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    Begin Hebrews with review -
    Review Genesis to see why this book needed to be written.
      Abraham given 3 promises:
    1. Descendants,
    2. Land,
    3. Through him, all nations blessed.

  1. Last year, Genesis 50 - Jacob just died after blessing his 12 sons. Ten sons afraid Joseph would now seek revenge for selling him into slavery.
    1. Joseph says, "You meant evil for me - God meant it for good"
    2. Joseph's life - jigsaw puzzle - spent a lot of time going thru puzzling times and not even understanding what the final picture was to be. Had dreamed his brothers would bow down to him - Sold into slavery - Accused of sexual assault and imprisoned.
      1. Last year - puzzle with few corner pieces. Vicki worked all during the lecture trying to make sense out of the pieces.
      2. We pointed out that Jacob, Joseph and Judah never fully knew what the final picture would be - i.e., coming of Christ. They never understood how their lives fit into God's puzzle. I pulled out several key pieces in shape of a cross and placed on puzzle. Then you could see what the final picture was. It wasn't what most thought it was.
      3. Then political scene changes - Hebrew slavery, just added more confusing pieces to a still confusing puzzle. Slavery recorded in Exodus was 400 years after Joseph's rule.

  2. Freeing of Hebrew nation from slavery and giving of Mosaical Law on Mt. Sinai added a lot more pieces to the puzzle.
    1. See that we have a shadow, or outline of something with that something - substance missing. Hebrew writer mentions this. Hebrews 10:1 - Law was a shadow of good things to come - not the true form.
    2. Things happened that prevented the Hebrews of New Testament time from seeing the puzzle this way. "TRUTH DECAY."
      1. With Joshua's leadership, the Israelites get into the Promised Land--Canaan, where they mix with other tribes - God allows captivity and exile.
        1. Introduced to new pagan religions. Results in pieces of the puzzle getting removed from their understanding.
          1. Dabble in astrology and the occult.
          2. Fascinated with demons and angels - Persian influence. Began mixing their religion with Persian view of universe with elaborate spirit world and ongoing war between forces of lite and darkness. Jewish mystics compiled these beliefs into groups of religious writings: DEUTEROCANON, PSEUDEPIGRAPHA
            Book of Tobit promoted astrology, Zoroastrianism.
            Result - Judaism becomes corrupted.
    3. Faithful remnant responds to threat by establishing synagogues, instituting office of rabbi with all good intentions.
      1. Synagogue - where scattered Jews came together to worship, pray and study - couldn't go to temple - no sacrifices at synagogues. Synagogues in many towns.
        1. Promoted growth of Jewish sects (and separatism) - no longer worshipping in one place. Special interest groups.
      2. Each synagogue had few leaders who were allowed to expand their views to community. Leaders - RABBI - "teacher."
        1. No standard for choosing Rabbi. Knowledgeable, outspoken, respected -- well-grounded in Scriptures didn't seem to matter.
        2. Time passes - Greeks dominate their world. After influence of Hellenistic thought - began to organize and record teachings of various rabbis. - "MISHNA" - Contained legal opinions of respected rabbis handed down orally. Sometimes cited "TORAH," but didn't attempt to analyze scripture. Jewish sects would use their preferred rabbi's "Mishna" to elevate their ideas. Became "Sacred," more or less.
        3. Didn't abandon Judiasm and Old Law - Jesus in Matthew 23:23 noted scribes and Pharisees tithed mint, dill and cummin, but neglected weightier matters of law, justice, mercy, faith. Guilty of straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel. Majoring in minors. Caused other pieces of puzzle to be removed from their minds.
    4. More corruption crept in until the puzzle was totally confused again -
      1. Understood God's promise of land and descendants to Abraham.
      2. Confused by third promise - all nations would be blessed.
        1. Because of corruption - they failed to see the whole picture. Many expecting earthly king similar to David.
        2. Pieces still there. Just refused to put them in their proper place by not distinguishing between God's word, word of Rabbis, and other religions' corruptions.
      3. When Christ came, many didn't see Him as the Messiah--the answer to the third promise-- as fitting into the puzzle.
        1. How could a political rebel and carpenter's son, bless their nation and the whole world?
        2. Some did embrace Christ as Messiah.

  3. When book of Hebrews written, writer sees some Christian Jews struggling with the past.
    1. Feeling the pressures of that time to renounce Christianity.
      1. Other Jews wanted earthly kingdom like David's again.
      2. Roman government beginning persecution. Not sanctioned. Safer to be a Jew.
    2. Result - Jewish Christians "waffling" between "CROSS" and "CROWN." Indecisive - can't make up their minds.
      1. Without all the pieces present - possible to imagine that this crown would possibly fit in - seemed more powerful and glorious.
      2. Perhaps some thought there were no missing pieces - God doesn't care anymore, and maybe there was no "master plan" anyway.
    3. Hebrew writer pens this letter to put back some missing pieces so there can be no doubt left in their minds that the "crown" doesn't belong, and the "Cross" does belong.
      1. Christ better than the PROPHETS.
      2. Christ better than the ANGELS.
        1. After Persian influence during captivity they need to hear this.
          1. Christ's name is superior to angels.
          2. Father/Son relationship superior to God/angel.
          3. Angels are to worship the Son.
          4. Angels are ministering spirits - servants.
          5. Christ sits on the throne.
          6. Christ and God are the same.
          7. Sits at the right hand of God.
      3. Christ better than Moses.
      4. Christ better than Aaron and the High Priests.
    When we put the pieces back in, we see the Cross does belong, not the crown.

  4. Apply to us today:
    1. Beware of "TRUTH DECAY."
      1. Don't allow ourselves or others to chip away the truth.
      2. "Brush up on the scriptures" so we'll recognize all the decaying particles when we see or hear them.
        1. Worship God His way - not just because "That's the way we do it." Find out if that's God's way.
        2. Instead of letting someone else tell you, let's continue to STUDY so that we may know what God expects from each one of us.
    2. Not Truth Decay -- but Truth Always.

Jeannie Cole

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Ladies Bible Class, Spring 1990

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