Let Us Draw Near

Disciples must hold fast to their confession and approach Jesus in boldness, especially in times of great need.

 

Throne - Photo by Willian B. on Unsplash
After urging believers to enter God’s “rest,” this literary section concludes with a description of the powerful and penetrating word of God, then returns to the subject of Christ’s priesthood. Believers must strive to enter His “rest” while the opportunity remains - “TODAY, hearken to His voice.” Because Israel refused to believe the words of Yahweh, Joshua could not lead that generation into the Promised Land - [Photo by Willian B. on Unsplash].


But the quotation from the 95th Psalm that summons God’s people to enter His “rest” remains open, there yet remains “a Sabbath-keeping for the people of God.” Israel may have failed, but the promise of God has not.


For this reason, the readers of the letter must “give diligence to enter into that rest” lest they engage in the same kind of obstinacy.


THE PENETRATING WORD OF GOD

  • For the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature that is not manifest in his sight, but all things are naked and open before the eyes of him with whom we have to do – (Hebrews 4:12-13).


In the passage, “word of God” refers in the first place to the passage cited from the Hebrew Bible. The example of Israel’s failure ought to motivate believers to engage in serious soul-searching and self-correction where needed. But it also has in view the final “word” of revelation that God has “spoken in Hs son…upon these last of the days.”


Word” or machaira refers to a “knife,” or possibly to the short sword carried by Roman troops. The latter was used for thrusting and stabbing rather than slashing. And that image fits well the description of God’s word as “piercing” and “dividing…joints and marrow.”


Soul and spirit.” Man's sharpest knife cannot sever soul from spirit, but God's knife can. This is one of the more comprehensive statements about the human soul and spirit in the Bible, and one that has no exact parallel elsewhere in it.


Nevertheless, the letter does not explain the difference between “soul” and “spirit,” let alone how they interact with each other, and the reader should not make hasty conclusions about man’s nature from this statement.


The intent is not to describe humanity’s “tripartite nature,” but to stress that, not only does God’s word penetrate to reveal a man’s innermost thoughts, but also that God alone has the power to destroy an individual, including all his or her constituent parts.


The reference to “joints also and marrow” further illustrates the point. However closely united a man’s “soul” and “spirit” might be, God’s word is able to penetrate to his innermost thoughts, and, if necessary, cut the ties between his soul and spirit. As Jesus warned, God is well able to destroy both body and soul in Gehenna.


GREAT HIGH PRIEST

  • Having then a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast the confession. For we have not a high priest who is unable to have fellow feeling with our weaknesses, but one tested in all respects, by way of likeness, apart from sin. Let us, then, be approaching with freedom of speech, unto the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and may find grace for seasonable succor” – (Hebrews 4:14-16).


As our “High Priest,” Jesus has “passed through the heavens.” This pivotal transition was hinted at previously when the letter described how Jesus, “having achieved the purification of sins,” sat down at God’s right hand.


Here, the participle is in the Greek perfect tense, signifying completed action. And its sense is to pass through and beyond something. Jesus is not in the “heavens,” instead, he has passed through them to the very throne and presence of God, where he now fulfills his role as our High Priest.


The statement also anticipates the detailed discussion in chapters 8 and 9 on his priesthood, sacrifice, and covenant - (“we have such a high priest, who sat down on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” – Hebrews 1:3, 8:1, 9:11).


Heavens Opened - Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash
[Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash]

Let us be holding fast the confession.” The Greek verb is in the present tense, which signifies ongoing action. And it is a strong verb with the sense “grab hold, grasp, cleave to.,” Clinging to our “confession” is a daily task for the earnest believer.


The “confession” of the saints was referenced at the start of this literary section as part of the description of Christ’s priesthood. It occurs also here to bracket the entire section that began at the start of chapter 3.


The word is from the noun homologia, to “profess together.” This speaks to more than the individual saint’s beliefs. The idea is the collective confession or faith professed by the entire congregation - (Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession” (Hebrews 3:1).


And this reiterates a basic exhortation and theme of the letter, one that is repeated several times in one form or another, a word of warning already heard in its first three chapters not to abandon the faith:

  • Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things that were heard, lest haply we drift away.”
  • But Christ as a son, over his house; whose house are we, if we hold fast our boldness and the glorying of our hope firm unto the end.”
  • For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold fast the beginning of our confidence firm unto the end.”


The solidarity of Jesus, our sympathetic High Priest, with his “brethren” was declared at the end of the second chapter of the letter in the first explicit reference to his priesthood:

  • For verily not to angels doth he give help, but he giveth help to the seed of Abraham. Wherefore it behooved him in all things to be made like unto his brethren, that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted – (Hebrews 2”17-18).


APPROACHING HIS THRONE

His priesthood is “great,” not only because he is the Son who reigns from God’s right hand, but also in contrast to the old Aaronic priesthood. His word, name, sacrifice, covenant, and high priesthood are all “better” than those of the Levitical system.


With freedom of speech.” The Greek noun means not simply “boldness,” but especially boldness or “freedom of speech.” And this is fitting since the emphasis is on approaching him to find help in times of need.


Grace for seasonable succor.” The term rendered “succor,” boetheia, is derived from a verb with the sense, “to make an outcry.” The idea is the succor we need to avoid disaster, the deliverance needed just prior to or at the time of catastrophe. The verbal form was used already in Hebrews 2:18, “he is able to succor them that are tempted.”


The word rendered “seasonable” means “well-timed,” “opportune season”; in other words, to get help in the nick of time.


Having demonstrated the superiority of the Son over angels and even the Great Lawgiver, Moses, the letter will now begin to explain the priesthood in detail.


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