The Latter Epistles -Hebrews 2

We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.  For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?  This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him.  God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking.  But there is a place where someone has testified:
“What is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    a son of man that you care for him?
You made them a little lower than the angels;
    you crowned them with glory and honor
    and put everything under their feet.”
In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them.  Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them.  But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered.  Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family.  So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.  He says,
“I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters;
    in the assembly I will sing your praises.”
And again,
“I will put my trust in him.”
And again he says,
“Here am I, and the children God has given me.”
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.  For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants.  For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.  Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

  • Hebrews 2:1-18

Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments

Hebrews 2:3 ‘ignore salvation’: “One need not go to the trouble of despising salvation, or resisting it, or opposing it.  One can be lost readily enough simply by neglecting it.  In fact, the great mass of those who perish are those who neglect the great salvation.”
Hebrews 2:4 ‘evidence’: “Those who doubt the truth of the gospel are often found believing historical statements that are not half as well proved.  Many believe that Julius Caesar wrote The Gallic Wars, yet these is not a tenth as much evidence to prove that he did as there is to prove that our Lord Jesus lived, died, and rose again from the dead.  The witness to the truth of these great matters of fact has been borne by God himself with signs, wonders, and miracles.  Honest and true men, apostles and others, have witnessed them.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

Hebrews 2:5-9 ‘world to come committed to Jesus’: “Here the apostle lays down a negative proposition, including a positive one – that the state of the gospel-church, which is here called ‘the world to come,’ is ‘not subjected to the angels.’  This new world is committed to Christ, and put in absolute subjection to him only.  His angels were too weak for such a charge. … As applicable to mankind in general, an affectionate thankful expostulation with the great God concerning the kindness to the sons of men. … As applied to the Lord Jesus Christ, v. 8, 9.  The moving cause of all the kindness God shows to men is the grace of God.”

  • Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold-italics)

Hebrews 2:10 ‘suffering’: “Christ could not be the perfect sympathizer unless he bore our suffering.  He did not look at sin from the distance of heaven, but he walked and lived in the midst of it.  He knows all shapes of suffering: disease, sickness, poverty, need, friendless ness, hopelessness, desertion.  You cannot cast human suffering into any shape that is new to Christ.  In him there is every pang that tears the heart, every grief that forces tears from the eyes.  Everything that is inevitable to flesh and blood, to hearts that break, and spirits that are depressed.  Jesus knows.”
Hebrews 2:15 ‘fear of death’: “There is true deliverance from the fear of death except by looking to him whose death is the death of death.  How does Christ take away the fear of death?  First, by taking away from us the sin that is the sting of death.  When sin is forgiven, we have perfect peace with God.  Second, by changing the character of death itself.  Death to a believer is not an execution; it is deliverance, freedom from slavery, and admission into the glory of God.”
Hebrews 2:16 ‘he does not reach out to help angels’: “Christ did not die to save angels, though many of them needed salvation.  He died to save fallen humanity.  People and devils both deserve to be damned for their sins.  Yet God, to manifest the sovereignty of his grace, chose humanity.  Here was amazing condescension and wisdom.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

Hebrews 2:17 ‘fully human in every way’: “How wonderful this is!  Our great High Priest, who is the Guardian of man, wears our nature before the throne of God.  If you went up there near the throne and God would allow you to look – though I don’t know how you can look on that awesome sight – there would be creatures you couldn’t identify.  There would be strange creatures there before the throne having four faces and ‘six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly’ (Isaiah 6:2).  You would see strange angels there such as Abraham saw and Jacob saw going up and down the ladder.  You wouldn’t be able to identify them because you’ve never seen an angel.  I suppose there are other creatures there; I read about them in Daniel and Revelation.
“But I know that as you drew near the throne, you would recognize one order of being.  You would say, ‘Look, look, look, I recognize this!  I’m familiar with this shape; this form I know!  This is a man, this has two legs under him, this has two arms, this is a man!’
“[As the hymn by Michael Bruce says,] ‘The great High Priest our nature wears, and the Guardian of mankind appears.’  Though you might be very much a stranger among those strange creatures yonder, there would be one Being you would know.  You would say, ‘I grew up among them; I knew them; I’ve seen them go down the street; I’ve seen little ones and big ones and black ones and yellow ones and red ones.  I know this is a man.
”And he would smile down from the throne, because [as another hymn by Michael Bruce says] ‘though now ascended up on high, He bends on earth a brother’s eye.  Partaker of the human name.  He knows the frailty of our frame.’
“Don’t pity yourself.  Don’t be afraid to tell God your troubles.  He knows all about your troubles.  There is a little song that says, ‘Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen,’ but there’s Somebody who knows, all right.  And our Fellow Sufferer still remains a fellow feeling for our pains and still remembers in the skies His tears, His agonies and cries, though He’s now at the right hand of the Father Almighty, sitting crowned in glory, awaiting, of course, that great coronation day that yet is to come.  But though He is there and though they cry all around Him, ‘Worthy is the Lamb’ (Revelation 5:12), He hasn’t forgotten us, and He hasn’t forgotten the nails in His hands, the tears, the agonies and cries.
“He knows everything about you.  He knows!  He knows when the doctor hates to tell you what’s wrong with you and your friends come and try to be unnaturally encouraging.  He knows!”

  • A. W. Tozer, The Attributes of God

Hebrews 2: 18 ‘He knows how you feel’: “Jesus was angry enough to purge the temple, hungry enough to eat raw grain, distraught enough to weep in public, fun loving enough to be called a drunkard, winsome enough to attract kids, weary enough to sleep in a storm-bounced boat, poor enough to sleep on dirt and borrow a coin for a sermon illustration, radical enough to get kicked out of town, responsible enough to care for his mother, tempted enough to know the smell of Satan, and fearful enough to sweat blood.
“But why?  Why would heaven’s finest Son endure earth’s toughest pain?  So you would know that ‘he can help those who are tempted.’
“Whatever you are facing, he knows how you feel.”

  • Max Lucado, Next Door Savior

My Thoughts

Where do I begin?  I think that Revs. Tozer and Lucado put that personal touch on this chapter extremely well.  Jesus has indeed experienced life on this earth and knows pain and suffering.  He can help us deal with those things when we experience them.  We are not just praying to someone who is so big and so powerful that He is out of touch with who we are.  Yet, sometimes He sits back knowing that our struggle through the suffering makes us stronger, and when our faith increases in that suffering, the suffering does not seem to be that bad – for we know Who is by our side.

There are two references to “a little lower than the angels.”  This might be confusing in that man is made in God’s image, but the Scripture is talking of man being on earth, trapped in amortal state (for a while), unable to stretch out to the heavenly realms where the angels reside.  Yet, there are two variants to the translation of these verses, that being “them” versus “him.”  If “him” is used, could it mean mankind or Jesus?  I think this is why the NIV makes the distinction of using “them.”  That we are created in God’s image and Jesus came to dwell among us, lowering Himself to that of being fully human – but He was and is fully God.

As in Hebrews 1, there is a multitude of quotes from the Old Testament.  Verses 6-8 are from Psalm 8:4-6.  Verse 12 quotes Psalm 22:22, and Isaiah 8:17-18 is quoted in verse 13.  The author is tying together Old Testament Scripture to identify Jesus as the great High Priest.

And for Jesus to be the great High Priest, He must be human, and He must be able to feel what we feel in order to minister to us.  For my present circumstances, it seems that I am continuously being placed into a giant laundry washing machine with the machine stuck on agitation, being tossed to and fro, and occasionally spun dry just for the fun of it.  As my wife has said, “Something must be coming, because Satan seems to be working overtime.”  But all that my wife and I have been dealing with is not half of what Jesus went through on the day He was betrayed, flogged, and crucified.  And possibly the greatest suffering was God the Father turning His back, not being able to see His Son with the sin of the world upon Him.  (I do not know if that is accurate.  I have heard it in a sermon, and the image feels right and explains why it got so dark.  The image, even if technically inaccurate or not supported by Scripture, helps me visualize the agony Jesus went through on the cross, being alone in His agony.  Yes, He knows when we have those moments.  He knows! – to borrow Rev. Tozer’s words)

But to argue with Rev. Tozer, just a bit.  In this short Spiritual, sung by Louie Armstrong, in the last time through the lament, the words change, “Nobody knows the troubles I’ve seen.  Nobody knows, but Jesus.”  Simply changing the lyrics from “my sorrows” to “but Jesus.”  And Jesus has felt the pain from those troubles.

And when do we seem to be tempted the most?  For me, it is when I am alone.  Can I sneak another cookie when no one is looking?  That is silly, in that there are only two of us in the house, and my wife will know that if she did not eat the extra cookie, there was only one other person who could have.  But as I snuck the cookie into my mouth, how many angels were in the room watching?  Does not God know our every move?  Why did I think I could get away with it?  And why did I not call out to Jesus to help me stop before I ate the cookie?  When we are alone, we are never alone, and Jesus was tempted by Satan to turn stones into bread.  Jesus quoted Scripture as His means of avoiding the temptation.  If we study the Bible enough, we could take a hint from Jesus, and do the same.  Is it not fitting to consider Jesus the great High Priest, when He has Scripture at His fingertips, teaching us with His own authority, as the Son of God?

Of course, eating a cookie is a mild sin, and some might not consider it one at all, but from the illustration, you can see how Jesus’ response to temptation can be used by us regardless of the temptation, and with the power of Jesus within us, we can resist temptation.  Easily said, and sometimes a lifetime of struggle.

Some Serendipitous Reflections

“1. What are some practical ways that your church or small group could put verse 13 into practice?  How can that help you?  What apprehensions does it cause?
”2. What was one of the most rebellious times in your spiritual life?  What resulted from it?  Who (or what) helped to bring you back?
“3. How would you describe your heart now?  Soft?  Hard?  Cold?  Warm?  Why is that?”

  • Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups

The first question mentions church and small group, but that could be modified to an individual except in one sense.  Verse 13 above includes quotes from two consecutive verses of Isaiah 8:17-18.  While the first quote talks of trusting God, the second mentions the individual and those ‘children’ with the individual – thus the verse begs a group setting.  The question is still a bit strange.  The verse helps us in that Jesus is fully human, understands our plight, and is with us.  But there is a warning to wait on the Lord.  Then the second part of the verse is to step forward for God with those ‘children’ who God has given you.  In this fallen world, what apprehensions would you have of stepping forward publicly, to announce your faith or to stand against injustice toward Christians – what seems to be a popular activity these days, attacking Christians for their faith.  In some places, the attack is verbal, humiliation, but in other places, the attack could be deadly.

The second question is quite odd if you never were openly rebellious in your spiritual life.  Many people, as I am one, were brought up in a Christian home, never doubted the historicity of the Bible, but, as I was, they could be ambivalent spiritually.  Instead of striking out in rebellion, they rebel by simply “having better things to do” or deciding that “God is not that important.”  When God convicts you of that sin, of simply ignoring Him, thinking that anything is more important – thus creating a small god to keep in your pocket – you can end up feeling just as wretched as the drug-addicted thief that is confessing all at the altar right next to you.

The third question, in my opinion, has two veins to explore, a third if you have not accepted Jesus into your heart.  You could examine your heart as a saved Christian who is being sanctified, made more like Jesus.  Or you could look at your present emotional state that could vary rapidly with circumstances, even if you know that you have the assurance of salvation.  In that way, how can your present emotions betray the love, joy, and peace that you get from having Jesus in your heart?  Now that might open several cans of worms (subjects that may be hard to discuss).  But if you have not accepted Jesus, you need to know that whether your heart is hot, cold, soft, or hard, Jesus can penetrate your heart and make you whole.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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