Thursday 15 October 2015

Bible Book:

“But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today’, so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partners of Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end.” (vv. 13-14)

Hebrews 3:7-14 Thursday 15 October 2015

Psalm: Psalm 110


Sometimes, when reading the New Testament, we can forget thatsignificant parts of it were addressed exclusively to Jews, or,more specifically, Jewish Christians. These include the Gospel ofMatthew, the letters of James and Peter, and possibly Jude - and,of course, Hebrews. Other writings were addressed either primarilyto gentile (non-Jewish) Christian converts (probably John's Gospel,which is quite anti-Jewish, the Johannine letters, and Revelation)or to mixed Jewish/non-Jewish Christian audiences (notably Luke andActs, and Paul's letters). Jewish Christians had some veryparticular concerns. Should they still obey the Jewish law? Shouldthey still follow Jewish traditions? Should they regard Jesus asthe divine Son of God, not just as the human Messiah? Did God'sancient promises to 'Israel' still apply to the Jews of their day?We see many of these concerns addressed in Hebrews, and in today'spassage the writer quotes from Psalm95, words addressed to Israel reminding them of theirancestors' experience in the wilderness, following the Exodus fromEgypt, and warning them that if they were not faithful to God theywould be denied the Sabbath rest of the Promised Land. And nowthese same words are addressed to Jewish Christians, reminding themof their own ancestors and exhorting them to remain faithful toChrist.

The writer regards words spoken to Israel by the Psalmistcenturies before as being spoken again by the Holy Spirit to JewishChristians who were still unsure about their new identity as"partners of Christ" (v. 14). Many Christians would say, equally,that these words are addressed to us today. But, unless we haveJewish ancestors or have ourselves converted from Judaism, can wereally claim that this is the case? This raises a much biggerquestion about the way in which we view these ancient writings andhow we decide in what ways they might apply to us.

To Ponder

  • Is all of the New Testament addressed to us? Even where itclearly concerns contexts, questions and issues that were quitespecific to the original readers and hearers? How do wedecide?
  • We might think it's easier to decide, as Christians, which bitsof the Old Testament are addressed to us. Yet the whole OldTestament is included in the Christian Bible, which gives it allequal status to the New Testament as Scripture. Is that how we readit?
  • Do you believe that the whole of the Bible is to be understoodas the Holy Spirit speaking to us today? What responsibility doesthat place on you as a reader?
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