Hebrews is written to show the superiority of Jesus Christ in every respect. We need perspective to understand this properly. The author shows Jesus superior to the Old Testament revelation and the various elements of worship and service in the Old Testament as well, but he is not despising the Old Testament or disparaging it in any way. Rather he is showing us the proper way to interpret the Old Testament, the way Jesus spoke of the Old Testament (John 5:39; Luke 24:44).
So the Old Testament scriptures are about Christ. That doesn’t mean they aren’t literally true or historically accurate. To say Christ is better doesn’t mean the Old Testament is bad or worthless. As we will see in studying this letter, the Old Testament is incomplete. It is a shadow of something greater to come. That greater substance is Jesus Christ.
Think of it this way. Imagine a husband is separated from his wife for a long time due to military service. While they are apart, the only means of communication they have is by mailed letters. During that time, the wife cherishes those letters and reads them many times. The letters increase her anticipation for her husband’s return home. When her husband finally returns, does she run out to meet him or does she stay in her room reading the letters? The letters were good in their time and place but once the husband returns, she would rather have him than the letters.
Likewise, the Old Testament is pointing to the coming of Christ and building anticipation. Once He is revealed, the substance supersedes the shadow. This doesn’t render the Old Testament untrue or useless, but it can never be looked at the same way again. Everything is now viewed through the lens of Jesus Christ, His life, death, resurrection, and return.
The opening verses of this first chapter immediately establish the foundation and trajectory of this letter. The author divides time into two great epochs in which God has spoken, or revealed Himself. The second epoch being through His Son is greater than the first. This sets up the continual comparison and contrast we have throughout this book.
The letter to the Hebrews is often grouped in the general epistles, but it’s difficult to categorize because it is a unique book. It is the most Christocentric book in the New Testament. Given the four Gospels devoted to Jesus’ life and ministry, that claim seems to overreach. However, when you consider the density and extent of the theology of Christ in this book, the claim is difficult to counter. Hebrews is primarily about the high-priesthood of Jesus Christ and what other book rivals it on that ground?
This letter has several unique features among the New Testament epistles. There is no introductory greeting in the text. We don’t know exactly when it is written or from where it was written. We don’t know who wrote it. I know this is a contentious issue, but we will get to the authorship question in a few moments. We don’t know exactly whom it was written to and where they were located. There are some clues to those questions in the text but they only provide general answers or hints.
Further, this letter is more like a series of sermons than a letter until you get to the very end. The author does call it a “word of exhortation” (Hebrews 13:22). This book also contains the only reference to Timothy’s imprisonment we have in the New Testament (Hebrews 13:23). This letter has the only reference to Melchisedec in the New Testament. In fact, it is one of only three references in the entire Bible. The other two references are in Genesis and the Psalms.
This book also has some notable features. It is not about preaching in the sense that it is a homiletic textbook, but it is a great example of biblical preaching. The author quotes and refers to Old Testament passages and expounds them throughout the letter. It is noteworthy that the author quotes from the Old Testament and gives the quotes as God, Jesus, or the Spirit speaking. There is a scarce reference to David in reference to a Psalm but mostly the book quotes the Old Testament as God speaking. Read more
In the verses previous to those of our present text, the extravagance and indulgence of Ahasuerus is manifested. His excessive feasting speaks much about his true character. Just as we might find glimpses of our own true character if we examine the areas of excess and indulgence in our life. In the verses now before us, we shall see the consummation of the grand feasts.
The previous article was an introduction to the Book of Esther. This book is remarkable in teaching the providence of God. We noted there are no extraordinary miracles or supernatural events. Rather, this book sets forth the glory of God in the mundane. As we study this book, we want to be careful to pay attention to the details and seeming incidentals. In this article, we wish to begin looking at the verses of the first chapter.
The book of Esther is named for its primary character. Esther was an orphan, Jewish girl raised by her uncle Mordecai who rose to fame and prominence through some rather unusual means. She is really the main focus of the book. The Hebrew name of Esther is Hadassah which means myrtle. The name “Esther” is a derivation of the Persian word for star. It is commonly referred to as the volume of Esther by the Jews.