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Wandering in the Wilderness

Negev Desert in Israel

There have been many times in my life when I have felt far from God. I listen for His voice but I cannot hear it. It’s times like these that I feel I’m wandering in the wilderness.

I am sure that many of you feel that way in the isolation of your own homes during the Coronavirus pandemic. You may feel lonely, afraid, and far away from God. You seek to hear from Him. Yet it is quiet.

Recently in my studies, I have come across an encouraging message of existing in the wilderness. A beautiful picture opened up for me in the book of Numbers. Being a western, English speaking Christian, I’ve always thought that this book was about the census of the Israelites as they wandered in the desert for forty years.

But actually, in Hebrew, the title of this book is Bamidbar meaning “In The Wilderness”. When I read it, I found that the book of Bamidbar actually chronicled the 39 years the Israelites wandered in the wilderness. Oh sure, there is a census included, but the bulk of the book is the wilderness wanderings. The Israelites spent only one year at Mount Sinai. During that time they were constructing the Tabernacle under the watchful eye of Moses and the master architect Yahweh. Once completed, the presence of God in the cloud moved, and they were to pick up all their belongings, along with the Tabernacle, and move with the cloud. While they wandered, the presence of God was with them. When they camped, the presence of God was with them in the Tabernacle in the middle of the camp. He never left them.

That is comforting in itself, but there is more. The word for wilderness is midbar. In Hebrew, all words come from three letter consonants called root words. These three letters form the core meaning of all associated words. The root word for midbar is dbr (pronounced dabar) meaning to speak.

We should now have a better understanding of the wilderness. It is where God brings His people to speak to them. It is the place of His voice. It is the place of His nurturing and provision. On the flip side, it is where we can hear Him.

Think about that considering our current circumstance. Before Coronavirus, could we have been too busy with distractions to hear God speaking? Yet in the wilderness, where God has us right now, the distractions are less. We are here so that we might hear His voice and rely on Him for His provision, nurturing, and love.

Do not fear the wilderness because God is there. Let go of distractions and run to it, embrace it, enjoy it, and learn from Him as you sit at His feet and hear the voice of God. It is holy ground.

~ Jan Johnston

Posted by Jan Johnston with

Seeing Jesus in Hebrews

by Richard Davis

If you ask a Fifth grade Sunday School class what the book of Hebrews is about, most will probably get it right because they know that in Sunday School the answer to every question is Jesus.  Most of us have read the book of Hebrews several times and we do know that the book is very much about Jesus as our great high priest.  But, what else can we learn about Jesus in this book? 

Sometimes we may think the phrase “looking to Jesus” is a worn out platitude, but not this author.  In Heb 2:9 the author says that, “we see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels.”  And again, in Heb 12:2-3 the author enjoins us to be “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” and to “consider him (Jesus) who endured from sinners such hostility against himself…” 

So, keeping in mind these admonitions that we should look unto Jesus and consider him, let us ask ourselves what we can see about Jesus in the book of Hebrews.  I have read Hebrews many times over the years and each time I find things that I did not notice before.  So, I would like to share with you ten different aspects of seeing Jesus in Hebrews that I have gathered over the years.  

1. Jesus is our true and final prophet who declares to us God’s word

In the opening paragraph, we are told that, “In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son.”  In other words, Jesus is not another in the long line of prophets, he is the true and final prophet.  In this capacity he not only speaks to us the final word of God, but he is himself the final Word of God.    

2. Jesus is our true and final priest who intercedes for us.

In numerous verses (2:17, 3:1, 4:15, 8:1, 9:11) Jesus is referred to as our merciful and faithful high priest.  He is not another priest in the line of Aaron, but the one true and final priest in the line of Melchizedek (6:20).  As such he sympathizes with us (4:15); he intercedes for us (7:25); and he brings us into God’s presence (8:1-2, 9:24).  As Charles Wesley says, “Before the throne my surety stands, my name is written on his hands.”   

3. Jesus is our true and final sacrifice who pays the penalty for us

As wonderful as it is that Jesus is our high priest, that is not all he is.  All other priests could only bring an animal sacrifice to give to God.  Jesus, however, is himself the actual sacrifice presented to God on our behalf.  In 9:12 we read that Jesus “entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.”  As William Cowper so aptly writes, “There is a fountain filled with blood … washed all my sins away.”

4. Jesus is our true and final King who reigns over us.

Although the word “king” is not directly used for Jesus in Hebrews, he is likened to Melchizedek who is the king of righteousness and the king of peace (7:2).  We also see the image of kingship clearly presented in 2:9 where the author describes Jesus as being “crowned with glory and honor” and again in 1:3 and 8:1 and 12:2 where he is described and being seated on the right hand God’s throne.  As our king, Jesus most certainly reigns over us.  But notice the how and why.  It is because Jesus made “purification for sins” (1:3), “endured the cross” (12:2), and suffered death (2:9) that he has been crowned.  What a King he is! “Crown Him with Many Crowns … through all eternity.”

5. Jesus is our Captain or Champion who fights for us.

In 2:10 Jesus is described as the “founder of their salvation.”  This Greek word archēgon is variously translated as author, pioneer, captain, prince, or even champion.  Like David, Jesus fights our battle for us.  If translated as “prince of their deliverance” then this phrase could be understood as a comparison and contrast with Moses (3:2) and Joshua (4:8).  These forerunners fought for God’s people and led them to the promised land of rest.  Jesus likewise not only fights our battle, but he also leads us into the true rest of God. (4:3, 9)  He brings us victory because he is our victory (1Co 15:54-57); he brings us peace because he is our peace (Eph 2:14); and he brings us rest because he is our rest. (Matt 11:28-29)

6. Jesus is the one true and final apostle sent by God for us

In 3:1 Jesus is referred to as the “apostle” of our confession.  This is the only place in scripture that Jesus is called an apostle and so it may seem odd.  An apostle is one who is sent, and so we normally think of Jesus sending the 12 apostles.  Sometimes angels are sent by God (Lk 1:26).  But John and Peter and Paul all refer to Jesus as being sent by God the Father (Jn 8:42, Acts 3:26, Gal 4:4) for our benefit, our redemption, and our reconciliation.  So, we also see Jesus as the one true and perfect apostle who is the pattern for all others sent by God.  In this sense, he is also the true and perfect missionary. 

7. Jesus is our God who unites us to himself and makes us holy

Jesus is not only sent by God, but he is the one true God.  Jesus bears the exact imprint of God’s nature (1:3), he is unchanging and eternal (1:10-12), angels worship him (1:6), and he is the Son of God who passed through the heavens (4:14).  As we have already noted, he is not a God who is far from us, but a sympathetic priest.  In 3:14 we read that “we share in (or partake of) Christ.”  Why?  In 12:10 we are told that our discipline is so “that we might share in his holiness.”  In dying for us and interceding for us Christ desires to make us holy.  In 2:11 we read that “he (Jesus) who sanctifies (makes holy) and those who are sanctified (made holy) have all one origin.”  Jesus sanctifies us because as Paul says elsewhere he is himself our sanctification. (1Co 1:30)

8. Jesus is our brother who is not ashamed of us.   

In 2:11 we read that Jesus is “not ashamed to call them brothers.”  And in 2:12 that he will “proclaim God’s name to his brothers.”  In 2:17 it says that he was made like us in every way.  Even though Jesus is our King and our God, he still cares deeply for each of us in a familial way.  We might even say that Jesus is the true elder brother (Luke 15) who does not reject us in our waywardness, but comes along side us.  He longs for us, he provides for us, and he identifies with us.   

9. Jesus is our mediator who delivers our inheritance. 

In 9:15 and 12:24 Jesus is called the “mediator” who brings to us our inheritance.  We have already seen how Christ intercedes for us and represents us to God.  Jesus also brings God’s promises to us.  Extending the analogy from above, it is as if Jesus, as our true elder brother, shares with us the inheritance we do not deserve.  With gratitude we sing, “Jesus, What a Friend of Sinners … Hallelujah What a Savior.”

10. Jesus is our shepherd who cares for us

The last way we see Jesus in Hebrews is at the close of the book.  In 13:20 the author describes Jesus as “the great shepherd of the sheep.”  As our shepherd it says that he equips us so that we might do God’s will and be pleasing to him.  Throughout the book of Hebrews Jesus has been presented as one who suffers, leads, provides, teaches, intercedes, and reigns.  Perhaps it is fitting for the author to close by reminding us that Jesus is our shepherd who cares for us.  Seeing Jesus in Hebrews is meant to encourage and strengthen and motivate us to worship (13:15).  As the hymn says so well, “Fairest Lord Jesus … Beautiful Savior … Thee will I cherish … my soul’s glory, joy, and crown.” 

11. Jesus is the true physician who comes to heal us and make us whole.

Finally, I feel compelled to add a bonus title that is not from Hebrews.  In the gospels (Matt 9:12, Mark 2:17, Luke 5:31) Jesus likens himself to a physician who heals the sick.  He says that those who are well have no need for a physician.  If there were ever a time when we are confronted with sickness and the need to be well, then this would be such a time.  Jesus does not call the righteous, but sinners.  As the hymn beckons, “Come ye sinners, poor and wretched, weak and wounded, sick and sore … none but Jesus, none but Jesus, can do helpless sinners good.”   

I hope this will help you see more of Jesus in the book of Hebrews.  He is the one true Prophet and Priest and King who is able to save us to the uttermost (7:25).  I encourage you to read the book again and make your own list of how you see Jesus.  Keep looking and you may find more than just ten. 

Selected verses from Hebrews: 

Heb 1:2 ESV)  but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

Heb 1:3 ESV)  He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

Heb 2:9 ESV)  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.

Heb 2:10 ESV)  For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder (captain or pioneer) of their salvation perfect through suffering.

Heb 2:11 ESV)  For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers,

Heb 2:17 ESV)  …  so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

Heb 3:1 ESV)  Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession,

Heb 3:14 ESV)  For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence

Heb 4:14-15 ESV)  Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Heb 7:25 ESV)  Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

Heb 8:1 ESV)  Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven,

Heb 9:11 ESV)  But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation)

Heb 9:12 ESV)  he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

Heb 9:15 ESV)  Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, …

Heb 9:24 ESV)  For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.

Heb 12:2-3 ESV)  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

Heb 12:24 ESV)  (you have come) … to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

Heb 13:15 ESV)  Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.

Heb 13:20 ESV)  Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant,

 

Posted by Richard Davis with

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