Thursday, August 30, 2018

00 HEBREWS - Jesus, God's Better Way - Intro and Outline

We often evaluate events, positions, experiences, and opportunities by comparing them with others. We want the best of all the options! Once we find it we refuse to trade it for anything less. In Hebrews we discover that everything about Jesus is superior to all else. His grace, His promises, and even His warnings deserve and demand our utmost attention.
Jesus Christ is the far-superior fulfillment of everything that the Law of Moses foreshadowed. His character, covenant, priesthood, sacrifice, salvation, and authority are all infinitely greater than what came before. The more we appreciate that fact, the more we will determine not to fall away and be lost, but to fix our eyes on Him and run the race.
These are lesson notes, not written in a polished or finished manuscript form.  
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For the other lessons in this series, click on the "Hebrews - God’s Better Way" link in the left column on this page.
The message of Hebrews is two-fold. Jesus Christ is superior to all else, so hang on to Him at all costs.
At the end of this post, read Hanging On For Dear Life, which illustrates this principle quite clearly.
Jesus, God’s “Final Answer”
Seven Reasons for His Supremacy
Heb 1:1-4
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son,
whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. 3 And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.
Original Audience
Jewish converts, in danger of falling away.
Heb. 5:11-14 – sluggish, immature.
Heb. 6:10 – working, loving, ministering.
Heb. 10:32-34 – persecuted, mistreated.
Heb. 12:4 – not killed … yet.
Heb. 13:3 – (some) imprisoned.
Destination and Date
First place known: Rome.
First quoted: Clement of Rome (late AD 90s).
“Those from Italy greet you.” Heb. 13:24
(?) Jewish Christians in Rome, suffering under Nero (AD 64-70), tempted to return to Judaism.
What’s in Hebrews?
A book of evaluation – “better,” “perfect,” “eternal.”
“Better” (13 times) – Angels (1:4); Hope (7:19); Covenant, Promises (8:6); Sacrifices (9:23); Possession (10:34); Country (11:16); Life (11:35); Blood Speaking (12:24)
“Perfect” (14 times) – Not by Levitical priesthood (7:11) or by Law (7:19) or by animal blood (10:1), but by Christ’s one offering (10:14).
“Eternal” – Salvation (5:9); redemption (9:12); inheritance (9:15); throne (1:8); priesthood (5:6; 6:20; 7:17, 21); Jesus (13:8).
A book of exhortation.
2:1-4          Don’t drift.
3:7-4:13     Don’t disbelieve.
6:1-8          Don’t drop out.
10:26-29     Don’t disobey.
12:25-29     Don’t defy.
Often a fact, then, “Therefore, let us …”
A book of examination.
The object, nature, and extent of our faith.
The level of our maturity.
Our perseverance in running the race.
The sins that beset each of us.
Our response to adversity and discipline.
Our preparation for the Day of Judgment.
A book of expectation.
Israelites – the Promised Land.
Heroes of faith – future home.
Jesus – “for the joy set before Him.”
He shall appear a second time (9:27-28).
A book of exaltation.
Calls us to worship Jesus Christ, who is …
Greater than angels, who worship Him.
God in the flesh. Our Apostle and High Priest.
The Author, Pioneer, Captain, and Perfecter of our Faith.
Seated at the right hand of the Majesty on High.
What’s in Hebrews?
Alarming, increasingly severe warnings against apostasy. Hebrews makes it abundantly clear that a Christian may abandon his or her faith, be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, and fail to enter God's eternal rest.
Heb 2:1-4
Heb 3:12-13; 4:1-2, 11
Heb 6:4-8
Heb 10:26-31
Heb 12:25-29
Hebrews Chapter-by-Chapter
1 Greater than Angels – so pay attention!
2 A Man Like Us – therefore our High Priest.
3 More than Moses – learn from Israel’s failure.
4 His Eternal Sabbath Rest – don’t miss it!
5 The Greater High Priest – He saves eternally.
6 Persevere or Perish – don’t fall away!
7 His Melchizedek-Type Priesthood – not of Levi.
8 His Greater Ministry, Covenant, and Promise
9 His Greater Sanctuary and Sacrifice
10 Because He Did, We Must – therefore, let us!
11 Faith: Cause and Effect – trust and obey.
12 The Race: How to Run and Win – do it!
13 Living in Victory: Service and Sacrifice
Hanging On For Dear Life
For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it.  Heb 2:1
In September, 1987, the New York Times reported an unusual mid-air incident.  It happened on a commuter flight to Boston from Portland, Maine.  The plane, a 15-seat Beechcraft 99, belonged to Eastern Express.  The pilot was Henry Dempsey, 46 years old, of Cape Elizabeth.  When he and his co-pilot heard a rattling sound toward the rear, Dempsey left his partner in the cockpit to go and check it out.
Suddenly the aircraft hit turbulence.  Dempsey leaned against the rear stairway door, which was hinged at the bottom, and it flew open. That rear door had not been properly latched prior to take-off. 
The co-pilot, Paul Boucher of Lynn, MA, saw that the “door ajar” indicator light was on and realized something had happened, so he changed course and flew to the Portland International Jetport.  He radioed ahead to report the emergency.
Thinking that Dempsey had fallen out of the plane, the staff at the jetport control tower requested that a helicopter crew begin a search.  “A man called, and said a pilot had been sucked out of a cockpit through an open door and had fallen into the sea,” said William Falk, a Coast Guard duty officer in South Portland.
People assumed that, when Dempsey was powerfully sucked from the plane, he let go.  He did not.
Somehow he managed to grab the outer door ladder of the aircraft and hang on to it for the longest ten minutes of his life.  He tumbled forward, grabbed the railings as he fell, and lay upside down on the stairs as the plane cruised at 190 miles per hour at an altitude of 4,000 feet.  During the landing, Dempsey's face was only about 12 inches above the runway.
It took airport personnel several minutes just to pry his fingers from that ladder.
Dempsey, having suffered cuts and bruises, was treated at a local hospital and released.  He had learned firsthand the vital importance of hanging on, no matter what pressure he might have allowed to pull him away.
As Priscilla J. Owens wrote:  We have an anchor that keeps the soul Steadfast and sure while the billows roll, Fastened to the Rock which cannot move, Grounded firm and deep in the Savior's love.
Check your grip on Jesus Christ.  Read the Word.  Pray fervently.  Get involved.  Share your faith.  As you do, you will secure your hold, even through forceful turbulence, until you land safely home by His grace.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

13 Life in the Desert – Deut 31-34 – Moses’ Last Days and Death

The final section of Deuteronomy brings the life and work of Moses to a dramatic climax. Arrangements are made for succession of leadership and the regular public reading of the Law. The song of Moses and the blessing of Moses lead to the death of Moses, who is buried by the LORD Himself after seeing the beauty and breadth of the Promised Land.
These are lesson notes, not written in a polished or finished manuscript form.  
To see thumbnails of all posts on this blog:
To receive email notifications of future posts, enter your email address at the lower left corner of the page where it says, “FOLLOW BY EMAIL.” You'll get an email from FeedBurner. Just click the link inside it to confirm that you want to subscribe.
For the other lessons in this series, click on the "Life in the Desert" link in the left column on this page.
Deut 31 Moses’ Preparation
31:1-8 Joshua to Succeed Moses
Sihon and Og. “Be strong and courageous.”
31:9-13 Law to be Read
Moses – author. Every 7th year, Feast of Booths.
31:14-23 Israel to Disobey God and Suffer
Other gods. Penalty. Write this song as witness.
31:24-30 Law to Serve as Witness
Two tablets in the ark; entire Law beside it.
Deut 32 Moses’ Song
32:1-4 Praise of God’s Character – Faithful
Heavens and earth as audience.
32:5-6 Irony of Israel’s Response – Unfaithful
32:7-14 History of God’s Care
Gave all nations land. Chose Israel as His own.
32:15-18 Indictment of Israel’s (Jeshurun’s) Sin
Jeshurun = “Upright one,” used sarcastically.
Grew “fat and sassy,” made God angry, jealous.
Traded their Rock for strange gods. Forgot Him.
32:19-33 Consequences of Israel’s Sin
Reversal: God will make Israel jealous, angry.
Not fully destroy, lest enemies misunderstand.
32:34-43 Vindication of God’s Character
“Where are their gods? None can deliver them.”
32:44-47 Significance of Moses’ Song
“Take it to heart. It is your very life.”
32:48-52 Nearness of Moses’ Death
“You broke faith, did not treat Me as holy.”
Deut 33 Moses’ Blessing
33:1-5 Declaration of God’s Glory
Mt. Sinai. With 10,000’s. King of united tribes.
33:6-25 Blessing of Israel’s Tribes (cf. Gen 49)
Reduction of Reuben. Promotion of Judah. Approval of Levi at golden calf incident. Extended blessing of Joseph. Omission of Simeon, which was soon absorbed into Judah (Josh 19:9).
33:26-29 Uniqueness of God and His People
“Rides through the heavens.” “Everlasting arms.”
Deut 34 Moses’ Death
34:1-8 Moses’ Death and Burial
Last sight he saw: the Promised Land. Age 120, eye undimmed, vigor unabated. Buried by the LORD Himself. Mourned 30 days.
34:9 Joshua’s Role as Moses’ Successor
Full of the Spirit via Moses’ laying hands.
34:10-12 Moses’ Unique Stature and Influence
Joshua not the “prophet like Moses.”  Face-to-face. Signs, wonders. Power. That prophet – Jesus. Acts 3:22-24; Matt 17:1-13; Heb 3:1-6.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

On Boring Preaching

This post is written by my outstanding friend and former colleague, Dr. Bill Bagents. Bill serves as the extremely capable Vice President of Academics at Heritage Christian University in Florence, Alabama.
We preachers tend to be highly insulted when potential listeners find our preaching boring. There are far better options than feeling miffed.
1) Was the sermon boring because I failed to prepare at a level that honored God and respected the gospel? If so, repentance is essential. No one has the right to present the gospel in a careless or incompetent manner (Romans 1:16-17, Hebrews 4:12).
2) Was the sermon boring because I made no preparation at all; I just borrowed it from the internet? It’s tough to find passion for a lesson we had no role in creating.
3) Was the sermon boring because it was shallow, failing to include both milk and meat (Hebrews 5:12-6:3)? We love the famous quotation, “The Bible is a pool in which a child can wade, and an elephant can swim.” Biblical balance is beautiful.
4) Was the sermon boring because it failed to call for transformative action (Romans 12:1-2)? It’s hard to be bored when one is being challenged to have the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5) and take up the mantle of Christ (1 Peter 2:21-25).
5) Was the sermon boring because it served my needs as a preacher rather than serving the broader needs of the church? Hebrews 10:24 speaks to every Christian, including preachers. Our desire is to stir up love and good works by helping all hearers grasp the sense, power, and urgency of God’s word (Nehemiah 8:8).
6) Was the sermon boring because my life contradicted the words of the sermon? We love consistency and congruence, especially the perfect example of Jesus (Acts 1:1). Our actions should always support the gospel (Titus 2:6-8).
7) To shift perspectives to the listener, was the sermon boring because of my lack of spiritual interest as a hearer? When God’s people stopped listening to Him, there was a prophetic silence of some 430 years between Malachi and John the Baptizer. An effective sermon needs both a faithful, biblical message and a God-seeking hearer (Hebrews 5:11).
8) Was the sermon boring because of a warped world view? In ancient Athens, some lived for nothing but “either to tell or to hear some new thing” (Acts 17:21). Their descendants live among us today, asserting that only the novel and the surprising merit their attention.
9) Was the sermon boring because I failed to pray for both the preacher and the hearers? We tend to prepare for events and activities that we deem important. We assert that God hears and helps when we pray within His will. Every sermon should be bathed in prayer from every direction.
10) Was the sermon boring because it’s easier to choose boredom than to welcome the challenge to grow into the image of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-16)? We can always find a preacher who will tell us exactly what we enjoy hearing (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

Saturday, August 11, 2018

11 Life in the Desert – Deut 12-26 – Specific Covenant Stipulations

In Deuteronomy 12-26 Moses continues to spell out, explain, and elaborate on the Ten Commandments by declaring the particular requirements of God’s covenant. Some sections repeat what we have already seen. Others expand those teachings further or reveal additional laws not yet stated. One writer in the College Press NIV Commentary notes, “Moses anticipated settlement in the Promised Land and therefore dealt with issues not found in earlier legislation. The intention was to apply the broad principles of the Ten Commandments to everyday life in the land. Because of this focus Deuteronomy had a continuing relevance for the people of Israel, and each new generation could hear it afresh. It is because of this nature of the material that it lends itself to reflection and meaning for God's people through the ages.”
Deut 12 Proper Worship
12:1-4 Destruction of Canaanite Idols
12:5-14 Holy Offerings at the Chosen Place
Eventually God will say, “Jerusalem. The Temple.”
To prohibit pagan places and acts of worship.
12:15-28 “Non-Holy” Meat at Any Place
Israelites could eat regular meat anywhere, but not the animal’s blood.
12:29-32 Rejection of Canaanite Religion
“Beware that you are not ensnared.”
Deut 13 Threats of Idolatry
Three Cases:
13:1-5 A Prophet or Dreamer of Dreams
The sign may occur but the doctrine be false.
13:6-11 Your Relative, Spouse, or Best Friend
Do not yield, listen, pity, spare, or conceal him.
13:12-18 One of Your Cities Gone Astray
Destroy man and beast. Burn city and booty.
Deut 14 Foods and Tithes
14:1-21 Clean and Unclean Foods
No cutting or shaving (re: magic, polytheism).
Rationale for food distinctions: hygiene? Pagan practices? Economy? Obedience? Self-control?
14:22-29 Tithes
Note: they ate the tithe they brought.
14:28 Add’l tithe every 3 years for the landless
Inclusion of alien, fatherless, and widow.
Note further discussion in 26:12.
Deut 15 Sabbatical Year; Firstborn
God’s plan to relieve Israelites’ debt and poverty.
15:1-3 All debts of Israelites canceled in 7th year.
15:4-6 Ideally, none poor. Obedience, blessing.
15:7-11 Generosity, not stinginess, in need.
15:12-18 Kind provision for bondservants.
Released in 7th year, furnished liberally.
Remembering that you were slaves in Egypt.
So he may love you and want to stay.
15:19-23 Dedication of firstborn animals.
Deut 16 Annual Feasts; Judges
16:1-8 Passover (Unleavened Bread)
Abib – 1st (lunar) month, March/April
16:9-12 Weeks (Harvest, Pentecost)
16:13-15 Booths (Tabernacles, Ingathering)
16:16-17 Presence of All Males at Chosen Place
16:18-20 Judges and Equal Justice
16:21-22 No Asherah Images or Sacred Pillars
Deut 17 Just Administration
17:1-7 Trial and Execution of Idolaters
Only on the evidence of two or three witnesses.
“Purge the evil from your midst.”
17:8-13 Dealing with Difficult Cases
Homicides, lawsuits, and assaults
Central tribunal or “Supreme Court”
Execution of any who refuse the priest’s verdict
17:14-20 Choice and Qualities of the King
God provided for Israel’s king. Cf. 1 Sam 8-9.
Deut 18 Supernatural Guidance
18:1-8 Provision for Priests and Levites
Not having any land inheritance, they would be supported by the offerings of the people to God.
18:9-14 Prohibition of Spiritism
Divination, witchcraft, sorcery, omens, mediums.
Instead, God’s directions through His prophets.
18:15-22 Promise of the Coming Prophet(s)
In a partial sense, Joshua and others. 34:9-12
In the full sense, Jesus. Acts 3:22–24; 7:37
Deut 19 Protection of Life
19:1-13 Three More Cities of Refuge – West Side
To complement the three in the east. 4:41-43
Protects life. Clarifies, specifies “Do not kill.”
19:14 Protection of Land Boundaries
19:15-21 Witnesses and Justice
False witness would pay the penalty he sought.
Deut 20 Rules of Warfare
20:1-4 Courage in Battle Because of the LORD
20:5-9 Exemptions from Military Service
         New homeowners and vineyard owners
         Engaged men and fainthearted men
20:10-15 Treatment of Distant Cities
20:16-18 Treatment of Canaanite Cities
20:19-20 Treatment of Trees in the Land
Save fruit trees - food. Cut others for siegeworks.
Deut 21 If This Happens, Do Thus
21:1-9 Atonement for Unsolved Murders
21:10-14 Treatment of Captive Girls
Respect. Marriage. Time to mourn. Divorce, but.
21:15-17 Inheritance Rights of Firstborn Sons
Double portion, even if born to “unloved” wife.
21:18-21 Treatment of Rebellious Sons
Elders’ role. All stone. Purge evil. Deter others.
21:22-23 Proper Burial of Hanged Convicts
Capital punishment. Cf. Gal 3:13 – Christ, curse.
Deut 22 Morality in Daily Life
22:1-4 Care for Others’ Lost Animals, Property
22:5 Prohibition of Cross-Dressing
22:6-7 Preserving the Producers of Life (Birds)
22:8 Protecting Against Roof Falls (Parapets)
22:9-12 Laws of Separation
Two seeds, two animals, two fabrics. Why?
Tassels on Garments. Why?
Maintain God-given distinctions from the world?
22:13-21 Charges of Premarital Immorality
Virginity: blood-stained cloth from wedding night.
If false, man chastised, fined c. 2.5 lb. of silver.
If true, woman stoned. Purge the evil.
22:22-29 Adultery, Premarital Sex, Rape
Rape of engaged virgin: man alone dies.
Rape of non-engaged virgin: man fined, forced to marry for life, support, and protect the woman.
22:30 Incestuous Marriage – Stepmother
Deut 23 Cleanliness and Purity
23:1-8 Exclusion from the LORD’s Assembly
Due to pagan practices or acts against Israel.
23:9-14 Cleanliness in the LORD’s Camp
Nocturnal emissions, human excrement.
23:15-16 Protection of Escaped Slaves
23:17-18 Prohibition of Cult Prostitution
23:19-20 Prohibition of Lending with Interest
23:21-23 Completion of Vows Made to the LORD
23:24-25 Limited Food from Others’ Vineyards
Deut 24 Protection of the Weak
24:1-4 No Remarrying of One’s Divorced Spouse
Not endorsing divorce, but protecting women.
Yet Pharisees made it a “command.” Matt 19:7
24:5 No Military Service in 1st Year of Marriage
24:6 No Taking of One’s Livelihood in Pledge
24:7 No Kidnapping, Abuse, or Sale of Others
24:8-9 Obeying the Laws re: Leprosy
Deut 24 Protection of the Weak
24:10-13 Taking Collateral for a Loan
Respect his person, property. Return his cloak.
24:14-15 Paying a Hired Man
Give him his wage before sunset, lest you sin.
24:16 Punishing Only Personal (not Fathers’) Sin
Emphasis on justice, individual responsibility.
Children may suffer consequences, but not guilt.
24:17-22 Being Fair and Generous to the Poor
B/c God redeemed you from Egyptian slavery.
Deut 25 Respect and Responsibility
25:1-3 Limits on Punishment – Max 40 Stripes
Not to degrade the wicked man unnecessarily.
25:4 Fair Treatment of Animals – No Ox Muzzled
Cf. NT preachers, elders. 1 Cor 9:9; 1 Tim 5:18
25:5-10 Levirate (Brother-in-Law) Marriage
Man dies w/o child. Brother marries widow. First child continues the name of the dead man. If the brother refused he was to be publicly disgraced. Cf. Boaz’ marrying Ruth, redeeming the estate.
25:11-12 Prohibition of Unfair Fighting
A wife attacking her husband’s foe “below the belt” would have her hand cut off as her penalty.
25:13-16 Just Weights and Measures
25:17-19 Extermination of the Amalekites
Amalek – the grandson of Jacob’s brother Esau.
Attacked Israel’s weak stragglers. Ex 17:8-16
Deut 26 Offerings of Acknowledgement
26:1-11 Firstfruits: Best Produce of the New Land
B/c God blessed, heard, saved, led, brought us.
Giving – worship to God, shared with others.
26:12-15 Third-Year Tithe
Two great commands: love God; love neighbor.
So, tithes as generous gifts to the needy, poor.
26:16-19 Concluding Exhortation
Closes the covenant stipulations begun in 12:1.
Command. Agreement. Obedience. Blessing.