As we launch into this amazing and often misunderstood book, we must approach it with fear and trembling and with much prayer for guidance and understanding. I dare not claim that what I will write in the devotional posts will be a definitive and complete commentary. I simply hope to grasp and apply some old and timeless truths to my life and to the lives of those who read this online journal.
Keep in mind my format for writing my devotional thoughts is quite subjective–and thus open to scrutiny and discussion. When I say this is “what God said to me” I do NOT mean He spoke to me in an audible voice and that He showed me some new revelation. Not at all. I simply mean that I sense He MAY have spoken something very personal to my heart and mind through His written Word.
Our Focus in This Study
There is perhaps no book of the Bible that unpacks Old Testament worship practices and helps us understand their symbolic significance as does Hebrews.
Thus, as we go through each chapter we will pay particular attention to how it might apply to worship and worship leadership. We will seek to draw principles and guidelines (and perhaps some boundaries) for those of us who help to lead others in praise. This study can also encourage anyone who desires to go deeper in your worship experience and knowledge of our awesome, holy God.
A Brief Overview Before We Start
The book of Hebrews is the message of Jesus Christ, superior to every thing and everybody. It is simply a presentation of Christ, the Messiah, the author of a new covenant, greater than the old one that God had made in the Old Testament. Not that the old one was wrong, it was only incomplete. Now the theme of the book then is the superiority or the preeminence of Christ. That He is better than anything they’ve got. That He is better than anything that is. He’s better than the Old Testament persons. He’s better than the Old Testament institutions. He’s better than the Old Testament rituals. He’s better than the Old Testament sacrifices. He’s better than everything.
According to John MacAuthur, if we want to get a summary of the book of Hebrews, it’s Chapter 8, verse 1. It even tells us it’s a summary. It says this, “Now of the things which we have spoken, this is the sum.” Here is the whole summary of Hebrews in one verse, in one sentence for that matter. “We have such an high priest who is seated on the right hand of the throne of the majesty in the heavens.”
It’s been said that we “cannot understand the book of Hebrews unless you understand the book of Leviticus, because the book of Hebrews is based upon the principles of the Levitical priesthood.”
It was written by an unknown author to a suffering, persecuted group of Jews somewhere in the east–not in Israel, but outside of Israel. This letter was written to second generation Christians as a result of apostolic missionaries. Hebrews had to be written sometime after Christ’s ascension, which would have been about 30 A.D., and sometime before the destruction of Jerusalem, which would have been 70 A.D., because Jerusalem is still standing at this point in the letter. So it’s got to be between 30 and 70.
John MacArthur goes on to say we must understand that “there were three basic types of people in view throughout this Epistle. If you do not understand these three basic types of people then it becomes very confusing.”
The first group in view is Hebrew Christians. The second group is Hebrew non-Christians who were intellectually convinced about the gospel. These are people who are convinced that Jesus is the Christ, but have never committed themselves to Him. The third group in view in the book of Hebrews are Hebrew non-Christians who weren’t convinced intellectually or otherwise. The Holy Spirit not only wants to speak to the Christians to strengthen their faith, but He also wants to speak to the intellectually convinced and push them over the line to true faith and salvation. And He wants to speak to those who haven’t believed at all yet, who aren’t convinced of anything, and give them enough information to show them that Jesus is in fact whom He claimed to be.
Holy God our Father, we are incapable of seeing and interpreting the many incredible truths you have installed in the book of Hebrews. This book is far beyond our grasp of human intelligence. We must have the Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds and shine Your precepts into our hearts. We are/I am desparate to hear from You and to be encouraged and challenged through Your Word. Help us (me) to respond to every truth with humility and obedience. Please transform us through this study. Make us clean and holy through the Word You have spoken.