Here is how far we have come so far:
Jesus’ superiority and preeminence is established. He is God the Son, one Person of the Godhead, for all the fullness of God is in Jesus. Knowing that, you and I (the readers of Hebrews) are to guard against our faith drifting back into the way we saw things before we put our faith in Jesus.
That pull is strong!
We have all felt it from time to time, the pull of family traditions (even bad ones, like addiction, abuse, neglect), the pull of our surrounding culture, the pull of old ways of coping.
To help us, the writer of Hebrews outlined five directives.
- Follow Jesus as Preeminent Apostle and High Priest
- Resist the Pull of the Past
- Help Each Other Remain Faithful
- Enter Into God’s Rest
- Study the Word of God
The last one has a double meaning, for it points to the power of God’s words in scriptures but also the power of our preeminent Lord, the faithful and living Word.
From a Counselor’s Point of View
Humankind’s Deepest Longing
A truth we know is found in what every person longs for—is designed to long for. To be truly seen and accepted, fully known and loved. This is the very apex of human existence, and was described in breathtaking simplicity by the writer of Genesis.
And they are both of them naked, the [person] and his [woman], and they are not ashamed of themselves.Genesis 2:25 (Young’s Literal)
Let us see these two people representing every kind of relationship, for they are friends, family, and lovers. They were both completely transparent with each other, yet loved each other so much it was as though they were two souls in one body. There was no shame, no guilt, no dark past or hidden agendas, no personality disorders or relationship flaws. They were in perfect union with each other.
And also with all creation around them. All was in harmony, for they were living their blessing and their mandate in all goodness.
And also with God. In such communion with God they were both completely naked—vulnerable and transparent—and also completely unashamed. There was no such thing! Only a loving relationship that delighted and filled both God and humankind, perfect shalom.
Humankind’s Deepest Fear
But, we also know another truth, a crushing reality. Every person also fears being truly seen, for it could mean judgment, and to be fully known, for it could prompt rejection.
And the eyes of them both are opened, and they know that they [are] naked, and they sew fig-leaves, and make to themselves girdles.
And they hear the sound of Jehovah God walking up and down in the garden at the breeze of the day, and the [person] and his [woman] hide themselves from the face of Jehovah God in the midst of the trees of the garden.Genesis 3:7-8 (Young’s Literal)
For as perfect the union so was the perversity and pain of the explosion that splintered it all apart.
From that moment when their eyes were opened, but the light and glory went dark, to this day for every one of us, shame, guilt, separation, and rejection have become our reality. We long for union, but we fear it as well.
The Arduous Road to Maturity
Anyone who has spent much time at all near Christian teaching will hear talk of grace given freely, and a salvation that comes to us as an undeserved gift from God.
So far so good, if by salvation we mean that one-time act of redemption or justification.
But often what is missing in these messages is the answer to “What next?”
That moment is not suspended in time, not for anyone. A person is born, but what next? That newborn will not survive without being cared for and fed. In the process, if the baby survives, they will grow up, becoming ever more capable, until they reach maturity. Even then, the process of maturing continues, as we celebrate the milestones of life.
It is no different with being born anew from above, that spiritual rebirth which marks the beginning of a new creation, a new person divinely brought forth by the power of God. Will that person’s faith mature? It does not happen in a moment. There is much to unlearn and relearn. The Apostle John spoke of that process in his first letter when he said,
And this is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and no darkness at all is in [God].
If we said that we have fellowship with [God] and walk around in the darkness, we are lying [to] ourselves and we do [not live the truth], and if we walk around in the light, as [God] is in the light, we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus [God’s] Son cleanses us from all sin.
If we say we have not sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us,
if we [are acknowledging of] our sins, trustworthy and righteous [is the one] who forgives us and cleanses us from all unrighteousness.1 John 1:6-9 (my translation)
It is walking around in the light that enables us to see where we need forgiveness and cleansing.
As an Agent
Typically, we hear this and assume it means we as perpetrators of sin need to acknowledge our faults and failures to be forgiven by God then cleansed of the guilt and shame—and penalty—associated with those sins.
It is a right teaching, a good one, a health-giving, life-giving teaching. But it is not the whole story. Not by a long shot.
As a Victim
Because every one of us has also had to deal with the pain of being sinned against, where we were not the perpetrators but rather the victims. Every person who has experienced being victimized knows there is much shame and guilt associated with that, too. There are emotional and sometimes physical scars left by the one who sinned against us, material consequences that the victim is left with. Sometimes for the rest of their lives.
Yet, even as a victim, walking in the light brings healing. Now God cleanses the wounds, and teaches us how to release the pain and anger, how to grow up into the light as people freed from what happened to us.
Walking in the light helps us to see and be seen, to know and be known, so that we may be truly accepted and loved, and we may become capable of truly accepting and loving in return.
A Model of Healing
The Hebrew people had been traumatized and sorely victimized by their enslavement. They were a crushed people with much to unlearn and relearn about themselves, the world around them, and God. They put their faith in God and walked in God’s light, the glorious shekinah pillar of fire and cloud. As God built up their trust through patient counsel, the people became strengthened—they matured—until God knew they were ready for the next big step of faith.
But, as often happens in counseling, they stiffened when they saw what God had in mind. It would mean a great deal of hard work. Yes, wonderful rewards lay in store for them, the reality of what they had only tentatively, wistfully dreamed of in their old lives.
Yet, when it came time, they balked.
All along the way, whenever it had gotten a little bit tough, and they were asked to trust a little bit more, the people had resisted. They even toyed with the idea of simply quitting and returning to slavery. At least they knew the score back in Egypt. Each time, God nonetheless brought them a little bit further, until now they were on the cusp of Something Really Big.
Healing means saying yes to God, trusting God, taking that next step with God, knowing it will be hard, but it will also be good.