says about the High Priest so that we can better understand how Jesus is the Great High Priest.

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What is a High Priest?

We learned in Hebrews 2:17 that Jesus “had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” We are told in Hebrews 4:14 that Jesus is our Great High Priest. What is a high priest? In the Old Covenant, the high priest was the supreme religious figure in Israel. He oversaw the functions of all the priests and was chosen by God. The first high priest was Aaron and the role passed through his lineage. Of all the responsibilities of the High Priest, the greatest was to offer a sacrifice in the holy of holies on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). The High Priest was the only person who could enter the holy of holies and he could only do so on a specific day, in a specific way, with specific sacrifices (see Leviticus 16:1-34). The role of High Priest was very significant as he was the mediator for the Jews before God so that God would accept their sacrifices and offerings.

He has Greater Access to the Father

Our next section begins with the statement: “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God…” (Heb 4:14). Let’s stop here for a moment to take in what we are being told; namely, that Jesus is greater than Aaron because Jesus has greater access to the Father than Aaron did. Just as the High Priest on the Day of Atonement would pass into the holy place and through the veil into the holy of holies, Jesus has passed through the heavens and is now sitting at the right hand of God the Father (Heb 1:3). The High Priest in the Old Covenant would cautiously enter the holy of holies and have access only once a year to the mercy seat of God. Jesus, however, has gained complete access to the mercy seat and remains there. Therefore, He is greater than Aaron.

Let Us Hold Fast our Confession

Because He is greater than Aaron with a greater priesthood, we are told: “let us hold fast our confession” (Heb 4:14). What is our confession? 2 Corinthians 9:13 reminds us of our “confession of the gospel.” Romans 10:9 says “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” 1 Timothy 3:16 speaks more of our confession: “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.” Also, in 1 John 4:15 we read that “whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” We hold fast to our confession by believing it and defending it.

Because Our High Priest Sympathizes with Us

We continue on with this glorious truth: “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weakness, but One who has been tempted in all things like we are, yet without sin” (Heb 4:15). He is able to sympathize with us because He understands what we endure on this earth each day. Jesus was tempted (temptation itself is not sin) and was able to repel each temptation and not give in to sin. James wrote: “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:14-15). Jesus was lured by temptation but was able to resist temptation and not let it give birth to sin. We are told of the sinlessness of Jesus in Hebrews 4:15: He “who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Being tempted like we have been, He is able to sympathize with us. Aaron was tempted, but Aaron was a sinner. Aaron had to purify himself before he offered sacrifices. Jesus is the pure sacrifice who offers Himself.

Let Us Come Boldly to the Throne of Grace

Being able to sympathize with us, our great high priest calls us to come boldly to the throne of grace. Some translations say, “let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace.” He is compassionate and calls us to boldly come before Him “that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:16). Jesus has offered the greatest sacrifice so that we may be fully forgiven of our sin. His sacrifice is the greatest because it was a perfect, sinless sacrifice. One important result of Jesus’ high priesthood is that He is approachable. Christians are God’s children who have access to their Father.

Our Advocate

Because Jesus is our Great High Priest, it is important what we believe and do. Herman Ridderbos once said: “Every imperative of Scripture (what we are to do for God) rests on the indicative (who we are in our relationship with God), and the order is not reversible.” Bryan Chappell helpfully added: “What Christians do is based on who we are in Christ.” Because Jesus is our Great High Priest with continual access to the Father, let us hold fast to our confession. Because Jesus is our Great High Priest, let us come boldly before His throne of grace. He is our advocate and our redeemer. He is our victorious Lord whom we serve wholeheartedly. Philip Hughes said about Jesus as Great High Priest: “What we, and they, needed was not a fellow loser but a winner; not one who shares our defeat but one who is able to lead us to victory; not a sinner but a savior.” Let us worship Him!

The Second Warning: Don’t Harden Your Heart! (Hebrews 3:7-4:13)

God is speaking to us through His Son Jesus and hopefully we are all paying attention. Our next section of Hebrews is the second of five warnings found in the book (2:1-4; 3:7-4:13; 5:11-6:12; 10:19-39; 12:14-29). The first warning was to “pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away” (Heb 2:1). The second warning is to “not have an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God” (Heb 3:12). Let’s consider this closer:

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A Warning Against Unbelief

The warning begins with a quotation from Psalm 95. This Psalm recounts a few incidents which happened after the Israelites were brought out of Egypt. The Lord was not pleased with the unfaithful Jews who provoked the Lord with their hardened hearts. The writer of Hebrews uses this to warn those who profess faith in Jesus not to repeat their folly.

The Reason for Unbelief

Psalm 95:7-11 contains God’s warning not to harden your heart when you hear His voice. The reason their heart is hard is because they have “an evil, unbelieving heart” (Heb 3:12). Going back to the Israelites in the wilderness, we see their hardened hearts on display in their grumbling and complaining against God. They grumbled and complained because their trials exposed their lack of faith. It is helpful to remember that God allows trials to come in order to test our faith (James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:7-9). We must guard our heart (Prov 4:23). Following your heart is not the solution, it is the problem. When we are inattentive to God’s voice, we become hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. We provoke the Lord with our unbelief.

The Result of Unbelief

The Israelites who tested the Lord in the rebellion (Ex 15:22-17:7) died because of their unbelief. They were not able to enter the Promised Land (God’s rest). The warning is clear that no unbelieving person–no matter what they profess, what they have or have not done–will enter into God’s rest. As we have said earlier, we provoke the Lord with our unbelief. We may attend worship services regularly, we may give consistently, we may be a member of a local church and attend Wednesday night prayer meetings, but if we are not truly born again and possess genuine faith we will be damned. Jesus makes this very clear in Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven will enter.

An Exhortation of Hope

Our God is “a consuming fire” (Heb 12:29) and He is also “compassionate and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in faithfulness and truth” (Ex 34:6). Therefore, in this warning against unbelief we also have an exhortation of hope. 

The Reason for our Hope

The reason for our hope is very simple. If you are not paying close attention you may miss it. It is found in verse 12 where God is described as “the living God.” The so-called gods of the pagans are deaf, dumb, and blind idols. In contrast, our God is alive. He speaks to us, hears us, and sees us. He is there, He is aware, and He cares. The living God also has a “living and active” word that is “able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12).

The Work of Hope

All throughout this section in Hebrews we get imperatives that call us to work; but, let us not mistake this call. It is not a call to work harder in order to find God’s rest. This is not a “do better…work harder” call but a call to have faith. In Hebrews 3:19, we are specifically told that the Hebrews who did not enter “were not able to enter because of unbelief.” We must not just hear the word. We must profit from God’s word as it is “united with faith” (Heb 4:2). We must be diligent to enter God’s rest–not by works–but by genuine faith that works itself out in love (Gal 5:6). 

The work of hope is a call to worry less about ourselves and to help those around us. It’s not a call to be a busybody trying to get into everyone else’s business, but a call to not turn a blind eye to someone around you who is in need. We must exhort (Heb 3:12) one another. Exhortation means to ask, beg, plead. It means to comfort, encourage, urge. It also means to call, invite. We are to exhort one another to remain faithful to God. Our exhortation is to “not be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb 3:13). Sin is deceitful and will lead you astray. We all have blind spots in our life and we need one another to warn each other when we are walking in a way that is not pleasing to God. We exhort one another to cast off sin and cling to righteousness. We encourage one another to strive to enter God’s rest.

An Enduring Rest

Many times in this section we are told about God’s promised rest. What is meant by rest? In the Old Covenant, the Sabbath meant rest from your labors on the seventh day of the week. In the New Covenant, the Sabbath means eternal rest in Christ. In Hebrews 4, we are reminded of God’s rest on the seventh day (Heb 4:4 & Gen 2:2) and “the promise of entering that rest” (Heb 4:1 & Ps 95:11), and the encouragement for us to “strive to enter that rest” (Heb 4:11). This eternal rest with God can only be entered by faith in Christ (Heb 4:2) and it is available to you today (Heb 4:7). The promise is that you can cease your vain attempts to earn God’s favor and instead accept God’s gift of salvation and enjoy a personal relationship with Him. Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt 11:28-30). 

Are You Still Listening? (Hebrews 3:1-6)

Jesus is our great Savior who brings us such a great salvation. Therefore, we must pay close attention to what we have heard and cling closely to Christ. Last week we studied what the writer of Hebrews said about Jesus: He humbled Himself, He was exalted by the Father, and He always helps us. In our sermon today, we will continue to pay close attention to what we have heard by: 1) Remembering who we are, 2) Considering who Jesus is and 3) Holding fast to what we have received.

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Remembering Who You Are

Chapter 3 begins with, “Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling…” Look at how the writer of Hebrews describes a Christian. First, he calls us holy brethren. To be holy means to be set apart by God. In Leviticus 19:2, the Lord told the Jewish people: “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” The Apostle Peter quotes this verse in 1 Peter 1:15 to make sure that Christians know: “like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” We are set apart by God to be holy through Jesus Christ and we are called to live holy lives. To live a holy life means to live for God and to have a life that is different from unbelievers. Peter said in 1 Peter 1:13, “prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were in your ignorance.” 

Second, he calls us partakers of a heavenly calling. This refers to the origin of the call and the destination of the one who is called. For Christians, the prize/goal is eternity with Christ. It is the upward/heavenly call of God. The prize is not earthly. It is not a nicer house, boat, computer, etc. The prize is not more money, friends, prestige, etc. The prize is the “upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (3:14). The prize originates in Heaven and leads us towards Heaven. Our deepest aspiration is to know Christ, to glorify Him in all we do, and to enjoy Him forever. 

Considering Who Jesus Is

As we remember who we are, let us then “consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our Confession” (Heb 3:1). We have spoken much of Jesus thus far and now we receive two more descriptions for us to consider: 1) Apostle of our confession and 2) High Priest of our Confession. Jesus is the Apostle of our confession. An apostle is one who is sent out. Jesus has been sent by the Father (John 8:42). Jesus said of Himself in John 3:34, “For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God for He gives the Spirit without measure.” An apostle is one who is designated and sent out by another to work on their behalf. Jesus is sent by the Father to work in His name and to represent Him before us.

Jesus is the High Priest of our confession. We will learn more about how Jesus is our High Priest as we progress through Hebrews. Thus far we have learned that He has “become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Heb 2:17). As High Priest, Jesus not only makes the sacrifice necessary on behalf of His people, but He goes further by being the sacrifice necessary for His people. Consider Jesus because He is more worthy of glory than Moses. Moses was Servant of God but Jesus is the Son of God. To help us understand this, the writer of Hebrews uses the illustration of a house. Don’t be confused, however, by this illustration. The writer is not using house to refer to a building but a family. Jesus is the One for Whom the family is created. Jesus is the most prominent member of the family and Moses was a servant in the family. Moses was faithful as a servant, Jesus is faithful as a Son.

Holding Fast to What We Have Received

As we consider Jesus, we must “hold fast to our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end” (Heb 3:6). Confidence in this verse means outspokenness and boldness. We have confidence because we have been reconciled to God (2 Cor 5:18) and we have been justified and now have peace with God (Rom 5:1). As a result of our salvation, we have confidence in God which results in confidence in our witness and our preaching. Confidence in belief manifests itself in confidence in witness. We are not ashamed or embarrassed of the gospel or Jesus (Rom 1:16) but we are outspoken and bold in His name. We are confident in Christ Jesus and we boast of our hope. We do not boast in ourselves but in the hope that Christ provides. The Christian hope is the cause of our confidence and boasting. Our hope is found in Jesus and He has accomplished our salvation. 

Therefore, we must hold fast. Do not be confused by this. The writer of Hebrews is not saying that you are saved by holding fast or that you remain saved by holding fast. How terrible it would be to have our salvation depend upon our hold of Christ. No, the Bible tells us that our salvation depends upon Jesus. With Him holding fast to us, we can persevere in faith. Paul lays this out very well in Philippians 3:12, “I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.” Christ has claimed us for His own. 

We are holy brethren with a heavenly calling, therefore; we must hold fast to our hope especially in the midst of trials. Consider closely the admonition in verse 6: we are Christ’s house if we hold fast until the end. Only those who persevere to the end are truly member’s of Christ’s house. We will pick up on this theme next Sunday as we discuss the peril of unbelief and the danger of a hardened heart. In the meantime, are we listening to God? Are we paying attention to Him and His Word? Let us be careful not to drift but to consider Jesus.

Our Great Savior (Hebrews 2:5-18)

Let us recap the message of Hebrews thus far. We learned in Chapter 1 that God is speaking to us. God has spoken to us in the past through the prophets, but now He is speaking to us through His beloved Son. Jesus is far greater than the prophets so we had better listen to Him. We have also learned that Jesus is greater than the angels. Angels are ministers of God who “render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation” (Heb 1:14) and Jesus is the Son who is worshipped and rules as “Lord of lords and King of kings” (Rev 17:14). After showing the superiority of Jesus over the prophets and the angels, we are counseled to “pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it” (Heb 2:1). Then, we are given this solemn warning: “How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” (Heb 2:3). In the rest of Chapter 2, we are encouraged to not neglect such a great salvation by remembering our great Savior.

Our Great Savior Humbled Himself

As we reflect on our great Savior, we have to address a very important question: “If Jesus is the Lord of Lords, why has He suffered so much?” To answer this, we are told that God the Father “made Him [Jesus] for a little while lower than the angels” (Heb 2:7). We see in this verse a similar teaching found in Philippians 2:1-8 where Paul spoke of Jesus–the Son of God–who “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (2:6-7). Jesus humbled Himself. All the privileges that were His as God the Son, He gave them up to become a Jewish baby. Also, “being born in the likeness of men…being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:7-8). Remember, Paul’s main reason for referencing Christ in this section of Philippians is that Christ came to earth in humility. In humility, He did not look to His own interests, but to ours. Jesus knew we needed a Savior and He willingly came to “seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). All of these actions are voluntary. Jesus chose to come into this world and chose to become obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil 2:8).

Jesus is God the Son who took on human flesh and was for a little while lower than the angels (Heb 2:7&9). We are told that Jesus endured the suffering of death (Heb 2:9). He was made perfect through suffering (Heb 2:10), He shares in flesh and blood along with other humans (Heb 2:14), He is made like His brothers in every respect (Heb 2:17). We are also told in Hebrews 2:18 that He suffered when tempted. The Bible does not teach that Jesus stopped being God when He took on human form and became like us; but that He added human nature to His Divine nature and thus has two natures. This sounds complex, but we must remember that our belief about Jesus is derived from Scripture. This is referred to as the hypostatic union: the term used to describe how God the Son, Jesus Christ, took on a human nature, yet remained fully God at the same time.

Our Great Savior Has Been Exalted

Jesus humbled Himself in order to secure eternal life for all who believe. As a result of His work of redemption, Jesus has been exalted by God the Father. Hebrews 2:7-8 says, “You have crowned Him with glory and honor, and have appointed Him over the works of Your hands; You have put all things in subjection under His feet.” Once again we see a parallel in Philippians 2:9-11, “Therefore, God also highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Everything has been put into subjection to Jesus, but we currently do not yet see everything in subjection to Him (Heb 2:8), but we know that everything exists for Him and by Him (Heb 2:10). Jesus reigns as King and one day all things will be subjected to Him. 1 Corinthians 15:23-27 tells us that when Jesus returns for the second time, “then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For God has put all things in subjection under His feet.” Currently, not everything is subjected to Jesus, but we know the day is coming when everything will.

Our Great Savior Helps Us

The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy saying, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim 1:15). Jesus is the author of our salvation (Heb 2:10). Later in Hebrews, Jesus is called “the author and perfecter of our faith” (Heb 12:2). Our Great Savior brings many sons to glory (Heb 2:10) and is not ashamed to call them brothers (Heb 2:11). Jesus submitted Himself to death in order to “render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb 2:14). He frees us from the fear of death and provides us eternal life.

Why did Jesus humble Himself? He did so to help the offspring of Abraham (Heb 2:16). Hebrews 2:17 tells us “He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” Jesus is our Redeemer, our Savior, and our Faithful high priest who helps us in our time of need. You can trust Jesus. He loves you and cares for you. If you are not a Christian, surrender to Jesus. Confess that He is Lord. Confess your sins and acknowledge that you are a sinner. Ask Him to save you and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” If you are a Christian, see Jesus as your faithful high priest who cares for you, loves you, and intercedes for you.

The First Warning: Don’t Drift! (Hebrews 2:1-4)

Warning signs are everywhere nowadays. What are we to do with warnings? Well, it depends on the warning. Sometimes warnings are humorous. Coffee cups make sure to warn you that the “Contents are hot!” Consider this warning label for a sleep aid: “May cause drowsiness”. A hair dryer had this warning: “Do not use while sleeping”. A Reflective sun shield for a car had this warning: “Do not drive with a sun shield in place.” And to top that,  Rowenta Irons had this doozy: “Do not iron clothes on body.” 

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Not all warning labels and/or signs are comical. “Deer Crossing” warning signs are very important (especially if you have ever hit a deer while driving). “Bridge Out” is also another important warning. Another very important warning is found in Hebrews 2:1: “We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” In other words, God is speaking through Jesus Christ and we had better pay attention. 

Pay Attention!

Hebrews 2:1-4 is the first of five warnings scattered throughout the book of Hebrews (see 2:1-4; 3:7-4:13; 5:11-6:12; 10:19-39; 12:14-29). While there is the obvious (eternal) danger of a complete rejection of the Gospel, in this warning we are told of the danger of drifting away from the things we have been told concerning the Gospel. The writer of Hebrews is speaking to Christians in order to encourage them to cling closely to Christ, especially during a time of trial. We must pay much closer attention to the Gospel we have heard. The Gospel is not just for unbelievers. Milton Vincent wrote a helpful book entitled A Gospel Primer for Christians. In it he writes:

This book is based on the premise that all Christians should become experts in their knowledge and use of the gospel, not simply so they can share it faithfully with non-Christians, but also so they can speak it to themselves everyday and experience its benefits. In fact, if Christians would do more preaching of the gospel to themselves, non-Christians might have less trouble comprehending its message, for they would see its truth and power exuding from believers in indisputable ways.

Specifically, we must pay attention to Jesus. God is speaking through His Son. Pay attention to the Gospel. We must reflect on Christ’s virgin birth, sinless life, sacrificial death, sovereign resurrection, glorious ascension, loving intercession, and His certain return.

The Temptation to Drift

We must pay much closer attention so that we would not drift away. The metaphor used here is of a current carrying one away from a fixed point. The warning is that this may happen through carelessness and/or unconcern. We are instructed to keep a firm grip on our fixed point (the truth). We need a secure anchor by which we may keep ourselves from drifting from the gospel.” In Hebrews 6:18-19, we read: “we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.

How do we drift? The first sign that we have begun to drift is spiritual laxity. While we ought to be on guard against legalism, we must be just as vigilant against becoming careless. It is a challenge for Christians to not grow complacent. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit preserves us and will convict us of our drifting. I know many Christians (including myself) who praise God that they have countless “wake up calls” from God spurring them to renewal and revival.

The Remedy for Drifting

How do we avoid drifting? We avoid drifting by paying much closer attention to what we have heard. Specifically, we pay attention to the means of grace God has provided for us: the Bible, Pray, and the Church. 

The Blessing of the Bible

We must be faithful to read, study, and meditate on the Word of God. Do not neglect to read the Bible. Read it regularly and it will be an anchor for your soul. It is true and trustworthy. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” Are you being blessed by the Bible?

The Provision of Prayer

Be faithful in prayer. Prayer is communication with God. It is the intentional act of speaking to and listening to God. If you don’t know what to pray, tell it to God. Pray for what you need and what others need. Spend time praising and thanking Him. Are you praying?

The Goodness of the Gathering

Be faithful in a local church. While it is understandable that some Christians are not physically able to gather, it is God’s design that spiritual growth occurs in a Christian community (i.e., a local church). For this reason, being connected to a local church is essential (not optional) for spiritual growth. This is why those who are not able to physically gather lament this because they know its importance. Are you gathering?

The Punishment for Drifting

If “every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty” in the Old Covenant, “how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation” in the New Covenant? Jesus has accomplished so great a salvation for us, how then shall we dare neglect this salvation? How can we dare to neglect Him? How can we drift away from such great love? God is speaking; are we listening? Don’t drift away from the Gospel you have heard and received. Are you fighting apathy? Are you striving against the current of the world? Jesus is our anchor!

Jesus is Superior to the Angels (Hebrews 1:4-14)

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God is speaking; are we listening? God has spoken through His prophets and now He is speaking through His Beloved Son Jesus Christ. Last week we learned that Jesus is greater than the prophets and now we will learn that Jesus is greater than the angels. Hebrews 1:4 says of Jesus, “So he became superior to the angels, just as the name he inherited is more excellent than theirs.” In this sermon, we shall briefly discuss angels and the seven reasons why Jesus is superior to them.

What about the Angels?

Who and/or what are angels? We call them angels because in the original language of the New Testament (Greek) they are called angelos which means “messenger”. Hebrews 1:14 gives us a clear description of the work of angels. They are “ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation.” Wayne Grudem–in his Systematic Theology–wrote, “Angels are created, spiritual beings with moral judgment and high intelligence, but without physical bodies.” The Bible mentions two groups of angels: Cherubim (Gen 3:24, Ps 18:10, Ezek 10) and Seraphim (Is 6:2-7). There is some debate as to whether or not the “Living Creatures” mentioned in Ezekiel and Revelation are Cherubim or a different group. I am inclined to believe the living creatures are Cherubim because they both have wings, faces, and worship God before His throne, but this is up for debate.

Cherubim is the plural form of Cherub. Despite what you may have seen in pictures and art, Cherubim are not cute, chubby babies, but mighty, winged angels who guarded the Garden of Eden and who serve and praise God. Sculptures of Cherubim adorned the Mercy Seat on the Ark of the Covenant. The other group consists of the Seraphim. Seraphim is the plural form of seraph which means “fiery”. They have six wings and stand before God’s throne worshipping Him forever. They are only mentioned in Isaiah 6. The Bible mentions two angels by name: Michael (also called an Archangel) and Gabriel. Angels were created before human beings. Angels had the free will choice to serve God or rebel against Him. Tragically, one angel named Satan (Accuser) led a rebellion against God and took with him a third of the angels with him. These fallen angels are called demons. The other two thirds of angels serve God.

Jesus is Better Than the Angels!

In Hebrews 1, the writer of Hebrews uses seven Old Testament references to make the point that Jesus is superior to the angels. In this sermon, we shall consider the seven reasons given.

First Reason: Jesus is God’s Son (5)

The first reference is from Psalm 2:7, “You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.” Psalm 2 is a Messianic Psalm. It was composed to remind Israel that God is in control of the world. The Lord is not fearful but laughs at wicked rulers when they rage against Him. The wicked rage against “the Lord and against His Anointed (i.e., Messiah)” (Ps 2:2). The Lord decreed (identified) that His Anointed One (the Messiah) is “My King” (Ps 2:6) and “My Son” (Ps 2:7). The familial language of Father and Son becomes more understandable in the New Testament when Jesus is born. He is born of the virgin Mary, not of physical union but spiritual. Jesus is Emmanuel which means God with us. Being a Messianic Psalm, the complete fulfillment is found in Jesus Christ who is the Lord’s Anointed, the Lord’s King, and the Son of God. The point being, which of the angels have ever been described in this way?

Second Reason: Jesus is the Promised Son (5)

The second reference is from 2 Samuel 7:14, “I will be a Father to Him and He shall be a Son to Me.” The context of 2 Samuel 7 is that when God had given King David rest from all his enemies, David wanted to build a house for the Lord. The Lord sent Nathan the Prophet to tell David, “the Lord will make a house for you. When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, Who will come forth from you, and I will establish His kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of His kingdom forever. I will be a father to Him and He will be a Son to Me…” In other words, the Lord said that the blessing He gave to Abraham is extended to David and will continue to his son Solomon. From Solomon, it will be followed through to the godly kings of Israel and later Judah with the complete fulfillment being with Jesus. Remember what the angel Gabriel told Mary in Luke 1:32-33: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give him the throne of His father David; and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” No angels have ever been described in this way or received such a promise as this.

Third Reason: Jesus is the Worshipped Son (6)

The third reference is from Psalm 97:7: “And let all the angels of God worship Him.” It is important to pause and consider that if you turn in your Bibles to look at that verse, you would find it is slightly different, saying, “Worship Him, all you gods.” The writer of Hebrews is quoting from the Greek Septuagint and your translation is from the Hebrew version. They are slightly different yet very similar. The reason they are slightly different is that the Hebrew word used here can either mean God or gods depending on the context. If it is gods, it can either refer to angels or powerful human rulers and/or judges. In this context, the writer of Hebrews correctly interprets for us that it refers to angels. The reason for referencing this verse is to show that angels worship Jesus. Jesus is called the firstborn in this verse. As with begotten, we must not make the false assumption that Jesus was created by God. Jesus was indeed born in Bethlehem as the firstborn of Mary, but Jesus is also the Son of God who has existed before the creation of the world (John 17:5). Firstborn, in this verse, refers to the right of inheritance. Remember, earlier Jesus was “appointed heir of all things” (Heb 1:2). Jesus is “Lord of glory” (1 Cor 2:8) who is worthy of our worship. Let us worship Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Let us trust Him completely and keep ourselves from idolatry.

Fourth Reason: Angels are Servants of God (7,14)

Angels are ministering spirits and they serve Jesus. The fourth reference is from Psalm 104:4. Psalm 104 is a Psalm that reflects on God’s care over all His creation. In this Psalm, we are told that the Lord “makes the winds His messengers, flaming fire His ministers.” The writer of Hebrews correctly interprets this as the angels being commissioned by God as His servants and messengers. Hebrews 1:7 says, “Who makes His angels winds, and His ministers a flame of fire.” Angels have splendor and honor, but their splendor pales in comparison to Jesus. Angels are servants of Jesus, the Son. In verse 14, we have a clear summary of the work of angels in that they are “ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation.” Therefore, by serving Jesus, angels also serve those who are being saved by Jesus.

Fifth Reason: Jesus is the Ruling Son (8-9)

The fifth reference is from Psalm 45:6-7: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, Your God has anointed You with the oil of gladness above Your companions.” Similar to what we learned in our second reason, Jesus is the promised Son of David who rules and reigns supreme. Psalm 45 is a psalm celebrating the wedding of the King. While this psalm was initially written for the marriage of the King, it is also a prophecy about Christ and His bride, the church (Eph 5:25-27), who praises Him for all eternity. Heb. 1:8–9 quotes these verses and exalts the King of kings: Jesus. The ESV Study Bible summarizes this well: “Only Jesus, as the Davidic Messiah (the anointed One), truly meets this description, since by reigning at God’s right hand (Heb. 1:3, 13) he possesses an eternal kingdom (forever and ever) and reigns in true righteousness (4:15; 7:26–28). The messianic Son is rightfully also called God, in this case by God the Father.”

In verse 6, we celebrate that His “throne is forever and ever.” His scepter (a special staff that symbolizes authority) signifies His righteousness. He is completely good. He loves righteousness and hates wickedness. He is undefeated, unchallenged, and almighty. The Prophet Isaiah said of Him, “There will be no end to the increase of his government or of peace, on the throne of David and over His kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore” (Is 9:7). 

Sixth Reason: Jesus is the Eternal Son (10-12)

The sixth reference is from Psalm 102:25-27: “You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Your hands; they will perish, but You remain; and they all will become old like a garment, and like a mantle You will roll them up; like a garment they will also be changed. But You are the same, and Your years will not come to an end.” This psalm is quoted because it speaks of the unchangeable, eternal Son of God. The Son of God has always existed and will always exist. His kingdom has no end because His life has no end. The Lord is eternal and His faithfulness will outlast the world. This is especially poignant because the context of Psalm 102 is a reflection on the difficulty of life and the importance of keeping an eternal perspective by keeping our eyes on Jesus.

Seventh Reason: Jesus is the Divine Son (13)

The seventh and final reference is from Psalm 110:1: “Sit at My right hand, until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.” As glorious and splendid are the angels, “to which of the angels has God ever said something as wonderful as this? Psalm 110 is a Messianic Psalm that describes the scene in heaven when Jesus returned. Jesus was seated at the right hand of God the Father. What does it mean to sit at the right hand? Most people are right-handed and therefore have more strength with their right hand. In ancient times, the right hand of the king symbolized his power and authority. When a king wanted to grant authority and favor to someone, he would signify this by placing him at his right hand. Here are some other key verses on the subject: 

  • Ephesians 1:20-23 “He demonstrated this power in Christ by raising Him from the dead and seating Him at His right hand in the heavens—far above every ruler and authority, power and dominion, and every title given, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put everything under His feet and appointed Him as head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of the One who fills all things in every way.”
  • Colossians 3:1 “​So if you have been raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”
  • 1 Peter 3:22 “Now that He has gone into heaven, He is at God’s right hand with angels, authorities, and powers subject to Him.”
  • Acts 2:32-33 “God has resurrected this Jesus. We are all witnesses of this. Therefore, since He has been exalted to the right hand of God and has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit, He has poured out what you both see and hear.

Being at the right hand of God the Father means that Jesus has been exalted and reigns supreme with all authority over heaven and earth. Philippians 2:9-11 says, “For this reason God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow—of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth—and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Jesus is Superior to the Prophets (Hebrews 1:1-3)

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Hebrews begins with the declaration that God speaks. God has something to say and it is important that we listen. Previously, God spoke through the Prophets. Our English word Prophet comes from the Greek word prophetes. This refers to someone who speaks on behalf of God. God used many men throughout the history of the Old Testament to speak His words to His people. We learned about Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jonah, Elijah, Elisha, etc. Jesus reprimanded the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, saying: “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!” (Luke 24:25). Now, in these last days, God “has spoken to us in His Son” (Heb 1:2). God speaks to us. Let us listen to Jesus.

The Status of the Son

Heir of All Things. Jesus is greater than the prophets because He is not just a messenger; He is the Son. As the “only begotten” (John 3:16), He is the heir of all things. In Psalm 2:8, God the Father said to God the Son: “Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance.” Jesus told His disciples before He ascended into heaven: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matt 28:18). Paul told the Church in Rome that we are Children of God “…and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom 8:17). Jesus is the heir because He is the One who provides redemption. The inheritance includes all things, and one major inheritance is the redemption of “a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues…” (Rev 7:9).

Through Whom also He Made the World. Scripture testifies that Jesus made the world. John 1:3 says, “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him not even one thing came into being that has come into being.” 1 Corinthians 8:6 says, “One Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.” Colossians 1:16 adds, “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things have been created through Him and for Him.

The Character of the Christ

Radiance of His glory. Because of the nature of human language, it is inherently difficult to give an accurate description of the Trinity. Jesus is described as the radiance of God’s glory. Some translations say “reflection”, but radiance or brilliance is preferred. The point in this verse is that Jesus is just not reflecting God’s glory but is emitting God’s glory because Jesus is God (John 1:1). When we speak of God we speak of Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. Trinity is one Being existing as three Persons. The Father sent the Son, and the Son emits God’s glory because He is God.

Exact representation of His nature. The Greek word our Bibles translate as “exact representation” (or express image/exact imprint) is charaktēr. If that word looks familiar it is because that is where we get our word character. Its original meaning came about as someone would scratch a symbol (character) with a tool onto stone or other material. It also came to be used with signet rings. A signet ring is a ring that had a specific imprint on it. Historian Emily Stoehrer said, “They were really used as a signature would be used today, as a way of leaving your mark and a way of assuring authenticity. You could mark a document with them, you could leave an impression in wax or clay.” A king would issue a decree and send his message out with couriers. The courier would bring the news on the official scroll that bore the king’s seal which came from his signet ring. With the seal, it was as if the king himself was making the message in person. This is the sense in which Jesus said to Philip, “John 14:9 said to Philip, “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’” We know God because we know Jesus.

The Mission of the Messiah

Made Purification of Sins. Jesus’s primary mission is “to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10). Jesus saves by offering Himself in life and death in order to purify us so that we would be reconciled to God. Jesus lived a perfect life and has perfect righteousness. Jesus willingly sacrificed His life as a substitute (Matt 20:28). God accepted Jesus’ death and applied it to the account of all who are saved. God removed our sin from us and placed it upon Jesus. God took the righteousness of Jesus and placed it upon us (Rom 3:22). Jesus’ death cleansed us of all our sin, and we are now adopted into the family of God (Eph 1:5). After Jesus did this, He sits at God the Father’s right hand ruling and reigning supreme.

Upholds all Things by the Word of His Power. Jesus not only made all things, but He also upholds all things. Remember what we learned in Colossians 1:16, “all things have been created through Him and for Him.” The next verse says, “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Col 1:17). Jesus sustains the world around us. Everything in the universe has existed, exists, and will exist because Jesus upholds it. This means that Jesus not only supports but also carries all things along His intended course to his final destination. There is no molecule or atom that is outside of Jesus’ authority and domain and the world will be brought to its appropriate end according to God’s will.God is speaking. Are we listening? One of the most effective traps the Devil uses is busyness. When we are busy, we can quickly become distracted. When we are distracted, we are slow to listen. Are you distracted? If so, remember the words that Samuel said to God when He called, “Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening” (1 Sam 4:9). As you listen to Jesus, obey all He says. Let us serve the Lord with gladness.

God Has Spoken: Jesus is Superior (Hebrews)

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When we last left the Israelites, they had just received the Law from the Lord and they were told to leave Mt. Sinai and journey towards the Promised Land. They had been brought out of Egypt to Mount Sinai to worship Him and in order to properly worship God, He gave them His Law. The Law was based on the Covenant that the Lord has established with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The nation of Israel was a Theocracy with God as the supreme ruler and Moses His mediator. In His covenant with Israel, He provided the Law of Moses (as it came to be called). The Law had two important functions: 1) It provided for the right functioning of the new nation of Israel and 2) It provided the means by which sinful people can properly worship the Holy God. The Law revealed the holiness of God.

This brings us to our new sermon series on the book of Hebrews. It is helpful to understand the Law of Moses because the main theme of Hebrews is that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of everything in the Law of Moses. Therefore, He alone is our Redeemer, Advocate, Savior, and Lord—worthy of all praise and glory and honor. In our introduction to this book, we will learn that while this book is too often neglected, it is a necessary and nourishing book.

A Neglected Book

What do I mean by neglected? While it is true that there are certain parts of Hebrews that are not neglected at all, much of it remains an enigma. For example, while many Christians love the “Hall of Faith” of Hebrews 11, how many Christians even know or understand Hebrews 7? It is common to see Hebrews 12:1-3 on a beautiful picture in Hobby Lobby, but when was the last time you saw one of Hebrews 6:7-8? There are parts of Hebrews that are very popular, but the book as a whole is often neglected. In this series we will not pick and choose passages but will take the book as a whole.

Why is Hebrews often neglected? One reason is because it seems unfamiliar. The title “To the Hebrews” can give the impression that it’s not for a Gentile audience in 2021. While it was originally intended for Jewish Christians who were tempted to return to Judaism, it is very important for all Christians. One characteristic of Hebrews is that it feels like an Old Testament book. It spends a great deal of time talking about the Israelites, Moses, Aaron, and priests. If Hebrews feels unfamiliar, it reveals that we are unfamiliar with the Old Testament. Here is another reminder to Christians: we are people of the Bible. We believe more than just the “red letters” and more than just the New Testament. We believe all of Scripture. If you are a Christian who just wants the Gospels or Romans or the red letters, Philip Hughes has a warning when he aptly said, “We neglect [Hebrews] to our own impoverishment.”

A Necessary Book

Hebrews is a difficult, but necessary book. Hebrews is a necessary bridge between the Old and New Covenants. It is a bridge for Christians to better understand and appreciate the Old Covenant so that they may better understand and appreciate the New Covenant. Hebrews is an important book that expounds the supremacy of Jesus and particularly highlights His important role as our faithful High Priest. John Calvin—in the foreword to his commentary on Hebrews—wrote:

There is, indeed, no book in Holy Scripture which speaks so clearly of the priesthood of Christ, so splendidly extols the power and worth of that unique sacrifice which He offered by His death, deals more adequately with the use and also the abrogation of the ceremonies, and, in short, explains more fully that Christ is the end of the Law.

We learn in Hebrews that Jesus Christ is superior to everything and everyone. Specifically, with the Law of Moses in view, Jesus is greater than the Prophets, greater than the angels, greater than Moses and Aaron. Jesus is the Son of God.

A Nourishing Book

An accurate understanding of Hebrews will build your faith. One important function of Hebrews is to help mature Christians in their faith during persecution. The writer of Hebrews sought to do this by helping Christians move past the “elementary teaching about the Christ” and “press on to maturity” (Heb 6:1). In fact, midway through Hebrews, the writer says, “Concerning [Christ] we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing” (Heb 5:11). Hebrews is a nourishing book that helps Christians grow so that they can better withstand persecution and temptation. Hebrews helps us by teaching us about Jesus’ greatness:

  • Jesus is greater than the Prophets: He is the final Word from God.
  • Jesus is greater than Angels: Angels are servants, Jesus is the Son.
  • Jesus is greater than Moses: Moses was the mediator of the Old Covenant, Jesus of the New Covenant
  • Jesus is greater than Aaron: Aaron was the High Priest of the Old Covenant; Jesus is the High Priest of the New Covenant.

After this exposition, there is the exhortation to trust Jesus and submit to Him. We must not be led astray by various and strange teachings. We are to have genuine, saving faith. We are to treat one another with love and grace.

Leaving Sinai (Exodus 33-34)

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Our study of the book of Exodus ends today with the Israelites leaving Mt. Sinai. We have journeyed with the Israelites from bondage in Egypt to worship at Sinai. Now, Yahweh (God) is telling them to leave the mountain and go towards the Promised Land. God told Moses that He would not go with the Israelites “because you are an obstinate people, and I might destroy you on the way” (Ex 33:3). Why would God say this? Because He almost did! Israel had just committed idolatry with a golden calf and it was Moses who pleaded with God to be merciful to them. To his credit, Moses did not like this at all. He said to God, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here” (Ex 33:15). Moses interceded for the Israelites and God agreed to go with the Israelites on the condition that they follow His Law closely and refrain from idolatry. God would go with the Israelites after a covenant renewal. This incident in the life of Israel is important because it helps us understand God’s mercy and grace. When we understand God’s mercy and grace we will walk humbly and give thanks.

God’s Mercy

Mercy is God not giving us punishment that we deserve. God demonstrated His mercy when He relented of His destruction of Israel. They deserved judgment because of their idolatry. They had Aaron make a golden calf, but God was merciful towards them and did not give them the punishment they deserved. God’s mercy was brought out through the intercession of Moses. Mercy is counter-cultural because the culture says that there is no objective truth. Therefore, you can have your own truth, and no one should judge you (especially those judgmental Christians). You don’t need mercy because you haven’t done anything wrong. But the culture also holds a contradictory view that says that it is important to be “morally right” according to the world’s (not God’s) standard of morality. Moral truth may or may not actually be true but must be accepted as truth or else. If you do not fall in line, there is only punishment with no opportunity for mercy no matter how apologetic you may be. Mercy is biblical and wonderful because the Bible tells us that we are all sinners (Rom 3:9) and all deserve judgment. The Bible tells us that the “wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23). The punishment we deserve is eternal damnation away from the Lord. Our rebellion against God is horrific and cannot be overlooked. God is merciful towards us and relents of His judgment because the punishment is taken by another: Jesus Christ. God is rich in mercy (Eph 2:4) and because of Jesus we can receive mercy from Him. God is not only merciful but also gracious.

God’s Grace

Grace is God giving us good things that we do not deserve. As wonderful as it is to be delivered from God’s wrath, we are also graciously brought into His family. Those who are born again are adopted. John wrote, “but as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12). God demonstrated His grace when He agreed to go with the Israelites into the Promised Land. God would not only drive out the inhabitants but would be with them on the journey. Grace is counter-cultural because the culture divides everyone into a hierarchy of groups. Some groups are more oppressed than others; some groups are more oppressive than others. There is no grace in this system, just perpetual outrage and appeasement.

Grace is biblical and glorious because it recognizes that no one deserves anything, but everyone can receive it. Grace isn’t interested in your past or your worthiness. Because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, God shows us mercy and grace. Paul told the Ephesians, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph 2:8-9). The Gospel is so powerful and wonderful because it involves God being merciful on us by not giving us the punishment we deserve, and it also involves God being gracious to us by giving us eternal life which we don’t deserve.

Humility and Thanks

God has every right to judge us according to our sin, but He offers mercy and grace to all. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Salvation is free but it will cost us one thing: our pride. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (Prov 3:34, 1 Peter 5:5). Walk humbly before God because of His mercy and grace. God doesn’t owe us anything. God can wipe us away at any time and He would be perfectly just to do so. Our every breath is due to God’s mercy. Give thanks for God’s grace. Christians are forgiven and blessed. How can we not offer ourselves as a living sacrifice unto God because of His great love for us? Recognize that everything is because of Jesus!

Following Jesus

Moses got one thing right for sure…he was not going anywhere unless God was with Him. Let this be a lesson for all of us. When we talk about following Jesus, we mean that we follow His leadership and direction. It means that we come to Him and ask Him what we should do. We give Him our calendars and schedules. We submit to Him and plead for Him to fill up our to-do lists. It means that if Jesus isn’t leading us to do something, we don’t do it. It also means that if Jesus calls us to follow Him, we do so immediately without hesitation. I like this section of a prayer in the Valley of Vision:

Thy goodness is inexpressible and inconceivable.In the works of creation thou art almighty, In the dispensations of providence all-wise, In the gospel of grace all love, And, in thy Son thou hast provided for our deliverance from the effects of sin, the justification of our persons, the sanctification of our natures, the perseverance of our souls in the path of life.

Valley of Vision