It seems that our culture has a serious authority crisis on its hands because the people and institutions that we have relied on for so many years to guide us and direct us seem to be crumbling all around us. And so we have been forced to ask the question . . .
Who or what are we supposed to listen to in order to find out what to believe or how to order our lives?
Some have looked to science. After all, science is authoritative and seems to be the savior of humanity. It will eventually save us from cancer and from AIDS and perhaps will someday unlock the mysteries of the universe.
But even what has been accepted as scientific truth for many years has recently been challenged - so, it seems that even science is flawed and un-authoritative and therefore is not a reliable source to help us figure out what we believe and how to order our lives.
Others have turned to the occult.
For a few bucks, you could call a psychic hot line or you could visit a psychic face to face. You could have your palm read or cards looked at to help you align your life. Or for even less money, you could pick up a newspaper and check out the horoscope.
And if you enjoy reading, you could visit your local bookstore and find an extensive section on spirituality and religion. You could mix and match the different religious thoughts to help you shape your belief system and help point you in a direction.
But this kind of spirituality doesn't really offer any form of authority or accountability.
Others have looked to the institution of the church. But with all the controversy swirling around the church, there seems to be confusion over the nature and authority held by church leadership.
So even with all of these possibilities, we are still left with a dilemma . . .
Who can we trust, who has the right answer to life's questions?
Where do we look for meaning and truth, when the authoritative structures we have relied on are crumbling all around us?
The writer of Hebrews suggests that there is only one who can provide meaning and direction and his name is, Jesus. And there is nothing better!
And it is important for us to know that Jesus is better because if we don't realize how much better Jesus is, than we are always going to be searching for something or someone whom we can trust, who has the right answers to the tough questions we have about life and as we get caught up in that search, we will run the risk of drifting away from our faith - the very thing that we need.
And so the author sets out to prove that Jesus is better and he does this first by comparing Jesus to angels.
But why begin with angels? What's so important about angels that we'd even need to make that comparison? After all, they are just cute little babies with cute little wings on their back and cute little bows and arrows and harps. And all they do is fly around and look after us . . . right?
Well, not really and to understand the importance of this comparison, we have to have a quick crash course in angelology from a Jewish perspective.
To a Jewish audience, Angels were seen as the most powerful and wondrous of all of God's creation.
They were created by God and were continually in God's presence
They served as the intermediaries between God and His people.
They assisted with the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai
And the punishment for not listening to angels was severe.
They could destroy an entire army single handedly in a night
They could create such an atmosphere of fear that people would bow down in terror.
Their presence has such a powerful affect that, invariably, the first words from their lips were: "fear not."
And when confronted by such powerful beings as angels, there's a natural temptation to want to bow down and worship them. In fact, the Apostle John almost fell prey to that error.
In Revelation 22:8-9 we're told: "I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, "Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!"
So, as you can see, from a Jewish perspective, angels were something very powerful - even god-like. They were so powerful that some were tempted to worship them.
I guess that's not too different from our current culture. There does seem to be this fascination with angels. Just go to the local bookstore and you will find lots of books about angels. There have been many movies and TV shows about angels. We have imagery all around us that depicts the greatness of angels. We even talk about our guardian angels and some even pray to angels.
But the author of Hebrews does not make this comparison because people are worshiping angels. He is setting up an argument that Jesus is better by using a method often used by Rabbis, called "from lesser to greater." This simply argues that if something is true in a lesser situation; it certainly is true in a greater, more important situation.
So by recognizing the respect and the fear that the audience had for the power of angels - the created lesser beings, the author is given a platform to suggest that Jesus, the Son of God - is better.
He is saying "yeah, angels are pretty great but . . . let me tell you about Jesus . . . he's even better than that"
And here's why . . .
And he proceeds to string together various OT texts - words that would not only carry authority but words that his audience would be very familiar with as Jewish Christians. The desired effect was to offer so much evidence that the listeners would be in complete agreement by the end of the message.
And the author begins his argument that Jesus is better with a question, a question that will set Jesus apart as the Son of God:
Read Hebrews 1:5-7
Here he is quoting psalm 2:7, a psalm depicting the enthronement of the Messiah, in which God calls the messiah "my son". And the author is raising the question . . . which of the angels has ever been called the Son of God?
It is an important question to ask because angels are to referred to as "the sons of God" throughout scripture but what the author is saying is that none of them were ever called "the Son of God"
It is a title set aside for the Messiah. So, he is saying Jesus is the long awaited Messiah.
And not only is Jesus the Son of God - the Messiah - he is also the "firstborn". Verse 6a READ
This term does not always mean born first, it is also used as a metaphor to describe one who occupies the rank and privilege of being firstborn.
It was used by God to refer to the nation of Israel
It was used by God to refer to David, the youngest of eight
And now it is being used to describe Jesus. He has been given the rank and privilege of "firstborn".
Which means that he has a special place in the heart of His father and He shares the authority of his father and inherits the lions share of his property.
And when the firstborn came into the world the angels were to worship him. Verse 6b READ
It was there Job to attend the throne of God Deuteronomy 32:4 - and by making this statement that the angels will worship him the author has not only set apart Jesus as the Son of God - the Messiah - but also has also started to make a case for the divinity of Jesus Christ.
Because no created being is or was ever worthy of worship!
The angels themselves refused to be worshiped as we say just a minute ago in revelation.
The apostle Peter refused to accept worship - acts 10:25-26
Yet Jesus received worship many times throughout scripture
The wise men Matthew 2:11
The leper Matthew 8:2
The ruler Matthew 9:18
His disciples in the boat Matthew 14:33
The Canaanite woman Matthew 15:25
The man born blind John 9:38
The women and the other disciples following the resurrection Matthew 28:9,17
The disciples following his ascension Luke 24:52
Jesus, being divine, is the only one worthy of worship and although they can be as powerful as the wind or flames of fire (vs 7) angels are simply created to serve God.
And just in case the listeners had not quite got the point that Jesus was divine, the author strings together another set of OT texts. Read vs. 8-12
The writer first quotes Psalm 102:25-27 - a psalm that address' God using His covenant name Yahweh (or Jehovah). This is a name so sacred that God's people were not allow to speak it or even write it.
By using this text, the writer of Hebrews is saying that Jesus and Yahweh - the most holy God - the name they could not speak - are one in the same. And as Yahweh - Jesus is not just a god or a created being. He is God!
And it was He who in the beginning created the earth and the heavens.
So, Jesus is also eternal, therefore He is unchangeable.
The writer clearly proclaims that Jesus is God . . . but he is also the Messiah, the anointed one who will reign over an everlasting kingdom with righteousness.
A kingdom that Daniel says "shall never be destroyed" Daniel 2:44
A kingdom that "will last forever and ever" as promised to David
A Kingdom that the angel Gabriel told Mary "There will be no end" Luke 1:33
And although the things of earth will change and get worn out like an old pair of jeans, the Kingdom of God will remain the same. It is the only constant - it is the only thing that can stand the test of time.
As God, as king, and as Messiah . . . Jesus is certainly greater than the angels!
But here comes the slam dunk and once again the author sets it up with a question followed by a direct quote from Psalm 110:1
Read Hebrews 1:13-14
He wraps it up by pointing out that No angel has ever been invited to sit at the right hand of God.
And while Jesus sits enthroned in heaven waiting for his enemies to become a footstool, the angels are sent forth to minister to those who will inherit salvation.
The writer concludes with a warning in Hebrews 2:1-3 "We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away . . . how can we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?"
We must know that Jesus is better because if we don't realize that Jesus is better than we are always going to be searching for something or someone that we can trust and we will miss out on Salvation.
So, where do we look for meaning and truth, when the authoritative structures we have relied on are crumbling all around us (as scripture points out)?
Science won't give us what we need
Other religions don't offer what we need
Angels weren't created for that purpose
Even church structures will waste away
The answer is Jesus . . . because he is better!