Monday, March 23, 2020

READ IT! - Introduction to 1st Chronicles 13-19


Readings for this week


Monday: 1st Chronicles 13
Tuesday: 1st Chronicles 14
Wednesday: 1st Chronicles 15
Thursday: 1st Chronicles 16
Friday: 1st Chronicles 17
Saturday: 1st Chronicles 18
Sunday: 1st Chronicles 19



Introduction to 1st Chronicles 13-19

Chapter 13 

David said, "Let us bring the ark back." As they carried the ark Uzzah steadied it and was struck down by God. David was angry with God and he took the ark the home of Obed-Edom.

Chapter 14 

We then hear that David had more children. Also, the Philistines attacked again and David inquired of God and when he heard the sound of marching in the trees he defeated them. 

Chapter 15 

David told the Levites to carry the ark. Heman, Asaph and Ethan were the musicians. The ark was brought into the city of David. 

Chapter 16 

They made offerings and David appointed singers. "Give thanks to the LORD; He is greatly to be praised!" Asaph ministered each day. 

Chapter 17 

The LORD said to Nathan, "Tell David: I will establish your house; your son will build my house." David prayed, "Who am I, O LORD?" 

Chapter 18 

David defeated the Philistines, the Moabites, King Hadadezer, the Arameans and the Edomites. He reigned over Israel with justice. 

Chapter 19 

The King of Ammon humiliated David's servants and hired the Arameans for war. Joab defeated them and David defeated King Hadadezer.


















Monday, March 16, 2020

READ IT! - Introduction to 1st Chronicles 6-12


Readings for this week


Monday: 1st Chronicles 6
Tuesday: 1st Chronicles 7
Wednesday: 1st Chronicles 8
Thursday: 1st Chronicles 9
Friday: 1st Chronicles 10
Saturday: 1st Chronicles 11
Sunday: 1st Chronicles 12



Introduction to 1st Chronicles 6-12 

Chapter 6 

The book continues on with the genealogies, and we then get to Jacob’s third-born son, Levi. And we hear that Levi's sons were Gershon, Kohath and Merari. The famous musicians Heman and Asaph were also Levites. We hear how Aaron's sons made offerings, and that the Levites were given cities rather than broad swaths of land. 

Chapter 7 

We then move on to the tribe of Issachar's whose numbers were 87,000.

We then move on to Benjamin, Jacob’s last son. Benjamin's sons were Bela, Beker and Jediael.

We then move on to Naphtali and the other half of Manasseh’s split tribe, before going to Ephraim’s clans, and we hear again that Ephraim's line led to Joshua.

We then move on to the tribe of Asher whose numbers were 26,000. 

Chapter 8 

We then jump back to Benjamin, where we narrow in on the records of Saul, Israel’s first king. We hear that Benjamin was the father of Bela, Ashbel, Aharah, Nohah and Rapha. We then get a list of the clans of Benjamin, and we learn that from Ner's line was Kish, the father of Saul, the father of Jonathan. From Jonathan’s line came the sons of Ulam were known as mighty warriors. 

Chapter 9 

We then learn that Jerusalem was resettled by Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim and Manasseh, and we are given a list of priests and Levite gatekeepers.

We then jump back again to the genealogy of Saul, son of Kish. 

Chapter 10 

The narrative section of Chronicles begins here with the death of Saul. We learn that the Philistines fought Israel and Saul fell on his sword. The Israelites fled, and Saul died for his unfaithfulness against the LORD. These events are also recorded in 1st Samuel. 

Chapter 11 

The elders anointed David king, and David conquered Jerusalem. He made Joab his general. We then hear about David's mighty men who included the three who brought him water from Bethlehem. Joab’s brother Abishai became their commander and killed three hundred men in battle. Another man named Benaiah killed a giant Egyptian and fought a lion in a pit on a snowy day.

Chapter 12 

We then learn that the Benjaminites and Gadites went over to David at Ziklag, and David made them officers. And more and more people kept coming over to join David until there was a great army.











Wednesday, March 11, 2020

READ IT! - Introduction to 1st Chronicles 1-5



Introduction to 1st Chronicles 1-5


The Chronicles narrative begins with Adam and the story is then carried forward, almost entirely by genealogical lists, down to the founding of the first Kingdom of Israel (1 Chronicles 1–9). The bulk of the remainder of 1 Chronicles, after a brief account of Saul, is concerned with the reign of David (1 Chronicles 11–29). 

Originally a single work, Chronicles was divided into two in the Septuagint, a Greek translation produced in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC. It has three broad divisions: 

The genealogies (1 Chronicles 1-9) 
The reigns of David and Solomon (1 Chronicles 10 – 2 Chronicles 9)
The story of the divided kingdom (2 Chronicles 10-36) 

Within this broad structure there are signs that the author has used various other devices to structure his work, notably through drawing parallels between David and Solomon (the first becomes king, establishes the worship of Israel's God in Jerusalem, and fights the wars that will enable the Temple to be built, then Solomon becomes king, builds and dedicates the Temple, and reaps the benefits of prosperity and peace). 

Origins 

The last events in Chronicles take place in the reign of Cyrus the Great, the Persian king who conquered Babylon in 539 BC; this sets the earliest possible date for the book. It was probably composed between 400–250 BC, with the period 350–300 BC the most likely. The latest person mentioned in Chronicles is Anani, an eighth-generation descendant of King Jehoiachin according to the Masoretic Text. Anani's birth would likely have been sometime between 425 and 400 BC. The Septuagint gives an additional five generations in the genealogy of Anani. For those scholars who side with the Septuagint's reading, Anani's likely date of birth is a century later.

Chronicles appears to be largely the work of a single individual, with some later additions and editing. The writer was probably male, probably a Levite (temple priest), and probably from Jerusalem. He was well-read, a skilled editor, and a sophisticated theologian. His intention was to use Israel's past to convey religious messages to his peers, the literary and political elite of Jerusalem in the time of the Achaemenid Empire.

Jewish and Christian tradition identified this author as the 5th century BC figure Ezra, who gives his name to the Book of Ezra; Ezra was also believed to be the author of both Chronicles and Ezra–Nehemiah, but later critical scholarship abandoned the identification with Ezra and called the anonymous author "the Chronicler". One of the most striking, although inconclusive, features of Chronicles is that its closing sentence is repeated as the opening of Ezra–Nehemiah. The latter half of the 20th century saw a radical reappraisal, and many now regard it as improbable that the author of Chronicles was also the author of the narrative portions of Ezra–Nehemiah. 

Genre 

The translators who created the Greek version of the Jewish Bible (the Septuagint) called this book "Things Left Out", indicating that they thought of it as a supplement to another work, probably Genesis-Kings, but the idea seems inappropriate, since much of Genesis-Kings has been copied almost without change. Some modern scholars proposed that Chronicles is a midrash, or traditional Jewish commentary, on Genesis-Kings, but again this is not entirely accurate since the author or authors do not comment on the older books so much as use them to create a new work. Recent suggestions have been that it was intended as a clarification of the history in Genesis-Kings, or a replacement or alternative for it. 

Themes 

The generally accepted message the author wished to give to his audience was this:

God is active in history, and especially the history of Israel. The faithfulness or sins of individual kings are immediately rewarded or punished by God. (This is in contrast to the theology of the Books of Kings, where the faithlessness of kings was punished on later generations through the Babylonian exile).

God calls Israel to a special relationship. The call begins with the genealogies (chapters 1–9 of 1 Chronicles), gradually narrowing the focus from all mankind to a single family, the Israelites, the descendants of Jacob. "True" Israel is those who continue to worship Yahweh at the Temple in Jerusalem, with the result that the history of the historical kingdom of Israel is almost completely ignored.

God chose David and his dynasty as the agents of his will. According to the author of Chronicles, the three great events of David's reign were his bringing the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, his founding of an eternal royal dynasty, and his preparations for the construction of the Temple.

God chose the Temple in Jerusalem as the place where he should be worshiped. More time and space are spent on the construction of the Temple and its rituals of worship than on any other subject. By stressing the central role of the Temple in pre-exilic Judah, the author also stresses the importance of the newly-rebuilt Persian-era Second Temple to his own readers.

God remains active in Israel. The past is used to legitimize the author's present: this is seen most clearly in the detailed attention he gives to the Temple built by Solomon, but also in the genealogy and lineages, which connect his own generation to the distant past and thus make the claim that the present is a continuation of that past. 

Chapter 1 

The book starts off with the genealogies, which start with the line from Noah, and the branches off with the descendants of Noah’s sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and founders of the nations.

We then focus in on the family of Abraham, and the children he had through Hagar, Keturah, and Sarah. We then focus in on his son Isaac and Isaac's sons Edom (Esau) and Israel (Jacob). There is then a list of the Kings who ruled in Edom. 

Chapter 2 

We then go back to Jacob (Israel) and his sons, starting with his fourth son Judah. Judah's line led to Obed, Jesse and David.

We also hear that Caleb was the son of Hezron (a descendant of Judah) whose firstborn son was Jerahmeel. And we learn that Caleb's line were the Kenites. Caleb’s relative Achar (or Achan) is also mentioned here as the one in the Book of Joshua who violated the devoted things and brought trouble on Israel.

Chapter 3 

We then jump back to King David whom we hear had six sons at Hebron, four by Bathshua (or Bathsheba) … and also nine others.

David’s son Solomon's line led to Jeconiah (or Jehoiakim) at the time of the exile to Babylon, and then later to the sons of Elioenai, who were of the royal line after the exile. 

Chapter 4 

We then get more lists of the clans of Judah and were learn that Reaiah's sons were the Zorathites.

We then briefly hear about how God blessed a man named Jabez when he prayed to be blessed.

Also, we hear that Shelah's sons worked for the king.

We then move on to the Jacob’s third-born son, Simeon, and his descendants, and we hear that Simeon's line moved away to Gedor to seek pasture. 

Chapter 5 

The book continues on with the genealogies, and we finally get to Jacob’s first-born son Reuben. We then hear about how Reuben lost his birthright, and how his sons lived in Gilead.

We also hear that the sons of Gad and the sons of Manasseh lived in Bashan until the captivity.


















Monday, March 9, 2020

READ IT! - Introduction to James 4-5


Readings for this week


Monday: James 4
Tuesday: James 5
Wednesday: 1st Chronicles 1
Thursday: 1st Chronicles 2
Friday: 1st Chronicles 3
Saturday: 1st Chronicles 4
Sunday: 1st Chronicles 5



Chapter 4 

He then summarizes his main theme – the reward of faith. He starts with the issue of the prayer of faith, saying, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

He then discusses the issue of friendship with the world, saying, “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace.”

And he quotes the Scriptures, saying:

“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”

He then discusses the humility of faith, saying, “Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

He then gets into some more specifics, starting with a call to avoid worldly influences. He starts by addressing the issue of slander in the community, saying, “Do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?”

He then addresses the issue of boasting about tomorrow, saying, “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.”

And he adds, “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” 

Chapter 5 

He then offers a warning to “wealthy oppressors”:

“Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.”

He then talks about the patience of faith, saying, “Be patient until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against one another or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!”

He then offers some biblical examples of patience in suffering, saying, “Take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.”

And then he adds, “Above all, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’ Otherwise you will be condemned.”

He then discusses the prayer of faith, saying:

“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

He gives a biblical example:

“Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.”

And he concludes his letter by saying:

“If one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”

















Friday, March 6, 2020

READ IT! - Introduction to James 1-3


Introduction to The Epistle of James 


Context of James 

The epistle is traditionally attributed to James (Hebrew: Jacob) the brother of Jesus, and the audience is generally considered to be Jewish Christians, who were dispersed outside Palestine.

Within the New Testament canon, the Epistle of James is noteworthy because it makes no reference to the death, resurrection, or divine sonship of Jesus. It refers to Jesus twice, as "the Lord Jesus Christ" and as "our glorious Lord Jesus Christ" (James 1:1, 2:1).

"The Letter of James also, according to the majority of scholars who have carefully worked through its text in the past two centuries, is among the earliest of New Testament compositions. It contains no reference to the events in Jesus' life, but it bears striking testimony to Jesus' words. Jesus' sayings are embedded in James' exhortations in a form that is clearly not dependent on the written Gospels."

If written by James the brother of Jesus, it would have been written sometime before AD 69 (or AD 62), when he was martyred. Jerusalem would also be the place of writing.

The earliest extant manuscripts of James usually date to the mid-to-late 3rd century.

James is considered New Testament wisdom literature: "like Proverbs and Sirach, it consists largely of moral exhortations and precepts of a traditional and eclectic nature." 

Similarities between James and Acts 

James’ speech in Acts 15 contains many striking parallels in language with the epistle of James. For example, χαίρω is found in Jas. 1:1 and Acts 15:23 (and elsewhere in Acts only in 23:26); Acts 15:17 and Jas. 2:7 invoke God’s name in a special way; the exhortation for the brothers (ἀδελφοι) to hear is found both in Jas. 2:5 and Acts 15:13. Further, not-so-common individual words are found in both: ἐπισκέπτεσθε (Jas. 1:27;Acts 15:14); ἐπιστρέφειν (Jas. 5:19 and Acts 15:19); τηρεῖν (or διατηρεῖν) ἑαυτόν (Jas. 1:27; Acts 15:29); ἀγαπητός (Jas. 1:16, 19; 2:5; Acts 15:25). Though short of conclusive proof, this is nevertheless significant corroborative evidence the James on Acts is the same as the James here.

Similarities with the teaching of Jesus 

“There are more parallels in this Epistle than in any other New Testament book to the teaching of our Lord in the Gospels.” The parallels to the Sermon on the Mount are especially acute: 


Chapter 1 

The book opens with a salutation and claims to be written by “James (Hebrew: Jacob), a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ”. It says it is written to “the twelve tribes scattered among the nations”

The first section of the book is on enduring trials, with the main theme being the testing of faith.

He first addresses faith in the context God’s sovereignty, perseverance, and gifts, saying, “Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds. The testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

Then he addresses faith and doubt, saying, “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt. The one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”

He then gives more specifics, saying, “The person who doubts should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. They are double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

He then discusses faith and finances, saying, “Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.”

He again addresses faith and perseverance, saying, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”

He then addresses faith and fatalism, saying, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don’t be deceived. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.”

In the next section of the book, James addresses the application of faith within the Church. His main them here is the obedience of faith.

First, he addresses anger versus obedience, saying, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.”

Then, he addresses passivity versus obedience, saying, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. Whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”

He then addresses speech and obedience, saying, “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.”

He then addresses the impartiality of obedience, saying, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” 

Chapter 2 

He then discusses partiality versus obedience, saying, “Believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.” He then offers a hypothetical situation:

“Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”

He then gives a rebuke for showing partiality:

“Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?”

He then offers the conditions of obedience:

“If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘You shall not murder.’ If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.”

He then comes to the principle of his topic:

“Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

He then discusses passivity versus obedience, posing the question, “What good is it if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?”

And he offers a hypothetical situation to make his point:

“Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

And he makes a rational argument, pointing to the passive faith of demons, saying, “But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?”

He then makes a biblical argument, pointing to the active faith of Abraham and Rahab, saying, “Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?”

And he comes to the principle of his point, saying, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” 

Chapter 3 

He then discusses speech and obedience, saying that the tongue is a measure of maturity. He says, “Not many of you should become teachers because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.”

He then makes some analogous arguments, first regarding the smallness of the tongue.

Example One: When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal.

Example Two: Although ships are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.

Example three: The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. A great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

He then makes an analogous argument regarding the tamed tongue.

Example: All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

He then makes some analogous arguments regarding the “forked” tongue.

Example One: With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. This should not be.

Example Two: Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?

Example Three: Can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs?

He then discusses the wisdom of obedience, saying, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. If you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. Where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”






















Monday, March 2, 2020

READ IT! - Introduction to Malachi


Readings for this week

Monday: Malachi 1
Tuesday: Malachi 2
Wednesday: Malachi 3
Thursday: Malachi 4
Friday: James 1
Saturday: James 2
Sunday: James 3


Introduction to The Book of Malachi 

Malachi’s name means “my messenger.” He disputed with God’s people in post-exilic Jerusalem because they had grown lax in their faith. This book appears to be presented as a lovers’ quarrel between God and His people. 

Chapter 1 

First, there is a dispute over God’s love…

God: I love you.
People: Oh, really? Prove it!
God: I rebuilt you, didn’t I? Take a look at your neighbor. I didn’t rebuild Edom. Remember Jacob and Esau? Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.

Next, there is a dispute over poor spiritual leadership. The first issue address is over breaking the Covenant through blemished sacrifices…

God: Why don’t you respect me?
People: When have we ever not shown you proper respect?
God: Is it respectful to offer me blind, lame, and diseased sheep for sacrifices? Your own governor wouldn’t accept such cheap gifts, so why should I? I deserve an apology. 

Chapter 2 

An additional warning is given to the priests…

God: If you don’t start listening to me, I am going to curse your blessings. I’ll wipe the filth from the sacrifices you gave me all over your faces! You children of Levi ought to know better than to lead my people astray! My covenant was about life, but you’re killing it!

Next, there is a dispute over breaking the Covenant. The first issue addressed is the breaking of the Covenant through divorce.

Malachi accuses the people:

Isn’t God the father of us all? Why do we break his covenant? You men have broken your covenant with God by marrying women who worship other gods!

People: Why doesn’t God listen to us anymore?
Malachi: Because you cheated on the wife of your youth!
God: You hated your wife, and you divorced her. You were supposed to protect her, but instead you were violent with her! So watch out!

The next issue addressed is the breaking of the Covenant through injustice.

Malachi: God is worn out from listening to you.
People: What did we say?
Malachi: You said that God loves it when people do evil deeds, and you acted like he doesn’t care about justice!
God: I will send my messenger ahead of me to prepare for my coming. I will come suddenly; my messenger will come – the one you supposedly look forward to. My messenger will burn the evil right out of you, and I will come and put you on trial! 

Chapter 3 

The next issue addressed is the breaking of the Covenant by withholding tithes.

God: Return to me and I will return to you.
People: How can we return?
God: Stop robbing me! Do you really think a mortal can rob God?
People: How are we robbing you?
God: In tithes and offerings!

The next dispute is over futile worship. The first issue addressed is that Israel speaks arrogantly against God.

God: You spoke arrogantly to me.
People: What did we say?
God: You said that it’s pointless to serve me, and you said that I have no understanding of justice.

After this, Malachi discusses the faithful remnant, saying, “Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name.” 

Chapter 4 

The book ends with a discussion of judgment and Covenant renewal.

God says:

“‘Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves. Then you will trample on the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I act,’ says the Lord Almighty.”

“Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.”

“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”






Monday, February 24, 2020

READ IT! - Introduction to Hebrews 7-13


Readings for this week


Monday: Hebrews 7
Tuesday: Hebrews 8
Wednesday: Hebrews 9
Thursday: Hebrews 10
Friday: Hebrews 11
Saturday: 
Hebrews 12
Sunday: 
Hebrews 13


Introduction to Hebrews 7-13

Chapter 7 

This chapter contains an exposition about the superiority of Christ's priesthood through the Priest-King Melchizedek to the Levitical priesthood.

He writes, “For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated "king of righteousness,” and then also king of Salem, meaning “king of peace," [For this Melchizedek] without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.”

He then goes on to describe the greatness of Melchizedek and the imperfection of the Aaronic priesthood, saying, “Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils. Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, for it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood.

But he says that Jesus is superior because of the divine oath as he “has become a surety of a better covenant.”

Further aspects of Jesus' priesthood are introduced here and will be explored in the next chapters, that is, Jesus' role as a "guarantor" of a better covenant, superior to the old covenant as much as his priesthood is superior to that of Aaron. The author emphasizes the superior dignity of Jesus by arranging the weight of argument to fall on the word "Jesus" as the last word of this verse in the original Greek text. 

The "covenant" or "testament", for the Greek word may signify both (a testament, because it is established in the good will of God, and includes an inheritance bequeathed by God the Father to his children, confirmed and given to them by the death of Christ the testator; and a covenant, because it is a compact or agreement made by the Father with Christ, as the representative of all the elect) is called in Scripture a "covenant of life and peace", and is also commonly called the "covenant of grace", because it springs from the grace of God, and the end of it is the glory of God's grace.

The writer says it is superior because of its permanence. He says, “But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

The writer says it is superior because of the character of Jesus. He says, “For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.”

There is no explicit ordinance for a high priest to offer daily sacrifices for his own sins, but 'inadvertent sinning' (such as described in Leviticus 4) could be a 'daily hazard' and, in his position, if not taken care of, it could bring guilt on the people. Therefore, it becomes a custom to for the high priest to first offer sacrifices on his own account, before performing his task for the people, as also attested by the first-century Jewish writer, Philo. 

He continues, “For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever.”

The 'new and perpetual priesthood after Melchizedek's order', given under oath by the Divine acclamation, was designed to supersede the previous priesthood under the ancient law, which was beset by frailty and required sin offerings for the high priest as well as the people. The supersession became effective once the Messiah ("the Son") “vindicated his high-priestly title on the basis of a perfect sacrifice”, so his “high-priesthood is absolutely efficacious and eternally suited to meet the need of his people”. 


Chapter 8 

This chapter contains an exposition about the better ministry of the New Covenant.

First, the writer discusses the work of the heavenly High Priest. This section serves as an introduction to the homily about the New Covenant based on Jeremiah 31. 

He writes, “Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man, who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, ‘See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.’” 

Following the introduction to the homily, the oracle in Jeremiah 31 is discussed as the word of God. 

He writes, “In that He says, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.”

Chapter 9 

This chapter contains an exposition about the ministry of the first covenant and Christ's effective sacrifice. The chapter opens with a contrast between “the old and new covenants by reviewing the structure and rituals of the tabernacle”. 

He writes:

“Then indeed, even the first covenant had ordinances of divine service and the earthly sanctuary. For a tabernacle was prepared: the first part, in which was the lampstand, the table, and the showbread, which is called the sanctuary; and behind the second veil, the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All, which had the golden censer and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which were the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant; and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.” 

"Mercy seat" is translated from the Greek word hilasterion, which specifically means the lid of the Ark of the Covenant. The only other occurrence of hilasterion in the New Testament is in Romans 3:25 where it is often translated as "propitiation". 

The defining moment in the current situation is when “Christ came” as High Priest to fulfill the symbolized act of yearly ritual. The Greek word diathēkē used here has a range of meaning from “contract” or “treaty” to “will” or “testament”, which is elaborated in legal language in this section. 

He writes, “And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.”

The promise of an “inheritance” in “ordinary legal usage” implies “the death of a testator”, who in this case then “redeems” "the heirs from their transgressions".

He writes, “And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.” He says “almost all things” because "some things were cleansed by water, and others purged by fire". 

The then discusses the new heavenly sacrifice. The new description of Christ's “heavenly” action in this part is balanced by the incorporation of the “image of ritual purification” from the previous verses. 

He writes, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.”

Chapter 10 

This chapter contains an exposition about Christ's effective sacrifice and the exhortation to continue in faithfulness and expectancy. As foreshadowed in Jeremiah 31, the Messiah “inaugurated the new and interior covenant by an act of conformity to God's will". 

The writer says, “For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” These verses contain one of the four things to be “impossible” according to this epistle. It is the will of God that the believers be sanctified and Christ's act of obedience made God's will his own, because Christ's death conformed to God's will and Christ's obedience—attested in the Gethsemane story and John’s Gospel—is decisive for establishing the new covenant. This is also the first time in the epistle that the composite name “Jesus Christ” appears. 

The next section summarizes and weaves together the themes of the previous few chapters. He writes, “For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” By his one sacrifice Jesus Christ did what the law of Moses, and all its sacrifices, could not do. 

The writer then encourages the readers to hold fast to faith. This part contains an exhortation to live as members of the "new covenant" which stresses faith, hope, and love. 

He also gives a warning with his encouragement.

He writes:

"For yet a little while,
And He who is coming will come and will not tarry." 

This verse combines the quote “a little while” from Isaiah 26:20 with the quote “will not tarry” from Habakkuk 2:3 in its Greek form, rendering it as a prediction of one “who is coming” that points to the imminence of Christ's second coming.

He continues:

"Now the just shall live by faith;
But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him." 

This comes from the Septuagint version of Habakkuk 2:4 which reads:

“If he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him, but the righteous one will live by faith.” Here "he shrinks back" is not applied to the "coming one" but to "those who await God's deliverance." Paul also cites Habakkuk 2:4 in Galatians 3:11 and Romans 1:17 to contrast "faith" and "works of the law". 

He continues, “But we are not of those who draw back to destruction, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.”

Chapter 11

This chapter contains an exposition about the examples of faith's effective expression. It opens with three allusive verses to describe the complexity of faith.

He writes:

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.”

This formal definition of faith is in the style of Plato's definition of medicine or Plutarch's definition of curiosity. The accounts of exemplary people were often used to motivate people, either to imitate noble attitudes or to avoid the pattern of ignoble behaviors. Some examples include Ben Sira (a teacher of wisdom from Jerusalem in the 2nd century BC) who used a long hymn to praise notable Jewish ancestors, as well as the author of 4th Maccabees, and Seneca. The list of examples starts appropriately with the creation, indicating that "faith" produces "understanding". The first manifestation of "trust" is connected to how a person of "faith" understands the visible creation in relation to "things unseen".

The writer goes through a list of exemplary people of faith, starting with the primordial heroes. The first character, Abel, performed an “acceptable sacrifice”, and died as a martyr. Abel's choice of superior quality of offering compared to Cain's second rate one is related to the presence of "faith", which attests Abel to be "righteous" or "just".

Enoch “walked with God” until God took him, indicating that having faith in God leads to the transcendence of death.

Noah believed in the “unseen” event of divine judgment, and “condemned” the world that didn't believe his preaching of repentance.

He writes, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” This verse contains one of the four things found to be 'impossible' according to this epistle.

The writer then goes through a list of exemplary people of faith among the Patriarchs. Abraham is a foremost example of faith in Jewish and early Christian literature. Sarah's faith is related to the conception and birth of Isaac, Isaac's to the blessings on Jacob and Esau, Jacob's to the blessings on Ephraim and Manasseh, and Joseph's to the prophecy concerning the transfer of his bones to hint a hope for the future of the family.

He then talks about the faith of Moses who is called a faithful servant of God in both Jewish and Christian writings.

He then goes on to discuss the faith of prophets and martyrs, giving a quick rundown of several different biblical characters.

He also writes, “Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection.” This is a reference to events recorded in 2nd Maccabees.

Chapter 12

This chapter contains a call to respond gratefully and nobly to God's invitation.

He writes, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

And he says, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.”

Chapter 13

This closing chapter contains the author's concluding exhortations, final benediction and a postscript.

He says to “let love continue” and that “marriage should be honored.”

He writes, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Let us bear the reproach Christ endured.”

He then tells them to submit to their leaders, and also mentions that Timothy has been set free and he will bring him along to see them if he arrives back in time. Timothy was Paul's companion and is mentioned multiple times in the New Testament, and is obviously known by the recipients of this letter. "Set free" can also be translated as "set at liberty" or "dismissed" either from his current duty (sent by the apostle Paul), or released from prison.

The letter ends with a blessing: “Grace be with you.”





Monday, February 17, 2020

READ IT! - Introduction to Hebrews 1-6


Readings for this week


Monday: Zechariah 14
Tuesday: Hebrews 1
Wednesday: 
Hebrews 2
Thursday: 
Hebrews 3
Friday: 
Hebrews 4
Saturday: 
Hebrews 5
Sunday: 
Hebrews 6


Introduction to Hebrews 1-6

Author: 

The text does not mention the name of its author, but was traditionally attributed to Paul the Apostle. However, doubt on Pauline authorship is seen very early on in the Roman Church as reported by Eusebius. Modern biblical scholarship considers its authorship unknown, perhaps written in deliberate imitation of the style of Paul. Although the writer's style reflects some characteristics of Paul's writing, there are some differences. 

Audience: 

Scholars believe it was written for Jewish Christians who lived in Jerusalem.

Context: 

Its purpose was to exhort Christians to persevere in the face of persecution. At this time, certain believers were considering turning back to Judaism (the Jewish system of law) to escape being persecuted for accepting Christ as their savior, now following this system of grace (saved by Jesus' sacrifice on the cross).

Themes: 

The theme of the epistle is the doctrine of the person of Christ and his role as mediator between God and humanity. 


Chapter 1 

We start with an introduction about God's final revelation ('word') through his son and how the son is superior to angels. 

The writer attests that God spoke decisively to Israel through the prophets and that he finally and fully revealed his character and will by his son, with the greatness and absolute superiority over the angels, the supernatural beings considered by Israel to be closest to God. 

The writer says, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds.” 

While the Old Testament revelation in time past came at many times throughout the history of Israel and in various ways such as 'dreams, visions and angelic messages', the ultimate revelation in these last days of human history came through Jesus Christ as the Son of God, who was with God from the beginning and through whom God made the universe (basically 'the whole universe of space and time'. The Son is also appointed as the heir of all things to possess and rule over 'all that was created through him'. 

The writer says of Jesus: “who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.”

The Son reveals in his person what God is really like.

When the writer says that Jesus "Sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high" he is referencing the language of Psalm 110 and describing an image of the heavenly enthronement of the Son of God which is the sequel of his atoning work. 

The writer than discusses the Son's Superiority to Angels. The reference to the heavenly enthronement of the Son in the previous part is followed by the explanation of his position to the angelic world, using Psalm 110 as the framework to understand various other Old Testament texts. 

He asks: 

“For to which of the angels did He ever say:
‘You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You’?

And again:

‘I will be to Him a Father,
And He shall be to Me a Son’?” 

The writer also references Psalm 2 because of the prophecy pertaining to the Messiah as the Son of David, as well as 2 Samuel 7 which he understands as the theological basis of God's special promise to David and his dynasty. 

He refers to Psalm 97, saying: 

“And again, when He brings the firstborn into the world, He says:
‘Let all the angels of God worship Him.’” 

And he refers to Psalm 104 as well: 

“And of the angels He says:
‘Who makes His angels spirits
And His ministers a flame of fire.’” 

And he adds: 

“But to the Son He says:
‘Your throne, O God, lasts forever and ever;
a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
with the oil of gladness more than Your companions.’” 

And he refers to Psalm 110 again, asking: 

“But to which of the angels has He ever said:
‘Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool’?” 

Jesus also quoted Psalm 110 in Matthew’s Gospel and applied it to the Messiah, who is greater than angels, because “the angels do not exercise the authority and rule of the Son”. 

Chapter 2 

This chapter begins with the implications for responding to God's Son. 

The first paragraph, the first of several warning passages, gives the direct practical consequences of the previous chapter, which can be a positive encouragement (pay more careful attention to what we have heard) or a negative attitude (drift away). The writer and readers were not part of the first generation of Christians when the gospel of salvation was first “announced by the Lord – that is, Jesus Christ – and was confirmed by those who heard him”, but they certainly received it from those who had obtained it from Jesus with the affirmation from God by “signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” 

The writer then discusses the subjection and glorification of the Son. The writer says, “For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels.”

"The world to come" recalls Israel's hope for "a glorious age to come", with the renewal of creation through the establishment of 'new heavens and new earth' (see Isaiah 65) which is sometimes specifically associated with the work of the Messiah (see Isaiah 11). 

The writer then discusses the benefits of the believers. He says, “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” This the first time the title "High Priest" is given to Jesus in this epistle, and this is going to be the theme of the next major division (3:1–5:10). Here it is linked closely with the teaching that he had to be “made like his brothers” in every way.

The writer says, “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” We know that at the beginning of his public ministry and a little before his death, Jesus was tempted by Satan; also throughout his life he endured poverty, with slight from his own relatives, a general contempt among men, often tempted by the Jews with ensnaring questions, later was deserted by his followers, by his own disciples, even by his God and Father; enduring great pains of body, anguish of mind, then lastly death itself.

The writer says this was "to aid those who are tempted" and that only because he shared human nature, experienced human frailty and suffered when he was tempted, so Jesus is able to provide the appropriate help. 

Chapter 3 

This chapter contains the comparison of Moses to Jesus ('the Son'), as well as the application and warning for the congregation. The writer points to Moses and Jesus as examples of faith. The faithfulness of Jesus to God as the one who appointed him is paralleled with the faithfulness of Moses, inviting us to completely trust Jesus. 

The writer says, “Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus, who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all His house.”

The phrase "holy brethren" or "holy brothers" suggests a family relationship between true believers, both men and women, as 'pilgrims' who share in the heavenly calling to reign with Jesus Christ in “the world to come”. 

The writer also discusses Moses' foundational role as the revealer of God's will to Israel. 

He writes, “For this One has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who built the house has more honor than the house.” "The house" or "the temple", may refer to Zechariah 6:12-13 pointing to Christ who is the builder, foundation, and cornerstone of "the church", where he is glorified.

The writer then calls the readers to faithfulness. The Holy Spirit, who is acknowledged as the one spoken “through David” in Psalm 95, continues to speak to generations of Christians and warn them to “make each day a fresh ‘Today’ to hear his voice and live”.

Chapter 4 

This chapter contains the admonition to press on toward 'God's Rest' and a reflection on the power of God's Word. 

The writer continues to calls the readers to faithfulness. He quotes David, saying: 

"Today, if you will hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts." 

David is explicitly named to have written these words from Psalm 95, which happened long after the Israelites already enjoyed rest and had been established in Canaan under the leadership of Joshua. Therefore, this day ("Today") is another day in the future for God's people to enter a heavenly rest, beyond the enjoyment of life in the land of Israel. 

The writer says, “For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day.” The "rest" experienced by the Israelites in the time of Joshua was “an earthly anticipation of the ultimate, heavenly rest”, an old covenant promise that is fulfilled in a transformed way by Jesus Christ. 

He writes, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

He then talks about the compassion of Christ. The characteristic term of this section is 'High Priest', which links to the beginning of the previous section as an introduction to the new segment. 

He writes, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” 

Chapter 5 

This chapter contains an exposition about the merciful Christ and the High Priests, followed by an exhortation to challenge the readers beyond the elementary teachings. 

The verses 1–4 highlight certain qualifications for high-priesthood under the old covenant, as a basis for applying it to Jesus to be the high priest for the new covenant (verses 5–6), who can 'sympathise with our weaknesses' without ever having sinned (verses 7–8), and was 'made completely adequate' as the savior of his people (verses 9–10). 

He also points out that one must be called by God to the office of high-priesthood, because the honor of that office is given by God alone. The same is true for Jesus. 

And he quotes Psalm 2:

"You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You." 

And Psalm 110:

"You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek" 

The writer the gives an admonition on spiritual immaturity. Here he gives warnings to the readers in preparation for the serious arguments in chapters 7–10, because the subsequent teaching about the high-priestly work of Christ will not be comprehended or applied by those who are slow to learn or continue to avoid solid food, unwilling to study the deeper faith implications, and if so, they can never be mature Christians. 

He says, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.”

One sign of the slackness in the faith development is the unwillingness (or inability) to be teachers, that is, to explain the faith they learned to other people. Here, "milk" is equated with "the first principles of the oracles of God" (Greek: ta stoicheia tēs archēs tōn logiōn tou Theou), which could mean 'the guidelines' for interpreting the sayings of God (from a Christian point-of-view).

Chapter 6 

This chapter contains an admonition to progress and persistence in faithfulness.

He says, “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to be renewed once more to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and subject Him to public shame.”

According to this epistle, there are four things found to be 'impossible'; the first one is about the impossibility to restore apostates, resembling other early Christian expressions of 'the unforgivable sin' or the 'mortal sin'. In rejecting the one whose death brings salvation, the apostates join those who disgracefully executed Jesus, whose solemn designation as “Son of God” reinforces “the heinousness of apostasy”. 

He then encourages them to persevere. He says, “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and continue to minister.”

The point is not to focus on the reward for services, because God knows the real situation of people's spiritual lives and he can motivate the expressions of 'genuine Christianity' anytime, just like in the past, and also again in the future.

He then talks about the steadfastness of God's promise. He says, “For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, so that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.” 

Christian hope is based not on wishful thinking but on the 'solemn promise of God', that the 'foundation of God's saving activity in the world was the particular promise made to Abraham in Genesis 12 and repeated at different times and forms to the forefathers of Israel. These verses also contain one of the four things found to be 'impossible' in this epistle – God cannot lie. 

He writes, “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil…” This verse and the next should be read in the light of Hebrews 7:20-22, that because Jesus is the promised high priest in the order of Melchizedek, he has become “the guarantee” of the blessings of the new covenant, so those who rely on Jesus can actually enter the inner sanctuary behind the curtain ("the Presence behind the veil"), where “he has gone before them and has entered on their behalf” ("the forerunner has entered for us").