The book of Hebrews is unlike others in the New Testament in its focus and style. What can we know about the background of this book which could help us interpret it? From what setting does it arise? Biblical books did not simply come out of thin air, but normally responded to some type of need. What was it for this book? Some have suggested an original audience of Jewish Christians who, in the face of setbacks and fears, might have begun to flag in their zeal for their new faith. Could this situation explain the arguments laid out in the book, the strong flavor of exhortation and encouragement, the exaltation of Jesus as superior to all other possible sources of forgiveness and salvation? Is this why Jesus comes off as superior to prophets, angels and even Moses (chapters 1-3); his priesthood as superior to the entire levitical system (chapters 4-7); his sacrifice as superior to any animal offering (chapters 8-10)?
Why do people need advocacy? Theologically and at the personal, existential level, why this necessity? What stories (biblical and otherwise) might illustrate this basic human sense of the need for someone (better, stronger, positioned well) to stand up for others?
Relevant Biblical Passages:
|Hebrews 1-3||Jesus is above all the competition as a source of trust and assurance: human and angelic spokespersons.|
|Hebrews 4||The rest which remains for Christians: salvation? Sabbath? assertive courage?|
|Hebrews 4:14-16||Bold approach to the throne of God|
|Hebrews 5-7||Jesus as priest|
Contributions to Study of Assurance:
How does the message of Jesus’ superiority over past prophets, priests and sacrifices translate into assurance for a Christian? Especially for Christians overwhelmed by the notion that they may have made a mistake joining up in the first place. What about the idea of “rest”? What undergirds the boldness we observe at the end of chapter 4?
Could the strong exhortations to continued obedience prove too heavy a burden for some?
Lessons for Life:
Do problems like those the early Jewish Christians faced have modern counterparts today? What might they be? Does this book mean more to some believers than to others? Is the material relevant to people on the street today who know nothing of the sacrificial system and could care less about it?
How might boldness before God’s actual throne translate into the way Christians believe and behave? Should people known to have been in the very presence of the God of the universe be treated differently by those who know they’ve been there?