Daily Devotion for Tuesday 2nd July 2024

Hebrews 1:3-14 (with OT quotes in italics)
[The Son] is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
For to which of the angels did God ever say,
      ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you’?
Or again,
      ‘I will be his Father, and he will be my Son’?
And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,
      ‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’
Of the angels he says,
      ‘He makes his angels winds, and his servants flames of fire.’
But of the Son he says,
      ‘Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever,
      and the righteous sceptre is the sceptre 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,
      ‘In the beginning, Lord, you founded the earth,
      and the heavens are the work of your hands;
11   they will perish, but you remain;

      they will all wear out like clothing;
12   like a cloak you will roll them up,

      and like clothing they will be changed.
      But you are the same, and your years will never end.’
13 But 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 not all angels spirits in the divine service, sent to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

Hebrews’ opening verses have much to say about the dignity and majesty of Jesus – ‘the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being’ (v.3). He radiates the true light of God amid the shadows, smudges and stains of our world. He comes in God’s image, the impression of God’s life within the story of earth.
Most of this chapter, however, aims to head off a wrong impression. Our author does not want people to think of Jesus as some sort of intermediate species – rather like the angels, half-way between humanity and God. There were such beings in Jewish writings of the period. But that’s not who Jesus is.
So a string of Old Testament texts is used to underline Jesus’ supremacy over God’s angels. As Son of God, he deserves and draws the worship of even heavenly beings (vv.5-6). Angels are like mighty elemental forces, wind and fire. Yet these pass and perish and the Son will reign for ever (7-9). Earth and heaven fade away; the Son endures (10-12). He is high and honoured beside the Father, in a role no angel would ever be given (13).
If we met these texts in the Old Testament, we might not realise how many layers of meaning have been found in them. But for the writer to the Hebrews, these highlight the unique role and nature of Jesus, as Israel’s Messiah. Here is the role description, and he is the reality. He’s no angel; the letter will use this insight in chapter 2.
The first and last texts in this sequence – Psalm 2 in v.5, and Psalm 110 in v.13 – will crop up again. These psalms were once applied, it seems, to Israel’s ancient kings. Hebrews re-uses them to speak of a greater King – the ascended Jesus.

God of worlds beyond our knowing,
   of science, of space, of spirit:
thank you that you are not contained
   by time or tradition, by system or story;
but you have reached into our world
   personally and powerfully in Jesus,
who is above all and through all and in all,
   worthy of all praise and honour. Amen.

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