Each week televisions across America tuned in to watch the contestants try and meet the challenge. They watched the men and women of Survivor jockey for position, take on the physical challenge, and try and win the immunity challenge so that they could guarantee their stay on the island.
Each week you could see the contestants try and solidify their position by forming friendships and creating alliances. Some thought that they had a lock on making the next round of competition, others wondered if they would survive the week. They would take a stroll on the beach quizzing one another trying to find out who stood where, what would happen next, and where their enemies were planning to attack.
Each week, those who watched by television analyzed the activities and arrived at their conclusions as to who would survive and make it to the next round. People read magazines, watched reports on television, discussed the happenings during coffee breaks, and feasted on the latest gossip circulating on the Internet. We thought we knew who the final survivor would be, but there was really no guarantee until the host, Jeff Probst, stood before the remaining survivors and gave the definitive word on the latest tally of votes. Everything was settle once and for all when Jeff said, “The tribe has spoken.”
Well, Survivor is now in reruns and the anticipation is over. Some folks can recite week-by-week who will be leaving the island because they’ve practically memorized every episode. There were 68 million viewers tuned in to the last installment of Survivor and many of them were so enthralled by the series and scenarios that took place that they will be able to quote the lines of Rudy or Sue or Rich before they ever come out of their mouths during the next few weeks.
I’m not here today to talk about Survivor, but I did come by this morning to talk about surviving. There are literally millions of folks around our country today who can quote the phrases of Gervase or Colleen, but we are struggling to make it through the day.
Far too many of us are living life like we watched the hit show Survivor. We are trying to figure things out by gathering bits and pieces of information from every source known to man. We are making educated guesses about how we can survive, how we can make ends meet, how we can make it to the next day, and how we can form alliances to avoid the enemy. We are listening to what society has to say about our condition, our situation, but many of us have never heard the definitive word that guarantees surviving the pitfalls and problems of life.
We have run into problems in our relationship with one of our kids and we’ve turned to friends or books that have given us the counsel of their hearts. The only problem is that the advice we’ve been given varies from friend to friend and book to book. We’ve run into problems with our marriage and we’ve turned to the ladies who work in our office or the men we play golf with on the weekends. The counsel we receive only confuses us as some say, “You need to leave the bum,” while others say, “Things will get better.” Will we ever face the troubles of this life and hear the truth? Will we ever yearn to know the real answer and receive it? Will we ever hear the definitive word on overcoming the pitfalls and perils of life?
Oh, for those of you who are finding yourself feeling torn by your predicaments in life this morning you need to know, “God has spoken!” God has spoken and the definitive word has come to give us direction, to sustain us in any and every situation we will face, and to lead us into God’s truth for all of life.
This morning we are continuing our study of the Epistle to the Hebrews. If you will turn with me to Hebrews 1:1-4, and let’s take a look at our study for today.
1 In the past God spoke to our forefathers 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 he made the universe. 3The 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. 4So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs. (Hebrews 1:1-2 NIV)
The writer of Hebrews gives us the greatest assurance in the very first phrase of his letter when he says, “God spoke.” F.F. Bruce has said,
This initial affirmation is basic to the whole argument of this epistle, as indeed it is basic to Christian faith. Had God remained silent, enshrouded in thick darkness, the plight of mankind would have been desperate indeed; but now he has spoken his revealing, redeeming, and life giving word, and in his light we see light. (F.F. Bruce, The Epistle To The Hebrews, p. 45)
Throughout history there has been a running debate concerning God’s revelation of Himself to us. There have been those who have said that God has revealed nothing of Himself to us and that we are merely left to guess what God is like. There are others who have said that God has revealed Himself and that we can know God, His character and nature, in an intimate way.
Here in the opening of Hebrews we see that throughout history God has spoken to His people in many ways and at many times. Verse 1 says, 1 “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways…” The ways that God has spoken and revealed Himself and His will for His creation in times past were fragmented and incomplete. It is not that they were wrong, they certainly were not, but they were not a complete revelation of God. John MacArthur has written,
Yet, beautiful and important and authoritative as it is, the Old Testament is fragmentary and incomplete. It was delivered over the course of some 1500 years by some forty-plus writers – in many different pieces, each its own truths. It began to build and grow, truth upon truth. It was what we call progressive revelation. Genesis gives some truth, and Exodus gives some more. The truth builds and builds and builds. In the Old Testament God was pleased, for that time, to dispense His gracious truth to the Jews by the mouths of His prophets – in many different ways, developing His revelation progressively from lesser to greater degrees of light. The revelation did not build from error to truth but from incomplete truth to more complete truth. And it remained incomplete until the New Testament was finished. (John MacArthur, Hebrews, p. 4)
From the beginning of history God was giving pieces of His unfolding plan for His people. In Moses we see a deliverer of the captives, but He was only a foreshadowing of the Great Deliverer who would come. In King David, we see a king who is called, “a man after God’s own heart,” but he was not the complete picture of the King who would come to shepherd His people. By watching the High Priest perform his priestly duties we see how one man made sacrifices for the sins for the people, but the High Priest couldn’t begin to exemplify the Priest who would one day offer His own life for the sins of the world.
God has spoken in many different ways as He unfolded His truth before His people. Through Micah the prophet, God announced where Messiah would be born. Through Daniel, God revealed the time of Messiah’s birth. Through Isaiah, God painted a portrait of the lowly, despised, beaten, and bloody Messiah who would bore the sins of the world upon the cross.
God has spoken in many different ways to His servants regarding His will. In Exodus 19, God spoke to Moses and revealed Himself on Mount Sinai to the people.
16On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. 17Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently, 19and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder. Then Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him. (Exodus 19:16-19 NIV)
In thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, with the heavenly trumpet blaring, God descended in fire to speak with His servant and reveal His will.
When God’s servant Elijah was running for his life from the evil King Ahab and his devilish wife, Jezebel, God appeared and got Elijah’s attention in an unusual way.
11The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:11-13 NIV)
God appeared not in power, not in the wind, nor in the earthquake, and neither in the fire, but God spoke to Elijah in a gentle whisper, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
To the people of Judah who were not content with the gently flowing waters of Shiloah coming down from Mount Zion, waters that symbolized the people’s dependence upon Almighty God, God would speak in the floodwaters of the mighty Euphrates, i.e., the destructive power of the Assyrians. God told Isaiah what He was going to do by saying,
5The LORD spoke to me again: 6 Because this people has rejected the gently flowing waters of Shiloah and rejoices over Rezin and the son of Remaliah, 7 Therefore the Lord is about to bring against them the mighty floodwaters of the River-the king of Assyria with all his pomp. It will overflow all its channels, run over all its banks 8 and sweep on into Judah, swirling over it, passing through it and reaching up to the neck. Its outspread wings will cover the breadth of your land, O Immanuel!” (Isaiah 8:5-8 NIV)
God spoke through the priest and the prophet, animals and antagonist, sage and singer, destruction and deliverance, and even through His creation, but this was not all that God had to say. God’s word to His people was not fully said until His Word became flesh and dwelt among us in Jesus of Nazareth. When Jesus came the promises of God and God’s full revelation of His plan for His people became present in the flesh. When Jesus came God’s word was fully spoken in a language that we could understand and there wasn’t anything else to be said. Paul wrote to the Corinthians and said,
19For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by me and Silas and Timothy, was not “Yes” and “No,” but in him it has always been “Yes.” 20For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. (2 Corinthians 1:19-20 NIV)
Joni Eareckson Tada, in her book, Lamp Unto My Feet, wrote,
Just think, every promise God has ever made finds its fulfillment in Jesus. God doesn’t just give us grace, He gives us Jesus, the Lord of grace. If it’s peace, it’s only found in Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Even life itself is found in the Resurrection and the Life. Christianity isn’t all that complicated … it’s Jesus. (Joni Eareckson Tada in Lamp Unto My Feet. Christianity Today, Vol. 41, no. 8.)
God has much to say about His Son Jesus, His final word to us. We are not left to our own devices to draw our conclusions about Jesus, as some in our own society will do today. God has given us a clear understanding of who Jesus is – the breadth, depth, and width of His glory and the honor that is due Him because of who He is. Hebrews 1:2 states,
2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.
There are many religions today that revere Jesus as a great man. Islam claims that Jesus was a great prophet, a man of substance sent by God, but when the final word is spoken it must be heard from Mohammed. Mormonism claims to be the “Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints,” but whenever they come to visit your house they will give you another testament of Jesus Christ – the Book of Mormon which is actually no word of truth at all. God tells us that in these last days He has spoken to us in His full and final revelation, His Son and our Savior Jesus Christ.
The writer of Hebrews gives us eight important facts concerning Jesus that we need to understand as we move about in a society confused about the character, nature, and stature of our Savior.
First of all, we find that Jesus is the heir of all things. We talked last week about the prominent position of the first-born son during biblical times. They held a special place of privilege and honor and they received the father’s inheritance. The Psalmist has written,
7I will proclaim the decree of the LORD: He said to me, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father. 8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. (Psalm 2:7-8 NIV)
The Father has given everything in all of creation to the Son. The farthest stars in the heavens are His. The creatures in the deepest sea belong to Jesus. Everything as far as the eye can see is owned by the Son, given to Him by the Father.
It is not just creation that belongs to Jesus, but God has given Him the most prominent place as Lord and King over all. Jesus is the ruler of the nations! Nations rise and nations fall. Kings come and go. Political parties experience power one day, but hold on because the day is coming when their power will fade and fail. Jesus is unlike any of these because we are told that His throne will endure forever! He is the exalted King of all creation, appointed to the throne by the Father. The Psalmist writes,
27I will also appoint him my firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth. 28 I will maintain my love to him forever, and my covenant with him will never fail. 29 I will establish his line forever, his throne as long as the heavens endure. (Psalm 89:27-29 NIV)
In the Psalms we find the prophecy of the coming One who will be God’s heir to the kingdoms of the earth and everything in it. In Hebrews we find the fulfillment of the promise as the writer tells us that God has made Him heir of all things.
The second truth we need to notice about Jesus is that He was and is the creator of the universe. I was talking this past week with Doug Latham as we were waiting for Janet and their son, Ryan, to talk about Ryan’s baptism. Doug works at the Oklahoma City Zoo and he was telling me about a new exhibit they just received. The unique creature is the Komodo Dragon, a lizard that is about ten feet long and weighs 250 pounds. As Doug was describing the lizard and the area around Bali where it can be found today I was amazed. I’ve never seen a ten-foot long lizard that likes to hang out in trees and can swim from one island to another. Doug said that the Komodo Dragon is the closest thing we will ever see to a dinosaur.
The day before I was speaking with Doug, I sat in on a flying class being taught by Jim Johnson. Jim was writing on a board and explaining to the kids how the air molecules split when they hit the wings of a plane. He said that the air molecules that go above the wing have to travel a further distance than the air molecules that travel beneath the wings. It only makes sense that the air molecules going underneath would pass by the backside of the wing first. This is not the case though. The air molecules that go above accelerate in order to catch up with the air molecules that go beneath the wing. This activity creates lift that enables a plane to fly. I was fascinated as I listened to Jim speak and I thought to myself how do they do that?
Do you know who made the Komodo Dragon? Do you know who taught such a massive lizard to climb trees and swim? Do you know who made the air molecules? Do you know who gave them the ability to accelerate like Michael Johnson coming around the final curve? Of course you do…Jesus did. Paul wrote to the Colossians and said,
16For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:16-17 NIV)
The writer of Hebrews tells us exactly what Paul told the Colossians, “Jesus is the creator of all things.” He made it all!
The third aspect of Jesus that is important for us to know is that He is the radiance of God’s glory. In verse 3, we read the writer of Hebrews saying to us,
3The 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.
“Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory…” That is an interesting phrase. The Greek word for radiance is, “avpau,gasma” (apaugasma). The word means, “reflected brightness, of Christ in that he perfectly reflects the majesty of God, or of a light coming from a luminous body.” Jesus is the embodiment of the majesty and glory of God. No one can see God, no one ever will, but He has made Himself to known to us in His Son Jesus. Oswald Chambers once said, “The characteristics of God Almighty are mirrored for us in Jesus Christ. Therefore if we want to know what God is like, we must study Jesus Christ.” (Oswald Chambers 1874-1917)
The fourth aspect of Jesus that is important for us to understand is that He is the exact representation of God’s being. Another interesting phrase that it is used is, “the exact representation of his being.” Jesus is the exact representation of God. The Greek word for “representation” is the word, “carakth,r” (character), and it means, “express image, the instrument used for engraving or carving, the mark stamped upon that instrument or wrought out on it, a mark or figure burned in or stamped on, an impression, the exact expression (the image) of any person or thing, marked likeness, precise reproduction in every respect.”
We see a similar phrase used in Colossians 1:15,15 “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” Also, in Colossians 2:9, 9 “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form…” Saint Ambrose, who lived from 340-397 A.D. once said, “As the print of the seal on the wax is the express image of the seal itself, so Christ is the express image-the perfect representation-of God.”
The fifth aspect of Jesus that helps us to understand His uniqueness is His sustaining power. The Epistle to the Hebrews allows us to know that it is Jesus that is sustaining creation even now. He writes that Jesus is, “sustaining all things by his powerful word.” The Greek word that is used is in the present tense meaning that Jesus is not only sustained when He created the universe, but He is sustaining every molecule of creation even now.
God often quickens my mind to the fact that I would not be able to take one breath without His help. He is sustaining my life
The sixth aspect of Jesus’ uniqueness is that He has provided for purification of our sins. We spoke at length last week about the function of the High Priest in the Temple and his duty to make sacrifices for the sins of the people of Israel. We spoke of how the priest had to continuously make sacrifices since the sin of the people had to always be dealt with by God. When Jesus came He was the perfect High Priest of God who offered His own life, a spotless and perfect sacrifice, to deal once and for all time with the problem of sin. For those who have received Jesus as Lord and Savior, our sins are taken away never to be brought before us again.
I don’t know if you noticed it or not, but as we come to the sixth aspect of the uniqueness of Jesus’ work we move from the transcendent to the eminent. We’ve looked at Jesus as the heir of all things, the Creator of the universe, the Radiance of God’s glory, the exact Representation of God’s Being, and the Sustainer of everything that is, Creative work. As we move to the sixth we see the eminent, or personal relationship of Jesus with His creation. Jesus is the One who makes provision for the sins of the people He has created, those who have sinned against Him.
The seventh aspect of Jesus’ uniqueness that we need to understand is that our High Priest is seated at the right hand of God. The High Priest of the Temple could never rest. There was not one seat for the priests to sit upon since they had to always make sacrifice for the sins of the people. When God’s High Priest came and offered the perfect sacrifice of His life, then His work was completed – it was finished and done for all time. In Hebrews 10 we read,
11Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. 13Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, 14because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (Hebrews 10:11-14 NIV)
Today, Jesus is seated at the right hand of God interceding for you and for me. He has no need of making sacrifices any longer because He made the perfect offering for your sins and mine through His death upon the cross. Praise God that our High Priest is seated and our sins are forgiven.
The final aspect of Jesus’ uniqueness is that His name is superior to the angels. We will take an in-depth look at this last aspect of Jesus’ uniqueness in our next time together. It is enough for us to know now that there were Jews in the first century who highly venerated the angels and the writer of Hebrews sets the record straight – Jesus is superior. Paul wrote to the Philippians and said,
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11 NIV)
All of these insightful truths about Jesus ought to cause us to fall on our knees before the Savior who made us and has given His life for the forgiveness of our sins. I have to confess to you that it is hard for me to comprehend how Jesus could have such a deep for me and for you when I consider the many ways and times that I have turned away from Him. I can’t fully comprehend it, but I do believe it and praise God for His grace and mercy.
I was reading a story this past week about Dr. John Rosen, the noted doctor who pioneered a new treatment for a group of people who were severely mentally ill. The people were catatonic patients, curled up in the fetal position on their beds, refusing to acknowledge that anyone else even existed. They would not move nor speak. They never did anything other than lay on their beds curled up in their own world.
One day Dr. Rosen decided to move into the ward. He put up a cot there with the rest of the patients. Every day he saw those patients, he showed love for his patients even though they did not respond. He stroked their faces, held them, and talk to them as if they were his family. Sometimes he would stop by a bed, take off his jacket, and climb into bed with the patient. He made it a habit to put his arms around patients and gently embrace them. Some returned to the world of the living because of that wordless expression of concern. In Christ Jesus, God has moved into the “ward” of our shattered, sin-sick ward. Won’t you let Him hold you, save you, and restore you to the life He has purposed for you? Invite Jesus in this day my friend.