Hebrews 10. Chapter 19.
Sometimes we need to look back, to examine our past actions and the events that accompanied them. For our own benefit, we must consider the former days. When we examine our past actions, we can recognize our failures and mistakes, repent, grow, and make it right with those we’ve harmed. We can be restored.
But, in this instance, the recipients of the letter were the ones harmed. They lost everything for doing what is right. They were driven from their homes. Their reputations, their fortunes, and their tranquility were destroyed. If they continue, they face possible death and more persecution, unless they deny Christ and walk away from their faith.
The author urges the readers to “recall the former days when you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one” (Hebrews 10:32-35 ESV).
God’s presence and support during past trials can strengthen us for what lies ahead. We can be reassured that, once again, the Lord will be with us. This is where we grow. Therefore, remember: How has the Lord helped you during hardships you’ve experienced in the past?God's presence and support during past trials can strengthen us for what lies ahead. We can be reassured that, once again, the Lord will be with us. Therefore, remember: How has the Lord helped you during past hardships? Click To Tweet
A leader or teacher doesn’t give the instruction to “recall the former days” unless they know intimately the past from which their audience would draw their recollections. These authors do know the facts. In the past, their readers accepted with great rejoicing the confiscation of their property by officials, knowing that they would receive an eternal reward. They had compassion on those who ended up in prison. These believers, for the sake of Christ, went to the prison and cared for the prisoners anyway, putting their own lives at risk.
“Since we have a great priest over the house of God,” the authors spell out the expected and necessary response:
“LET US draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. LET US hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And LET US consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, NOT neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, BUT encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:21-25 ESV).
What changed in the lives of these courageous Christians? Why must they now be reminded to draw near to God, hold fast without wavering, love one another, and meet together?
Fear, trial, and hardship have a way of robbing us of our confidence in Christ. We look back and see the bold actions of our younger days, but we now also have experienced the hard consequences that followed and know how difficult it was to get through them. We’re aware of all that we lost. When we’re worrying and ruminating on our losses, we don’t fix our minds on Christ and his great love for us. Rather, we focus on the hardships.
We terrorize our own hearts with fearful ruminations as we consider the what ifs and the pitfalls. We become obsessed with the weaknesses of those around us, should they prove to be our own undoing, and thus we grow selfish. We forget our own sinfulness and our great need for Christ.
These thoughts and ideas, these ways of thinking, can happen to any of us during and after trials. We can find ourselves thrown out of kilter as we endure loss of money, loss of employment, relocations, physical illnesses, disasters, family conflicts, and/or persecution. The list is long.
During these, we often take our eyes off Jesus and put them on ourselves, our needs, our pains, and our preferences. We forget the love of God as the driving force in our lives. We think of ourselves and our losses first and foremost. And when we do, we walk away from God, in heart, in mind, and sometimes in action, forsaking meeting together with other Christians, because something always seems to be wrong with them. But, seldom do we consider if the damage is within us.When we walk away from God, we forsake meeting together with other Christians, because something always seems to be wrong with them. But, seldom do we consider if the damage is within us. Click To Tweet
These believers were Jewish, so these instructions remind them to recall that Jesus fulfilled all the Scriptures proving he is Messiah. He is worthy of their sacrifices. Hundreds witnessed him risen, talked to him, and testified, as Paul reminded the church. Yet, the remembrance of familiar Jewish rituals and holidays, coupled with familial acceptance, may have been pulling them back to what they now reminisce upon as an easier life.
“You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised” (Hebrews 10:36 NIV). The promise of intimate fellowship with Christ right now. The promise of eternal fellowship with Christ when our spirits leave our bodies. The promise of him forever. Our perseverance is important!
Hebrews 10:37-39 reminds us:
37 For, “In just a little while,
he who is coming will come
and will not delay.”
38 And, “But my righteous one will live by faith.
And I take no pleasure
in the one who shrinks back.”
39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.
Like them, we need to endure, so that we may receive what is promised. To remain faithful to Christ demonstrates that our faith is real. Our eternity hinges upon our perseverance, and our perseverance hinges on our reliance upon Christ and our trust in him. We desperately need him.To remain faithful to Christ demonstrates that our faith is real. Our eternity hinges on our perseverance, and our perseverance hinges on our reliance upon Christ and our trust in him. We desperately need him. Click To Tweet
Why would this encourage the first-century recipients? Why would it be uplifting that God is just and will come to destroy and to judge the unjust?
Ask anyone who has lost their home, their loved ones, and their property to terrorists empowered by a corrupt government. Ask those who have had enemy combatants come into their village, burn their homes, kill the men and boys, rape the women, steal the daughters to enslave them, and leave never to be seen again. Ask anyone who has been stolen, trafficked, and harmed.
Ask anyone who has been injured in horrific ways by their church and yet no effort has ever been made to make it right. Injustice cries out for justice. The martyrs in heaven cry out for justice, the justice that only Christ’s return will provide. God is just, he promises justice, and he will carry it out.
The authors encourage these believers who have lost so much not to fall away from our God, who seems to be taking too long. He is coming! He will bring justice when all that is necessary has been accomplished.
“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance ” (2 Peter 3:8-9 NIV).
And so it will be. The writers of Hebrews remind their readers, “But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved” (Hebrews 10:39 NIV).
Have faith, dear one, if you’re stumbling, forgetting your former faithful days, feeling embittered toward God for allowing all of this to happen, and wondering if you can ever get your feet back under you. A simple prayer can begin the process of returning to him: “Lord, I believe. Help me in my unbelief.” He can and he will increase your faith.Have faith, dear one, if you're stumbling, feeling embittered toward God for allowing all of this to happen. A simple prayer can begin the process of returning to him: "Lord, I believe. Help me in my unbelief." Click To Tweet
Pour out your heart to our Savior. Listen to what he says in return. Notice the ways he gently leads you. Open your Bible again. Meet with trustworthy believers. Be real and transparent. Allow others to build you up and encourage you. Gradually, your confidence in Christ will return. Yes, it will.Pour out your heart to our Savior. Listen to what he says. Notice the ways he gently leads you. Open your Bible again. Meet with trustworthy believers. Your confidence in Christ will return. Click To Tweet
How do these words uplift your heart and help you to persevere?
Have you ever endured hardships so heavy that you turned away from God? If so, how did he draw you back to himself?
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