(NOTE: II HEBREWS 24 was to be the last of the series but in
checking back I found an essay which I believe would be an
appropriate wrap-up of the II Hebrews series. This essay I
wrote in 2005 but I think it might also be used to close out
our current studies of this great book. I hope you find it
of value to your continued study of Hebrews.)
II HEBREWS 25
Roy Osborne 2005
POSTSCRIPT TO A WONDERFUL BOOK
In the Biblical history of God’s people, there were two kinds of religious leaders. There were the priests, who reminded the people of their great history, and made them proud of their position as the children of God. Then there were the prophets, who reminded the people of their sins, and told them to repent. They loved the priests and hated the prophets. Today the true Christian preacher has to wear both of these hats. Some choose to be just the prophet and gather a self-righteous and judgmental following. Some choose the priest role, and tell you God wants you only to be happy. The faithful ones accept the responsibility to carry out both roles.
The writer of Hebrews faces the same kind of dilemma which is faced by every honest preacher. While desiring to emphasize the great love and mercy of the Father, one must not fail to point out the discipline, sacrifice, and suffering that goes with being a follower of Christ. Some solve this problem by turning the gospel into a legal system, which simply condemns all who don’t live up to the rules and regulations. This gives those who follow the religious rites a superior feeling of righteousness, and leaves them free to follow a life of ease and comfort away from the church building, but it does nothing toward making us conscious of God’s love, nor the peace of knowing a personal relationship with Him, and all who share our faith.
Those who preach joy without sacrifice, and pleasure without pain, ignore the cross, the martyrdom of saints, and the discipline of honoring God’s will. A religion, in this world of evil desires, and animal satisfaction, which makes no sacrificial demands, nor asks any cost of the self-indulgent, does not flow from the Biblical story of penitent faith, which characterized every hero of God.
The readers to whom the writer of Hebrews addressed this book, were looking for a religion of ease and comfort, where no danger threatened, society approved, and the demands were only rituals, which did not interfere with their comfortable lives. I fear (and this will not be a popular sentiment) that we have carefully designed the modern church to give us just that kind of religion.
I do not simply refer to the televangelist, who tells us God wants us to be rich and happy. Many of us, who are conscientious church goers, want to believe that our prayers of faith are guaranteed insurance against problems. We want our faith in prayer to ease our worries, but we do not want our faith in His will to hamper our indulgences, or interfere with the things we want to give pleasure and comfort to our lives.
I am a strong believer in prayer. I think every major decision should be accompanied by prayer. I believe in every dire situation of illness for family or friends, every sorrow and pain, that we should include the Father in our sadness, and place our troubles in His hands. I believe every day should be started and ended with a consciousness of His presence, and a diligent request that He accompany our every step. However, this means that, together with the comfort of His presence, I should be aware that His will is best for me, and that my decisions should be for His will to be done, and not mine. Christ said the way to glory was to crucify self, and take up the cross and follow Him. The comfort is not in the ease it gives me in this life but the assurance of His peace for all eternity.
In the ringing tones of victory at the foot of Mount Zion, at the end of this book, there are multiple paragraphs of warnings to discipline one’s life by the will of God, endure hardship, get rid of sin, be holy, love each other, work for peace, and a dozen other things, which will make the Christian life anything but easy. His major argument is that our salvation was bought with suffering, and the death of Christ, who was willing to undergo it for us. Why should we not pay the cost of separation from this world, if we are to follow Him?
Twice, in the first paragraph of chapter twelve, the writer uses a word we translate as “perseverance”, or “endurance”. It is the word hupomone in the Greek, and it means “patience”. However, this is not the patience of resignation. It does not mean we can sit back and endure, and leave it up to God. “Your will be done”, is not simply acceptance of the inevitable. It means enduring whatever I must, accepting whatever I have to, in order to get the job done. When Christ went to the cross, He did not simply go with the flow, and let things happen as God wanted them to. He actively moved in the direction of carrying out the will of the Father. He bore up under the suffering to get the job done. My patience, my endurance, my perseverance, is not simply the acceptance of God’s will in my life. It means working to bring it about. Christianity is not a passive religion. It is for those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, and put aside whatever is necessary to incorporate it in their life.