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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson


January 2023

Hebrews 2:5-9a: Man, and the SUPERMAN

God didn’t put angels in charge of this business of salvation that we’re dealing with here. It says in Scripture,

What is man and woman that you bother with them;
    why take a second look their way?
You made them not quite as high as angels,
    bright with Eden’s dawn light;
Then you put them in charge
    of your entire handcrafted world.

When God put them in charge of everything, nothing was excluded. But we don’t see it yet, don’t see everything under human jurisdiction. What we do see is Jesus… (The Message).

It is obvious that when the first man sinned the loss was great. One of the lasting effects of the fall is that people now come nowhere near close to fulfilling their governmental potential. One day, In Christ, it will be fulfilled, but not yet. Not fully.(Although, even now, the more we submit to Jesus, the greater will be the leadership authority we exercise. This is one of many great paradoxes of the Christian faith: see Matthew 8:9).

So, as yet, we do not see humans ruling as originally intended, but ”What we do see is Jesus…”, succeeding where man failed.

‘Ponder these verses: ”We wish to see Jesus” (John 12:21), ”We see Jesus” (Heb.2:9), and ”We shall see Him (Jesus)” (1 John 3:2). The first is the plea of the sinner; the second is the privilege of the saint; the third is the promise of the Scripture.” Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘With the Word’, p.813.

PRAYER: Lord, day by day may we see you more clearly, love you more dearly, follow you more nearly. I also pray for…that he/she/they may come to see, love and follow you.

Hebrews 2:5-7: Little people

It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. 6 But there is a place where someone has testified:

‘What is mankind that you are mindful of them,

    a son of man that you care for him?

7 You made them a little lower than the angels;

    you crowned them with glory and honour

8     and put everything under their feet.’

Jilly and I are enjoying a book by Tyler Staton: ‘Praying like monks, living like fools.’ In one of the early chapters he writes about how stillness and silence help us to recognise our smallness before an infinite God. In a telling paragraph he says:

‘I spent twelve years in New York City. I grieved the loss of the stars, but I relished the view of the skyline. My favourite view of the Manhattan skyline was always the angle from Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. I was always strangely comforted when I looked across all those tombstones at the city spires behind them. Every one of those stones represents someone who was living fast, making plans, and dodging every obstacle in the way of their preferred future. In other words, someone with a will who did their best to bring their will to bear on the present moment. Now they’re a memory and the city is filled with new people living even faster and making more plans’ (pp.44,45).

It is good for us to be aware of how small and fragile and temporary we actually are.

But although we are little people we are deeply loved by God. The measure of His love, as we will see, is that He lowered Himself to rescue us.

Warren Wiersbe, writing about Psalm 8 – which is quoted in Hebrews 2 – says:

‘The universe is vast and full of grandeur, so why should God pay any attention to weak and insignificant men and women? But He does!’ (‘With the Word’, p.312).

Prayer: Lord I thank you that your eye is on the sparrow; that ‘Thou Lord seest me’.

Obadiah:8-21: Kingdom come

‘In that day,’ declares the Lord,

    ‘will I not destroy the wise men of Edom,

    those of understanding in the mountains of Esau?

9 Your warriors, Teman, will be terrified,

    and everyone in Esau’s mountains

    will be cut down in the slaughter.

10 Because of the violence against your brother Jacob,

    you will be covered with shame;

    you will be destroyed for ever.

11 On the day you stood aloof

    while strangers carried off his wealth

and foreigners entered his gates

    and cast lots for Jerusalem,

    you were like one of them.

12 You should not gloat over your brother

    in the day of his misfortune,

nor rejoice over the people of Judah

    in the day of their destruction,

nor boast so much

    in the day of their trouble.

13 You should not march through the gates of my people

    in the day of their disaster,

nor gloat over them in their calamity

    in the day of their disaster,

nor seize their wealth

    in the day of their disaster.

14 You should not wait at the crossroads

    to cut down their fugitives,

nor hand over their survivors

    in the day of their trouble.

15 ‘The day of the Lord is near

    for all nations.

As you have done, it will be done to you;

    your deeds will return upon your own head.

16 Just as you drank on my holy hill,

    so all the nations will drink continually;

they will drink and drink

    and be as if they had never been.

17 But on Mount Zion will be deliverance;

    it will be holy,

    and Jacob will possess his inheritance.

18 Jacob will be a fire

    and Joseph a flame;

Esau will be stubble,

    and they will set him on fire and destroy him.

There will be no survivors

    from Esau.’

The Lord has spoken.

19 People from the Negev will occupy

    the mountains of Esau,

and people from the foothills will possess

    the land of the Philistines.

They will occupy the fields of Ephraim and Samaria,

    and Benjamin will possess Gilead.

20 This company of Israelite exiles who are in Canaan

    will possess the land as far as Zarephath;

the exiles from Jerusalem who are in Sepharad

    will possess the towns of the Negev.

21 Deliverers will go up on Mount Zion

    to govern the mountains of Esau.

    And the kingdom will be the Lord’s.

Civilisations rise and fall.

Great civilisations rise and fall.

Wicked civilisations rise and fall.

Nations (just like individuals) will reap what they sow (15). Edom’s sin included pride, as we saw yesterday, and ‘passing by on the other side’ when his ‘brother’ was in need (11,12). Indeed, he gloated over his brother’s downfall. But there will be a price to pay. The tables will be turned (17ff). How good it is to know, amidst all the upheavals of history, and the machinations of wicked powers, that the Kingdom of God has come and is coming (21b). Ultimately it will triumph. Evil will be overthrown and the King will rule over all.

“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.” Revelation 11:15.

That day is coming.

Obadiah:1-7: Pride before a fall

The vision of Obadiah.

This is what the Sovereign Lord says about Edom –

We have heard a message from the Lord:

    an envoy was sent to the nations to say,

‘Rise, let us go against her for battle’–

2 ‘See, I will make you small among the nations;

    you will be utterly despised.

3 The pride of your heart has deceived you,

    you who live in the clefts of the rocks

    and make your home on the heights,

you who say to yourself,

    “Who can bring me down to the ground?”

4 Though you soar like the eagle

    and make your nest among the stars,

    from there I will bring you down,’

declares the Lord.

5 ‘If thieves came to you,

    if robbers in the night –

oh, what a disaster awaits you –

    would they not steal only as much as they wanted?

If grape pickers came to you,

    would they not leave a few grapes?

6 But how Esau will be ransacked,

    his hidden treasures pillaged!

7 All your allies will force you to the border;

    your friends will deceive and overpower you;

those who eat your bread will set a trap for you,

    but you will not detect it.

“It takes the entire Bible to read any part of the Bible. Even the brief walk-on appearance of Obadiah has its place. No one, whether in or out of the Bible, is without significance. It was Obadiah’s assignment to give voice to God’s Word of judgment against Edom.

 Back in the early stages of the Biblical narrative, we are told the story of the twins Jacob and Esau (Genesis 25-36). They came out of the womb fighting. Jacob was ancestor to the people of Israel, Esau ancestor to the people of Edom. The two neighbouring peoples, Israel mostly to the west of the Jordan River and Dead Sea and Edom to the southeast, never did get along. They had a long history of war and rivalry. When Israel was taken into exile – first the northern kingdom by the Assyrians in 721 B.C. and later the southern kingdom by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. – Edom stood across the fence and watched, glad to see her old relative get beat up.” (From Eugene Peterson’s introductory remarks in ‘The Message’).

Edom was proud.

Pride is at the root of all sin.

It makes you seem big in your own eyes, but, in truth, it makes you small.

It is also deceptive. It fuels an arrogance that cause you to think you are impregnable.

Truly, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov.16:18). This was the case with Edom.

Remember this:

“For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12).

Hebrews 2:1-4: Pay attention

We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. 2 For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, 3 how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 4 God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

Some years ago a survey was conducted among a number of growing churches in the United States. The results were written up in a book called ‘Move’. It makes for fascinating reading. It revealed that (surprise, surprise!) the number one catalytic factor for spiritual growth is the regular reading of Scripture and engagement with it: what you read gets a hold of you to the degree that you do something about it. It changes your life.

The writer to the Hebrews asserts that if we are not to “drift away” we must “pay the most careful attention” to that Word which was first announced by the Lord (and His apostles) and attested by the Holy Spirit in supernatural ways.

My mind goes back to 1:3 which speaks of Jesus “sustaining all things by his powerful word.” There the reference is to the universe. But it is also true to say that our spiritual lives are also sustained by that “powerful word.” We do not live on bread alone..!

Prayer: Lord, May I be able to say with the psalmist, “I will not neglect your word” (Ps.119:16).

Hebrews 1:5-14: The Eternal Son and the Eternal Throne

For to which of the angels did God ever say,

‘You are my Son;

    today I have become your Father’?

Or again,

‘I will be his Father,

    and he will be my Son’?

6 And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says,

‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’

7 In speaking of the angels he says,

‘He makes his angels spirits,

    and his servants flames of fire.’

8 But about the Son he says,

‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever;

    a sceptre of justice will be the sceptre of your kingdom.

9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;

    therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions

    by anointing you with the oil of joy.’

10 He also says,

‘In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth,

    and the heavens are the work of your hands.

11 They will perish, but you remain;

    they will all wear out like a garment.

12 You will roll them up like a robe;

    like a garment they will be changed.

But you remain the same,

    and your years will never end.’

13 To which of the angels did God ever say,

‘Sit at my right hand

    until I make your enemies

    a footstool for your feet’?

14 Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?

As we have seen, this part of Hebrews 1 demonstrates the Superiority of Jesus over the angels. (The opening verses showed Him to be greater than the prophets).

We may find this to be a slightly strange way of using Old Testament Scripture, but it’s a Jewish way of arguing (and remember the letter was written predominantly for Jewish believers). Nevertheless, as you read through verses 5-14, I’m sure you will be able to see the main points the writer is making. It’s all about Jesus being greater than the angels (even though the latter were revered in Judaism). I am particularly struck by the thought that Jesus is the Eternal Son (11,12), and He has an Eternal Throne (8).

Note in Hebrews 1:

  • Jesus has a more excellent Name,
  • Angels worship Jesus,
  • Jesus is God,
  • Angels are servants.

In addition to all this, I found I had written a note in my Bible next to verse 9:

‘Holiness – a key to joy not misery cf.Lam.5:15-18.’

Here’s how John Piper concluded a sermon on the subject:

“Once you see angels in their proper place their role is a magnificent one. They have a role toward Christ and they have a role toward the people of Christ. Toward Christ, verse 6 says their role is to worship. Toward the people of Christ, verse 14 says their role is to serve and help us reach salvation. Which means—if you’re willing to let me use the familiar language—that God created angels that his Son might be glorified and his people might be satisfied.

I want you to leave this morning with this truth ringing in your heart: Jesus Christ is infinitely superior to angels. They were created not to compete with Christ, but to worship Christ and honor him. And the chief way that they do that on the earth is by serving us so that we hold fast to Christ and trust him and love him and treasure him and finally reach him in the fullness of our salvation. So angels were created for Christ’s everlasting glory and for our everlasting joy—which, as you well know, are not contradictory aims. Because Christ is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.

The universe is filled with helpers. Christ wants you to be encouraged and hopeful. That’s why this chapter ends with this amazing promise. The heavenly worshipers are all—all of them—sent to serve you and bring you safely home.”

Hebrews 1:3,4: The Finished Work of Christ

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.

The central theme of this book is the finished work of Christ. That’s why Jesus sat down at God’s right Hand after His death on the Cross. It points to a completed work. The Old Covenant priests repeatedly offered sacrifices, because their offerings were imperfect (and so were they!) Day after day they stood to minister. But Jesus “sat down” and we can now come to God on the basis of His perfect offering.

Verse 4 pivots us into the second section of Hebrews in which we see that Jesus is greater than the angels. In Hebrew culture, a “name” is much more than a label. It points to a person’s nature. What hits me in this fourth verse is that whereas ‘angel’ means ‘messenger’ or ‘servant’ (see v.21), the Name ‘Jesus’ means ‘Saviour’ (Matt.1:21).

His superior Name expresses His superior nature. The angels serve us – I think probably often in ways of which we have little or no idea. But Jesus saves.

“If you rest on the finished work of Jesus you have already the best evidence of your salvation in the world; you have God’s word for it; what more is needed?” C.H.Spurgeon.

Hebrews 1:1-3a: Greater than the prophets

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.

Most of the writers of the New Testament were Jews. Over a time period of many centuries, the Jews had learned a painfully hard way that God was dead set against idolatry. He did not want them to have any gods before Him. But they often did have, and they paid a dreadfully high price for their love affairs with idols. By the first century AD, with knuckles sore from many a Divine reprimand, it seemed they had learned their lesson: no gods before the only God Most High! That was non-negotiable. How startling it is, then, to read words written by Jewish men, such as those in verses 2,3, about a Jewish Man called Jesus. It’s a staggering claim. These are outrageous words – if they are not true. But these, and similar words, were written about Jesus within just a few decades of His historical life. They represent what the early church really believed about Him.

A key idea in Hebrews is that Jesus is better (or greater) than anyone or anything in the Old Testament religion. ‘So why would you return to it?’ That’s the challenge posed to these Jewish believers. In the opening few verses the inference clearly is that Jesus is greater than all their (rightly) revered prophets.

I love the comment of the great Victorian preacher, Spurgeon:

“Other men had the threads of truth; but Christ took the threads, and wove them into a glorious robe, put it on, and came forth clothed with every truth of God.”

Prayer: Lord, please reveal to me more and more of the greatness and glory of Jesus

Hebrews (intro): Keep on keeping on

As you know, our pattern in these daily readings entails interspersing Old Testament and New Testament passages. As we are about to begin to look at Hebrews 1, here are a few introductory thoughts:

It is thought this book was written by an unnamed Jewish believer for other similar Hebrew Christians, who were being tempted to go back to Judaism. This was happening in the context of persecution, and maybe it felt safer to go back to the synagogue. The author knew that even if it was safer physically, it was dangerous spiritually. His call throughout his letter is essentially summarised in 6:1: ”Let us go on…”

‘The epistle was written to Jewish believers who were tempted to abandon the fullness of Christ and go back to the emptiness of a religious system soon to be destroyed…too many believers, like Israel in the Old Testament, are wandering in the wilderness of unbelief and yearning to go back to the old life. The message of Hebrews is especially for them: ”Let us go on to maturity!” ‘…As you meditate on this profound letter, ask yourself: Am I looking back and craving the old life, or am I pressing on by faith to claim my inheritance in Christ?” Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘With the Word’, p.811.

Years ago I heard about an obituary for a pot-holer who died in a cave accident. It just said, ‘If only he’d kept going he would still be alive.’

In a way, that’s the message of this great book: Keep going forward!

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