It seems strange that a New Year is to signal new strength and new energy, but it does make a good to time to pause and reflect. Tomorrow I am looking forward to settling down to look back on God’s faithfulness through 2012 and pray into what 2013 will hold.
I recently taught on the book of Hebrews and it continues to challenge my mind set and my thinking. It is a book that challenges us towards an eternal perspective and it has been one I am reflecting on since a potentially traumatic and life changing event two days ago.
Two days ago we went for a trip to the beach. We pulled in, to the curb as we arrived to change drivers in order to coordinate parking. When we took off again, the car wasn’t accelerating properly and I wasn’t really sure why, being in the back. The next thing I knew, the car was accelerating, just as the lights ahead of us went red. However, we kept accelerating… and there was a car already at the lights! Our driver couldn’t break and we pulled to the left where we were lined up to hit a petrol tanker! I remember thinking “I wonder if the tank will explode? Ha, well I guess I will discover what it feels like to burn to death after all.” (referring to the torture believers went through at the time of Emperor Nero, when the book of Hebrews was written; see below). It had the strangest peace; I knew with absolute certainty that whatever happened, pain is only temporal, and then we will be with God. What a blessing it is to know the Lord!
But obviously Im writing the story so something else happened . . .
Already we had missed a car and a tanker – 2 objects we should have hit given the close proximity. But next thing I knew, we were heading towards a lamp pole and rubbish bin. Again, we should have hit them, and I still can’t see how we didn’t. I remember thinking “well, at least we’ll stop and a bit of damage to the car is better than hitting the tanker!” – yet we didn’t hit either of them! We went up onto the wide, beach-side pedestrian strip. The front seat passenger calmly reached over and put her hand on the break. The reason we weren’t stopping wasn’t faulty breaks but that the driver couldn’t find them!!! The final miracle = there were no pedestrians at that point on the busy beach-side strip!
I am 100% certain that all of our dodges were miraculous. We had prayed as a school before the holidays began as the Christmas season is a dangerous time to be on the roads here in SA. Thank you Lord!
Reflecting on the incident, I am amazed at the total peace in death that comes from knowing Christ!
– Hebrews 9:11-15
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.
For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.
Historical Background for Hebrews:
It was (probably) written to the church in Rome around 64-65 AD just as the Neronian persecution was heating up. It is assumed that perhaps the congregation being addressed was a small home church of Jewish Christians who were part of a larger church body. Because of the persecution, they were withdrawing from meeting in the larger group, to avoid being associated as Christians.
To be a Christian in Rome during Nero’s reign could get you burnt at the stake, fed to lions in the arena, or used as a human torch to light up the night at one of Nero’s feasts. He was responsible for burning down 3 whole areas and 7 partial sections of the 14 regions of the city of Rome. The populace came to blame him and he used Christians as the scapegoat. Not a nice guy!
The Jewish Christians, however, had a unique temptation to renounce Christianity -> when Nero became Emperor, at the influence of his half-Jewish wife, he allowed the Jews to come back into Rome (they had been exiled under the reign of the previous Emperor, Nero) and placed them under legal protection. To be a Jew was to be safe in a time where being a Christian could get you tortuously killed, and your family.
So the book of Hebrews was written to encourage the original readers to remain firm in their faith and not turn back to a dead religion. The author builds his argument by showing his readers how Jesus is greater than (Jesus>) the things of Judaism: Prophets, angels, Moses, Joshua (superior rest), greater covenant, greater High Priest of a greater priesthood, greater single sacrifice for sins . . . The author also gives a series of warning against apostasy (believers renouncing Christ as Lord, declaring Him not to be God and not to be able to save). In the final 4 chapters the author concludes, essentially, by saying: “Okay, you now know Christ is greater, so this is how you can keep going and are to live in light of that, with an eternal perspective: . . .”
New Year’s Challenge:
Remember to find time tomorrow to reflect on what you have received in Christ, how God has proven Himself faithful through the ups and downs of 2012, and what you are trusting Him for in 2013.
Why not set aside an hour now to reflect on these questions and ask Him for guidance entering into the New Year?
May His blessings rest upon you in 2013!