Practical Proverbial, from 2 Thessalonians, 10 August 2018

So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. 2 Thessalonians 2:15 (NIV).

Why should we hold onto teachings of a bunch of old, dead, white guys?

That’s a refrain you hear a lot in our popular culture these days.   Mostly it concerns the US Constitution, written over 200 years ago by (now) old, dead, white guys; as if being old or Caucasian alone would either qualify or disqualify someone as reputable.  It’s a stupid argument, really, that we should ignore something because the authors aren’t alive anymore or because they were of a certain race.   It’s foolish.

Yet that same argument is used to justify ignoring the teachings of the Bible.   After all, they’re much older than the Constitution.   And the men who wrote them were men (sexism!) and if not white they were at least Mediterranean and Semitic in nature (racists!).   The purveyors of foolishness would have people believe that being male, white, Semitic, or aged should disqualify things they say.   Perhaps that would qualify much of Hollywood and the leaders of popular culture as well…but I digress.

Instead, here’s a chance to ignore all of what those around us would say and stand up for Jesus.  There’s an old hymn that says just that:   stand up, stand up for Jesus.   Stand up today.  Stand up for what you believe instead of being talked down by the vapid arguments of people with other agendas.   More importantly than standing up, though, stand firm.  Be firm and resolute in saying “I believe.”  Every day is a new opportunity to be your own Martin Luther and say “here I stand” by basing your stand in your belief in Christ.

That isn’t easy, especially when the small minds of popular culture have a loud voice.   When academia, media, and even corporate culture are standing against you.   When it’s easier to give in.   When so many evangelicals make standing up for Jesus a difficult, unpopular, and corny thing.  Our world is hostile to this faith; 2 Thessalonians spends much of its verbiage talking about how faith will be challenged at the end of all things.   Of how the world will do what it’s doing to believers, many of whom overseas are being physically martyred for standing up for Jesus.

Stand anyway.

Stand firm in knowing that who you’re standing for, what you believe, and the Savior who makes it possible is standing beside you.   He is with you in Spirit and inside you.   The strength to stand is the strength of God’s Spirit coursing through your veins.  You may be basing your faith on the words of old, dead, white guys, yet those words are given from God Almighty Himself:  He who has no age, eternal life, no race, and is never foolish.

For further reading:  1 Corinthians 16:13, 2 Thessalonians 2:16.

Lord, I stand for You, for Your love, Your peace, Your strength, Your kingdom.

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Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 17 October 2016

For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.  Hebrews 2, verses 16-17.

There’s so much to unpack here.   Let’s start with an overview of it.

Paraphrasing Chad Bird again, much of the book of Hebrews is a history lesson.   It is written to former Jews who were new to the Christian faith.  Their entire history had been lived in obedience to God as He revealed Himself through the Torah (what we know as The Old Testament).  The author of Hebrews spends considerable time poetically tying the history of the Jews to the divinity and life of Jesus, drawing parallels and showing how the Old Testament was made complete in Jesus, who was revealed in the New Testament.

So consider this:  Abraham’s descendants are everyone and everywhere.  Abraham was the first Jew.   The word “Semitic” is derived from the name Shem, who was one of Noah’s son’s.  Indeed, Genesis 9 reveals how Noah sinned and it was Shem and his brother, Japheth, who helped Noah in his time of need.  If you read from Genesis 9 through 11, you find the account of mankind from Noah to Abram, who later became Abraham.  In those words, you see that Abraham was the first man since Shem who followed God and obeyed Him.  He became the first true Semite.  Because Jesus was the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham (Genesis 12:3:   “I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”), even if you aren’t Jewish, you can count Abraham as, at least, your spiritual ancestor.

What’s more, Jesus was made like men and made like angels and made like Abraham’s descendants and even Abraham.   He didn’t live, die, and rise for the salvation of angels.   No, Jesus did those things to save men.   He did them because, while fully God, He became fully man to do for us what we couldn’t do ourselves.  Think about it:   You and I wouldn’t accept it if someone who wasn’t like us did something for us.   In the short run, perhaps.   But in the long run – and a human life here followed by eternity is the ultimate long run – we simply wouldn’t go for it.   Jesus had to be a man to save men.

And He did it to sacrifice blood.  Abraham’s first spiritual descendant was Issac, whom he willingly brought to sacrifice.  Men had begun to “call on the Name of the Lord” (meaning worship) God as early as the life of Adam and Eve, but Abraham is the first man recorded since Noah who offered a life to God as an act of worship.   He did it because Abraham understood that life was in blood, that God expected our deepest motivations to be focused on Him because He is all life.   We’re held captive by our fear of death and, thus, by our sins.   Only life could atone for those sins and release that fear.   Indeed, generations after Abraham, God instituted priestly sacrifice as a way to make atonement for sins.   Just last week, Jews around the world celebrated Yom Kippur, which is the day Jews celebrate the Day of Atonement.   In ancient times, this is the day when the Jewish priest would enter the temple, enter into the Most Holy Place, and sprinkle blood on the Ark of the Covenant.   In this way, by God’s command, the priest could signify (for the people) God forgiving their sins.  Our first picture of that is of Abraham being willing to sacrifice his son, Issac.

Finally, Abraham, then later Jesus, is the picture of the merciful high priest.   He is the one who, on behalf of all the people, can walk into God’s presence and make that atonement by blood.   He does this according to God’s own commands and the process He gave to us.   God gave us (through Moses) specific instructions on how and who to sanctify and what to do to make atonement for all the guilty sins of the people.   For over a thousand years Jews did this, first in the tabernacle in the deserts, then in the Temple in Jerusalem.  Later, when Jesus died, God nullified the need for further animal sacrifice because He alone had made the perfect sacrifice.   Jesus took on himself the role of high priest in ways no other human could.

We’ll talk more about these things in the days to come.

For more reading:   Genesis 9 – 12, Luke 3:8, Philippians 2:7, Hebrews 5:2, 3:1, 4:15, 5:5,10, 7:27, Romans 3:25.

Lord Jesus, You alone are all the wonderful things described in these verses.   Bless You and thank You for Your sacrifice, Your priesthood, and Your love as both man and God.