WHEN GOD SPOKE IN THE BEST WAY
"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways," declares the Lord. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8-9).
Once upon a time, there were a group of goldfish who lived in a bowl. They had lived in the bowl as long as they could remember and none of them had ever left the bowl and come back to tell about what was on the outside.
One day, one goldfish asked another, "What do you think is outside the bowl? This question generated quite a bit of speculation and, after a while, the goldfish came up with several possible answers.
One goldfish maintained that there was nothing outside the goldfish bowl. He maintained that, since he could see nothing in the side of the bowl but his own reflection, it was silly to believe in the existence of anything that could not be seen. Another goldfish suggested that perhaps the goldfish bowl was surrounded by another goldfish bowl and that this bowl sat inside another bowl which itself was in a bigger bowl. He theorized that there might be an endless succession of goldfish bowls. A third fish stated that the goldfish bowl must have come into existence just by chance and that it was the result of a "big bang. He described this phenomenon in big words so that the other goldfish would be properly impressed.
There was one little goldfish who was dissatisfied with all of the theories of his companions and he decided that the only way to find out what was on the outside the bowl would be to try to leave the bowl. With this in mind, he circled three times and then swam straight up as fast as he could.
The other goldfish watched him as he jumped out through the shimmering surface of the water. They continued to watch, but the little goldfish did not return.
After a while, the first goldfish said, "He must have ceased to exist, because we all know that nothing can exist outside the bowl." The second goldfish said, "Oh no, he moved up to a higher plane of existence. He has gone on to that larger bowl. The third goldfish said, "You are both wrong. He has evolved and changed into a new life form." And to this day, the three goldfish still disagree as to what happened to their small companion.
We are not goldfish, but we share a similar characteristic. We all live in a bowl that we could call the Natural Bowl. By this, I mean that we are bounded by time and space. There is a whole world of the supernatural that is unknown to us because we are limited by our natural bodies.
We are unequipped to know anything about God or about angels or about life outside our own physical existence. But we do not have to remain ignorant about these things. God has spoken. He has spoken through prophets and He has spoken through dreams and He has spoken through signs and He has spoken through His written word. Most importantly, He has spoken through His Son. Jesus Christ entered the goldfish bowl by Himself becoming a goldfish.
This is the message of the book of Hebrews. It is that God has made Himself known to man by becoming a man in the person of Jesus.
GOD SPOKE TO THE FATHERS
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways (Hebrews 1:1).
The writer begins the book of Hebrews in the form of an essay. He skips over the customary salutation and greeting that would be found in an epistle and goes right to the heart of the matter. He is going to talk about the fact that God has spoken. We could sum up this verse in three points. There are three major truths that are presented.
1. God Exists.
This is not argued. It is not proven by the author. It is simply taken for granted as an obvious truth.
By the way, I did not begin this lesson by trying to prove that I exist. My existence is clearly evident. If I do not exist, then who wrote this paper that you are reading? In the same way, God never sets out to prove His own existence. He takes it for granted.
2. God Has Spoken.
God is on the outside of the goldfish bowl of our physical existence. He cannot be seen by our eyes or measured in a laboratory. He cannot be reproduced in a test tube. This means that, unless He had spoken to us, we could never know Him.
3. God Spoke in many Portions and in many Ways.
The revelation of God through the Old Testament prophets was fragmentary. It was here a little, there a little. It was also progressive. The writer of Genesis had a certain limited amount of information. The writer of Joshua had a little more. The writer of Samuel had even more. Each writer added to the pool of knowledge about God and about existence outside the goldfish bowl of our existence.
In each case, the Old Testament prophets came away with another glimpse of the character and the person of God.
But the final and complete communication of God was not accomplished through any of these means. The final and complete communication of God was accomplished through His Son.
GOD HAS SPOKEN IN HIS SON
...in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. (Hebrews 1:2).
We have seen the many ways that God spoke to the fathers through the prophets. But now we see that God has spoken AGAIN.
After God spoke through the prophets there was a great silence. For 400 years there had been no prophets to speak the word of the Lord. But now, in these last days, God has spoken through a new agency which had never before been used. He now spoke to man through His Son.
This is the fullest revelation of God. It is the person of Jesus Christ. It is the person of the One who was God and who became man so that He might communicate the Father to us.
God has spoken...
To the fathers...
In the prophets...
In His Son...
In many portions and in many ways.
In these last days.
Now I want to ask you a question. Why is the writer making such a point? Why is it so important to know that Jesus is the fullest revelation of God?
It is because the Jews to whom he is writing are in danger of turning away from Jesus to go back to the incomplete teachings of the Old Testament prophets.
This is important! The teachings of the Old Testament prophets were not wrong. They were only incomplete. They were a partial revelation. They were in many portions and in many ways.
But the revelation that came in the person of Jesus is a complete revelation. He was better than the prophets because He exhibited the very person and character of God. He said to Philip on the night of the Last Supper, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father." (John 14:9).
None of the prophets could ever make a claim like that. Their knowledge of God was always limited. But Jesus had an experiential knowledge of God because He was the Son of God.
Let me use an illustration. If you wanted to get to know me, you could talk to someone who knew me. They could tell you a lot about me. You might come away with a certain amount of knowledge about me and what I do for a living. But if you really wanted to get to know me, the best way would be to talk to me.
The same is true of God. The best way to learn about God is to meet Him in the flesh. You meet Him in the flesh when you meet Jesus Christ.
God has been revealed in the prophets. He has been revealed in the Bible. But the best revelation of God came through Jesus Christ.
In many different parts.
A full revelation rather than a partial one
At many different times
Once at the end of the age
Through a Son
The Old Testament revalation was good
The new revelation in Christ is better
First came the prophets
Then came the Son
The second revelation completed the first revelation
The Fathers had only the first revelation
We have BOTH revelations
THE PREEMINENCE OF JESUS CHRIST
In these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.
And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. when He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. (Hebrews 1:2-3).
The message of Hebrews is that Jesus is better. As the book opens, we see that Jesus is better than the Old Testament prophets. This is seen in seven ways.
1. His Heirship.
...whom He appointed heir of all things (Hebrews 1:2).
Jesus is better than the prophets because He has been appointed heir of all things. The Old Testament prophets foretold of a coming kingdom. They envisioned a time when God would take His throne on the earth and rule over the kingdoms of the earth.
I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven one like the Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him.
And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14).
Notice the title which is used in this passage. It is the "Son of Man." This is a title which Jesus often used of Himself. He has been given the dominion of the kingdom of God. He is the heir of the kingdom.
2. His Role in the Creation.
...through whom also He made the world. (Hebrews 1:2).
Jesus is better than the prophets because He is the creator of the universe. None of the prophets ever created anything. None of the prophets were present at creation. The only way that the prophets knew about the creation was because God had told them about it. But Jesus was there. And He wasn’t merely there as a passive observer.
There is more in view here than just the creation of the world. The word which has been translated "world" is the Greek word which means "ages."
Jesus Christ is the key to history. He designed the ages of man. He has planned the beginning and the ending. Each event is firmly in His control.
3. His Radiance: And He is the radiance of His glory (Hebrews 1:3).
Jesus said that He is the light of the world (John 8:12). The glory of God has been made visible so that men may see it. That glory is manifested in the person of Christ.
None of the prophets could be called "the radiance of His glory." Do you remember Moses, when he had gone up on Mount Sinai and had stood in the presence of God? He came back down, and his face shown with the brightness of reflected glory.
That radiance only came because Moses had been in the presence of God. It was not because Moses was anything special.
But the radiance of Jesus Christ exists on the basis of who He IS. He is the light of the world. He is not a mere reflection of that light. He IS the light.
4. His Nature: And He is... the exact representation of His nature (Hebrews 1:3).
The prophets sometimes caught a glimpse of the nature of God. When we read the Scriptures, we often see some of the attributes of God. We see that He is holy and righteous and loving and gracious.
But Jesus manifested all of these qualities in His person. He is the exact representation of the nature of God. Do you want to know what God is like? Look at Jesus. Do you want to know how God thinks? Listen to Jesus.
5. His Power over All Things.
And He... upholds all things by the word of His power. (Hebrews 1:3).
Not only did all of the ages come into being through the Son, but they also are maintained through His power.
This is important for you to know. Are you having problems? They were planned by the Son and now they are being held together by the Son. Is there something about your present situation that is stressful? Jesus Christ designed that situation with you in mind and now He is holding it together by the word of His power.
Don t miss this! The One who died for you and gave His life for you has carefully brought you to your present situation. Nothing has come into your life for which He did not plan and for which He did not make provision. There are no problems which are too big for Him to handle. When everything looks as though it is going to fly apart, don t worry. He is holding it all together.
6. His Purification of Sins: ...when He had made purification of sins (Hebrews 1:3).
One thing that the prophets were never able to accomplish was the purification of sins. The priests could offer sacrifices in the temple, but the blood of bulls arid goats was never sufficient to purify sins. And so, the sacrifices always had to be repeated. The truth was that they merely looked forward to a future sacrifice which God would provide. That ultimate sacrifice was made on the cross when the Son of God sacrificed Himself for the sins of the world.
7. He Sat Down.
...when He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:3).
The Old Testament priests administered sacrifices every day in the temple. Each day, one of the priests was chosen to enter the temple and to offer incense upon the altar. Beyond this and only once a year, the high priest was permitted to enter into the holiest part of the inner temple to sprinkle blood upon the ark of the covenant which was kept within. These offerings went on day by day and year by year. Priests were always entering the temple.
There was one thing that no priest ever did while he was inside the temple. No priest ever sat down inside the temple. He was not permitted. There were several articles of furniture in the Temple, but there was no chair. The only seat in the Temple was the Mercy Seat - the solid gold cover of the ark of the covenant. This represented the throne of God and no priest would ever dream of trying to sit on this seat. The priest never sat down while he was in the Temple. This was because the work of a priest was never completed. It was always a temporary work. The incense must always be offered again the next day. The blood must be sprinkled again the following year. The work was never done.
But when Jesus finished His work of purification on the cross, He ascended into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. He has a unique distinction. He is the Priest who is seated. He could sit down because His work is finished. The work of our salvation has been completed. As He hung upon the cross, He cried out, "IT IS FINISHED!" That cry signified that the payment for our sin was completed. The work is done. The ultimate sacrifice has been offered.
This is important for you to know. Many people have the mistaken idea that they must add something to the work of Christ in order to be saved. They think that the work of Christ was not sufficient in itself that they must add something to the payment that Christ made on the cross. But there is nothing that you can add to the work of Christ. It is a completed work. You cannot add anything to it. You can only accept it.
He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit. (Titus 3:5).
You can have the confidence of knowing that your sins have been removed. This salvation is found only in Jesus.