An Important Promise
I’ve always loved Hebrews 13:5-6 (“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.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”), and this morning on a complete whim I decided to look up the rest of the chapter to see what it had to say.
I’m glad I did!
(the full chapter can be found below all this commentary)
v1 – Keep on loving each other as brothers. - Wonderful!¬† Did you know that in the ancient Greek language there are actually four words for love?¬† Agape, Eros, Storge, and the one they use here, Philadelphia. Yep, that’s why Philadelphia is called the “City of Brotherly Love”.¬† The first verse of this chapter is a great reminder that God commands us to love one another.¬† That’s ALL of us.¬† Not just the people you like, or the people who believe the way you do.¬† Even those who are guilty of the worst types of sin (which, by the way, is every single human that has ever walked the face of the earth), we are to forgive and show Christ’s love.¬† Adulterers, murderers, kidnappers, liars, thieves, those who are lazy…the list could go on.¬† John 8 holds the story about the story about the adulteress about to be stoned by the men Jesus were teaching, until Jesus spoke the now famed statement, “Let he who has no sin cast the first stone.”¬† As humans, we have all sinned.¬† Romans 3:23 says “For all have sinned & fall short of the Glory of God.”¬† Know what that means?¬† We’re all in the same boat, none better than another.
v2 – Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so some have unknowingly entertained angels. - Entertained?¬† God commands us to be entertaining to strangers?¬† As strange as that might seem, when you understand the history behind it it becomes more clear.¬† For one thing, I understand “entertain” as “accommodate” or “be hospitable” rather than something like doing a jig to keep people laughing!¬† In those days, the “motels” they had had pretty bad reps for being immoral places, so the traveling Christians had to find other places to stay in unfamiliar lands.¬† There are actually several places in the Bible where we are told to be hospitable (see this website to read some of the verses).¬† Even though I think this verse is referring to being hospitable to fellow Christians, I don’t think it should stop there.¬† Showing unbelievers hospitality is a really good way to show Christ’s love through our lives!
v3 – Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. - I believe this passage is talking about those who were imprisoned and mistreated for the sake of the Gospel, not all inmates and people in suffering for any reason.¬† However, God loves everyone – the unbelievers that are suffering for reasons other than for Him – and we should show His love as we know it to be.
v4 – Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. - Whoa.¬† A biggie.¬† In light of an article I read yesterday (about a school in the Northeast US being willing to give out condoms to elementary students if they ask for them), I have even more than usual to say about sexual immorality and the world today.¬† Believe me, I have a mega-huge-colossal-giant-humongous soapbox about that one.¬† I’ll save that for another post.
Anyway, marriage is an institution not understood by very many people anymore.¬† I like to think Daryl and I have the gist of it, but I’m sure we fail as often as we’re successful!¬† I think it’s sad though – really sad – that if you look up the definition of “marriage” on Urban Dictionary’s website (I don’t recommend it. Not exactly wholesome stuff, but pretty accurate to the “worldly” point of view) the top definition is “Marriage: The number one cause of divorce.”¬† The next two definitions are “What straight couples have legally and commonly don’t want, and what gay couples don’t have legally and commonly want” and “A license to f***.”¬† When did the AMAZING blessing of marriage become these things to the world?¬† I’m going to have to write an entire post on this – I just have too much to say.
v5 – Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have… – Another big one…one I’m sure I fail at quite often.¬† Remember, one of the Ten Commandments is “Do not covet.” I don’t think people think of that commandment as often as some of the more “important” ones, but God gives it the same importance as not killing someone or worshiping idols (after all, the love of money and material things is considered worshiping an idol)!¬† It’s hard for me to understand any difference between ambition – as in, working toward a goal – and coveting.¬† Maybe they’re not so different.¬† I like being ambitious.¬† I’m working toward having a big enough home that Daryl and I can comfortably have more kids.¬† I’d love to have a huge garden next year.¬† I’m saving to buy a new lense for my 450D so I can do a wider range of photography.¬† Someday, I’d love to have a studio, too.¬† Is it wrong to plan & save for those things because I’m not being content with what I have?¬† I hate to admit, the answer is probably yes.
But then, the second part of that verse: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Wow. What a promise.¬† I’ve definitely had times in my life that I felt completely abandoned and alone.¬† I’ve felt so unlovable, so rejected and uncared for.¬† I’ve struggled with feeling like nobody wanted me around, and feeling like I really have no true friends.¬† But we should always remember we have someone way better than an earthly friend. Better than a brother, even better than our human father.¬† We have an Abba! A Heavenly Father who’s always with us & who’s love for His creation – His children – knows no bounds.
v6, 12, 13, 14, & 15 – “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” - This verse & verses 12-15 of this chapter speak to my heart in a different way, not quite like the rest of them.¬† The writer of this letter is trying to give encouragement to people who are being oppressed because of their faith; people who just might be feeling like they should give in to the world.¬† To me, these verses give more than just encouragement…they’re basically summing up the entire way to be strong in our faith even in light of oppression and discouragement.¬† Verses 12-15 remind us of Jesus being oppressed by men.¬† Jesus spent a large part of his human life being disgraced and hated by people who thought he was wrong.¬† They thought he was a false prophet, a con-artist…a blasphemer.¬† Through their hatred, though, we were given redemption through His blood!¬† Even though we’ll face oppression for our faith as Jesus did, verse 14 says “For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” which I loosely interpret as “What we have here doesn’t matter, it’s gonna end.¬† We’re looking for the city that lasts forever – Heaven!”
v7 & 17 – Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. – The emphasis should definitely be on “who spoke the word of God to you” in these verses.¬† So often we hear that as Christians, we are to simply obey those in authority on earth.¬† Well, hold the phone!¬† God commands us to obey earthly authority – even secular ones – because the God says that even the very idea of “authority” comes from Him.¬† He gave us the principle of authority to keep order on earth.¬† However, as Christians, we’re not commanded to obey every law or statute that any Tom, Dick, or Harry that end up in an authoritative position command.¬† If an authority figure issues a law or command that goes against God’s laws or commandments, well, God’s laws trump man’s laws every time!
v8 – Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. - Let’s think about this for a moment.¬† How many other things can you think of that have been the same since the beginning of time, and will be until the end of time?¬† It’s remarkable to think about God – or Jesus, as the passage says – never changing.¬† Ever. When your whole world is falling apart, you can rely on God.¬† When your parents get a divorce, you can trust God to love you and let you rest in him.¬† When you lose your job and don’t know how you’re going to survive, you can let God carry you through.¬† We trust the sun to come up every morning and go down every night – in fact, we don’t even think twice about the possibility that it won’t.¬† We know it will.¬† Even more should be our trust in God.¬† He will not fail us.¬† What an awesome, life-changing commitment.
v9 – Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. – It’s always kind of amazed me how many people choose to believe in some strange religion (or lack thereof) instead of believing in the one true God.¬† Or, on that note, how susceptible many Bible-believing Christians are to strange “Christian” beliefs that have little to do with being a child of God.¬† The truth is simple – God created us, we (humans) screwed it up, so He sent Jesus to die for our sins.¬† Now, through the power of His blood, we can repent and be forgiven!¬† It has nothing to do with taking special vitamins, understanding some kind of “inner energy”, finding our “spirit guide”, joining any organization, going to a certain type of church, or any of those things.¬† Call me closed minded, but I believe that what I believe is the truth.
v15 – …let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise‚ÄĒthe fruit of lips that confess his name. – Continually!¬† Can you imagine letting every word, every action, every thought be a continual sacrifice of praise to God?¬† That’s what our lives are supposed to be.¬† Not just Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights.¬† Nope.¬† We complain, we argue with God, we have bad attitudes toward Him and other people, we’re not satisfied with what we have…the list could go on for quite awhile!¬† I know my life would be so much better if I remembered that I’m blessed – I’m a child of God!¬† He provided me with an amazing husband, an incredible son, a roof over my head, food on the table, some really great friends, and even my talent for photography and design.¬† I can also give him credit and praise for the hard times in my life, because I know that when I center my life around God and His will for my life, “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him”!
v16 – …do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. – One of the more common things to hear Christians say is that “being GOOD is not enough!”¬† An important thing to remember, though, is that God does command us do good.¬† To share, to be kind, to…well, be good! The greatest way to show God’s love to others (believers and nonbelievers alike) is through kindness and caring, because that’s what God shows to us.¬† He allows us to be punished and reap the consequences of what we sow (as any good parent does for their child), but as 1 John says, “God is love, and anyone who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”¬† If we aspire to be like Jesus, love and kindness are a huge part of it.
So, there it is. I love this chapter.¬† It’s full of such good instruction and even better promises! Thoughts?
1 Keep on loving each other as brothers.
2 Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.
3 Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, 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.”
6 So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”
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 ceremonial foods, which are of no value to those who eat them. 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‚ÄĒthe fruit of lips that confess his name.
16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
17 Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage 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. 20 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, I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written you only a short letter. 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 God’s people. Those from Italy send you their greetings. 25 Grace be with you all.