The Letter to the Hebrews: Believe in Better 2
Better than the prophets
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs. Hebrews 1:1-4
In the New International Version of the Bible which I was brought up on, this introductory paragraph of the Letter to the Hebrews is entitled God’s Final Word: His Son. Weird that a letter should start with a final word. This is a baseline, the foundation for all that is to come in this letter. The writer dives straight in with no introduction. Here’s what I said about it in my essay on this letter –
Hebrews 1:1-4 serves as a prologue, unusual in an epistle where one would normally expect introductory remarks. This writer, however, gives a concentrated summary of his message and goes straight into a comparison between Jesus and the prophets who came before. The prophets of long ago spoke “in may times and in various ways” (v1). Barclay points out that the prophets were always relevant, never static, “always fitting their message to their age.”. But what the former prophets conveyed was always a fragment, one part of the truth of God. As for Jesus, “Jesus was not a part of the truth; He was the whole truth. He was not a fragmentary revelation of God; He was the full revelation of God.”.
These opening words evoke a response of wondering adoration. From The Letter to the Hebrews: an evaluative outline of the key themes and theological insights by Helen Redfern
Wow! Just think of all the prophets recorded in the Old Testament of the Bible, all those messengers sent by God with messages for His people. And then comes Jesus. There is now no need for further prophets because Jesus is the final word. He is better than all the prophets who have gone before, better than all of them added together! Each of those previous prophets gave the people glimpses of God, but Jesus is the final word. There is no more to say. He is the Son of God. He is wholly God.
We often as Christians tend to focus on the death of Jesus and what he did on the cross, but his life and teachings are equally important. He lived as God intended human beings to live. He is the ultimate role model. He spoke truths direct from the Father. Red Letter Christians value the words of Jesus above all other words in the Bible as these are the only words that can be considered to come direct from God. When was the last time you read one of the Gospels and really tuned in to the words of Jesus?
It must have been extremely difficult for the Jews at the time to accept that Jesus came as one better than all the prophets who had come before. Jesus did not simply fit in alongside those prophets. He superseded them all. Accepting this was a huge thing to ask of a people whose Holy Book was largely made up of these messages from God via His prophets.
And yet there is more. In this passage, the writer asserts that Jesus is the heir of all things. It is through him that the universe has been made. He’s superior to the angels, the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.
When Jesus said ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’, he was not exaggerating. He is the only human who has ever walked the earth who fully represents God in human flesh. The words of Jesus do indeed merit careful consideration and practical application. Let’s not allow ourselves to become distracted from the way, the truth and the life.