(This is a theological look and the basis for a Bible study lesson tomorrow. You are warned."
This is going to be a difficult and abstract lesson. It is not based on a narrative like we’ve been reading and it’s topical, meaning from different passages. But it gave me a lot of food for thought and worship and led me again to the core of what we should study.
And what is that? Christ. Last weeks’ sermon by Jim Shaddix was a masterwork in that. He brought us to Christ and the gospel at the end, as all preaching and teaching should.
Another incident these last two weeks bears upon this lesson. I listen to a lot of podcasts, and one of them is Viral Jesus. It’s about social media and the people—mostly women—who have a large social media presence. Although I am not a fan of social media and told my students this week I wished it would go away I have to be aware of it in my job. The guest on Viral Jesus this week was a woman named Beth Allson Barr, who has become the next big thing because she is a Baptist but also a feminist and we writes about patriarchy in the evangelical church. Patriarchy is a society that promotes male authority and female submission.
Side note here: I am not going to get into the content but I did buy her book on Kindle and have been reading it. What struck me is that she was angry, and she admitted that. I understand that anger, but anger is not a good place to live or write books. (She really lets Paige Patterson have it, for good reason.) However, the book is thought provoking despite the anger. She is an egalitarian in gender roles in contrast to a complementarian, which most conservative Christians would be. Egalitarians reject male headship in church and marriage; both partners in the marriage are equal before Jesus and mutually submissive. Both sides have their scriptures. It's a contentious issue with the Southern Baptist and less so with the Presbyterians in America (PCA). I do not have the courage of my convictions yet, because this issue is one that would disrupt and divide friendships and churches, and I don't think it is the most important one we face. However, to the extent that the complementarian viewpoint contributes to the abuse and coverup issue, then it is truly one of the most important ones we face.) Side note over.
Another incident was in my Toastmasters group. One of the men, the leader really, is a sweet Christian man and he gave a speech that was actually a testimony about his father’s death over the holidays. He goes to the more progressive Baptist church in Dalton and I enjoy his friendship. However, he said something about “your truth” and “my truth” in the speech and it’s been bugging me ever since.
Oprah Winfrey was the first person I heard of who used the word “my truth” and “your truth.” That is a nonsensical phrase, like jumbo shrimp, old news, and only choice—two words together that contradict each other.
If truth is real, it has to be above my perceptions, experiences, opinions, values, and emotions. To even say the words “my truth” is pretty arrogant. It diminishes truth and puts me as the judge of truth. It says I am not and cannot be wrong. We can’t have 7 billion versions of the truth on this planet. That’s chaos. Third, it’s lazy, and fourth, it’s anti the gospel.
So all that to get to the point—this lesson is about God’s truth and God’s truthfulness. Because God is perfectly truthful, His word and revelation and promises are perfectly trustworthy. Therefore, they are the basis of our lives this minute and our hope for every moment to come.
So we are dealing with three “heavy” words—truth, trust, hope.
We know God has many attributes, although to talk of God that way is trying to define Him with out finite, limited minds. His attributes cannot be parceled out like pieces of a pie. They are all perfect, there is no conflict in them, and they exist simultaneous and fully. God is not the sum of His attributes. We talk about His attributes to try to understand him. Think of a family that orders a pizza but the kids hate the vegetables and the parents like them. So half the pizza has sausage and the other half has mushrooms and peppers. Fine. Then think of a pumpkin pie. It’s all the way through, pumpkin. It’s a dumb analogy, but we are reduced to dumb analogies sometimes.
Truth is one of his attributes but what are others?
Do these ever conflict? Does God’ ___ ever get in the way of His ___? Can His ____ not operate because of His ____?
Is there anything God can’t do? https://www.cgi.org/twelve-things-god-cannot-do
In regard to this lesson, God cannot lie or break His word or promises. That brings us to Hebrews 6:13-20.
1. Read 13-18. God is truthful. He swore to Abraham an eternal covenant based on two unchangeable things, his word and his oath. Not only is God truthful, He is the basis of all truth and what is true. Human are not uniformly truthful, and we have to therefore be careful with trusting each other.
The foundation of our faith is not God’s love, but God’s truthfulness. We often do not think about that because God’s love is so important, but we have to start with His utter truthfulness before we go on to the rest, and there is no conflict. Of course, His love helps us trust. All this is kind of abstract, but think of God’s truthfulness—cannot and will not lie—and the truthfulness of his promises in the Scripture and through the cross and resurrection gospel. That is the starting place. If that is not truthful, thinking about love is not important.
2. We can trust God. Honestly, though, we doubt. There is no reason not to be honest about our doubts. We doubt His promises because of our experiences, we doubt some aspects of the Word because the world attacks it, we doubt because of our emotional inconsistencies, and we doubt because we don’t understand. I had a bout with that recently because of a passage in the prophets about how women would be raped and I don’t understand why that would be prophesied. The account of Thomas tells us God invites our honest doubts but not our mockery and accusations of His character. Psalm 34:8: “Taste and see that the LORD is good.” Jesus said John the Baptist was the greatest on earth right after John sent his disciples to questions about his doubts. Don’t let doubts scare you. Send them to God and use them as impetus to study and think.
3. Finally, hope comes from truth and trust. Hebrews 6:17-20. Hope entered the inner sanctuary. Jesus entered. Jesus is hope. He embodies hope. He makes hope possible.
Let’s put ourselves in the position of a Jesus person at the time Jesus came, because that is whom Hebrews is targeting. Close your eyes. You approach the ornate, beautiful temple of Herod, as you do one to several times a year, sometimes traveling by foot long distances to get there for festivals and sacrifices. A woman can’t go where the men go. Everyone has to be ceremonial clean, which affects what you eat, who you associate with, even illness. You have to bring an animal or buy one. You have to stay in a certain place, and stand there. A priest takes your animal and sacrifices it, but you don’t see this. It’s in a separate part of the temple, but you can smell the blood and smoke and burnt meat. Once a year the High Priest goes behind a thick veil that no one else can access; he does this for the Day of Atonement. He wears a bell on his foot so his assistants can hear him moving, and if he stops moving, a rope tied around his foot is used to pull him out. No bell ringing meant he is dead from offering an unacceptable sacrifice.
All mystery, hidden, veiled, but a vivid picture of the holiness of God. And of fear.
Then we read Hebrews 6. All that ended at the cross, the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. For everyone, not just the Jews by birth.
Again, put yourself in their shoes. With all that cultural experience, some Jews at that time are going to doubt that the death of Christ was enough and that the priest and temple and sacrifices no longer mattered or sufficed. That is what the book of Hebrews is about. Hope is based on something else now. Jesus’ death is enough, but not because of how bloody and violent it was but BECAUSE OF WHO HE IS, the truthful God.
Take away: Not my truth—His eternal truth.
Not human trust—trust in eternal, immutable, entirely truthful God
Not human hope—eternal hope.