After a summer sabbatical from bible study, my church resumed our Growth Groups this week. The women's study I have joined will be studying the book of Hebrews in entirety over the next year. I am very interested in learning about this book because there are many things that remain unknown to me at the outset of our study, even though I've read the book before. The first few weeks of our study will revolve around learning about the context of the book. Who was the author? Who are the recipients? What was the author's purpose in writing this book? Our discussion tonight revolved around these exact questions.
The majority of our discussion focused on the recipients of Hebrews--after jotting down many notes this is what I would summarize. The author was writing to Jewish Christians; individuals who had been persecuted and challenged about their faith in Jesus Christ as the messiah and were growing weary (10:32-35). They had been made public spectacles, their property was siezed and some were even prisoners (13:3). It seems they have been believers for some time because the author admonishes that they should be teachers at this point but still remain infantile in their faith (5:12-14). Despite their current state though, the author is exhorting them to love and encourage each other (10:24-25), and reminding them of the value of discipline (12:7-11).
Okay, so I've learned something about the recipients of the book of Hebrews. Big deal, right? What does that mean to you? Me? I may be a Christian but I'm not a Jewish Christian. My faith has been questioned by some, but I have not been persecuted to the point of being imprisoned or having my property taken by family or friends. But I've been there, in that same weary state. To a point where I'm tired, grumpy and nearing the point where I'm tired of waiting on God's timing. Confused, overwhelmed, perplexed on God's purpose in something.
Don't you sense the love with which the author of Hebrews writes though? He wrote 13 chapters building an amazing argument of why these Jewish Christians should remain strong and steadfast in their faith. The prize that awaits them (and us) is far more valuable than anything else in this world.
"Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire." (12: 28-29)
Regardless of the persecution or challenge, he says to lay aside everything that hinders us and to run with endurance.
"Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us." (12:1)
I appreciate the direct, uncompromising nature that the Hebrews author uses. I am strengthened by his message of exhortation and admonishment. I pray that as I continue to learn about the context of Hebrews and the situation of the original recipients, that I may apply these timeless principles to my own life. I already have been encouraged in week one and I anxiously await week two, three and many more in the year to come. I hope to share my walk through Hebrews with you....feel free to contribute your own thoughts, questions and insights as I share mine.
Note: All scripture references are from the book of Hebrews.