“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.” - Hebrews 1:1-4
An often discussed topic among Christians is the authorship of the book of Hebrews. Martin Luther suggested that Apollos was the author. Some people say that Barnabas wrote it while others suspect Priscilla, Philip, or Luke: however, most Christians believe the Apostle Paul wrote this letter to the Hebrews. Yet, the speculation and uncertainty as to who the human penman was lead us to one major conclusion; it doesn’t matter.
God doesn’t want us to know. This is why (in the English) He starts the book of Hebrews with the word, “God.” The divine authorship is much more important than the human authorship.
God wants us to know that He is speaking. So the question is, “Are you listening?”
Yet, just because He’s speaking, doesn’t mean you’re listening.
An old preacher used to say that there were two things he desired to know: “First, does God speak? (concerning any manner) and second, what did He say?”
Atheists and deists completely deny that God has spoken.
Again, just because God is speaking doesn’t mean people are listening. Atheists and deists are not listening. God addresses atheists in Psalm 14 by referring to them as fools.
However, often times even Bible-believing Christians are not listening.
We love God, and we know God loves us, yet we sometimes give scant attention to His Word. Sometimes we give a lackluster effort when it comes to studying His Word.
Just because God is speaking doesn’t mean we are listening.
My wife is one of the most articulate and compelling speakers I have ever heard. She’s fun and engaging. She is a natural public speaker. And, of all the people in my life, she is the most important.
However, unfortunately, I find it very easy to tune her out when she’s speaking to me. It is very easy for me to be looking at her and nodding, as if I’m listening, when in reality, I have no idea what she just said. I suppose it’s because sometimes, after 23 years of marriage, and 24 years of friendship, I tend to take her frequent communication for granted.
The text before us, Hebrews 1:1-4, explains that God has spoken in “sundry times and in diverse manners” which is to say that He’s spoken many times, in many ways. Yet, in spite of His frequent communication and the unprecedented availability to His Word, we tend to take Him for granted.
Specifically, Hebrews 1:1-4 explains that God speaks through His prophets, through His Son, through His Creation, and through redemption.
First, consider how God Speaks Through His Prophets (vs 1)
“God, … spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets” (Hebrews 1:1)
This phrase is a reference to the Old Testament. God used men like Moses, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and many others as conduits to communicate divine truth.
This is one of many times that the New Testament (Hebrews 1:1) validates the credibility and divine authorship of the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, God spoke clearly, mercifully, and promisingly, to the Jewish Fathers.
Jesus Himself validates the inspiration of the Old Testament in His famous Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:17-18).
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”
Paul, Peter, John, and the other New Testament writers are often found quoting and preaching from the Old Testament because they, too, understood that God spoke through His prophets.
Second, consider that God Speaks Through His Son (vs 2)
“God… hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son” (Hebrews 1:2)
This is not just the words in red through your Bible, but this is everything the Word of God reveals about who Jesus is: His words and His works. Jesus is the central story of the entire Bible both Old and New Testament.
As John the Apostle concluded his 21 chapter gospel, he wrote, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.”
Clearly Jesus said and did a lot and all of it is divine communication applicable for every generation.
To be clear, by explaining that God has spoken by His Son, the writer of Hebrews is certainly not correcting or rejecting the Old Testament (as some people suggest), but instead is saying that the Son has fulfilled perfectly what God said to the Fathers by the prophets in the Old Testament.
Are you listening?
We need to read the prophets as recorded in the Old Testament and we need to read and relish about the Son as He is revealed in the New Testament and prophesied about in the Old Testament.
Not only does God speak to us by the prophets, and by His Son, but He also speaks through His creation.
Third, consider that God Speaks Through His Creation
Notice how verse 3 explains that the Son is “upholding all things by the word of his power.”
Remember that God spoke the world into existence and he is currently “upholding (or sustaining) all things by the word of his power.”
His “word” is what created everything and is what is sustaining everything.
His creation speaks to us about His “eternal power and Godhead” (Romans 1:20). His creation is a revelation of who He is.
To observe the beauty of the Superior National Forest, or to marvel at the Grand Canyon, or to observe Niagara Falls, whatever feature of God‘s creation, great or small; all of it helps us to realign our perspective. His created universe shouts to all of humanity that there is a Creator, a designer, and that He is eternally powerful.
Colossians 1:16-17 reminds us that, “For by him (Jesus) were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.”
Are you listening? Are you marveling at God through His creation?
Lastly, consider how God Speaks Through Redemption (vs 3)
“… when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3)
That verse covers cross to coronation. It references Jesus’ efficacious death, and His majestic triumph.
Death, burial, resurrection, and ascension are all in view in verse 3. Atonement for sin, and the appeasement of the wrath of God is accomplished through the cross, and God‘s approval and reception of that atonement is seen though Jesus‘ resurrection. Forty days later, the ascension reveals that Jesus’ mission was accomplished. He was then seated “on the right hand of the Majesty on high.“
This is the story of redemption. Praise God that a believer’s sins are purged!
God speaks to us through His redemptive plan and He says, “I love you.” He says, “I can forgive you.“ Through His redemptive plan the holy God says, “I want to have a relationship with you.“
As we read verse 3 and reflect on our redemption with grateful hearts, the content of verse 4 becomes obvious.
The Son is superior! He is “so much better than the angels“ and Jesus Christ is the “more excellent name.”
No angel is the “heir of all things” (vs 2), Jesus is.
No angel is “the one who made the worlds” (vs 2), Jesus is.
No angel is “the brightness of his glory” (vs 3), Jesus is.
No angel is “the express image of his person” (vs 3), Jesus is.
No angel is “upholding all things by the word of his power” (vs 3), Jesus is.
No angel “purged our sins” (vs 3), Jesus did!
No angel is seated on the right hand of the Majesty on high (vs 3), yet Jesus is!
One of the major themes of the book of Hebrews is to let us know that Jesus is superior, that He is better, that He is greater!
Jesus is greater than the prophets (1:1-3).
Jesus is greater than the angels (1:4-2:18).
Jesus is greater than Moses (3:1-19).
Jesus is greater than Joshua (4:1-16).
Jesus is greater than Aaron (5:1-10:18).
Jesus is our Great High Priest. He is our Redeemer! He is God’s only begotten Son, and He is God!
God speaks to us through His prophets, through His Son, through His creation and through His redemption, but are we listening?
I said in my introduction that it’s easy for me to be looking at my wife and even nodding in agreement, yet not listening to her at all.
There are times where I realize I’m doing that and I’m upfront with her and say, “I’m sorry, I have no idea what you just said.” In my mind, I realize what she was saying is important, so I ask her to restate it. When that happens, it’s embarrassing for me, but even worse, sometimes it is hurtful to her.
She might be tempted to think, “Why isn’t he listening to me? Am I not important to him?”
Yet, I have my excuses. Most husbands have their excuses.
“I’ve had a busy day.”
“I’m thinking about a financial burden.”
“I’m thinking about a counseling situation with a church member.”
“I’m thinking about a football game or any number of other hobbies or personal interests.“
And there she is, the most important person in my life, and I’m not listening. She is a person who loves me, and who is an extremely good communicator, yet sometimes, I’m not listening.
Here’s the application. God loves you. He’s an extremely good communicator, especially as we depend on the aid of His Spirit as we read His Word. He has communicated many times, in many different ways. (Hebrews 1:1)
He’s speaking through the Old and New Testament, but are you listening?
I know you have your excuses. We ALL feel tired at times, and often overwhelmed by life, so that leaves very little time for personal Bible reading, little time for Sunday School attendance, little time to gather with a church family to hear God’s Word preached and taught.
There are SO many reasons that people give to explain why they skip church. However, there should be many other events that people skip, in order to gather with their church.
We have all kinds of noble sounding reasons to not prioritize listening to His Word, yet He is speaking!
There are many things that we discipline ourselves to do, so that they get done. There are many things that we force ourselves to focus on because we recognize those things as a priority.
Regularly reading our Bibles, and faithfully gathering with our church family to hear the word of God preached and taught is a healthy and beneficial spiritual discipline.
Let me state very clearly, you and I have nothing more important to do than to ask-and-answer these questions, “Did God speak“ and since He did, “What did He say?”
Are you listening?
On a final note, there is a great liability represented in the abundance of options relating to the accessibility of hearing God’s Word. Obviously the accessibility of Bible-based commentaries, seminars, mobile apps, Christian schools, and much more, is an asset, but the liability is that we have the potential to take His Word for granted.