Hearing from God
How do we hear from God?
Some would tell us to go on a journey. God is everywhere, and when we search for him, we find him. The more in touch with the world we become, the more we will hear from God.
Others would tell us to look inward. We’re good at heart, and our problem is that we have lost the connection to our goodness. The more in touch we get with our true selves, the more we will realize that the power of God is within.
But what does the Bible say?
The Bible says we hear from God not through connections to creation or ourselves but in connection to the Scriptures. Hebrews 1:1 says, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets.” The Old Testament Scriptures reveal God to us. But they don’t reveal all of God to us. He also gave us the New Testament because to understand God to the extent he desires we need to see him in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Hebrews 1:2 says, “but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” When we open our ears to what the Bible says, we hear God.
Jesus is the final word from God because Jesus is God. So, to hear clearly from God we need to hear clearly from Jesus. And Hebrews is all about Jesus. It presents to us the person and work of Christ in clear words to people with stopped ears. The people this author is preaching to are wondering, “Is Jesus worth it anymore?” Nothing could be more relevant to our times.
So how can we be sure Jesus is worth following all the way to the end? We have to hear from God. The author works hard to prove to us that Jesus is better than every other alternative. He’s the complete savior for complete sinners. He’s always there when we need him. His work is eternally sufficient. His grace is never-endingly free.
1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
These first four verses are the foundation from which the rest of the book is built. This is not the typical introduction we find in other New Testament letters. This is the start of a sermon. Here’s a breakdown of what the author is saying:
- God has spoken to our fathers in many, varied ways (the OT), but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son (Jesus).
- So, Jesus, the Son, is the final revelation of God.
- This Son is no mere prophet, though he is indeed a prophet (1:2).
- He is no mere priest, though he is indeed a priest (1:3).
- He is also no mere king, though he is indeed a glorious king (1:3).
- He is all three but in the most excellent way. He is better than all prophets, priests, and kings that have come before him. He is supreme.
The main point is that God has spoken definitively and finally through the person of Jesus Christ.
Let’s notice two things here: 1) Who Jesus is and 2) How Jesus is better.
First, who Jesus is. As you look over these first four verses, you can draw out all kinds of attributes and qualities of Jesus. Here are some that I notice:
- Prophet, Priest, and King
- Heir of all things
- Creator of the world
- Radiance of the glory of God
- Exact imprint of God’s nature
- Upholder of the universe
- Purifier of sins
We will see this throughout the book. The author delights in Jesus, and so he often heaps phrase upon phrase and praise upon praise when referring to him. The entire Bible is like this. Wherever you turn, God is getting the glory. May it be so in our lives as well!
Second, how Jesus is better.
5 For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”? 6 And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God's angels worship him.” 7 Of the angels he says, “He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire.” 8 But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. 9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” 10 And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, 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 like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.” 13 And to which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”? 14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?
In verses 5-14 the author includes seven Old Testament quotations. This is common throughout Hebrews. George Guthrie said he counted “roughly thirty-seven quotations, forty allusions, nineteen cases where OT material is summarized, and thirteen where an OT name or topic is referred to without reference to a specific context.” That’s a lot of supporting information!
What’s the point of these quotations? He’s making a comparison: Jesus is better than the angels. There was at that time a high view of angels. Angels, after all, were the ones who mediated the law to Moses (Deut. 33:2; Ps. 68:17; Acts 7:53; Gal. 3:19). They were held in high regard among these primarily Jewish Hebrews. But to equate Jesus with the angels is to miss the uniqueness of the Son. So the author looks back into the Old Testament to find supporting documentation that Jesus is better because his title exalts him above the angels rather than making him the greatest of the angels. The focus is on the name: Son.
All seven of these quotations center around the superior name that the Son has inherited.
Psalm 2:7 (1:5) – Jesus is Kingly Son of God promised to rule for eternity.
2 Samuel 7:14 (1:5) – Jesus is the promised Davidic Son that will reign forever – the house that God builds for David.
Deuteronomy 32:43 (1:6) – Jesus is the firstborn Son worthy of worship by angels.
Psalm 104:4 (1:7) – Angels are not sons, only messengers. Jesus is a Son, not merely a messenger.
Psalm 45:6,7 (1:8,9) – Jesus is not only Son but also God. He is the Son, and he is God. He is God’s Son.
Psalm 102:25-27 (1:10-12) – Jesus is Lord, creator, everlasting Son.
Psalm 110:1 (1:13) – Jesus is the Conquering King.
What do you notice about these seven quotations? Five are from the Psalms. One is from the Davidic covenant passage in 2 Samuel. One is from the song of Moses found in Deuteronomy. The author is not choosing these passages at random. The Psalms were their songbook. 2 Samuel 7 is one of the most famous passages in the Old Testament. Deuteronomy 32 is a well-known song. The author of Hebrews is looking back into the Old Testament and pulling out the songs and memories of these people to prove that even their most well-known passages prove the supremacy of the Son above angels. They’ve been singing about this and hoping for this all along!
Jesus, as the Son of God, is superior to angels in every way. He’s not a new law, or merely a new word, mediated from God to man through a created being. He’s the creator of everything who now brings God down to his creation. He’s bridging the gap, not standing in it. He’s bringing us to God by way of himself, not telling us about God from a lofty-but-removed position. He’s bending down, picking us up, and bringing us in his arms to the Father in heaven. He does this by way of suffering, death, and resurrection. Jesus is better than the angels because Jesus is the Son, the Savior, the prophetic, priestly, king of the world.
Jesus, a Complete Savior
Jesus is who we’ve always needed. We don’t need merely another word from God. We need God. We don’t need an idea. We need a person. We don’t need to find our way to God. We need God to come down to us. The Old Testament Scriptures pointed to Jesus and are fulfilled in Jesus.
For these Hebrews, there was a problem of listening. They listened to the law of God but were reluctant to listen to the Son of God. Are we that way too? Do we seek to justify ourselves by works, or are we resting in the final word of God in Christ?
The entire work of redemption has been accomplished. Paul says in Romans 1:4 that Jesus was “declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead.” The resurrection didn’t make Jesus the Son; he was always the Son of God. What it did was prove the power the Son wielded. Now Jesus isn’t just the Son in title – which would be enough – but he’s also the Son in power. He has defeated sin and death utterly and completely. He has accomplished the work. And when he was done, he sat down. The work is finished. So, we don’t have to work our way into God’s favor. God gave his favor to us in Christ.
All this talk about angels can leave us thinking, “So what?” We know angels aren’t higher than Jesus. But there is something here for us. Notice how this chapter ends in verse 14, “Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?”
What’s the author’s point here? Not only is Jesus, the Son of God, the final word from God who has accomplished the work of God for his people, but there are heavenly beings that help us see that. Do you realize that the entire universe that God created – both the earthly wonders and heavenly beings – are designed to put on display his glory and prove to us that he is there and that he is good? Why do angels exist? They exist to worship Jesus, because he is worthy of all worship, and they exist to help you and me because we need lots of help. They are sent out to serve those who are to inherit salvation. Who is that? Anyone who would believe in the Son of God. So, if you believe today, you have not only the finished work of Christ “upholding the universe by the power of his word” but also the ongoing work of Christ through heavenly beings. They are supporting you along the way, as John Piper, says, to “serve you and bring you safely home.”
We have no mediocre savior in some limited world. We have a complete savior with all the resources in the world – and above it – at his disposal. We could not be more loved, and we could not be more saved. Jesus is the final word from God, come down to us for our joy. Will we listen to him?