The Latter Epistles -Hebrews 13

Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.  Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.  Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.  Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
“Never will I leave you;
    never will I forsake you.”
So we say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
    What can mere mortals do to me?”
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings.  It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so.  We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat.
The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp.  And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.  Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore.  For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.
Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.  And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account.  Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.
Pray for us.  We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way.  I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon.
Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever.  Amen.
Brothers and sisters, I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, for in fact I have written to you quite briefly.
I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released.  If he arrives soon, I will come with him to see you.
Greet all your leaders and all the Lord’s people.  Those from Italy send you their greetings.
Grace be with you all.

  • Hebrews 13:1-25

Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments

Hebrews 13:5 ‘contentment’: “The children of God also need to be exhorted to cherish that most simple and natural of virtues – contentment.  It is so easy to be covetous that no class of society is free from it.  Covetousness is a deadly poison, destructive of all virtue.  To be content with what we have should be especially easy to us because we have so much to be thankful for.  This world is ours – and worlds to come.  Earth is our lodge and heaven our home.  It ought to be easy for us to be contented since all things are ordered for our good.
‘God’s faithfulness’ “Depend on it: People will not forsake us while they can get anything out of us.  But when a man becomes so laid aside by accident or is so weak he cannot take his place in the great march of life, few are those who will stop to care for and attend to him.  How often are the incurable forsaken.  But the Lord has said, ‘I will never leave you or abandon you.’  If we should get so old that we cannot serve the church of God, if we should become so sick that we are only a burden to those of our house who have to nurse us, yet the eternal love of Jehovah will not diminish.  However low our condition, however weak we are, his strength shall be revealed in the everlasting arms that will not permit us to sink into disaster or our soul into hell.  Others may forsake us for different reasons, but he will never.  If the Lord stands at our right hand, we can well afford to see the backs of all our friends, for we shall find friends enough in the triune God whom we delight to serve.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

Hebrews 13:8 ‘Jesus – always the same’: “’I am God’s Son’ (John 10:36).
“’I am the resurrection and the life’ (John 11:25).
“’I am the way, and the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6).
“’I am the true vine’ (John 15:1).
“The present tense Christ.  He never says, ‘I was.’  We do.  We do because ‘we were.’
“We were younger, faster, prettier.  Prone to be people of the past tense, we reminisce.  Not God.  Unwavering in strength, he need never say, ‘I was.’
“From the center of the storm, the unwavering Jesus shouts, ‘I am.’  Tall in the Trade Tower wreckage.  Bold against the Galilean waves.  ICU, battlefield, boardroom, prison cell, or maternity ward – whatever your storm, ‘I am.’”

  • Max Lucado, Next Door Savior

Hebrews 13 reflections ‘shifting focus to the unseen’: “If we would rise into that region of light and power plainly beckoning us through the Scriptures of truth, we must break the evil habit of ignoring the spiritual.  We must shift our interest from the seen to the unseen.  For the great unseen Reality is God.  ‘He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him’ (Hebrews 11:6).  This is basic in the life of faith.  From there we can rise to unlimited heights.  ‘Ye believe in God,’ said our Lord Jesus Christ, ‘believe also in me’ (John 14:1).  Without the first there can be no second.
“If we truly want to follow God, we must seek to be other-worldly.  This I say knowing well that word has been used with scorn by the sons of this world and applied to the Christian as a badge of reproach.  So be it.  Every man must choose his world.  If we who follow Christ, with all the facts before us and knowing what we are about, deliberately choose the kingdom of God as our sphere of interest, I see no reason why anyone should object.  If we lose by it, the loss is our own; if we gain, we rob no one by doing so.  The ‘other world,’ which is the object of this world’s disdain and the subject of the drunkard’s mocking song, is our carefully chosen goal and the object of our holiest longing.
“But we must avoid the common fault of pushing the ‘other world’ into the future.  It is not future, but present.  It parallels our familiar physical world, and the doors between the two worlds are open.  ‘Ye are come,’ says the writer to the Hebrews (and the tense is plainly present) ‘unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel’ (Hebrews 12:22-24).
“At these things are contrasted with ‘the mount that might be touched’ (12:18) and ‘the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words’ (12:19) that might be heard.  May we not safely conclude that, as the realities of Mount Sinai were apprehended by the senses, so the realities of Mount Zion are to be grasped by the soul?  And this not by any trick of the imagination but in downright actuality.  The soul has eyes with which to see and ears with which to hear.  Feeble they may be from long disuse, but by the life-giving touch of Christ they are now alive and capable of sharpest sight and most sensitive hearing.”

  • A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

Hebrews 13:18-25 ‘praying for your minister’: “This is one part of duty which people owe to their ministers.  Ministers need the prayers of the people; and the more earnestly the people pray for their ministers the more benefit they may expect to reap from their ministry.”

  • Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary (Scripture quotations are not in bold/italics)

My Thoughts

Without fail through our discussion of Hebrews (although not mentioned in the discussion on Hebrews 11), we find that the Old Testament has been quoted by the author.  In this case, Deuteronomy 31 and Psalm 118.  Throughout, the author is writing with authority to his audience, people who already know the Old Testament.  For those who say that they believe in the New Testament God and that they do not even like the Old Testament God, they must have trouble with Hebrews as well, since the entire book is written to show that the God of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament and that Jesus coming to earth as Priest and King and Messiah was God’s Plan as spelled out in Old Testament Scripture.  Truthfully, in careful Bible study, God’s Love and indeed His patience rings true in the Old Testament.  In saying that there are two different Gods, the reader is not thinking it through carefully.

With the author’s arguments toward the proof that Jesus is the Messiah, the book of Hebrews ends with a myriad of exhortations.  The first is that of hospitality.  It seems that hospitality is in short supply these days.  Our church used to host homeless people, part of a ministry to help those who are temporarily homeless until they can move into a more permanent accommodation.  We had people whose apartment roofs caved in, people whose houses burned down, or the owner of the apartment complex evicted everyone to repurpose the building into something else.  The charity provided some of the daily needs, but the church provided cots to sleep in, showers to bath in, an evening meal, and supervised playtime for any children.  In most cases, the meal preparers did not prepare anything, but bought pizza or buckets of chicken.  That was the first detachment from those we were to serve.  The second detachment was that they often did not sit and dine with those homeless people.  They did not talk to them.  They did not get to know them.

When my wife was healthier and could put on a large feast, she would cook for the entire day, planning on anything from 15-20 people.  I would get off work early and become her pack mule.  If anyone asked, I let them know that she did the cooking, and I was the pack mule.  That set the mood as light hearted before the meal.  She would usually finish the cooking at the church to ensure freshness, and I would cover the tables with tablecloths and set the tables for each guest – as one big family.  They might not all dine at the table, since there could be 4-5 distinct families that may already be at each others’ nerves by then.  We would sit and eat with them and get to know why they were in the program, what they did for a living, what their children liked to do – even though we were not the supervisors for the playtime.  It was like extended family time for us.  When my wife’s health worsened to the point of not knowing if she could stay energized enough to pull off the all-day cooking routine, she had to remove herself from the list of food preparers.  It was a hard decision, for her, one of the hardest ever, the closing of a door that might never be opened in this life.  In the next life, it will be a party at my wife’s house every night.

Now, she has difficulty preparing an evening meal for just the two of us.  Yet, we look back on those wonderful times and wonder if any of those folks were angels in disguise.

The chapter continues the exhortations.  We must remain faithful to our spouse, but could that not be part of the following exhortation to be content?

I have written about this before, but in my two trips to Thailand, I went to a Buddhist temple near Pattaya once on each trip.  On the first trip, I read a great deal and took photographs, but on the second trip, I took a notebook to take careful notes.  The “buddha” that smiles and has a pack over his shoulder is often called the “laughing buddha.”  There are many of these in the USA in people’s homes, for “good luck.”  The significance of this “arahat” is that he represents contentment.  All he owns is in his sack and he is so contented, that he is smiling or even laughing.

A couple of months after the second trip to Thailand, as part of the church choir, the pastor (a very liberal pastor) invited the choir to the manse for an end of year celebration, having just performed the cantata.  Next to his fireplace, he had one of these laughing buddha statues, about 2 feet tall.  The pastor encouraged everyone that the laughing buddha grants your wish if you lie prostrate on the floor before the buddha and then stretch up your neck and kiss the statue on his belly.  As one after the other bowed before the laughing buddha, I told the pastor that they were breaking the second commandment, and within the Buddhist faith, his explanation of the good luck was the opposite of what the arahat represented.  What he was doing would offend both religions.  He simply laughed in my face.  I told my wife that we were leaving, and she quickly got her things.

If we are content, why do Christians do that?  If we are content, why do Christians play the lottery?  If we say that we trust God and God takes care of sparrows and we are more important than sparrows…  Why are we not content?  If we have faith that God has us in the palm of His hand, our behavior should reflect that faith.

And then in verse 15, we are told to make praise sacrifices.  We are to boldly proclaim that Jesus is our Lord and Savior, praising God as our all.  And I doubt if making a one-time statement as an answer in liturgical ceremony that “Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior” in order to become a church member…  And then never even acting like He is thereafter…  I doubt if that counts.  It says “continually.”

I do not shout continually my praises to God.  I have a couple of hours each day when I am both awake and not doing anything regarding my writing, and yes, my mind can wander, and I can think things that I should not think.  Just in that short bit of time.  I understand what the author meant by continually.  There is a great difference in Jesus being the most important thing in our lives and Jesus being the only thing in our lives.  Yes, we occasionally must do something else, like our taxes, but I hope you see the difference and what that can do to our continual progression along our journey of faith.

And our pastors need our prayers.  Pray for them, not just when they are in transition or sick, pray for them… continually?  It may take that much.

Some Serendipitous Reflections

“1. In which of these [following] six areas have you made the most progress this year: (a) Loving one another as brothers? (b) Providing hospitality? (c) Caring for those suffering for their faith? (d) Keeping your marriage strong? (e) Staying free from the love of money? (f) Submitting to leaders in authority?  Which do you need the most work on?
”2. In which of these six areas is your church the strongest?  The weakest?  Would you say ‘an obedient congregation prays for its leaders’?  What’s the difference?
“3. Considering all you have seen about Jesus in this book, write out a ‘sacrifice of praise’ to him now reflecting on all he has done for us.  What sacrifice of ‘doing good and sharing’ can you offer this week?
“4. What’s been the most significant thing you’ve learned from studying Hebrews?  How has this affected your life?

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

In question 1 and question2, it comes back to my same old problem with not seeing myself as others see me.  Thus, if everyone in the small group has a different answer for what is your strong suit and your weakest attribute, do not be surprised.  The same goes for the church you “attend.”  Some people think their church can do no wrong, while others have the opposite opinion.  Thus, do not be surprised if these questions get widely different answers in group discussions.  In personal reflection, no matter how good you think you are in each of the six areas, how could you improve?

If you like these Thursday morning Bible studies, but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Thursday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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