Saturday

“Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession.” (v. 14)

Hebrews 4:12-16 Saturday 17 October 2015

Psalm: Psalm 112


Background

In a way this passage offers an answer to some of the questionsI have already raised this week, about the way weunderstand the Bible. The writer to the Hebrews regarded "the wordof God" as "living and active" (v. 12) - the Holy Spirit speakingdirectly to readers. But of course that only meant what we call theOld Testament, the Hebrew scriptures, which they used soextensively in their letter (or sermon!) to Jewish Christians. (TheNew Testament did not then exist, and only some of the writingsthat eventually made up the New Testament were in circulation - andI doubt if the writer would have had much time for Paul's letters!)It is of course also true that, like all preachers, the writer tothe Hebrews selected their biblical texts very carefully in orderto support the points they wanted to make...

The jump to verse 14 seems rather abrupt, but the theme of highpriest was introduced in Hebrews 2:17 and now we return to it. Jesus,the Son of God, is the "great high priest who has passed throughthe heavens". For 1st-century Jews, the heavens were the variouslayers in the sky above, occupied by the planets, sun, moon andstars and inhabited by angels, with God somewhere above. Jesus isexalted above the angels, and is now by the "throne of grace" (v.16). The imagery is drawn from the Jerusalem temple, where only theHigh Priest could stand before the 'mercy seat' or "throne ofgrace" in the Holy of Holies. Hebrews may have been written after70AD, when the temple had been destroyed and there was no longer ahigh priest, which gives the image added power for JewishChristians who may have wondered how God could now be approached.The reassuring answer was that Jesus had opened the way.


To Ponder

  • The contents of the New Testament were decided over a lengthyperiod by various church scholars and committees. Does thatautomatically make them "the word of God" and "living and active"?Or is that a decision we must make as individual readers?
  • How might you make the idea of "a great high priest who haspassed through the heavens" meaningful to modern readers of theBible?
  • "Let us therefore approach the throne of grace withboldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help intime of need" (v. 16). These are very reassuring words, but whatmight they actually mean in terms of personal experience?
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