“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…” (Heb. 1:1-2).
If any of you grew up going to Sunday school, you know that you could never go wrong answering any question the teacher asked with Jesus. Yet the silliness of our youth belies an astounding truth for us all. I recently saw a Facebook meme that went like this: “People ask ‘Do I really need Jesus to go to Heaven?’ Bro, you need Jesus just to go to Walmart.”
If we want to be more biblical in our understanding of this, we could simply quote Paul: “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). As the writer of Hebrews goes on to speak of Jesus, he is “appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world…and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.”
When you open the Old Testament you are reading the Word of God spoken to the fathers by the prophets. I hope you understand and value the Old Testament. What a marvelous book! How many different ways God spoke in that book — in dreams, in visions, in sudden appearances — in that wonderful act of inspiration that nobody fully understands where somebody speaking the words that come to his mind and heart is uttering the words of God.
And it comes to us in many different forms, as the writer of Hebrews says. You open Genesis and you have first, the very straightforward but majestic and moving tale of creation, of the fall, and of the flood. This is followed by the simple narrative of the lives of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Then the story of Moses and the Exodus, and the thundering of the Law, coming at last to the sweet singing of the Psalmist, the homespun wisdom of Proverbs, and the delicate tenderness of the Song of Solomon. Then the rest of the Old Testament is filled with the exalted visions of the prophets, these mighty men who spoke to times of crisis in the nation and yet lifted their eyes up and saw far beyond the horizons of time to great events that God was going to bring into being when the seasons rolled around.
And it wasn’t just a series of events that the prophets portend in their writings – they are unveiling a kingdom that is coming, and more significantly, a King who was coming. Some have described that thing that holds the story of the Old Testament together as the “scarlet thread,” ONE story unfolding from the opening words of Genesis through to the close of Malachi.
More specifically, it is ONE word. There are many today who argue that the Bible isn’t God’s Word, but man’s word about God. Now, it is certainly within your right to believe that about the Bible. The odd thing is that the Bible does not think of itself that way. Right here in the opening words of Hebrews we hear that “God SPOKE…by the prophets,” and that he had one final word – “in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” It is the essence of Paul’s encouragement to Timothy. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
The confidence in the Scriptures is not that it is a really good book, but that its author is God himself. Thus, the words spoken are inerrant and infallible. “…it (God’s Word) shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).
It is so effective that the writer of Hebrews tells us: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
This Sunday we will embark on a months-long journey through the book of Hebrews. It is long and complicated letter, but it is also exceedingly simply. In the words of Martin Luther:
And though this world with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim,
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo! his doom is sure;
One little word shall fell him.
That word is Jesus, the full and final word from God. For, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” (John 1:1, 14).