Facing Today with the Book of Hebrews

When we read the book of Hebrews, we encounter a community of Christians living in a time of trial, a community not so different from yours or mine. They, like us, are struggling to understand God in the midst of suffering. The message of the book is our message—their story is our story.

Throughout the book, the author of Hebrews states that the community must learn to hold fast to their confession and all it entails. In this study, we will learn what type of confession the author had in mind and how it was to be personally and communally lived-out. By learning what the book states in its own right and in its own context, we will learn what God is saying to us in our circumstances.

Deeply rooted in the sermon delivered to the Hebrews is a sense of urgency. The same sense of urgency exists today. We too suffer from war, lack of community, and spiritual depravity. Our study of the book will help us understand the pressing needs of a previous generation and answer the cry of our own. Understanding how God equipped ancient believers, we will understand how God can outfit us. In this ancient text, we find modern answers.

Hebrews 1:1-14 (ESV)

"Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making 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. 5 For to which of the angels did God ever say, "You are my Son, today I have begotten you"? Or again, "I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son"? 6 And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, "Let all God's angels worship him." 7 Of the angels he says, "He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire." 8 But of the Son he says, "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. 9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions." 10 And, "You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; 11 they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, 12 like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end." 13 And to which of the angels has he ever said, "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet"? 14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?"

WEEK 1

Open the Book—Read It and Pray It

Take a moment to pray that the Holy Spirit will illuminate this book.

Read the Book of Hebrews aloud in one setting (all 13 chapters). In the Graeco-Roman and Jewish world, letters (like those in the New Testament) were read aloud in front of a group of people. Likewise, Hebrews, a sermon converted into a letter, would have been read aloud.

Reflect upon what stuck out to you as primary themes, ideas or messages. How would these things affect a community living after Jesus' resurrection in a time of political, military and social uprisings? Imagine that your place of worship, your home and your community is being destroyed simply because you look a certain way or practice a certain religion. How would this influence your interpretation of the book?

Read the book several more times throughout the week. Continue your reflection on its central themes and ideas by contemplatively praying throughout your study.

WEEK 2

Open the Book—Read It and Take Notes

Pray that God would reveal himself to you through this book.

Closely (and slowly) read the book of Hebrews again. Write down your questions. Let the text speak for itself, and let God speak through it. This will allow you to discern God's will for your life.

Make any links you can between the different parts of the book. Look at how the book has been paragraphed in your Bible and ask yourself which paragraphs correspond with other ones.

Look for key grammatical markers like "therefore," "but" and "now." Underline or highlight them. These grammatical terms are a way of marking a shift in an author's thoughts.

Pray now and throughout your week for other people's needs, especially those in a time of trial.

Continue to go through these steps throughout your week.

WEEK 3

The Connection between Long Ago and Today

Pray that God would reveal his plan for humanity to you through this book.

Read Heb 1:1-4. Reflect on 1:1-2 and answer the following questions:

What has occurred "long ago"? Whom did God speak "to" and whom did he speak "by means of"? What does this tell us about how God spoke in the past?

What has occurred in "these last days"? Whom is God speaking "by" in "these last days"? What does this tell us about how God currently speaks?

Are we still living in "these last days"? What (if anything) has changed since the author wrote this book around 68 AD? Why are these last days lasting so long?

Is there an intentional switch between what has occurred "long ago" and what is occurring in "these last days"? What does this say about the significance of God's Son entering the world?

What is God's Son the heir "of"? What did God do through his Son?

Is there a link between God's ability to create and God's Son?

There is an illusion to Psa 2:8 in this passage. What does the author's reflection on this psalm tell us about God's Son and God's plan for humanity? (Keep in mind that the author is interpreting a book written centuries before).

Continue to reflect and pray through these questions throughout your week.

WEEK 4

The Son's Identity

Pray that God would reveal Himself to you through the power of His Word.

Read Heb 1:1-4. Reflect on 1:3-4 and answer the following questions:

What is the identity and role of the Son?

What kind of imagery is the author evoking in this passage? Use a concordance to look up the usage of the word "glory" in the Old Testament (specifically in Exodus and the Psalms).

What does being God's Son entail? What is the meaning of this term in the book of Hebrews, and in the rest of the Bible? Are any other individuals called sons of God? Look at Psa 29:1 and Psa 89:6 (the literal translation of "heavenly beings" is "sons of God" in these passages).

In the first century, angels (sons of God) were believed to be God's warriors and messengers. Could this be the reason why the author states that the Son is superior to the angels?

Is the Son's superiority a theme in other places in the book?

Why is it important that the Son is superior to the angels?

Where does the author provide support for the claim that the Son is superior to the angels?

Continue to reflect and pray through these questions throughout your week.

WEEK 5

Support for the Son's Unique Superiority

Pray that God would reveal His Son's superiority over all your struggles.

Read Heb 1:1-4. Reflect on 1:5-6 and answer the following questions:

The author quotes Psa 2:7 in 5:5a—Read Psa 2. What is the theme of this psalm? What figures are involved? How is God characterized? Why would the author choose to quote this passage?

The author quotes 2 Sam 7:14 in 5:5b—Read 2 Sam 7:1:17. What is the message of this story? What characters are involved? What is the significance of 2 Sam 7:14 in 2 Sam 7:1-17? What theme does Psa 2 and 2 Sam 7:1-17 share in common?

The author quotes Deut 32:43 from the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint) in 5:6a. The Septuagint reads "sons of God" here, but Hebrews reads "angels." What is the difference between the "sons of God" and the "Son of God"? (Think about Week 4's study). What does this tell us about the role of the Son in the heavenly and earthly realm?

How does the Son's unique superiority affect our lives?

Continue to reflect and pray through these questions throughout your week.

WEEK 6

The Anointed Son

Pray that God would reveal His anointed Son to you.

Read Heb 1:1-4.  Reflect on 1:7-12 and answer the following questions:

The author quotes Psa 104:4 in 1:7—Read Psa 104. What does this passage tell us about angels?

The author quotes Psa 45:6-7 in 1:8—Read Psa 45. In the Old Testament, this passage was about God, but the author states that it is about the Son. The author makes God and the Son one in the same. What does this tell us about the relationship of the Son and the Father? Who is anointed in Psa 45? Who does the anointing in Psa 45?

The author quotes Psa 102:25-27 in 1:10—Read psa 102. What are the primary themes of Psa 102?

How is the Lord characterized? What does Psa 102 tell us about the roles of angels, the Son, and the Father?

Why does the author of Hebrews choose passages that emphasize the power and eternality of the Father and the Son? (Think about the type of community being addressed).

What is the message of this passage? How does the Son's anointed status affect the created order of the heavens and the earth?

Continue to reflect and pray through these questions throughout your week.

WEEK 7

Inheritors of Salvation

Pray that God would reveal the way you can inherit salvation.

Read Heb 1:1-14.  Reflect on 1:13-14 and answer the following questions:

The author quotes Psa 110:1 in 1:13—Read Psa 110. What does this passage indicate about the relationship between God the Father and the Son? Who is the psalm about (according to the psalm itself)? What themes emerge in Psa 110 that have already surfaced in Heb 1?

Reread Psa 110:4. What shift occurs between verse 4 and 5 in the psalm? How is this shift reflected in Hebrews? (Think specifically about the Son's kingship, unique relationship with God, his anointing, and his priesthood).

Who are the ministering spirits referred to in 1:14?

What are the ministering spirits sent out to do? For whose sake are the ministering spirits sent out? (Ponder what you have learned about the ministering spirits in the psalms that we have examined).

What is the difference between the ministering spirits and the Son?

How does one inherit salvation?

Continue to reflect and pray through these questions throughout your week.

WEEK 8

What We Know Now

Pray that God would engrave the message of heb 1:1-14 on your heart.

Reread Heb 1:1-14. Reflect upon what you have learned so far.

Create a chart that shows the relationship between God the Father, the Son and the ministering spirits.

Answer the following questions:

What does 1:1-4 tell us about the Son's identity in relation to God?

Reread 1:4. Based upon 1:5-14, how is the Son superior to the angels? How is the name He has inherited more excellent than theirs?

What makes the Son unique?

How does the Son's role as co-creator, preeminent, and divinely appointed speaker on God's behalf influence our lives?

What does the author of Hebrews want us to learn?

Has the Son changed the course of history and brought perspective to suffering? In what ways has he made a seemingly distant God immanent (close to us)?

Continue to reflect and pray through these questions throughout your week.

We all too often lose sight of what we have witnessed and heard, or we simply believe we can no longer witness or hear anything. God has spoken and created through his Son. God continues to speak (in many forms) to people and create new life in them. God has made his exact imprint known in his Son. May you see this imprint reflected in your life and in the lives of others.

May you see, know and feel the superiority of the Son in your life—his superiority over all the created order, heaven and earth. And may you inherit the salvation that was witnessed to prior to his birth and continues to be spoken "in him in these last days."

May God speak new creation into your life, may his sacrifice heal your wounds and guide you through whatever circumstances you are enduring. May he bring you great joy in His creation, in His speech and in His Son.

Notes: 

The Masoretic Text (MT) is the Hebrew Scriptures as traditionally received by the majority of the Jewish community. The MT did not reach its final form until the medieval era. The two oldest copies of the MT, the Aleppo Codex and the Leningrad Codex, both date to around the tenth century AD.

The Septuagint (LXX) is a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, which began around the third century BC. The oldest copies of the LXX are in Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus, both dating to around the fourth century AD.

Deuteronomy 32:43 in The Masoretic Text, The Septuagint, and Hebrews

Deut 32:43—From the Masoretic Text 
"Bow down to him all gods"

Deut 32:43—From the Septuagint
"Let all the sons of God worship him"

Deut 32:43—As Quoted in Hebrews 
"Let all angels worship him"

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Logos Bible Software. Each issue of Bible Study Magazine provides tools and methods for Bible study as well as insights from people like John Piper, Kay Arthur, Mark Driscoll, Randy Alcorn, John MacArthur, Barry Black, and more. More information is available at http://www.biblestudymagazine.com. Originally published in print: Copyright Bible Study Magazine (Nov-Dec 2008): pgs. 31-34.