Sunday, 12 September 2010

Hebrews 1:5-14 Jesus: Above all

These are my notes from this mornings second talk on Hebrews 1.

**What can you tell me about angels? Messengers...
It’s popular to be spiritual, it is even popular to be into angels. Over the last few years there has been an explosion in books on angels – ‘how to’ books from people who promise your angels are the key to extraordinary things, others who will show you how to hear your guardian angel and the like.

I wonder how would you engage in a discussion about angels with a friend? I sent a quick text out to a few people this week asking them ‘What do you know about angels?’ and in summary the answer was not a lot. So I guess if the topic came up we wouldn’t know how to answer our friends.

In contrast to us, this church knew plenty about angels, to Jews angels were significant as God’s messengers, as mediators, deliverers of the law, as God’s servants engaged in his service. The Pastor gives the first 2 chapters to address the issue of angels, some people argue it is because they were in danger of worshipping angels, but that doesn’t seem to be the problem and certainly Jews would not worship angels.

The danger is not worshipping angels but drifting from the gospel, of adding things to it, or shifting their focus off Jesus so that what they believe becomes deformed.

Part of that seems to be a return to Jewish tradition concerning the important role of angels as mediators or messengers, possibly even seeing them as on a par with Jesus. That’s why the pastor is explaining again that Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God, why he is the one the Old Testament points to and specifically why he is superior to angels. Here he reminds his readers of what God said about his Son and that testimony is found in the Old Testament, as he gives evidence to prove his claims (1-4).

You may be thinking ah but angels aren’t my problem but it will help us engage with the angel fascination in the culture around us because it reminds us that to focus on angels is to miss the ultimate revelation of God. It will also remind us of the wonder of who our Saviour is.

1. The Son has a unique relationship to the Father(5-6)
You all know me, I have a relationship with you, but I have a very different relationship with my boys. **How is it different?

In explaining how Jesus is superior to the angels the pastor asks questions, the first comes in(5-6) **what is it? Did God ever say this about the angels?

He gives two quotations, one from Psalm 2:7 which is part of God’s decree that he will install his king in Zion but more than that he will call him “my son”. The second is from 2 Samuel 7 where God makes a promise to David that one of his descendants will be his forever king and be God’s son. Israel’s kings as they ascended to the throne became God’s representative and because their actions were to be like God’s in effect they were God’s son by character. But none of the kings did so perfectly and so Israel was left looking for the perfect Son.

Both quotations look forward to the coming of a God anointed Messiah but significantly here both highlight that God will call him his son and he is not a representative son in that he acts like the Father like all the other kings he is perfectly God’s son because he is God’s Son.

Neither of those statements are made of angels, but of Jesus alone. At his baptism those words from Psalm 2 and 2 Samuel resound from the heavens “This is my Son, whom I love...” and again at his transfiguration when Peter, James and John glimpse the glory and radiance of God in Jesus and God testifies “This my son, whom I have chosen, listen to him.”

God testifies that Jesus is the promised messiah from David’s line and that he uniquely is his Son. (6)Presses home that contrast with angels **what do the angels do when God’s firstborn son comes into the world? They worship him. The angels worship someone greater than them, in fact they worship God alone, and their worship of Jesus reveals to us who he is. They may be described in the Old Testament as sons of God but this is THE SON OF GOD.

The Son is above the angels, superior in the revelation of God which he brings because he alone is the Son of God.

The angels worship Jesus because he is greater than them, he is the Son of God. It was what distinguished Christianity from Judaism or from the emperor cults, Jesus alone is to be worshipped. It is what marks out our faith today from the Jehovah’s Witnesses who say Jesus is just an archangel. Take them to Hebrews – Jesus is the Son of God and alone is to be worshipped.

2. The Son is eternal and unchanging (7-12)
There is more to Jesus’ superiority than his relationship to the Father, he is not great because of his Father but because he is in very nature God, and that is brought out in the next contrast.

Whilst there is a fascination in spiritual circles with angels we only tend to think about them at Christmas, and then we think of cute fairy like creatures. That is not what the Bible tells us about angels. In the Bible angels are terrifying, they are awesome warriors of light, people’s first response isn’t ‘ahhh!’ but terror.

**What is the job description of the angels(7)? They are God’s servants, his ministers, messengers is what the word angel means in both Greek and Hebrew. But awesome though they are they pale into insignificance when compared to the Son.

Just look at what at what (8)actually says, God identifies his Son as God “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever...”. The Son is God who rules as God forever, he rules with God’s authority and as God would rule with righteousness and hatred of wickedness, and God has exalted him, he is the creator and is eternal and unchanging, he is the one who will roll up creation at the end of time.

Angels would astound us if we saw one but how much more astounding is the Son who is God in all his glory and majesty, who is the exact representation of God. Even angels are created beings, created by the Son, and they worship the Son because he is God.

Imagine that you had a phone call from the Queen’s personal secretary, I guess once you made sure it wasn’t someone playing a practical joke you’d be pretty amazed and you would listen. But how much more amazed would you be if there was a knock at the door and the Queen herself had come to see you.

Do you see the encouragement that there is here, it is an encouragement to listen to the Son of God, to listen to his words and listening is more than just hearing it is thinking his words through and living in the light of them.

Sometimes we meet people and in the course of a conversation they will say something like this: ‘Well, I would believe in God if he sent an angel to me,’ but we need to say to them God has sent someone far greater than an angel, God sent his Son listen to him.

3. The Son, your Saviour, reigns and rules(13-14)
Again the pastor poses another question, **what is it? “To which of the angels did God ever say...?” they would sit enthroned at his right hand until he would utterly defeat their enemies? The answer is none, and yet in Psalm 110, a Psalm Jesus applies to himself, David promises that God will do this for his Son. Jesus is greater than angels because he was resurrected and he rules and reigns enthroned at God’s right hand now and one day his rule will be recognised by all, even his enemies.

The angels are not sat at God’s right hand, they minister, in fact they serve the very gospel of salvation that the son brings into existence, they serve those who are saved by the Son.

Think back to the quiet hill side outside Bethlehem **what do the angels do? They declare the news of the saviour’s birth and send the shepherds to see him, or after Jesus’ temptation in the desert angels attend to him, at the empty tomb they declare his resurrection, or in Acts they free Peter from prison to spread the gospel. Angels serve God, the gospel of the Son and those who believe in his name.

Jesus is better than angels. But what does this have to say to us?

Firstly – it is a reminder not to be distracted from Jesus. Angels may not be the thing which would distract us but there may be other things, things which are good, just as angels are, but which we must not put in the place of, or on a par with, Jesus Christ. We are saved by Jesus Christ alone.

Secondly – We live in a world increasingly concerned with the spiritual and angels are a big part of that. And we need to be calling people to see the true nature of angels – they are messengers from God sent to point us to the gospel of Jesus. To focus on angels is to miss the Son and to miss out on salvation.

Thirdly – Passages like this help us in sharing the gospel with Muslim friends. Muslims are very impressed by angels, dreams and visions. To a Muslim worldview such occurrences authenticate the message, it is an angel who revealed the Quran to Mohammad. So if I want to share the gospel with a Muslim friend I would start in the first few chapters of Matthew or Luke and show them that the Angels and the dreams all point to one thing the wonderful and astounding news that God the Son becomes man to save us.

Or when the JW or Mormon knocks on the door, similarly I would want to be talking about what they consider the role of angels to be compared to the superiority of Jesus the Son.

Be encouraged - Jesus is superior even to angels, he is God’s Son, he is God in nature and your Saviour rules and reigns, listen to him.

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