‘What is God Like?’
There are some heavy and difficult things in Hebrews
There are also some simple, basic or maybe we should say ‘fundamental’ truths in Hebrews
We are not going to skip them
One of the most fundamental questions Hebrews answers is the question:
‘What is God like?’
The answer to this question is:
● Fundamental to how we live our life
● Fundamental to how we die
● Fundamental to how we enjoy or endure eternity
What is God like?
The answer to this question will determine:
● What really matters? It is God in His character who will decide what really matters.
● What standards do we live by? Gods standards!
● What is right and wrong? Judged by God and determined by Gods character.
● What is pleasing to God?
The answer to the question:
What is God like?
Decides the answer to the question:
What does God like?
He will be pleased with what is consistent with His character!
● If God is a God of love He will not be pleased with hatred, malice and cruelty.
● If God is fair, balanced and righteous then He will not be pleased by crookedness, bias, prejudice, dishonesty and injustice.
What is God like?
God is ‘like’ Jesus Christ: “the express image of His person”
“express image” : ‘χαρακτήρ’ : representation, character
“person” : ‘ὑπόστασις’: essence
Christ is the revelation of what is the essence of God
‘no man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten who is in the bosom of the Father he hath declared Him.’
‘He that hath seen me hath seen the Father’
What is the character of the essence of God?
To reveal His character in Christ, 7 OT caricatures or cameos:
1. David (1:1-4-14)
2. Adam (2:5ff)
3. Moses (chp 3)
4. Joshua (chp 4)
5. Aaron (chp 5)
6. Abraham (chp 6)
7. Melchizedek (chp 7)
1. David (1:1-4-14) – A God who is Sovereign
He has the character of a king
His kingly character is:
● anticipated in David
● Prophesied in David
● Typified in David
What do we mean that God is kingly?
● Does He sit on a throne?
● Does He have a crown?
● Does He pass laws?
In essence we are thinking of His Character; thus in 1:4-14 we see His character described and emphasised as King.
This is why in the world we have and value law and order; it is a reflection of the Divine character (Romans 13:1ff).
He is SOVEREIGN
He expects to be worshiped and to be obeyed (1:6)
● Adam (2:5ff) – A God who Suffers
God identifies with us, He is imminent in Adam as He is transcendant in David.
He participates in our sufferings (2:9) and in our death (2:9)
Note the relationship of God to suffering; He entered into suffering (2:10) rather than sovereignly removing suffering.
God voluntarily subjected Himself to suffering.
This we must factor into our understanding of the universe.
'How can there be a God if such a thing happens?' is based upon the wrong supposition that the character of God presupposes the removal of suffering form the world.
We have not only a God who is SOVEREIGN (chp 1) but also a God who SUFFERS (chp 2)
Many err on this; when we hear the statement made: ‘if there was a God, how could this happen...’ or ‘how could God let such and such a thing happen...’ or ‘where was God when...’
These arguments although perhaps not very well thought out are actually arguments against the existence of God, for it would be quite feasible to hypothesise a God who was out there but not interested to act, but rather these arguments assume:
1. That there is a God
2. That for God to be God He must be in control and thus able to act
3. That the God who is on charge and able to act cares and is interested in acting
4. That if there is a God, who is able to act and who cares to act that in suffering He ought to act to stop that suffering!
Now all of those presuppositions are assumed but unstated
They are not all correct however
The 4th assumption is wrong
In Hebrews chapter , in response to mans suffering through sin and the fall, God does not intervene to either:
● prevent sin
● prevent suffering
● remove the possibility of suffering
● abolish the consequences of sin
but God enters into our suffering to redeem His creature from their sin!!!
1. There is a God in heaven
2. He is able to act, He is in control, He is Sovereign (chp 1)
3. He cares
4. But His existence, His Sovereignty and His compassion does not necessitate the abolition of suffering! God Himself suffered!
What is the point in suffering?
● Gods righteousness demands that the consequences of Sin cannot be ignored nor dismissed. The Righteousness of God is seen.
● To break the link between sin and suffering is to pass judgement that rebellion against God and rejection of God does not matter, it is to endorse sin, it is to facilitate and palliate the effects of spiritual suicide, it is to lead man into spiritual deception that rebellion against the god of heaven has no serious consequences. The Reality of Sin is seen.
● The experience of suffering brings change in me (2:10) cf. Hebrews 12; cf. Romans chp 8 - from good to glorious. The Results of Suffering are Seen.
● When we pass through sin and into suffering, instead of simply denying the suffering, there is the potential through that suffering to draw from the grace of God in it (:9) and to come out the other side having learned from that experience. In acknowledging the righteousness of God in suffering I am able to draw on the rich resources of Gods Grace in that suffering and thus links are formed and relationships cemented through the trial and the source of strength in that trial and I am drawn close to Him (2:11) cf. Deut 8:1ff. Our Relationship with God is strengthened.
God in Christ becomes the trail blazer who blazes a path through suffering and out the other side; He is: “the Captain of their salvation made perfect through sufferings” (2:10)
That character of God will underpin and inform our understanding of and the value of suffering in chapter 12
We cannot deal with sin by:
● Denying it
● Excusing it
● Damage limitation
● Ignoring it
but righteousness demands that sin is met head on.
God is the God who REDEEMS out of Sin and through SUFFERING
● Moses (chp 3) – A God who Speaks
3:1 – 'the apostle' – the sent one, sent from God to us
3:1 – 'the High Priest' – from us to God
● His Ways
● His Works
● His Words
● Joshua (chp 4) – A God who Saves
Salvation is by resting in what He has done, wether that be:
• Creation rest
• Canaan rest
• Christian rest
It is rest in Him
● Aaron (chp 5) – The God who Sympathises and Succors
Illust: Tom, going to speak on Hebs chp 2, instead spoke on Hebs 1; 'I was thinking about our High Priest, did you notice that we have a great High Priest who:
• Succors (chp 2:18)
• Sympathises (chp 4:14ff)
• Saves (chp 7)
● Abraham (chp 6) – The God who is Sure and Steadfast
Abraham trusted the promises of God
In Abraham He is the God of promise and oath, the God of sure and steadfast promise (6:17)
● Melchizedek (chp 7) – The God who Saves and Sustains forever
Is there a pattern in the arrangement of these 7 pictures?
Is it perhaps chronological?
• Adam (chp 2)
• Moses (chp 3)
• Joshua (chp 4)
• Aaron (chp 5)
But what about:
• David (chp 1)
• Abraham (chp 6)
• Melchizedek (chp 7)
There is more to it than that.
There is a spiritual order; the path which we all travel to God:
1. The Righteousness of the Creator, this is where we begin in our discovery of God. This is where the Bible begins: Genesis 1 with the Creator, Exodus to Deuteronomy with the law giver. This is the order of Romans; first the Creator (Roms 1) and then the Righteousness of God (chps 2 to 3). This is the first reality the sinner must confront. This is the Divine attribute before which the self righteous stumble. If we fail to grapple with the all surpassing righteousness of God we never progress.
2. We see our need of a redeemer (chp2), one who is able to not only deal with the shoots of the problem: a broken and fallen humanity, but the roots of it; sin, as far back as Adam, endemic in the human nature. Pictured in Adam we have Christ, a redeemer who is able to deal with our Sin, with Satan (2:15) and with Suffering (2:18). Yet this redemption will never be personally enjoyed until we hear His voice:
3. Moses (chp 3) pictures the revelation of God in Christ, showing out the Ways of God (3:10), the Works of God (3:9) and the Words of God (3:7). Having 'heard thy welcome voice calling up to me,' we move into the enjoyment of the finished work of the Saviour:
4. Joshua (chp 4) – entering into Creation Rest / Canaan Rest / Christian Rest, wherever it is, it is the same it is 'His rest.' The enjoyment of this rest is preserved as His people are sustained by the ongoing priestly ministry of:
5. Aaron (chp 5) who is able to sustain and to succor and sympathise with his people, we are thus enabled to press on to future blessing (6:14) and future hope (6:18) and a future inheritance (6:12ff) pictured in Abraham.
6. Abraham (chp 6) – laying hold of future blessings, anchored in Christ. The salvation which we now enjoy is forever:
7. Melchisedek (chp 7) – as our Melchisedek Great High Priest what Christ has secured in the past, sustained in the present, He makes certain forever. The key word in all of this is 'forever' (6:20; 7:3,21,25).
But perhaps something more in these 7 chapters?
This is the pattern of the path we travel.
As NT believers we can recognise this path, as the one we tread.
The people to whom the letter was first addressed were Jews.
As this epistle is read, I can see a few heads turn, a few eyes open wide, a few jaws drop.
These Hebrews will recognise in these 7 chapters something more than their own story and their own spiritual journey, they will recognise something far greater and grander than that.
I can see them, listening intently and full of questions:
Did you say:
● That Jesus reigns and is seated upon a throne in heaven? That is right (1:3,8) that is what we see in David. Ah they would say, that goes beyond David; that is: 'Ha Melech Jehovah' (Ps 98:6) – 'The Lord the King'
● That Jesus not only reigns in the heavens but that He reigns forever? Yes that is what I said (1:8). Ah they would say, that goes beyond David; that is: 'Elohiym Olam' (Ps 48:14) : 'Our Everlasting God.'
● JEHOVAH-‘ELYON = Jehovah most high. Psalms 7:17, 47:2, 97:9
● He has a throne (1:8)
● He holds a sceptre (1:8)
● He laid the foundation of the earth (1:10) - Jehovah-Hoseenu - the Lord our Maker (Psalm 95:6)
He is in control. The universe is not out of control!
This universe was created for a purpose and is governed by the one who created it, it will therefore achieved its purpose.
Every disappointment is His appointment
A purpose in every circumstance
An intention in every interuption
A purpose to every problem
● ‘11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, ‘ (Eph 1:11)
● ‘ 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. ’ (Rom 8:28) - for this to be true everything has to be under the sovereign hand of God.
● That Jesus is seated in Heaven? I did (Heb 1:13). Ah they would say that goes beyond David; that is: 'Elohim Bashamayim' (Josh 2:11) : 'God in heaven'
● Did I hear you correctly describe Jesus as the one who created all things (1:10) – that goes beyond David; that is 'Jehovah Bow-ray' (Isa 40:28) – The Lord Creator.
● Did you say that all of the hosts of heaven worship Jesus? I did (1:6). Don't you understand dear gentile believer, but that goes beyond David; He is: 'Jehovah Tsa-bi-ot' – The Lord of Hosts.
● Did you say that it was Jesus who sanctifies me (2:11). That goes beyond Adam; this is: 'Jehovah Mek-a-deesh-kem' (Ex 31:13) – 'The Lord that Sanctifies you'
● Did you say that it was Jesus who deals the fatal and final blow to my greatest enemies of death (2:9-10,14) and the Devil (2:14). Such a blow can hardly be but the work of God Himself, this goes beyond Adam, this is: 'Jehovah Ma-kay' (Ezek 7:9) – The Lord that Smitteth.
● Did you say that Jesus smites to deliver (2:15) from Sin and Satan and Suffering and Death and Damnation? He is my: 'Jehovah Me-fal-ee-tee' (Ps 18:2; 2Sam 22:2; Ps 70:5) – The Lord our Deliverer
● Did I hear you say that it is Jesus who gives me Strength (2:18). I had been taught for many years, from the Word of God that the source of my strength is: 'Elohiym Ma-o-zee' (Ps43:2) – The God of my Strength.
● Did you say that it is He, the Lord Jesus, who is over the House of God (3:6)? Over 100 times in the OT scriptures, He who is over the House of Israel is: 'El Elohim Israel' : This goes beyond Moses!
● Did you say that it is Jesus who is the Saviour of His people? This is the prerogative of Jehovah, whose name is: 'Jehovah Mo-shi-ech' (Isa 49:26; 60:14) – The Lord your Saviour.
● Did I hear you correctly speak of Aaron as a picture of Jesus to whom I come for help? Yet the OT scriptures draw me to Elohim for help: 'Elohim Ozer Lee' (Ps 54:4) – God my Helper.
● Is it the Lord Jesus who is the source of mercy? Is it not 'Elohe Has-dee' (Ps 59:10,17) – 'God of my Mercy'?
● Is it into Jesus that Abrahams anchor is secure and all of His promises certain? Was it not Abraham who on Mount Moriah discovered that in Jehovah Himself could He depend for all blessings and all needs to be met, even as He had met Abrahams need for a lamb on the Mount? Was not His anchor placed into: 'Jehovah Jireh' – The Lord who Provides?
● Is it Jesus who is my refuge (Heb 6:18)? Is He then : 'Jehovah Ma-see' (Ps 91:9) – God my Refuge?
● What about that strange character of Melchisedec? Is Jesus then God my SAVIOUR and SUSTAINER forever? In which case He must be: Jehovah-Tsidkenu - cf. Heb 7:2 - the Lord our Righteousness (Jer. 23:6b, 33:16b)and Jehovah-Shalom cf Heb 7:2 - the Lord our Peace (Judg. 6:24a). This may well be where we start to preach the gospel but it is not exclusively a Gospel truth! God remains righteous even after we are saved! Some of the critics of the gospel had forgotten this (Roms 6:1ff)! God continues to: ‘love righteousness and hate iniquity’ (1:9).
This characteristic of God has huge implications for:
● self righteousness
● justification by works - His standards are just too high for that to be feasible
● the mentality of: ‘I got saved in 19 canteen and now I live as I please’ - to be saved means to display the character of God, to be like God rather than part of a fallen humanity, and thus to display the righteousness of God
How does that place my life before Him?