prayers heard but unanswered

     During the time Jesus lived on earth, He prayed and asked God with loud cries and tears.
     Jesus’ prayer was to God Who was able to save Him from death.
     God heard Christ because Christ honored God. [Hebrews 5:7 NLV]

Jesus was fully human. He cried. He wept. On the eve of his crucifixion he prayed in a garden with much sorrow and a heavy heart. He asked the Father to rescue him from the fate that was before him. As he prayed, he surrendered his life to God saying not what I want but what You want.

As I read about Jesus' prayers in the garden I am better able to understand that God hears our prayers even when he does not answer them. It helps me to know that Jesus struggled as he prayed. And in the end he honored God by releasing his desires and asking for God's will to be done.

We bend our knees and our hearts afresh to the One who hears us. Thy will be done.

... this devotion is part of a series about the book of Hebrews.

a priest like Melchizedek

And in another Scripture God says,“You are a priest forever, a priest like Melchizedek.” [Hebrews 5:6]

A few thoughts about Melchizedek: 1) he was a king and a priest; 2) Abraham was his contemporary and recognized him with a tithe; 3) as such his title preceded Jewish priests and Levites.

Some have speculated that he was, based on verses like this, a preincarnate appearance of Christ. Not sure if that is true but I do believe that the verse teaches us a few things about the Messiah. It tells us that Jesus' priesthood is eternal and supersedes all earthly religious titles.

The verse also teaches us that Christ is more than a priest. Like Melchizedek, the Messiah is a king. Unlike Melchizedek his reign is not limited by time or space. As John tells us, he is King of kings and Lord of lords. John also tells us that his kingdom is filled with priests.

Lord help us to live lives that point others to the One who is called a priest forever.

... this devotion is part of a series about the book of Hebrews.

Does God have a Middleman?

Every high priest is a man chosen to represent other people in their dealings with God. He presents their gifts to God and offers sacrifices for their sins. [Hebrews 5:1 NLT]

This verse presents us with questions? Like how does God interact with humans? Are there things that only certain people can do? These questions deal with words like clergy, laity, sacred and secular. The questions hit to the heart of why Jesus came and how the Holy Spirit works in us.

The topics of priests and sacred work is one that goes back to early times. Ancient ones felt unworthy or unable to interact with God so they appointed priests. Their mindset was that only certain people had what it took to talk to God. This idea was destroyed when God came in the flesh.

Jesus did not appoint religiously trained, or particularly holy, people to represent him on earth. In doing so he made sacred the the unsacred and he qualified the unqualified. Christ removed the middleman. The notion of priests vanished. Everyone is a priest. Each is called to ministry.

Help us Lord to discover what we are called to do (be it plumber or pastor) and do it well.

... this devotion is part of a series about the book of Hebrews.

the throne of grace

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. [Hebrews 4:16 ESV]

What comes to mind when you hear the word grace? Perhaps you think of mercy or compassion? Maybe the concept of unearned favor? Interesting that God's throne is described with this word. Why do you think that it is? Why is it a place where one can find mercy instead of judgment?

I believe that the character of God's throne and God himself are the same. We have confidence when we pray for mercy because that is God's character. We trust that he will help us because his very nature is compassionate. We draw near according to God's character and not ours.

We come Lord know that you will have mercy. Believing that you will help us. We praise you.

... this devotion is part of a series about the book of Hebrews.

touched with the feeling of our infirmities

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. [Hebrews 4:15 KJV]

Throughout the gospels we read about how Jesus was moved by compassion. How do you think those around him knew that? I think that they saw Jesus moved to tears. The image I find in the gospel accounts is of a Messiah who is touched deeply by the things that cause us pain.

I love that messianic image. And in a very real sense, only a sinless Messiah is able to help us. Only One who stands outside of the quicksand of sin is able to stretch his arm forth and pull us out. This is the image of God that I most see. Touched by our sin but in a position to rescue us from it.

Teach us compassion Lord. Use us to rescue others from the quicksand of sin.

... this devotion is part of a series about the book of Hebrews.

the last high priest

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. [Hebrews 4:14 ESV]

What comes to mind when your hear the title High Priest? I think of the person who was designated to enter the Holy of Holies, the inner sanctuary of the Jewish Tabernacle where God dwelt. To get there the priest had to pass through other rooms. This seems to be what is referenced here.

The High Priest was the one who interceded, before God, on behalf of the Jews. He made offerings and prayers for himself and for them. In that sense Jesus is presented as a great high priest. One who has, metaphorically, passed through the outer rooms and entered God's presence.

The metaphor breaks down, all of them do, if one tries to read it literally. The central point is that Jesus, one not qualified by Mosaic law to be a priest (he was not a Levite), became the last High Priest. This is what we confess. We no longer need a human priest. Our priest is in heaven.

Heaven, the holiest of holies, is accessible because of you Jesus. We give you thanks.

... this devotion is part of a series about the book of Hebrews.

naked and exposed

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable. [Hebrews 4:13 NLT]

This verse conjures up words like omnipresence (the presence of God everywhere at the same time) and omniscience (the idea that God knows all that there is to know). The psalmist tells us so beautifully that wherever we go, God is there. There is no place in the universe where we can hide.

Reading "naked and exposed" reminds me of Eden. The garden where life began. The scriptures tell us that, before they sinned, "the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame". The story of Eden tells us that from the very beginning humankind has been accountable to our Creator.

I want my accountability to God to be only what I do. Not that I always do good things. Yet my accountability to him is much deeper. He sees my heart. My motives. The deepest part of me is exposed before him. And that is why I believe that he is the One who can help me in ways that no other can.

Come Holy Spirit. Expose our inner infections and heal them as none other can.

... this devotion is part of a series about the book of Hebrews.

the word: living; active; sharp; discerning.

The word of God is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword. It cuts all the way through, to where soul and spirit meet, to where joints and marrow come together. It judges the desires and thoughts of the heart. [Hebrews 4:12 GNT]

I love this description. In context it is referring to the idea that we must not harden our hearts to God's voice. I think that many mistakenly apply this to the bible. In doing so they limit divine communication to words written many years ago. This presents us with an incomplete image of God's Word.

In my experience God has spoken to me in many ways. I have felt his voice pierce me. Separating my voice from his. My thoughts and desires from his. These experiences lead me to believe that when God speaks it is like a surgeon operating with a scalpel. Precise. Helpful. Healing. And skilled.

The words alive and active tell me how relevant his voice is to me. He uses what I read and hear to transform me on a daily basis. His words to me can do things that nothing else can do. He is not constrained by my ability to hear but can, and does, communicate to me as I walk with him.

Help me to keep my heart open, and not hard, to your word Lord.

... this devotion is part of a series about the book of Hebrews.

his voice. our hearts.

“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” [Hebrews 4:7 ESV]

I remember reading a quote by an English author in 2008. His words rocked my world. I could not escape the impact and the application it had on my life. It went like this:
"Why be something to everybody when you can be everything to somebody?"
I cannot describe the power that this sentence had on me. I wrestled with it for months. It led me to retire from pastoral ministry and care for my wife full time. I believed that I had heard God's voice.

My message is to simply say that God speaks to us. Sometimes through others. Often through the scriptures. The issue is how we will respond. Will we soften or harden ourselves to what he says? Will we wrestle with what we hear? Will we dismiss it? Or will we be changed by it?

Lord God help us. Teach us. To keep our hearts soft. And be open to your voice.

... this devotion is part of a series about the book of Hebrews.

the promise of rest

God’s promise that we may enter his place of rest still stands. ...
We who believe are entering that place of rest. [Hebrews 4:1,3 GW]

The writer continues to teach about this idea of rest and how it is dependent on faith and trust. This idea seems to be prominently important to him. It makes me wonder what it means to rest. The Jews were commanded to rest on the Sabbath. Is this the promised rest or is it something else?

I think that the promised rest is not a Sabbath rest in the sense that we take a day off during the week. Not that there is anything wrong with resting our bodies from the rigors of work. I am thinking that this promised rest is spiritual in nature. And gained when we stop trusting ourselves.

I have entered into such a rest. Not that I permanently stay in that rest. My experience is that rest grows as I continue to cede control of my life to the Lord. I have found that the promise of rest only comes when I trust the Lord instead of myself. For me it has been a matter of letting go of control.

Once again Lord, I proclaim my trust that you will work everything together for my good.

... this devotion is part of a series about the book of Hebrews.

entering a place of rest

they were not able to go into His rest because they did not put their trust in Him. [Hebrews 3:19 NLV]

We do well to remember the story of the 12 men who Moses sent to spy out the promised land. Only 2 of the men came back believing that Israel was able to take the land that God had promised them. The other 10 spoke of giants in the land and communicated fear. The people believed the 10.

In a sense this is the story of our lives. Will we embrace the future with optimism or pessimism? Will we trust that God will be with us on the journey? Or will we be afraid of the future? The question challenges me. I sometimes look to the future and fear the worst. And I find no rest when I do.

Transparently, I often think of the past when I look to the future. But instead of seeing times of joy, I remember the times of fear. In that I am like the 10 rather than the 2. It reminds me that I am only trusting God when I am not in control. I can only enter rest when I am trusting God instead of myself.

I am afraid of the future Lord. Help me to trust you and to enter your rest.

... this devotion is part of a series about the book of Hebrews.

partners with Christ

For we have become partners with Christ,
if in fact we hold our initial confidence firm until the end. [Hebrews 3:14 NET]

I love the way that this translation renders the Greek word metochoi as partners. It carries with it a sense of sharing or partaking. The sense in my mind is that we are active participants in God's work on earth. Think of us as junior partners. Learning from the senior partner as we walk at his side.

The second half of the verse serves to remind us that our partnership is ongoing and active. No silent partners. The word rendered confidence brings with it a sense of reality. This partnership we have with Jesus must be real. It must touch us deeply. Only then can we hold firm until the end.

You call us partners Lord. Help us to see ourselves as co-laborers in your work on earth.

... this devotion is part of a series about the book of Hebrews.

the antidote to deception

encourage each other daily ... so that none of you is hardened by sin's deception. [Heb 3:13 HCSB]

The Greek word parakaleite, translated here as encourage, can also be rendered as comfort, exhort or console. I love that! It reminds me of what Paul writes to the Corinthians about what it means to speak prophetically. In reality we need God's prophetic help to keep us from being deceived.

I sometimes think that encouragement is simply giving a friend our undivided attention. These are often the times when we engage our heart with the heart of another. In such moments divine words of comfort spring forth from within. These words encourage our hearts and keep us from sinning.

Teach us Father to hear the unspoken and see the invisible. That we might encourage a friend.

... this devotion is part of a series about the book of Hebrews.

the unbelieving heart

See to it, my brothers, that no evil, unbelieving heart is found in any of you, as shown by your turning away from the living God. [Hebrews 3:12 ISV]

In the context of a forty year Israeli wilderness experience the writer speaks to us about our hearts. He indicates that the unregenerate and unbelieving heart will eventually turn away from God in the wilderness. We all have seen this play out when times are tough and friends turn away from God.

In contrast we have also seen the glory of those who have endured, believing in God, under hellish experiences. In my view, people who actually know God, have a heart relationship with him, cannot turn away from him. Those who are born from above have new hearts that are incapable of unbelief.

Give us wisdom Lord that we might be instruments of love and grace to an unbelieving world.

... this devotion is part of a series about the book of Hebrews.

Wrath vs Rest

I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’ [Hebrews 3:11 ESV]

What do you think about when you hear about the wrath of God? Images of lightning bolts and fiery brimstone appear for some. Yet for others, the absence of God's direction come to mind. With Israel a two week journey lasted 40 years in the wilderness. It is a terrible thing to go it on our own.

To me this is the essence of faith. Will we go it alone? Make our own decisions? Or will we rest? Will we believe that God is leading us? Will we trust/rest in the Lord with all of our heart? Or will we worry? In a sense this is what wrath looks like to me: worry; anxiety; helplessness; and despair.

A most troubling idea is that God will allow us to go our own way if we, like the Israelites, reject His ways. He will allow us to be afraid of giants. He will permit us to do things that bring harm to us and others. Yet He will allow us to enter his rest when we place all of our trust and hope in him.

I desire to enter your rest Lord. Lead me in ways that bring peace.

... this devotion is part of a series about the book of Hebrews.

our hearts are tested in the wilderness

Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness [Hebrews 3:7,8 ESV]

What do you think of when you hear the word 'wilderness'? I think of a place where there are no creature comforts like running water or electricity. The Israeli journey from Egypt was through such a place. At times, no food and no water. The people were bitter about their hard circumstances.

In the wilderness they complained. Their hearts hardened as they wondered if God was with them. The wilderness tests our hearts like nothing else. In times of deep distress we are tempted to envision God as the author of our pain. As we give in to the temptation our hearts harden just a bit more.

In contrast, those who see God differently are able to keep their hearts soft in the wilderness.

The key is how we see God. Do we imagine Him to be the one who controls our every step and leads us into pain? Or do we believe Him to be one who walks at our side in the dark times? One who loves us at each step and hears our every prayer. How we see God is the key to keeping our hearts soft.

Thank you Lord for walking with us in the wilderness.

... this devotion is part of a series about the book of Hebrews.

we are his house

Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory. [Hebrews 3:6 NIV]

I love the word pictures that are painted in the scriptures. Sometimes believers are portrayed as the body of Christ. Peter writes of us as living stones laid upon the foundation of Christ. In this verse we are called his house. Bettered rendered as his household. Sons and daughters each of us.

The writer presents conditions to membership in this household. I do not think that he is saying that if we do these things we are members. In contrast he is saying that family members do these things. God's children are known for their confidence in God. These celebrate the hope that they have in him.

We glory today in the hope that you have placed in our hearts Lord.

... this devotion is part of a series about the book of Hebrews.

greater honor than Moses

Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. [Hebrews 3:3 NIV]

Interesting to note that the words translated as honor in this verse are actually two different Greek words. The first, doxēs, carries with it a sense of something glorious. The second, timēn, denotes a sense of value. Great descriptors when comparing the the ministries of Moses and Jesus.

Moses was such a great leader. One of the greatest of all time. His ministry stands above those that follow him in the Old Testament. He was a revered leader then and still today. Yet his ministry was built on the ministry of God the Son working through him. This is why Jesus is honored more.

As with Moses, our ministry rests on the idea that God, the divine builder, is working in and through us. Consequentially anything we do is of lesser value because we are building on the foundation that Jesus has already laid. In that sense we are merely building on top of what he has already built.

You are worthy Jesus Christ. Of honor. Praise. Glory. Of all we have and are.

... this devotion is part of a series about the book of Hebrews.

the heavenly calling of faithfulness

Therefore, holy brothers, partakers in a heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Jesus Christ, who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses was faithful in all His house. [Hebrews 3:1-2 MEV]

The two examples given in this verse reflect the two aspects of faithfulness. Faithfulness to God. Faithfulness to people. These are the things we are called from heaven to do. When we ask for God's kingdom to come we are praying for the courage to be faithful to this heavenly calling.

The words 'till death do us part' have been spoken countless times in wedding vows. They encapsulate the idea that real love is faithful. In a sense faithfulness witnesses to faith. We profess faith in God by our faithfulness to love Him and his creation. One cannot be faithful apart from faith empowered by love.

Dear Lord. When faithlessness knocks at our door, cause us to consider Jesus.

... this devotion is part of a series about the book of Hebrews.