Tuesday 1st November 2022


The previous chapter ended with a reference to Jesus representing us as God’s true High Priest.  This theme continues in today’s chapter, telling us believers to “… fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.  He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house”  vv1-2).  ‘Apostle’ means ‘Sent One’ and really sums up the whole ministry of the God-Man sent from heaven – out of his comfort zone and into ours.  From the first moment after the Fall when God sought Adam in that first garden, through the ministries of Moses, judges, kings and prophets, God has always taken the initiative to seek the lost.  Now, in these last days, he sent the Son as his final and greatest apostle.

The ‘High Priest’ role is the next step that the Sent One takes to effectively redeem us.  Since He is both God and man, He can represent and reconcile both parties in the eternal ‘dispute’, bringing them back together.  Since He now lives forever, His reconciliation lasts forever too.  Let’s fix our gaze on our Representative therefore, since He is faithful, and we can trust Him completely to save us.  Let’s hang on to our confidence and our hope!  As one commentator says: ‘Perseverance is a hallmark of the true children of God, and failure to persevere shows that you are not God’s child’!

In Numbers 12:7, Aaron and Miriam became jealous of Moses’ close relationship with God and rebelled against him.  God rebuked and punished them, defending Moses with the words: “He is faithful in all my house” (i.e., household).  But Hebrews 3 then goes on to make the important point that Jesus is greater than Moses, since Moses was only a key member of God’s household, whilst Jesus is its Builder and Lord.

Hebrews 3:7 – 4:13 is the second of five major warnings (as mentioned in a previous post) to Jewish readers against rejecting the Christ and so falling away from God’s grace.  The five passages are: 2:1-4; 3:7-4:13; 6:4-8; 10:26-31; and 12:25-29.  Today’s is by far the longest and continues into tomorrow’s chapter and notes…

The warning begins with an exposition of Psalm 95, written by King David and inspired by the Holy Spirit about the history of Israel’s constant rebellion in the wilderness, over a period of forty years.  It is a timeless warning, however, and whenever it is read it applies to today: “…if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (v7).  From the Holy Spirit’s viewpoint, then, there are four different time periods represented: the Exodus, the lifetime of David, the lifetime of the writer of Hebrews, and Today – any time in the present.

The common factor is a sinful and unbelieving heart, which inevitably leads to rebellion against God.  We believers need to encourage on another daily to believe and to submit; constant rejection of this advice leads to hardening of the heart, making future obedience even more difficult.  Intentional obedience is good for your heart!

If we hold on to our original conviction (v14), it proves we have a genuine ‘share in Christ’ (i.e. we are true believers); if not, then we weren’t.  Remember that nominal faith is insufficient: those who fell away in the wilderness had been witnesses of all the great things God had accomplished from Egypt onwards.  No excuses then!

JOEL 1, 2 and 3

If you invited some friends to dinner and they proceeded to eat their entire body weight in food, you might be a bit ‘put out’.  So, beware of issuing any invitations to a swarm of locusts!  The other problem with these guys is that a desert swarm can be 460 square miles in size (that’s about the size of Los Angeles) and contain 50 billion of the creatures each weighing about 2 grams!  This would mean that 200,000 metric tonnes of plant life would be consumed every single day.  Catering would certainly be a challenge! 

Joel the prophet wrote about locusts and specifically about a gigantic locust attack (not an attack by a gigantic locust, by the way!).  His prophecy was probably written in the sixth century BC but contains no reference that relate to any known historical event.  In style, Joel is like Amos, Micah, Zephaniah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel.  He is almost anonymous, being quoted in Acts 2:16, and of course in Joel 1, 2, and 3.  He prophesies this devastating locust plague as something real, but also something that figuratively represents the judgment of God and ultimately the Day of the Lord.  His cry is for everyone to repent.

A giant locust swarm invading is like facing a mighty army, ruining everything in its path, stripping the trees bare, destroying vineyards, olive groves, wheat, and barley fields.  “Before them is like the garden of Eden, behind them, a desert waste” (2:3).  Cattle and flocks go hungry and even the wild animals have nothing now.  Metaphorically, just like the crops, “the people’s joy is withered away”.   Joel uses all this as symbolic of a nation whose relationship with the Lord has been allowed to steadily fade away through neglect.  Our relationship with God is like a garden that needs to be continually cultivated if it is to be fruitful and healthy; also, like a garden, it grows wild and unproductive when neglected.  After lengthy neglect it can feel as though an army of locusts has driven a path through our faith and stripped our friendship with God of all intimacy and vitality.

The locust also symbolizes God’s righteous judgment, marching closer and closer relentlessly, with the earth shaking, the heavens trembling, the sun and moon being darkened and the stars no longer shining.  “The Lord thunders at the head of his army; his forces are beyond number…The Day of the Lord is great; it is dreadful.  Who can endure it?”.  So, we are given a foretaste of the Final Judgment on the Day of the Lord.  A foretaste and a huge warning!  “What shall we do to be saved?”

“Even now – declares the Lord – return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.  Tear your heart and not your garments.  Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity” (2:12-13).  These words are the same as God used when he revealed himself to Moses so many centuries before (Exodus 34:6-7) and they characterize him as a forgiving God.  “Of course, God will forgive me, that’s his job!”, joked Heinrich Heine on his deathbed in 1856.  He may have been facetious, but in many senses, he hit the nail on the head.

Many of us recollect the death and funeral of Nelson Mandela at the age of ninety-five; he was a freedom-fighter, prisoner, politician, president, reformer, and world statesman.  Thousands of words were said and written over the following few months about his many great qualities.  What stood out in all these accolades will be the ‘prime directive’ of the man: “Forgiveness liberates the soul.  It removes fear.  That is why it is such a powerful weapon”.  For a man to grasp this principle and indeed to apply it and to exemplify it publicly for more than half his life, is to demonstrate that he has understood the very heart of the gospel and that the gospel has penetrated to the centre of his heart.  Yes.  For God, and for us Christians, forgiveness is our job!

As we repent and turn to Christ, he relents and restores our lives and our land.  As we declare a holy fast, he decrees a heavenly feast.  As we offer him the little we still have, he sends us an abundance of grain, new wine, and olive oil.  The barren droughts of our stale lives give way to the abundant showers of the autumn and spring rains.  And he can even turn back the clock: “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten…my great army that I sent among you…never again will my people be shamed”.  If, through our neglect of him, we have incurred God’s fierce discipline and punishment, then now he receives us again as a full-grown son or daughter, welcomed back into the family home and with all his resources at our disposal. 

“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.  Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, you young men will see visions…I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth…And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”.  So, call Jesus into your life then, whilst you have the chance!  And when you have truly experienced the Lord’s forgiveness at first hand, you will instinctively know how to forgive others – just as Nelson Mandela did.

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