March 1: Activities are Cancelled Due to Weather

It’s one of the hardest calls to make, but since our congregation spans the entire metro and our service is early, we are cancelling for tomorrow (March 1). Athena’s baptism is moved to March 8 (when it’s forecast to be in the 60’s!).

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’ As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.'”–Hebrews 3:7-11

This is Psalm 95:7-11 and the writer uses it as his preaching text from here through the middle of chapter 4. This Psalm is a call to worship. It opens with the well-known invitation to sing and make a joyful noise to the Lord. It celebrates that Yahweh is a great God, the king of all other gods. He is the rock of our salvation, the creator of heaven and earth; he is the shepherd and we are the sheep of his pasture. Obviously the appropriate response is to fall down and worship Him.

But with verse 7, the mood changes drastically. The Psalm begins to recall the days after the Exodus. The Psalmist writes this Psalm many centuries after the Exodus, and the writer to the Hebrews employs it centuries after the Psalmist does. Surely it applies to us as well.

God had warned the people in the wilderness not to grumble and rebel and put him to the test. If they did this, they wouldn’t be allowed to enter his “rest”. At that point in Redemptive History, “rest” would be a settled home in the Promised Land. It’s the same thing for us with the Promised Land being the New Heavens and New Earth. Just like them, we face a choice: either worship and serve this same God, or miss out on the prize.

One particular word in the passage lends a sense of acute urgency: “Today”. It keeps coming up in the book of Hebrews. Because God had acted once for all in Jesus the Messiah, rather living in “Tomorrowland,” it was time to pay attention to “Todayland”.

You may feel the stern warning here. That’s good. It is supposed to urge you immediately not to harden your heart. Note that “the Holy Spirit says” this to you. Let us be encouraged that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ never once hardened his heart at the voice of the Father. He had not one whit of rebellion; He passed his test in the wilderness, and never put his Father to the test. He never went astray and always knew God’s ways. He did this as our brother before us, so we are righteous in him, and we can by his power enter the promised rest. And that’s the gospel!

Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses–as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.–Hebrews 3:1-6

The original audience of the book/sermon of Hebrews were very early Jewish Christians in Rome. They had left Judaism, for which Rome felt ambivalence, and come to the light of Christ, for which Rome felt horrible and increasing disdain. They were probably thinking something like, “Shouldn’t we just go back to Judaism and live our best life now?” The writer of this book is letting them know in the passage above that what they came from (Moses) was not to be despised, but it also was never the destination. Jesus is the destination.

Notice how he says that Moses worked as a servant for God’s house. Moses matters. There is something good to say about Moses; there is something good to say about the law; there is something good to say about Israel BC. But make no mistake, while Moses matters, Jesus matters even more; Moses was a true servant of God, but Jesus is God’s son. We don’t diminish Moses by proclaiming that Jesus is superior to him. Instead, we put Moses and the law in their rightful place, doing what they were designed to do.

The writer to the Hebrews, like the Apostle Paul, doesn’t think of “God’s house” as the temple. They had the idea of the true “house” not as a building of bricks and mortar, but as a community of people, the church. These are the people the passage above says who “hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.” We aren’t mealy-mouthed because Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son, and he has counted us as the children of that house. And that’s the gospel!

Come hear it preached and enacted in the Supper this Sunday!

For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again, “Behold, I and the children God has given me.” –Hebrews 2:10-13

This wonderful passage lets us in on something very encouraging. It tells us that Jesus is the older brother of a much larger family and he came to where his siblings are. It’s not like he was coming to a family reunion at a mountain ski resort either. No, he came to where they (we!) were wallowing in a world of sin and death. He identified with us, shared our fate, thereby rescuing us from it.

He’s not the kind of older brother who always gets it right and succeeds at whatever he does. Actually he did always get it right and succeeded at doing everything the Father had for him to do, but he’s not the irritating kind of older brother who succeeds in a way that makes our lives worse. He’s the kind of older brother who gets us out of the mess we’ve made of our lives without a hint of patronizing or looking down his nose at us. In fact, “He is not ashamed to call [us] brothers!” And that’s the gospel!

Come hear it preached and enacted in the Supper this Sunday!

Now it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. It has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. –Hebrews 2:5-9

The book of Hebrews is very oriented to the future. The future we’re talking about is not an immaterial heaven, but an inhabited earth. This is the eternal aeon after Christ returns: the New Heavens and New Earth. Continuing with the theme of Christ’s superiority to the angels, the writer now looks to the future, as he says in the passage above, “the world to come.”

In that world the angels will not rule. Looking all the way back to the garden, we see that man was supposed to rule the earth, but of course that was marred terribly by the fall. Yet in the “world to come” we see that all of mankind is considered in Christ. The quotations from Psalm 8 support this. He is saying that the dominion we lost because of our sin is restored in Christ.

Then, near the end of this passage, we find that Christ “tasted death for everyone.” Surely you wouldn’t want to drift away from that! He is glorified as our forerunner. As God equipped him to be our savior, this was done through suffering, crowning him with glory and honor. We live, breathe, move, and come to salvation in order that God’s name in Christ would be raised like a banner for all the world to see. Our salvation is ordered to his glory, just like everything else. And that’s the gospel!

Come hear it preached and enacted in the Supper this Sunday!