Gracefully Truthful

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Discover the original intent of Scripture. Make good application to our everyday lives.
Become equipped to correctly handle the Word of Truth!

Read His Words Before Ours!

Hebrews 12:25-29

25 See to it that you do not reject the one who speaks. For if they did not escape when they rejected him who warned them on earth, even less will we if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven.

26 His voice shook the earth at that time, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.”

27 This expression, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what is not shaken might remain. 28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful. By it, we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

The Original Intent

1) What is the spiritual background of the first recipients of this letter? (Exodus 19-20)

Hebrews was a letter written to Jews who had recognized that Jesus was the promised Messiah of whom every Old Testament prophecy pointed. They recognized and trusted Jesus’ identity as the very same God, Yahweh, who had led their patriarchs through the wilderness and given them the Promised Land. Jewish Christians rightly understood Jesus to be God.

The Jews had known Old Testament Scriptures since infancy and they had never known life apart from the sacrificial system. This system was ordered by the Law that God gave them through Moses. It ordered their religion, provided structure to their traditions and celebrations, and taught them how to honor Him in every aspect of life. This was on purpose for the Lord God intended His people to recognize how every millimeter of normal, everyday life was meant to be deeply intertwined in a relationship with Him. They were His people, and He was their God. (Exodus 6:7)

Leaving this deeply ingrained, and comfortably familiar, system, not to mention their entire faith community, was no small decision. Many Jews experienced social exile from their friends and community because they accepted Jesus Christ as THE Messiah. They were waiting for no one else; Messiah had come! But their Jewish friends and family who rejected Christ as Messiah often rejected them as well.

As time progressed and Jesus hadn’t returned yet, and following Him grew more challenging, and estrangement from friends, family, and community became more wearisome, Jews were tempted to return to their old patterns of faith. Hebrews was written as a blaring warning meant to shake these Jewish Christians by their shoulders and say, “Are you crazy?! You have a personal, intimate relationship with Yahweh Himself! Every Old Testament prophecy points to Jesus! There is NO ONE else! Don’t go back!”

The Everyday Application

1) What is the spiritual background of the first recipients of this letter? (Exodus 19-20)

Every true follower of Jesus faces persecution and rejection on some level. For many of our brothers and sisters around the globe, choosing to worship the Lord Jesus puts them in physical danger as they risk their life and the lives of those they love. For others, following Jesus is wildly unpopular and costs you friendships, excludes you from social events, and may even result in losing a position at work or receiving low academic grades for failure to embrace anti-biblical teachings.

Following Jesus is meant to color every aspect of life for all Christians, just as it was for the Jews, regardless of age, race, or location on the globe. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) Worshipping Christ as Lord should cause us to consider the words we say, the music we listen to, the social media we scroll, the entertainment we consume, the people we are in community with, how we spend our free time, ways we spend our money, and certainly the way we treat others in relationship with us. Each of these decision points can carry a price-tag.

How have you experienced struggle in your life because you chose Jesus over popular opinion, cultural sway, or a friends’ insistence? Have you ever felt daunted, wondering if, perhaps, you were going “too crazy” with this whole “Jesus thing”?

When it feels exhausting to stand firm to truth, to back away from gossip and slander, to love the unlovable, to forgive for the fiftieth time, to serve with humility, to show mercy instead of mocking, and to be gentle instead of harsh, remember the letter of Hebrews. Remember the authors’ pleading insistence to not reject the Only One Worthy of worship.

The things of life are fleeting and petty, regardless of how they shine and shimmer. Jesus is better, He always will be, so don’t go back!

The Original Intent

2) What do the verbs “speaking, shaking, and rejecting” reference? (verses 25-27)

At Mt. Sinai, Yahweh, the Lord God, descended on the mountain to meet with His people. Thunder roared, lightening shot through the sky, the ground shook like an earthquake, trumpets sounded, the Lord descended in fire, and the mountain was surrounded by smoke. (Exodus 19:18, Exodus 20:18) This was God’s mountain of meeting with His people and He came with awe-filled glory.

Only He was worthy of worship. He held all authority and all power over all things. Still, as fiercely powerful as He is, He desired a deep relationship with His people. But His people ran screaming away from Mt. Sinai.

Fearing their death, the Israelites begged Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen,” they said to Moses, “but don’t let God speak to us, or we will die.” (Exodus 20:19) Instead of accepting His personal invitation to commune with Him, they ran in terror. The Lord God is both fearsome and deeply relational beyond our understanding.

Moses responded to their fear with comfort, “Don’t be afraid for God has come to test you, so that you will fear Him and not sin.” (Exodus 20:20) With heartbreaking tragedy, before Moses even descended the mountain, bringing the people God’s covenant law written with His own finger, Israel had already chosen sin over the Savior. They formed a golden calf, bowed down to it, and worshipped it, effectively breaking the first two commandments. God’s justice came upon them and they were punished, many to their deaths.

With this backstory in mind, we begin to see where the author of Hebrews is coming from as he uses the language of “speaking, shaking, and rejecting”.

The Everyday Application

2) What do the verbs “speaking, shaking, and rejecting” reference? (verses 25-27)

When God first spoke to the Israelites, and the actual ground where they stood was shaking as He came in glory, His people rejected Him and suffered deadly consequences. The author ties this familiar history straight to the Jews’ present decision by calling on the story they knew well. God was speaking to the then-modern-Jews in real time about the true reality that Jesus is the Messiah. This Jesus would come again to “shake” the physical and spiritual realms.

The earth will be consumed by His fire and only those who remain faithful in Christ on that day of judgement would remain “unshaken” and secure. (2 Peter 3:10-13) None will escape this judgement and all things will be shaken to see if they endure for eternity or not.

First, our souls will be shaken. If we have genuinely surrendered our lives to Jesus, we will remain unshaken because of Christ! Then, for the believer, our works will be shaken. Paul describes this in 1 Corinthians 3:13-15, “Each one’s work will become obvious. For the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire; the fire will test the quality of each one’s work. If anyone’s work that he has built survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will experience loss, but he himself will be saved…”.

Regardless of where you are with Jesus, hold firmly to the unshakeable foundation of Jesus. Christ is the true Son of God, the Promised Messiah; don’t reject Him! Choose Christ now for rescue from your sin and don’t reject Him; today is the day of salvation! (2 Corinthians 6:2)

If you’ve already trusted Christ with your soul, repented from your sins, and been forgiven, hear this sister, remain faithful to the Only One worthy of worship; don’t turn back!

The Original Intent

3) What is the right response and why? (verses 28-29)

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful.

The author confidently pens these words to strengthen and encourage his readers to not give up, despite their suffering and challenging circumstances. Set against the backdrop of a potent reality that judgment from the all-powerful God is indeed coming, we would be wise to pay attention.

We ought to consider the details of our lives and test them by bringing them into the light of God through prayer, asking Him if the pattern of our lives point to genuinely thankful worship or not. (Hebrews 13:14-16)

I’m a big fan of small words in Scripture, and two words in verse 28 have captured my attention for weeks, “by it”. When we choose a thankful heart attitude, when we stop what we are doing in our everyday lives and practice the discipline of gratitude, we have come under the will of God. “Give thanks in everything for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

As we position ourselves under His will with a heart of thankfulness, we are strategically set up for success at following Jesus! Hebrews says, “By it (thankfulness), we may serve God acceptably”.

We don’t need to know all the answers for our “next”, the Spirit of God in us will carefully guide and direct our steps to make us effective in following Him and building His kingdom. Our part is to choose thankfulness.

Stunning, isn’t it?!

The author closes out his exhortation by reminding his audience to live with “reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” (verses 28-29) Yahweh is both a consuming fire and a relational God desiring the fullness of our hearts.

The unshakeable Kingdom is coming. Hope is for “Now” in light of “Then”. Our response? Worship, sister, worship.

The Everyday Application

3) What is the right response and why? (verses 28-29)

Phew, this is a heavy portion of Scripture, isn’t it? Meditating on our very real coming judgement day and our daily decision point to follow Jesus or not, is certainly not something we regularly consider in everyday life. But, maybe, we should.

Maybe, as we move closer to Christmas this year, sing familiar carols, read the familiar story of Christ’s birth, and busy ourselves with all the usual flurry of gift-buying, magic-making, and cookie baking, we should determine to keep this message of Hebrews in front of us, letting it re-shape us, even down to our mundane choices. If we’ve committed to following Jesus, it needs to show up in evident ways, and it should be more evident next week than it is this week.

He’s not asking us to move mountains, preach the gospel to millions, or become keynote speakers at the next big conference; He’s asking us to be faithful to the race He has called us to run. (Hebrews 12:1-2) He’s calling us to worship with thankful hearts. He’s asking us to come to the mountain of God, sit, and commune with Him instead of running away. Meet Him through prayer and soaking in His Words and then get up to live out His ways with confidence because His Spirit lives within us! (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)

Why choose thankful worship and a life that proves our worship is genuine? Oh, sisters! The sweetness of this reality floods my being! Because we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken! That good news makes me want to jump up and shout for joy and tell all the people all the things about my precious Savior, Jesus!

With that rightly-oriented eternal perspective, it just no longer matters what persecutions we face, who excludes us, what mocking we endure, or how challenging it is to follow Christ.

Why not?

Because I know it’s worth it! The end has already been written, and, because of Jesus, we win!

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