Morning Bible Study
This Thursday …
Our Christmas Eve service will run from 6-7pm and will be a blessing for
kids and adults alike. Bring the whole family.
Come and start your year right on Thursday Dec. 27 – we will spend our
evening in worship and prayer.
The book of Hebrews was written to Jewish believers.
The author expects the
readers to be well acquainted with Levitical worship and sacrifice.
He will constantly quote the Old Testament in a way that expects that the
reader understands what he’s talking about.
We also know that these believers were encountering very strong
Times were so bad that some were beginning to wonder if they shouldn’t quit
We will see three elements woven throughout this letter to the Hebrews.
1. Both Testaments
Even though the Old Testament has become “obsolete” (Heb. 8:13), the entire
book of Hebrews is built upon the clear foundation of the Old Testament.
(Hebrews 8:13 NKJV)
that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what
is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
You aren’t going to understand Hebrews, or even the New Testament correctly
unless you learn the Old Testament.
2. Jesus is superior
He’s superior to angels, Moses, and the Torah.
He’s superior to the Levitical priests and their sacrifices.
3. Don’t quit
The ultimate goal of the book is to encourage those who are struggling with
difficult times, and help them to endure.
We’ve seen that their survival is going to require faith.
Definition: Faith is trusting
something you don’t see.
Faith is trusting when you don’t understand what’s going on.
We talked about other words for “faith” being “belief”, “trust”, or even
Our author has been showing how the great men and women of the Old
Testament survived their difficulties because of their “faith”.
11:35-40 Difficult Races
:35 Women received their
dead raised to life again.
raised to life – anastasis –
a raising up, rising (e.g. from a seat); a rising from the dead
:35 Women received their dead
There is more than one story that fits this.
The prophet Elisha (2Ki. 4) used to stay at the house of a Shunammite woman
and her family when he passed through town.
One day this woman’s son grew ill and died.
She laid the dead body on the bed that Elisha would sleep on, and then she
rode a donkey to find Elisha. When
Elisha found out about the boy, he sent his servant to lay Elisha’s staff on
the boy, but the woman wasn’t satisfied until Elisha himself went and prayed
over the boy.
Elisha went into the room and prayed, and the child came back to life.
How was this woman’s son raised from the dead? Through faith. I think her faith played a big part.
The concept of resurrection from the dead didn’t start with Jesus.
Elijah had pronounced a drought on the land of Israel because of it’s
rebellion against God. The king wasn’t
too happy about this, so he put out a “hit” on Elijah, and Elijah began his
life as a man on the run.
One of the places Elijah hid was with a widow in Zarephath.
This woman hid Elijah for a few years.
One day this woman’s son died.
God used Elijah to raise the son back from the dead (1Ki. 17:21)
(1 Kings 17:21 NKJV) And he stretched himself out on the
child three times, and cried out to the Lord
and said, “O Lord my God, I pray,
let this child’s soul come back to him.”
It happened through faith.
But faith doesn’t always result with the bad things being fixed…
:35 …Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might
obtain a better resurrection.
:35 Others were tortured
tortured – τυμπανίζω
(“timpani”) – to beat the drum or tambourine; to torture with the “rack”
The tympanum seems to have been a wheel shaped instrument of torture, over
which criminals were stretched as though they were skins and then horribly
beaten with clubs or thongs
A form of this word is found in the LXX Apocrypha, describing something
that took place during the time of the Maccabees. Antiochus Epiphanes had taken over the Temple
and forced the Jews to do things contrary to their Law.
6:18–19 NRSV) —18 Eleazar, one of the scribes in high
position, a man now advanced in age and of noble presence, was being forced to
open his mouth to eat swine’s flesh. 19 But he,
welcoming death with honor rather than life with pollution, went up to the rack
of his own accord, spitting out the flesh,
Eleazar preferred being tortured in the rack than breaking
God’s law for the Jews.
His choice, made by faith, led to his death.
accepting – prosdechomai –
to receive to one’s self, to admit, to give access to one’s self
deliverance – apolutrosis –
a releasing effected by payment of ransom; redemption, deliverance
:35 that they might obtain a better resurrection
obtain – tugchano – to hit
the mark; of one discharging a javelin or arrow; to reach, attain, obtain, get,
become master of
better – kreitton – more
useful, more serviceable, more advantageous; more excellent
Eleazar’s faith was in something unseen, heaven.
There will be rewards when we get to heaven.
The issue here is not whether you are saved, it’s about what kind of reward
you will receive when you get to heaven.
People who are willing to accept horrible torture rather
than sin against God receive a better reward.
Paul talked about how rewards in heaven will be based on how our lives make
it through the fire of judgment.
3:12–15 NKJV) —12 Now if anyone builds on this
foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it,
because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of
what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built
on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s
work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as
Our Hebrews writer is saying that some folks preferred to build their lives
out of spiritual gold rather than cheapen it by building out of things that
will burn up in the fire.
Paul talked about the pain we endure with the hope of heaven in sight when
4:16–18 NKJV) —16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even
though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed
day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is
but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal
weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things
which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are
seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are
It’s the “exceeding and eternal weight of glory” that are the rewards worth
:36 Still others had
trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment.
mockings – empaigmos (“in”
+ “play like a child”) – a mocking, scoffing
scourgings – mastix – a
trial – peira – a trial,
:36 mockings … scourgings … chains … imprisonment
“Mockings” speaks of people calling you names, making fun of you.
“Scourgings” refers to being whipped.
“Chains and imprisonment” are simply being thrown into jail.
More than a few of the Old Testament prophets experienced these kinds of
things because people didn’t like hearing what they had to say.
Joseph (Gen. 39:20), Micaiah (1Ki. 22:27), and Jeremiah (Jer. 37:15)
NKJV) —11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all
kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and
be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they
persecuted the prophets who were before you.
:37 They were stoned,
they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered
about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—
:37 They were stoned
stoned – lithazo – to
overwhelm or pelt with stones; of stoning, a Jewish mode of punishment
Killed by stones being thrown at you, not drugs.
A prophet named Zechariah was stoned to death in the temple in the days of
Joash (2Chr. 24:21)
Chronicles 24:21 NKJV) So they conspired against him, and
at the command of the king they stoned him with stones in the court of the
house of the Lord.
:37 they were sawn in two
sawn in two – prizo – to
saw, to cut in two with a saw
We think this is the prophet Isaiah.
King Hezekiah was married to the daughter of the prophet Isaiah, a gal
named Hephzibah. They had a baby boy named
Manasseh. (2Ki. 21:1, see
Though Hezekiah was a good king, Manasseh was evil.
21:16 NKJV) Moreover Manasseh shed very much innocent blood,
till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another…
Jewish tradition tells us that some of that “innocent blood” that Manasseh
shed was his own grandfather, Isaiah.
There are not too many books of the Bible that have as many amazing
prophecies than the book of Isaiah.
Manasseh didn’t like the things his grandfather told him.
When Isaiah heard that Manasseh wanted him killed, he fled and hid in the
trunk of a cedar tree.
Manasseh had the tree cut down, cutting his grandfather in half.
The Jewish version of Isaiah’s death goes like this:
“Manasseh sought to kill Isaiah, and he fled from him, and
fled to a cedar, and the cedar swallowed him up, all but the fringe of his
garment; they came and told him (Manasseh), he said unto them, go and saw the
cedar, “and they sawed the cedar”, and
blood was seen to come out.”
:37 were tempted
tempted – peirazo – to
try, make trial of, test; to solicit to sin, to tempt
It might refer to the difficult times of “testing” they went through, or
even “temptations” to sin.
:37 slain with the sword
When Elijah was running from Jezebel, he told God…
19:10 NKJV) So he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of
Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your
prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”
:37 They wandered about in sheepskins…
wandered about – perierchomai –
to go about
The language here describes the prophet Elijah, whose “mantle” was thought
to be a sheepskin (see LXX on 1Ki. 19:13)
sheepskins – melote – a
sheepskin; an outer robe or mantle since most mantles were made of skins
The LXX uses this same word to describe Elijah’s “mantle”.
19:13 NKJV) So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he
wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the
cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, “What are you doing here,
:37 being destitute, afflicted, tormented
being destitute – hustereo –
behind; to come late or too tardily; to be left behind in the race and so fail
to reach the goal, to fall short of the end; to be inferior in power, influence
and rank; to fail, be wanting; to be in want of, lack
afflicted – thlibo – to
press (as grapes), press hard upon; metaph. to trouble, afflict, distress
tormented – kakoucheo – to
treat ill, oppress, plague
The word “destitute” speaks of not having enough.
The word “afflicted” is about being crushed, like grapes.
The word “tormented” has “evil” built into it, being oppressed with evil.
It wasn’t supposed to be like
This last section is about those who had faith, but didn’t have the “happy
ending” (unless you count heaven). Their
Red Sea didn’t part. Their kingdoms weren’t conquered. Their dead weren’t
In January, the Ladies are going to start a book on this idea titled “It’s
not supposed to be this way”.
Yet we’ll see in vs. 39 that these too “obtained a good testimony”.
Trouble and pain don’t make you a loser when you have faith
I’m concerned about people who come to church looking for “Silver bullet
They think church is just the ultimate “self-help” book.
There are churches that make it sound as if your faith should fix every
problem the way you want it to – as if you have control over every difficult
thing that comes into your life. They
will quote verses like…
(Philippians 4:13 NKJV) I can do all things through Christ
who strengthens me.
Caleb pointed out last week that the context of this verse
is about learning to keep going even when you are struggling financially.
(Matthew 6:33 NKJV) But seek first the kingdom of God
and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
The context of this passage is about food and clothing,
not big houses and fancy cars.
I have known a few folks thru the years who have been devastated by this kind
Years ago at another church, a gal I knew had severe
cerebral palsy. She was confined to a
wheelchair. She had many well-meaning
people take her to miracle/healing services where she would be prayed for. That’s not a bad thing.
What’s bad was when she wasn’t healed, she was told it was
either because of sin in her life, or because she lacked faith.
We believe that God heals today. We pray for the sick.
Some are quickly and miraculously healed.
Others endure long painful treatments.
Some are looking for the perfect way to fix their marriage … or … fix their
The Bible has lots of important things to say about our marriages, but
there’s no guarantee things will get better if only one of you is working on
While there’s no promise that your marriage is going to get better, there
is a promise that YOU will get better…sometimes while the circumstance never changes.
I’m concerned for those of you with chronic diseases.
Do you ask for prayer? Always
What if prayer doesn’t work?
It’s okay to ask…
Is there sin in my life?
Sometimes sin is a very real issue.
Do I have faith?
Sometimes faith is the issue.
Do you stop praying if it doesn’t work? Not at all.
We need to be willing to draw near to God regardless of
That’s the biggest issue of all.
Is it wrong to go to the doctor?
Not at all.
I worry about some Christians who have this sense that going
to a doctor shows a lack of faith.
Jesus told the lepers to show themselves to the priests –
where they would receive a pronouncement of having been healed … or not.
God uses doctors.
God uses medicine. Nothing wrong
here, nothing to see.
Here’s a piece of news some of you may not want to hear.
What if God wants to use your pain to help you grow?
I know people who would reject this premise outright. Yet Paul the apostle didn’t seem to think so.
God did not heal Timothy’s stomach issues.
God did not eliminate Paul’s “thorn in the flesh”.
Pain isn’t failure
Years ago one of my favorite Bible teachers went through several difficult
Jon Courson lost his first wife to cancer, and he was left to raise several
young children on his own.
When his daughter was sixteen, she was driving her VW bug down an icy road,
lost control, slid into a tree, and died.
In his great grief, Jon talked with Pastor Chuck. Chuck said to him words something like this,
“Well now we get to find out what kind of man of God you’ve become.”
Does that sound insensitive? It may have been painful, but it was loaded
Sometimes the pain we go through reveals just how deep or
shallow our faith really is.
God works through our suffering.
C.S. Lewis once wrote,
“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our
conscience, but shouts in our pain.”
Paul writes about how he once had a magnificent experience of catching a
glimpse of heaven. In order to keep Paul
humble, God allowed something difficult to happen.
Corinthians 12:7–10 NKJV) —7 And lest I should be exalted above
measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to
me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it
might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is
sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore
most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may
rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities,
in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For
when I am weak, then I am strong.
Paul didn’t “rebuke” his infirmities or difficulties, he
took pleasure in them.
Paul saw that the difficulties that made him weak made him
depend more on Christ, and that was a good thing.
Being destitute, afflicted, tormented are all words that could describe the
apostle Paul. Would you call him a
“failure”? This is a taste of what Paul faced at the end of his life:
According to some of the “faith” teachers, Paul would be
considered a failure.
I think not.
Sometimes things don’t work the way you want them to, and it’s not because
you failed to do something right.
It may be that God is trying to do a deeper work in you, a work that can
only come from you being wounded, weak, or hurt.
:38 of whom the world was
not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of
:38 They wandered in deserts and mountains,
wandered – planao – to
cause to stray, to lead astray, lead aside from the right way; to go astray,
wander, roam about
The prophet Elijah wandered in deserts, lived in mountains, and hid in a
cave. (1Ki. 19:9)
(1 Kings 19:9 NKJV)
—9 And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place;
and behold, the word of the Lord came
to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
:38 of whom the world was not worthy
worthy – axios – weighing,
having weight, having the weight of another thing of like value, worth as much;
befitting, congruous, corresponding to a thing
11:38 NLT) They were too good for this world…
Sometimes we make the mistake of trying too hard to fit into the world.
God wants us to be better than the world.
He wants us to be more comfortable in heaven than we are in the world.
:39 And all these, having
obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise,
:39 all these, having obtained a good testimony
having obtained a good testimony
– martureo – to be a witness, to
bear witness; to utter honorable testimony, give a good report
Here it’s a passive voice, meaning they had a good testimony given about
It’s the word used in:
(Hebrews 11:2 NKJV)
by it the elders obtained a good testimony.
All these people throughout the entire chapter got an “A” on their report
card, even those who were persecuted and died a martyr’s death (just like the
readers are going through)
How did they get an “A” on their report card? Because of their faith.
:39 did not receive the promise
received – komizo – to
care for, take care of; to receive
promise – epaggelia –
Whether their lives turned out happy or difficult, none of these people
received the ultimate promise.
They didn’t see Jesus.
They didn’t see His kingdom.
:40 God having provided
something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.
:40 God having provided something better for us
having provided –
problepo (“before” + “to see”) – to
foresee; to provide
Long ago God had seen something better for us.
better – κρείττων
– more useful, more serviceable; more excellent
The word is used 16x in the NT, 12 of them in Hebrews.
This has been one of the major theme words of the book of Hebrews.
Remember the point that Jesus is “superior”?
He’s better than the angels (1:4)
He has a better hope (7:19)
He has a better covenant (7:22; 8:6)
He has better promises (8:6)
He has a better sacrifice (9:23)
What’s that better thing God has provided for us? It’s Jesus.
But wait … there’s more…
:41 they should not be made perfect apart from us
be made perfect – τελειόω
– to make perfect, complete
Aorist passive subjunctive
Finish the race others
The writer of Hebrews is painting a picture we’ll see a little more clearly
when we hit chapter 12 – the picture of the relay race.
The Old Testament saints started that race.
In a relay race, the starters don’t win if the ones further along don’t
Part of their hope was in the coming Messiah, but that is just one of the points
along the way towards the finish.
The end of that race is when Jesus comes back the second time, the dead are
raised, and His kingdom is established on earth.
So here are the Old Testament saints sitting in the stands of heaven,
binoculars in hand, watching the grand race being run on the earth.
Their hopes and faith are being played out by those of us in the race
They took that baton of faith since the creation of the world and continued
to pass it on from one generation to the next.
The baton was passed on to the Jewish readers of Hebrews.
It’s been passed on to us as well.
Parents, you are passing a baton of sorts to your children. You want your kids to do well in the race of
life, so you pass things along to them…
Parents, we have something even greater to pass on to our
kids than Algebra. We pass on our faith.
All of us are in the great relay race.
I think of those who have passed a “baton” to me.
Emory Campbell and Chuck Smith were two pastors who
greatly impacted my life.
Emory taught be about caring for people. Chuck taught me about teaching the Word.
They have both passed away and are watching in the
grandstands of heaven.
I want to be a part of completing their race.
I want to be sure that I’ve passed the baton well.
I will soon be passing a baton to Caleb.
Let me say a little word about those of you who might be
tempted to “groan” whenever I remind you that Caleb will be the next Senior
Some of you have dropped little comments to me like, “But
nobody is as good a teacher as you are…”
And though you are absolutely correct (cough, cough), you
are missing the bigger picture.
This race must continue.
I think Caleb is a much better teacher at his age than I
was at his age.
I would challenge you to make it your prayer, “Lord speak
to me today”, no matter who teaches.
You’re going to find God answering that prayer.
Lastly, don’t think Caleb is the only one grabbing the baton.
So are you.
You are a part of God’s work on this earth. You are carrying the baton of faith towards
the finish line.
In a sense, my “race” is completed by you.