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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson



Retired pastor

Hebrews 5: 11-14: Grow up!

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.


One reason people fall away from the faith is because they stop trying. An old hymn says, ‘It is not trying, but trusting.’ In truth, it is both. Someone wrote that grace is not opposed to effort; it is opposed to works (i.e. as a way to salvation). It takes prayerful, trusting, diligent work in order to grow as a Christian. Someone who insists on just sucking on a baby milk bottle teat, because it’s easier than chewing solids, is going to fail to mature into the person God intends them to be.

One mark of maturity is that you become a ‘teacher’: not necessarily from the pulpit. But you are able to take a younger Christian under your wing and mentor them – even in an informal way.

Another mark is that you don’t just read the Bible; you constantly, practically, put it to ”use”.

‘As we grow in the Word, we learn to use it in daily life. As we apply the Word, we exercise our ”spiritual senses” and develop spiritual discernment. It is a characteristic of little children that they lack discernment. A baby will put anything into its mouth. An immature believer will listen to any preacher on the radio or television and not be able to identify whether or not he is true to the Scriptures…As we feed on the Word of God and apply it in daily life, our inner ”spiritual senses” get their exercise and become strong and keen.’ (Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘New Testament Commentary’, pp.816/817).

Psalm 119: 153-160: How to pray

Look on my suffering and deliver me,
    for I have not forgotten your law.
154 Defend my cause and redeem me;
    preserve my life according to your promise.
155 Salvation is far from the wicked,
    for they do not seek out your decrees.
156 Your compassion, Lord, is great;
    preserve my life according to your laws.
157 Many are the foes who persecute me,
    but I have not turned from your statutes.
158 I look on the faithless with loathing,
    for they do not obey your word.
159 See how I love your precepts;
    preserve my life, Lord, in accordance with your love.
160 All your words are true;
    all your righteous laws are eternal.

Here are two major keys for effective prayer:

  1. Pray according to God’s Word (His promises);
  2. Pray in accordance with God’s character.

God’s character, of course, is revealed in God’s Word. The more we get to know His Word, the more we will get to know Him, and be guided in what we can and should pray for.

Three reliable things. The reliable psalmist who does not forget the word (153), the reliable Lord (154, 156, 159) and the reliable word which never changes (160). But human reliability cannot be taken for granted…Life needs constant renewal which depends on the Lord’s love, promise and decision. This reiterated prayer for renewal constitutes the heart of the section.’ ( J.A. Motyer: ‘New Bible Commentary’, p.571).

‘God never made a promise that was too good to be true.’ D. L. Moody.

Hebrews 5: 8-10 (Part 2): Both wings necessary

Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him 10 and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.

There are two potential problems with this passage. The first one concerns Jesus learning obedience. Hopefully, yesterday’s thought clarified that problem.

But there’s another difficulty. The New Testament emphasises that our ”eternal salvation” comes by faith, not works. So why does the author say that it is given to those who ”obey” Jesus? Tom Hale answers this well:

‘Jesus is the source of salvation for all who obey him – that is, for all who believe in Him. Faith comes first; without faith, we cannot obey Christ. At the same time, without obedience there cannot be true faith (see James 2:14-17…). Both faith and obedience together are necessary for our salvation.’ (‘Applied New Testament Commentary’, p. 857).

In a footnote on the same page he writes: ‘We must understand here that the first and most basic form of obedience is faith itself (see Hebrews 4:6…). Then, once there is true faith, that faith will always be manifested by obedience in all matters. It is impossible to separate faith and obedience; they are like two blades of a scissors. Thus, to say that we are saved through obedience to Christ (that is, the obedience of faith) is the same as saying that we are saved through faith in Christ; both are equally true statements…we are saved by faith expressing itself in obedience (see Galatians 5:16; Ephesians 2:8-10; James 2:14, 17, 20-24…). Furthermore, faith itself is a gift of God, a gift of God’s grace. Our salvation from first to last is a work of God’s grace.’

To change the picture, maybe we can say the salvation bird takes flight with two wings: ‘faith’ and ‘works’. Both wings are absolutely necessary.

Hebrews 5: 8-10: Eternal Salvation

 Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him 10 and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.

Jesus is greater than Aaron. The salvation He offers is ”eternal”. At best, the Old Testament sacrifices were a temporary measure, and in their imperfection had to be repeated. But Jesus has now offered the full, final, perfect sacrifice of Himself – the fully obedient Son of God.

However, on the face of it, this is a ‘problem’ text: Jesus learning obedience? Surely the writer can’t mean that Jesus was disinclined to obey and so had to be schooled in the subject in order to become ”perfect”? No! I don’t believe this is being said at all. But there is perhaps something about Jesus’ human experience needing to be matured and completed before He was ready to die and make ”eternal salvation” possible. (We also note that it may be hardest of all to keep on obeying when we are undergoing periods of suffering. Jesus suffered more than anyone ever will, but He still obeyed.)

 ”Though he was God’s Son, he learned trusting-obedience by what he suffered, just as we do. Then, having arrived at the full stature of his maturity and having been announced by God as high priest in the order of Melchizedek, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who believingly obey him.” (The Message).

‘Jesus learned how difficult it is to obey God fully. He experienced the suffering that comes upon those who obey God. These Hebrew Christians, to whom this letter was written, had already begun to experience some suffering because of their obedience to Christ. But now, as a result, they were about to fall away; they were about to deny Christ. Therefore, let them remember Jesus, who Himself endured suffering in obedience until the end.’ (Tom Hale: ‘Applied New Testament Commentary’, p.857).

‘He needed to learn what obedience to God involved in practical terms, in the conditions of human life on earth, so that he could sympathize with those similarly tested and teach us by his own example how far God ought to be submitted to and obeyed (cf. 12:1-11; 13:13).’ (David Peterson: ‘New Bible Commentary’, p.1333).

The Jesus who obeyed calls His own people to ”obey”, but herein there may lie another problem in the text. We will try to address this tomorrow.

Hebrews 5:7: ‘Heard’

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 

In my second year in Bible College, I and my fellow-students began to study ‘Biblical Theology.’ Suffice it to say, for now, that I was struck by the idea of Jesus’ ‘religious life.’ As we have seen, in the incarnation He became fully human. As a pious, first century Jew, our Lord faithfully observed a pattern of public worship (in the synagogue) and private, personal prayer. His prayer life is such an example and encouragement to us. We note in today’s verse that Jesus’ prayer was:

  • Fervent (intense and emotional);
  • Specific: He asked that ”this cup” might pass from Him (Mt.5:29). But it was also
  • Submissive. He who taught His disciples to pray, ”Your will be done” (Mt.6:10), Himself prayed: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Emphasis mine). Tom Hale makes this helpful point. Prayer is not always answered in the way we expect. He writes: ‘Jesus prayed that He might be saved from death on the cross (Mark 14:35-36), but God did not grant that prayer. God was able to save (Jesus) from death, but He chose not to. However, God certainly did hear Jesus’ prayer to be saved, because three days after Jesus’ death, God raised Him from the dead.’ (‘Applied New Testament Commentary’, p.857).

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, please help me to pray like Jesus: faithfully, consistently, and with passion, definite aim, and humble surrender to the will of God

Hebrews 5: 4-6: By Divine appointment

 And no one takes this honor on himself, but he receives it when called by God, just as Aaron was.

In the same way, Christ did not take on himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him,

“You are my Son;
    today I have become your Father.”

And he says in another place,

“You are a priest forever,
    in the order of Melchizedek.”

Someone said, ‘If the Lord is going to raise you up, let Him raise you up; but whatever you do don’t raise yourself up!’

You don’t just decide to take up the pastoral ministry as a career option; at least, I don’t believe anyone should. Down that route may lie disaster for the church, and the individual concerned. Every believer is called into ministry, but we are not all called to the pulpit. I clearly remember the time when a sense of the call of God broke into my rather hazy plans for the future. I was still a teenager, but I heard the call. Through the years it has anchored me to the spot when I have felt tempted to run.

According to the early chapters of Hebrews, Jesus is:

  • Greater than the prophets;
  • Greater than the angels;
  • Greater than Joshua;
  • And we are now in a section showing Him to be greater than Aaron. His High Priesthood is greater. He is greater because He is God’s ”Son”, and because He is ”a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.” But here is a point of similarity between Aaron and Christ: our Lord was ‘called’ to the office. Are you fulfilling the calling on your life?

Hebrews 5: 1-4: Not alone

Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people. And no one takes this honor on himself, but he receives it when called by God, just as Aaron was.

As we have seen in a recent Bible reading, Jesus understands what it means to be human. Without ceasing to be fully God, He became fully man. It is as much a heresy to deny the complete humanity of Christ as it is deny His full divinity.

  • Jesus understands our physical weakness: He knows intimately our tiredness and weariness; He feels our pain and shares our sorrows. On those days when it’s hard to get out of bed and face another 24 hours of life, He is fully aware of our heartache, and He cares; when you think, ‘I just can’t take another step’, He is right there with you.  ”For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” (4:15). So we can also affirm:
  • Jesus understands our moral weakness: He comprehends the pressures leading to sin. He knows temptation inside out; He has been there. In fact, He has been tempted to a degree we do not know, because we tend to give way before we feel its full force. Knowing all this about our precious Lord should encourage us to run to God in prayer, knowing that Christ has opened the way, and ”help” is generously available (4:16). If you need help today, you know where to turn. You are not alone.

Joel: Conclusion

I simply wish to quote the last paragraph of Tom Hale’s commentary on Joel. I believe He provides an excellent summation and application:

‘As we think back on this small but very important book, let us keep Joel’s message in mind: a day of judgment – a ”day of the Lord” – is coming, and we do not know when. There may be a number of such ”days” coming – judgments upon our present nations and communities, and upon ourselves. Joel’s message to us is that we should repent and cry out to God for mercy before it is too late. God is patient; He will wait a long time, but He will not wait forever. The ”invasion of locusts” can come at any time. We need to be ready for the day of the Lord; it will come like a thief (2 Peter 3:10). In view of this, Peter asks:…what kind of people ought (we) to be? (2 Peter 3:11).’ (The Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.1239.

Joel 3: 17-21: The overflow

“Then you will know that I, the Lord your God,
    dwell in Zion, my holy hill.

Jerusalem will be holy;
    never again will foreigners invade her.

18 “In that day the mountains will drip new wine,
    and the hills will flow with milk;
    all the ravines of Judah will run with water.
A fountain will flow out of the Lord’s house
    and will water the valley of acacias.

19 But Egypt will be desolate,
    Edom a desert waste,
because of violence done to the people of Judah,
    in whose land they shed innocent blood.
20 Judah will be inhabited forever
    and Jerusalem through all generations.
21 Shall I leave their innocent blood unavenged?
    No, I will not.”

The Lord dwells in Zion!

The final section of this book seems to look beyond the last great battle of history, to the blessings of the Millennial reign of Christ. (In fact, the picture seems to almost merge with what comes after that, according to the book of Revelation: the ”new heaven” and ”new earth”; see Rev.21). In the final expression of the Kingdom of God, He will be in the midst of His people and it will be a time of lavish and overflowing blessing (18).

I venture to suggest, however, that even now, where Jesus reigns over a human life/over a church community, we can expect to see an outflowing of life into the world:

”On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.” (John 7:37-39a; see also Ezekiel 47:1-12).

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