Monday, January 14, 2008

The Divine Drama of the Cross (Hebrews 1-2)

Over the next few weeks I aim to read through the book of Hebrews. Today I read chapters 1 and 2, and I've a few thoughts I thought I'd flesh out, starting with the exhortation in chapter 2, verses 1-4, emphasis mine:

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. 2 For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, 4 while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
True enough as it is, it's important to remember this in context. The previous chapter laid out the nature of "such a great salvation," bringing the reader in a few short paragraphs from eternity past to the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ and His present reign at the right hand of the Father.

Christ's divine, eternal nature and his earthly sojourn are briefly laid out, but the chapter closes with a reference to angels as the hinge between Christ's redemptive work and the command to pay heed to our salvation (1:14):
Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?
Why close the first chapter that focuses on Christ's divinity and redemptive mission with a reference to angels? For one thing, angels were integral to the unveiling of the old covenant under which man was held to "just retribution" for "every transgression or disobedience" (2:2) but for another and perhaps greater reason, this work of salvation in the new covenant in Christ's blood is a divine drama played out before the angels and indeed the whole of creation(see Eph. 3:1-10, esp. vv. 9-10) to display the wisdom of God.

These angels are witnessing the glorious plan of redemption from a far different perspective than we are. It's really mind-blowing to grasp at, but the author gives us a good picture and when you look closely enough at it, it really inspires awe.

For Christ, co-eternal with the Father and divine in nature became "for a little while lower than the angels" (Heb. 2:7), so that he "might taste death for everyone" and so doing bring "many sons to glory" having lived a life of perfect obedience unto God capped by the suffering of the cross (Heb. 2:9-10). Christ perfectly obeyed the statutes and precepts ordained by God and delivered via angels. As such the sacrifice of His life on the cross was pure and wholly acceptable to God, and so (1:3-4):
After making purification for sins, he [Christ] sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
Moreover Christ did this all for thoroughly undeserving sinful people, whom He not only saved from the penalty of sin, but brought into the family of God (2:14-18). Not only that, we learn in chapters to come in Hebrews that Jesus even now intercedes for His church. You'd think it'd be enough that Jesus died for us, but then he adopted us as His brothers (2:10-12) and continues to intercede on our behalf with the Father (Heb. 7:25).

The bottom line, what has happened, the author is saying, is nothing more than a divine redemptive drama of mind-blowing implications (on that note see also Isaiah 64:4, I Cor. 2:9).

In short God is taking what, we could imagine, looks to the angels like an irredeemable train wreck of sinful humanity, and is saving from among it His people.

This is a drama we mustn't just idly accept and say, "eh, that's nice," and then in our futile thinking "move on" from. No, we must continue to go back to the divine drama of the cross, "lest we drift away" from the joy of our salvation.

Lord, help me and all who are reading this who trust in you to return again and again to meditate on the glorious salvation we have in Jesus. May we realize more deeply day by day that we are caught up in a glorious divine drama that is to display your infinite wisdom throughout this age and the age to come, not just to humanity but to the angels. Thank you for the treasure of your Gospel, for it is "the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (Rom. 1:16). Help us to grow in our love for your Word. In Jesus' name, Amen.



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