Curing the backward glance

Hebrews 2

Hebrews is a tricky book. It seems to start in the middle of a discussion, without introduction, recipient, author or greeting. The first chapter demonstrates that Jesus is superior to angels, and the second shows that Jesus was fully human. But why is either of those things important? Why is the letter talking about angels at all?  Just what’s going on here?

Hebrews was written to a group of Judaic Christians who were having second thoughts. They were beginning to look back to their former times and think maybe they should go back. The author of Hebrews wrote this letter to make his readers stand fast. The author was a master of classical rhetoric — the art of persuading an audience through speech. He uses the classic rhetorical techniques of reason and emotion to convince his readers to not turn back. He uses rational arguments to explain why they shouldn’t give up, and he uses emotional techniques so they don’t want to.

Chapter 2 begins with a rhetorical device that is repeated throughout Hebrews: a negative observation (often a warning) followed by a positive (a recommendation or encouragement). Don’t do that, instead, be inspired by this. In short, it’s a carrot and stick approach!

We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

Don’t drift away, since a punishment will surely follow. Instead, remember that this message came from the Lord and was confirmed by God himself.

In the second half of chapter 2, the author shows that Jesus will become the greatest because he has suffered death for everyone, freeing us all. This is a rational argument — why return to the old things when the new message has this great feature.

Both of these techniques keep occurring throughout Hebrews.

2 Samuel 11

Just a quick thought on this sad passage. Why didn’t someone refuse? Someone should have said, “Don’t even think about it!” Being surrounded by people who always agree with you is a seriously dangerous position.




3 thoughts on “Curing the backward glance

  1. Thanks for drawing attention to the strong warning/exhortation balance of Hebrews. The Christian life is indeed a story of great grace, and yet perhaps our view of ‘grace’ can make us complacent to the great warnings that come with such a great salvation. Hebrews will sharpen our view!

    On David, I like your Q, ‘why didn’t someone refuse?’. Power is such a responsibility entrusted to us by God. Those exercising power are often blind to the ‘power differential’ that robs others of the confidence to speak up. More than libido, ‘power’ is the leader’s most lethal and self-deceptive possession.

  2. Thanks Phillip for the helpful underpinning of Hebrews for us (me) as we begin this challenging book.
    The wonderful integrity (& refusal) of Uriah , so costly for him, is a strong contrast to other ‘ men behaving badly’.

  3. Thank you Phillip. A strong fear of the Lord will keep us from complacency. Looking forward to the warnings given to the church in Hebrews as well.

    The Samuel reading reminds me of a few things.
    1. The danger of being idle. David should have been with his men.
    2. The danger of that first longing gaze at something forbidden. “I have made a covenant (agreement) with my eyes, how then could I look (lustfully) at a young woman? Job 31:1
    3. Sin is a trap and we must learn to master it. Gen 4;7b
    4. God will discipline those who are His who fall into willful sin and temptation.

    Just that first “click” in front of a computer screen or smart phone – TRAP!! Nothing better to do. Time to waste. Satan is doing a marvelous job baiting Christians with the temptation of pornography. But he doesn’t have to win he has been defeated by Jesus. Jesus sets the captives free. But so many don’t want to be free……
    I don’t think that Bathsheba could say no to the king, he must have done a fine job of convincing her. The penalty for both David and Bathsheba was stoning.
    As we try to cover our sin – as David did – God just waits for the right opportunity to deal with us – Nathan came about 12 months later.This is where the fear of God is a blessing. It is a definite deterrent from willful sin.

    May God help us all to stay true to our high calling of purity because of Jesus. Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God. Matthew 5;8

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