The writer of Hebrews reminds his contemporaries about their Israelite ancestors: “Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible” (11:2-3). “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside...sin...and let us run...the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (12:1-2).
Today’s reading from the latter part of chapter 12 references Jesus’ reading of Isaiah 61 at his home synagogue in Nazareth. He is surrounded by men who remember him as a boy. And he proclaims, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:22). Through his death and resurrection, Jesus is revealed as the Messiah, who says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill” (Matt. 5:17, ap).
The writer warns, “At that time his voice shook the earth” and recounts God’s words, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven.” Those things that are shaken from the old shall be removed. Those that are not shaken are the new creation Christ establishes. “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe.”
With Christ’s fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, God shakes off the requirements once fulfilled by the people in covenant with God. Through Christ, we have direct access to God as our refuge.
O God, may we know the difference between those things that are shaken from those that are not. May our daily lives be acts of acceptable worship to you. Amen.
The readings in Jeremiah and Psalm 71 are repeated in a pair from earlier in the year (January 28—February 3). They describe the authors’ confidence that God has had plans for their lives since even before they were born. God similarly knows each one of us and has a calling on our lives. The reading in Hebrews gives us confidence in the permanence of the kingdom of God, to which we have access through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We are not to take this lightly; we should worship God with due respect. In a synagogue on the sabbath, Jesus teaches a lesson about mercy. When he encounters a woman in need, he places her need above religious regulations. If religious traditions trump mercy, then our priorities are out of alignment.
Read Jeremiah 1:4-10. How do the children in your life live out God’s call on their lives?
Read Psalm 71:1-6. How do you continually praise God as your refuge?
Read Hebrews 12:18-29. How do you discern what is required of you in praising God in the new covenant?
Read Luke 13:10-17. How do you observe the sabbath now? What sabbath practice might you start that puts God’s reign into action?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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