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Hebrews 1

John Darby commentary for Hebrews 1

Hebrews Chapter 1

We have said that in chapter 1 we find the glory of the Person of the Messiah, the Son of God, by whom God has spoken to the people. When I say "to the people", it is evident that we understand the Epistle to be addressed to the believing remnant, partakers, it is said, of the heavenly calling, but considered as alone holding the true place of the people.

It is a distinction given to the remnant, in view of the position which the Messiah took in connection with His people, to whom in the first instance He came. The tried and despised remnant, viewed as alone really having their place, are encouraged, and their faith is sustained by the true glory of their Messiah, hidden from their natural eyes, and the object of faith only.

"God" (says the inspired writer, placing himself among the believers of the beloved nation). "has spoken to us in the person of his Son." Psalms 2 should have led the Jews to expect the Son, and they ought to have formed a high idea of His glory from Isaiah 9 , and other scriptures, which in fact were applied to the Messiah by their teachers, as the rabbinical writings still prove. But that He should be in heaven, and not have raised His people to the possession of earthly glory-this did not suit the carnal state of their hearts.

Now it is heavenly glory, this true position of the Messiah and His people, in connection with His divine right to their attention and to the worship of the angels themselves, which is so admirably presented here, where the Spirit of God brings out, in so infinitely precious a manner, the divine glory of Christ, for the purpose of exhorting His people to belief in a heavenly position; at the same time setting forth in what follows His perfect sympathy with us, as man in order to maintain their communion with heaven in spite of the difficulties of their path on earth.

Thus, although the assembly is not found in the Epistle to the Hebrews, save in an allusion to all comprised in the millennial glory in chapter 12, the Saviour of the assembly is there presented in His Person, His work, and His priesthood, most richly to our hearts and to our spiritual intelligence; and the heavenly calling is in itself very particularly developed.

It is also most interesting to see the way in which the work of our Saviour, accomplished for us, forms a part of the manifestation of His divine glory.

"God has spoken in the Son," says the inspired author of our Epistle. He is then this Son. First He is declared Heir of all things. It is He who is to possess gloriously as Son everything that exists. Such are the decrees of God. Moreover it is by Him that God created the worlds. [See Footnote #4] All the vast system of this universe, those unknown worlds that trace their paths in the vast regions of space in divine order to manifest the glory of a Creator-God, are the work of His hand who has spoken to us, of the divine Christ.

In Him has shone forth the glory of God: He is the perfect impress of His being. We see God in Him, in all that He said, in all that He did, in His Person. Moreover by the power of His word He upholds all that exists. He is then the Creator. God is revealed in His Person. He sustains all things by His word, which has thus a divine power. But this is not all (for we are still speaking of the Christ); there is another part of His glory, divine indeed, yet manifested in human nature. He who was all this which we have just seen when He had by Himself (accomplishing His own glory [See Footnote #5] and for His glory) wrought purification of our sins, seated Himself at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Here is in full the personal glory of Christ. He is in fact Creator, the revelation of God, the upholder of all things by His word, He is the Redeemer. He has by Himself purged our sins; has seated Himself at the right hand of the Majesty on high. It is the Messiah who is all this. He is the Creator-God, but He is a Messiah who has taken His place in the heavens at the right hand of Majesty, having accomplished the purification of our sins. We perceive how this exhibition of the glory of Christ, the Messiah, whether personal of that of position, would being whoever believed in it out of Judaism, while linking itself with the Jewish promises and hopes. He is God, He has come down from heaven, He has gone up thither again.

Now those who attached themselves to Him found themselves, in another respect also, above the Jewish system. That system was ordained in connection with angels; but Christ has taken a position much higher than that of angels, because He has for His own proper inheritance a name (that is, a revelation of what He is) which is much more excellent than that of angels. Upon this the author of this Epistle quotes several passages from the Old Testament which speak of the Messiah, in order to shew that which He is in contrast with the nature and the relative position of angels. The significance of these passages to a converted Jew is evident, and we readily perceive the adaptation of the argument to such, for the Jewish economy was under the administration of angels, according to their own belief-a belief fully grounded on the word. [See Footnote #6] And, at the same time, it was their own scriptures which proved that the Messiah was to have a position much more excellent and exaltedthan that of angels, according to the rights that belonged to Him by virtue of His nature, and according to the counsels and revelation of God: so that they who united themselves to Him were brought into connection with that which entirely eclipsed the law and all that related to it, and to the Jewish economy which could not be separated from it, and whose glory was angelic in character. The glory of Christianity-and he speaks to those who acknowledged Jesus to be the Christ-was so much above the glory of the law, that the two could not be really united.

The quotations begin by that from Psalms 2. God, it is written, has never said to any of the angels, "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee." It is this character of Sonship, proper to the Messiah which, as a real relationship, distinguishes Him. He was from eternity the Son of the Father; but it is not precisely in this point of view that He is here considered. The name expresses the same relationship, but it is to the Messiah born on earth that this title is here applied. For Psalms 2 , as establishing Him as King in Zion, announces the decree which proclaims His title. "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee," is His relationship in time, with God. It depends, I doubt not , on His glorious nature; but this position for man was acquired by the miraculous birth of Jesus here below, and demonstrated as true and determined in its true import by His resurrection. In Psalms 2 the testimony borne to this relationship is in connection with His kingship in Zion, but it declares the personal glories of the king acknowledged of God. By virtue of the rights connected with this title, all kings are summoned to submit themselves to Him. This psalm then is speaking of the government of the world, when God establishes the Messiah as King in Zion, and not of the gospel. But in the passage quoted ( Hebrews 1:5 ), it is the relationship of glory in which He subsists with God, the foundation of His rights, which is set forth, and not the royal rights themselves.

This is likewise the case in the next quotation: "I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son." Here we plainly see that it is the relationship in which He is with God, in which God accepts and owns Him, and not His eternal relationship with the Father: " will be to him a Father," & etc. Thus it is still the Messiah, the King in Zion, the Son of David; for these words are applied in the first place to Solomon, as the son of David. (2 Samuel 7:14 and 1 Chron. 17:13 .) In this second passage the application of the expression to the true son of David is more distinct. A relationship so intimate (expressed, one may say, with so much affection) was not the portion of angels. The Son of God, acknowledged to be so by God Himself-this is the portion of the Messiah in connection with God. The Messiah then is the Son of God in an altogether peculiar way, which could not be applied to angels.

But still more:-when God introduces the Firstborn into the world, all the angels are called to worship Him. God presents Him to the world; but the highest of created beings must then cast themselves at His feet. The angels of God Himself-the creatures that are nearest to Him-must do homage to the Firstborn. This last expression also is remarkable. The Firstborn is the Heir, the beginning of the manifestation of the glory and power of God. It is in this sense that the word is used. It is said of the Son of David, "I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth." (Psalms 89:27) Thus the Messiah is introduced into the world as holding this place with regard to God Himself. He is the Firstborn-the immediate expression of the rights and the glory of God. He has universal preeminence.

Such is, so to speak, the positional glory of the Messiah. Not only Head of the people on earth, as Son of David, nor even only the acknowledged Son of God on the earth, according to Psalms 2, but the universal Firstborn; so that the chief and most exalted of creatures, those nearest to God, the angels of God, the instruments of His powerand government, must do homage to the Son in this His position.

Yet this is far from being all; and this homage itself would be out of place if His glory were not proper to Himself and personal, if it were not connected with His nature. Nevertheless that which we have before us in this chapter is still the Messiah as owned of God. God tells us what He is. Of the angels He says, "He maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire." He does not make His Son anything: He recognises that which He is, saying, "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever." The Messiah may have an earthly throne (which also is not taken from Him, but which ceases by His taking possession of an eternal throne), but He has a throne which is for ever and ever.

The sceptre of His throne, as Messiah, is a sceptre of righteousness. Also, He has, when here below personally loved righteousness and hated iniquity: therefore God has anointed Him with the oil of gladness above His fellows. These companions are the believing remnant of Israel, whom He has made by grace His fellows, although (perfectly well-pleasing to God by His love of righteousness-and that, at all costs) He is exalted above them all. This is a remarkable passage, because, while on the one hand the divinity of the Lord is fully established as well as His eternal throne, on the other hand the passage comes down to His character as the faithful man on earth, where He made pious men-the little remnant of Israel who waited for redemption, His companions; at the same time it gives Him (and it could not be otherwise) a place above them.

The text then returns to the glory given Him as Man, having the preeminence here as in all things.

I have already remarked elsewhere that while, as we read in (Zechariah 13:7), Jehovah recognises as His fellow the humbled man, against whom His sword awakes to smite; here where the divinity of Jesus is set forth, the same Jehovah owns the poor remnant of believers as the fellows of the divine Saviour. Marvelous links between God and His people!

Already then in these remarkable testimonies He has the eternal throne and the sceptre of righteousness: He is recognised as God although a man, and glorified above all others as the regard of righteousness.

But the declaration of His divinity, the divinity of the Messiah, must be more precise. And the testimony is of the greatest beauty. The Psalm that contains it is one of the most complete expressions we find in scripture of the sense which Jesus had of His humiliation on earth, of His dependence on Jehovah, and that, having been raised up as Messiah from among men, He was cast down and His days shortened. If Zion were re-built (and the Psalm speaks prophetically of the time when it shall take place), where would He be, Messiah as He was, if, weakened and humbled, He was cut off in the midst of His days (as was the case)? In a word, it is the prophetic expression of the Saviour's heart in the prospect of that which happened to Him as a man on the earth, the utterance of His heart to Jehovah, in those days of humiliation, in presence of the renewed affection of the remnant for the dust of Zion-and affection which the Lord had produced in their hearts, and which was therefore a token of His good-will and His purpose to re-establish it. But how could a Saviour who was cut off have part in it? (a searching question for a believing Jew, tempted on that side). The words here quoted are the answer to this question. Humbled as He might be, He was the Creator Himself. He was ever the same; [See Footnote #7] His years could never fail. It was He who had founded the heavens: He would fold them up as a garment, but He Himself would never change.

Such then is the testimony rendered to the Messiah by the scriptures of the Jews themselves-the glory of His position above angels who administered the dispensation of the law; His eternal throne of righteousness; His unchangeable divinity as Creator of all things.

One thing remained to complete this chain of glory-that is, the place occupied at present by Christ, in contrast still with the angels (a place that depends , on the one hand, upon the divine glory of His Person; on the other, upon the accomplishment of His work). And this place is at the right hand of God, who called Him to sit there until He had made His enemies His footstool. Not only in His Person glorious and divine, not only does He hold the first place with regard to all creatures in the universe (we have spoken of this, which will take place when He is introduced into the world), but He has His own place at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens. To which of the angels has God ever said this? They are servants on God's part to the heirs of salvation.


Footnotes for Hebrews 1
4: A particular interpretation has, by some, been given to the word "aion" translated "worlds;" but it is certain that the word is used by the LXX-Septuagint (that is, in Hellenistic or scriptural Greek) for the physical worlds.

5: The Greek verb has here a peculiar form, which gives it a reflective sense, causing the thing done to return into the doer, throwing back the glory of the thing done upon the one who did it.

6: See Psalm 68:17, Acts 7:53, Galatians 3:19

7: The words translated "Thou art the same," ('Atta Hu') are by many learned Hebraists taken-at least 'Hu'-as a name of God. At any rate, as unchangeably the same, it amounts to it. The not failing years are endless duration when become a man.

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