Hebrews 1:1–4 (NRSV)
God Has Spoken by His Son
(Cp Jn 1:1–4)
1 Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. 3 He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
Hebrews 2:5–12 (NRSV)
Exaltation through Abasement
(Cp Ps 8:1–9)
5 Now God did not subject the coming world, about which we are speaking, to angels. 6 But someone has testified somewhere,
“What are human beings that you are mindful of them,
or mortals, that you care for them?
7 You have made them for a little while lower than the angels;
you have crowned them with glory and honor,
8 subjecting all things under their feet.”
Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them, 9 but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
10 It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 11 For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, 12 saying,
“I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters,
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.”
There are many things that peak my interest. When new technologies come out I am interested in what has improved and what has stayed the same. I will spend time reading about the newest things just because what humans are capable of creating fascinates me. But the emerging technologies can eventually get a bit dry for me. I many get excited about these things when I am upgrading my phone, or when someone I know begins to consider a change. My brother and James could probably quote you the technical specifications of pretty much every device that is currently on the market and about to be released.
The other thing that really excites me is the latest news in genetic studies. I get a weekly newsletter that speaks about the various studies that are being published. Exciting things like the newest emerging vaccines and how they were able to zero in on the one aspect of a virus that would encourage immune response without causing illnesses. To let you know just how interesting this really is medical science is on the verge of finding a vaccine for HIV. The other aspect of genetics that excites me is in the form of agricultural sciences. Many get worried about the presence of genetically modified organisms in our food supply, but without many of these modifications many of the foods we consider staples for our diets would have become so expensive that we would not be able to eat them. Because like a vaccine for humans many of the genetic modifications in crops are modifications that prevent disease, diseases that could potentially cause worldwide famine.
There is one things that I find very fascinating, something that is not the associated with the latest emerging technologies, but instead is related to the ancient past. Ancient cultures, the religions and customs of people from ancient times. I can find myself reading article after article speaking on archeological discoveries. I am fascinated by the various theories people promote about various customs and how they emerged. But one thing that has always had me puzzled is how vastly different the majority of the ancient religions were from the religion promoted by the children of Abraham. I have several possible theories that I like to toy with late at night when I am unable to sleep, but as I consider the letter to the Hebrews something jumped out at me that excites me more than even a potential cure to HIV.
The letter to the Hebrews is one of those letters that we cannot confidently say was written by anyone in particular. Tradition would say that this letter was written by Paul, which many widely accept. But some believe that it could have been written by one of the lesser known apostles. There is something about the author that every scholar recognizes, whoever wrote this letter had a very good grasp of the interworking of the temple. Almost as if they had a firsthand knowledge of the sacrificial systems within the Jewish temple. By first hand I mean that it was likely written by someone that had a priestly background, someone that preformed the rites not just participated in them. Because of this many scholars have looked into the backgrounds of some of the known apostles of Jesus looking for someone that had both a strong grasp of the Greek language as well as a linage that would have placed them in the service of the temple. Of late the likely candidates other than Paul is Barnabas because it is widely believed that Barnabas was a Levite which would have placed him within the hereditary line of priests. This excites me because I have always thought that the most likely alternative to Paul as the author of this letter would have been James.
Why does this matter to us? It may not mean anything to us right at this moment, but Hebrews touches on some very deep aspects of Jewish theology and ancient understandings of how God spoke to the people. The letter begins, “Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets.” This is what began the excitement in my spirit. How did God speak in the ancient times? In most theological traditions of Christianity God did not indwell humanity during the periods of history before Jesus. God would send messengers or he would grant dreams or visions that would inspire people to speak, sometimes He would speak directly to them. I want us to focus on the messengers for a moment, because these are the spiritual beings that we see visiting the heroes of faith throughout the pages of the Old Testament. There are a couple of messengers we even know by name, Gabriel and Michael. Both of these spiritual beings are considered Archangels, or angels of the highest degree ones that report directly to God. Michael is considered the commander of the heavenly armies that protect the nation of Israel. Where Gabriel is the one that is the herald that speaks to humanity the proclamations of God. Michael met with Joshua and is the one that protected the body of Moses, Gabriel visited Mary to announce the birth of Jesus through her.
Why does this excite me? Because angels were and are considered powerful beings. They have wisdom and strength beyond that of humanity, they were the ones that in the ancient days before Christ were the direct liaisons between God and humanity. Because these being were wise and powerful beyond that of human understanding it would be tempting to consider these messengers to be gods. Which causes me to wonder could angels have visited other cultures, yet man in their fallen state misinterpreted as deities?
The writer of Hebrews begins by telling those that read this letter, in ancient days God spoke to the prophets in various ways but now He speaks to us through a Son through whom all worlds were created. This is important to consider because prior to Christ the oracles of God were brought by the messengers, they spoke to humanity thought direct visits, or through dreams, they spoke words of wisdom and warning, they protected individuals and the nation. These spiritual beings of wisdom and power were the conduit from which the understanding of God flowed. But now the author says we are connected to something even greater, we are connected to the very being through which all things were created. We are entering into a new age, an age humanity has not yet experienced, an age of Emmanuel.
Let us now move to the second section of scripture, “Now God did not subject the coming world, about which we are speaking, to angels.” The age of Emmanuel, God with us, is not subject to the angels. These wise and powerful beings have a different role, they are no longer the conduit, and instead Christ the very Son of God has provided the way, the knowledge, and the wisdom of God to mankind. This implies that prior to Christ the angels governed the world and the nations.
Do you see what I see? The prophets speak of a spiritual battle that was waged between the angelic hosts, where one third fell and followed Lucifer, Satan, and the devil. Within this spiritual humanity was caught in the middle which the prophets of old say caused the fall of humankind. If these beings were appointed to govern and guide humanity prior to Christ, they then became the gods of all the fallen and depraved nations. They set themselves up as the objects of worship and lead humanity away from the one true God. But for a while God made himself a little lower than these angelic beings, He made himself human for a specific reason to restore humanity back to where they were to be.
Our created purpose was to be the stewards of creation, to manipulate what God has provided to bring praise to Him. But when those spiritual beings appointed to guide our paths rejected God they brought confusion into all of creation. Sin entered the world. Instead of using creation to bring praise to God we began to exploit creation to obtain our own agendas. The results bring death, pain, and sorrow. But Christ came to restore and redeem humanity and all of creation. He came to show us true life, and how to participate in that life. He came becoming the perfect human to provide us with the means and strength to overcome all the whiles of the fallen angels. Because He himself over came the only power the angelic beings lorded over us. They took life and brought in death, and Jesus removes the sting of death and transforms it into glory!
Where is this new age of which I speak? Why then do we not live in a world completely redeemed and restored? Why do we still struggle? That ancient battle still wages on between the spiritual forces, but they are being defeated. The gods of ancient Rome and Greece are no longer worshiped in temples but remain only in art and literature. The deities of Canaan and Babylon are only a dusty page of history. Those angelic beings that set themselves up as lords are now on the run and have cleverly hidden themselves within so many of the things we pursue, even things we perceive as honorable. They still have influence because they have influenced us for ages. We as humans must repent, turn from the things of this world and pursue God in Christ. We must actively pursue His life and lifestyle. Become a people that worship, pray, and serve. Become a nation that loves God, Embraces the Holy Spirt and Lives the Love of Christ with others. We must realign our lives to follow the pioneer of our faith, the hero that broke the chains that bound us in sin, and walk in the light of his Glory and Grace.