YESTERDAY, TODAY, FOREVER
Lord, You are eternally unchangeable.
Read HEBREWS 13
13 Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. 2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. 3 Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. 5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.”[a]
6 So we say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?”[b]
7 Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
9 Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so. 10 We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat.
11 The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. 12 And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. 13 Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. 14 For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.
15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
17 Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.
18 Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way. 19 I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon.
Benediction and Final Greetings
20 Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
22 Brothers and sisters, I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, for in fact I have written to you quite briefly.
23 I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released. If he arrives soon, I will come with him to see you.
24 Greet all your leaders and all the Lord’s people. Those from Italy send you their greetings.
25 Grace be with you all.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘The best homage we can give our Lord is to live gladly and merrily for His love.’ (Julian of Norwich, 1342–after 1416, Sixteen Revelations of Divine Love, 16.80)
Hebrews ends with a flurry of exhortations, covering 10–12 domains of everyday life. This can be a minefield, as every preacher knows! The words ‘bear with’ (i.e., ‘be patient about’) in verse 22 suggest that the writer may feel tentative about the guidance he has given on very practical matters! This is why it’s important to read the Bible daily – to order our thinking and believing and praying, yes, but also to guide and strengthen us for daily, down-to-earth, practical discipleship.
Which of these exhortations strikes me the hardest, encourages me the most? There are only four negative commands (eg., ‘do not’: 2,5,9,16). Jesus Christ is still central, as everywhere in Hebrews. There were evidently a number of leaders in this Jewish-Christian church (24: ‘all your leaders’); some have died, it seems (7) – but Jesus remains, and always will be, who and what He always has been (8). We glimpse again the symbols of the old system – the foods, tabernacle, altar, sacrifices, covenant – but it is Jesus’ sacrifice, His offering of Himself as a sin-offering, outside the gate, which is the once-for-all offering which matters. The only sacrifices we are called to offer are the sacrifice of ourselves as we follow Him and the sacrifice of our praise (the ‘fruit of lips’; 15), which we offer in worship, work, and testimony. Finally, Jesus is the Great Shepherd – I will memorize the wonderful benediction in verses 20 and 21, which encourages us to trust that God will equip us with everything we need if we do His will and are the people whose lives bring praise to His name. Hebrews does not say much about the Holy Spirit, but we must remember that Jesus is not a distant historical figure, and He promises to live within us forever.
Jesus, the radiance of the Father’s glory, the visibility of God to me; my priest, my Savior and my friend. I will fix my eyes on You forever.
Lord, we acknowledge You as that great shepherd of the sheep. You will forever be the Good Shepherd.