Hebrews 12:25-29, Escape

[25]See that you do not refuse Him who speaks.  For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, [26]whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.”  [27]Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain.
[28]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.  [29]For our God is a consuming fire.

This is the final warning in a series of warnings throughout the book.  After teaching the preeminence of Christ over all things in the OT, since they foreshadowed and/or spoke of Him, the writer warned the Hebrews not to “drift” with regard to these things, not to be casual or complacent about them, 2:1-4.  Even there, he asked the question, How shall we escape?  Then, in 3:12-19, he warned against being hardened and departing from the Lord through the deceitfulness of sin.  The fourth chapter carries the thought forward as he exhorts and encourages his readers not to take his message lightly, and that today is the only  day that we have in which to act.  It isn’t enough to plan to follow and serve God some day.  We need to do it today.  It’s the only day we have.  In ch. 5, recognizing how far short we fall in spiritual matters, he returns to his teaching about the Lord Jesus, that He is our High Priest, able to sympathize with us and give us the grace we need to live as we should.  In chapter 6, he warns of the very great and real danger that departing from the Lord puts us into a place of irreversible judgment.  Now, as we saw, 6:1-4 does not mean that a truly saved person can lose their salvation, as so many claim.  It’s a stern warning against the superficial and casual attitude so many seem to have.  The state of our eternal souls is a serious matter, not to be so easily dismissed with the idea that everyone is headed for “a better place,” or just not really thought about, hoping everything will turn out okIn 10:19-39, he warns his readers ultimately not to draw back to perdition, though he says he doesn’t mean to place them in that category.  Cf. a similar thought in 6:9.  In ch. 12, we have the warning of Esau, who threw away his blessings by the simple act of fulfilling a normal bodily function:  he was hungry.  There’s a lot of food for thought in just this event, no pun intended, but we must go on.

As he has done before, he focuses our attention on the future in order that it might have some influence on the present.  Peter does the same thing in 2 Peter 3:10-13.

Sinai might have once quaked because of the presence of the Lord, v. 26, but the writer points out that there’s coming a time when the whole world is going to “shake”.  While I don’t want to get too far afield, Isaiah 24:19, 20 refers to this event:  The earth is violently broken, the earth is split open, the earth is shaken exceedingly.  The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard.  The rest of that chapter is interesting, as well.  Then you might add Zechariah 14, especially v. 4, to the mix.

However, the writer isn’t as interested in the future just as a matter of speculation or debate, but as a reminder that the things which today seem so permanent will in fact one day be destroyed.  It’s a reminder to hold things loosely, because we can’t hold them forever.

Having said that, there are, according to v. 28, some things which do remain, things which cannot be shaken.  It’s these things, things which pertain to knowing, living for and serving God, that we’re to focus on.

In order to do this, there’s something we desperately need: grace.  I hear and read a great deal about the love of God, and it is a wonderful truth, but I hear very little about grace.  We’ve so been inundated with talk about “human potential,” “be all you can be,”  have a “good self-image,” “we have to take the first step before God takes a step,” that we’ve lost any understanding of our need for grace.  “Grace” has been defined as “God’s unmerited favor in spite of our merited disfavor.”  In other words, the only thing we deserve from God is to be judged for our sins.  As one of the Puritans used to say, “Anything outside of Hell is more than we deserve.”  Apart from the Lord Jesus Christ, we’re not just wayward children, wandering from a loving Father.  We are traitorous rebels, fighting against our King and trying to dethrone Him.

If God extends favor toward us, it’s because of Him and not because we’ve done anything to deserve it or to obligate Him to give it to us.  He owes us nothing.  We owe Him everything.

That’s why we need grace; His favor which gives us what we need in order to serve Him acceptably with reverence and godly fear.  There’s an old “gospel song” which says, “Every work for Jesus will be blessed.”  That’s not true.  Scripture tells us that there will be works done in Jesus’ name which He will call “works of lawlessness” and reject, along with those who did them, Matthew 7:22, 23.

This is a solemn thought.

Today’s concept of God altogether misses the point.  The writer describes Him as a consuming fire.  We don’t like that idea.  We want a malleable God, a God who needs us, not a God who is stern and just.  We see this in the Cross.  When the Lord Jesus “became sin for us,” it wasn’t just a display of “love,” it was a display of unmitigated justice.  If you want to know what God thinks of sin and sinners, look at the Cross.  While it’s true that His death paid for sin, it took His death to do that.  I can’t even begin to put into words what I’d like to write about this.

Why do we need grace?  Because apart from it, there’s only judgment.  There is no “better place.”  And without it, it’s impossible to serve God acceptably.

 

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Hebrews 11:20-22, Men Come and Go. God Remains.

[20]By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.
[21]By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff.
[22]By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel, and gave instructions concerning his bones.
(NKJV)

1. Isaac, 11:20.

Genesis devotes about 10 chapters to Isaac; the writer to Hebrews gives him 11 words, and these are about his sons, Jacob and Esau.  Genesis 27:26-40 gives us the actual account.  The writer of Hebrews passes over the favoritism of Jacob for his son Esau and the deceit fostered by Rebekah for her favorite son Jacob (cf. Genesis 25:27, 28) because when the truth came out, Isaac probably remembered what had been said of these sons even before their birth.  Rebekah evidently had a hard pregnancy, and so she went to the LORD, who told her, “Two nations are in your womb, two peoples shall be separated from your body; one people shall be stronger than the other, and the older shall serve the younger,” Genesis 25:23, emphasis added.  Isaac had been ruled by fleshly desire and natural inclination, but God overruled everything and brought about His own desire and will.  Notice, also, that God doesn’t just refer to these two boys, but the “nations” which will come from them.  We talked about this in our post on “An Eye for an Eye,” how that there’s a whole world wrapped up in a “baby bump,” though we never think of it that way.  And this is true, whether you look back or ahead.  God says to take care of it.

2. Jacob, 11:21.

The story is found in Genesis 48.  Hebrews leaves out all the travail of his life recorded in Genesis and just gives us the last thing that Jacob did: the blessing of his grandchildren.  The blessing was that these two young teenagers would grow “into a multitude in the midst of the earth,” v. 16.

3. Joseph, 11:22.

Each of these three men were at the end of their lives.  Jacob and Joseph were dying and Isaac knew that his time was rapidly coming to a close.  Yet the record doesn’t show them focusing on this, but rather on the future.  The nation had fairly recently moved to Egypt, but Joseph thinks of their departure.  Remember, it would be 85 years until the birth of Moses and 165 years until the Exodus.  Still, Joseph wasn’t looking at the frailty of human nature, but at the faithfulness of God.  He said, “I am dying; but God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land to the land of which He swore to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,” Genesis 50:24.

Too often, we look to some mere human being.  And God made us that way.  He made us as social beings; very few of us are content to be by ourselves all the time.  But whatever relationships we form tend to come and go, especially as we get older ourselves.  Only God is “forever.”  His word is forever, and His promises.  And, in His faithfulness, those promises are as good as done, even though far in the future, as with Joseph.

Indeed, His word says that His people have already been “glorified,” Romans 8:30, though the mirror tells us otherwise.  My mind has a hard time sometimes believing that I’m as old as I am, but my body says, “You’d better believe it!”  Not glorified, yet, but it’s as certain as that the Sun rose this morning and is shining brightly on the covering of snow on the ground.

God has promised it.