Introduction: The Epistle to the Hebrews, or Letter to the Jews, is an anonymous sermon (not a letter) addressed to a group of Jewish and Gentile believers (not just Jews). The community is facing persecution, and some have renounced their faith. The sermon encourages them, arguing that Jesus is superior to the angels, to Moses, and to Jewish traditions. Hebrews is widely considered to have the most refined Greek of any document in the New Testament.
Hebrews 1-4: Long ago God spoke to prophets, but recently God spoke to us through his son. Jesus is the reflection of God’s glory and the imprint of his very being. He is above the angels–to which angel has he said “you are my Son; today I have begotten you”? If the law given by angels to Moses is valid, how can we neglect the salvation given by Christ? God did not subject the world to angels, but to mankind. Mankind is not yet in control of everything, but Jesus is now crowned with glory and honor because of his suffering and death. It is fitting that Jesus suffered and shared in the human experience in every respect; only in this way could he destroy the devil, who has the power of death. Jesus came as a high priest, making a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people.
Brothers, consider that Moses was a servant of God, whereas Jesus was a son of God. We are God’s house if we do not harden our hearts, and do not go astray. Exhort each other every day; the Israelites were banned from entering Canaan for 40 years because of unbelief. The promise of entering God’s rest is still open, as Psalm 95 shows; if Joshua had already entered the rest, why would David say in Psalm 95 that the rest is still open? We will a great high priest, Jesus, who sympathizes with our sufferings, for he has endured them. Let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so we may receive mercy in our time of need.
- These chapters quote extensively from the Hebrew Bible. The author interprets the quoted verses highly metaphorically, without reference to the original context. For example, the author quotes Psalm 2:7 (“You are my son; today I have begotten you”) as something that God said to Jesus. In context, God is clearly speaking to the Davidic king (2:6 reads “I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill”)
- The “rest”, in Psalm 95, refers to the land of Israel, which is God’s resting place. Hebrews interprets “rest” as literal rest from labor, which the believers will eventually get to enjoy.