Hebrews 13 – Worship Services

Hebrews 13 Bible with Chocolove Dark Chocolate Coffee Crunch

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Today’s PassageHebrews 13

I can’t believe we’re already finished with Hebrews. I mean it; despite my familiarity with it, I somehow got it into my head that it had fourteen chapters. But sure enough, here’s the end, from the exhortations to good behavior to the last little bits of theology to the personal notes. It spans two pages in my Bible, and even before I turned the page, I could tell by the tone that the book was wrapping up. There was not going to be another chapter.

The author begins the chapter in Imperative City, home to copious commands. It struck me how many of his commands are not injunctions to follow the rules for moral behavior (though we’ve got those too, such as verse four’s “Don’t defile the marriage bed”), but rather calls to compassion. He tells his readers to show hospitality to strangers (2) and continues, “Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body” (3). That level of commitment, identifying with prisoners as if you yourself were a prisoner, is nigh-inconceivable to me. It’s much easier to stay in my living room and hang out with society’s preconceived notions about prisoners.

Whether the common assumptions about prisoners are merited or not, the author of Hebrews doesn’t care. He tells us: care about prisoners.

He also encourages his readers to eschew greed. “Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have” (5), he advises, adding that God’s omnipresent help should be sufficient for their needs. The word for “free from the love of money” is a single word in Greek–“un-money-lovingness,” if you will–and it has as its root φιλία (philia), “friendship.” The author is saying: money ain’t your friend. It will desert you; it will forsake you. Don’t count on money.

He drops another call to compassion later in the chapter. “And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (16), he instructs, building off his prior discussions of the Torah’s sacrifices. Not everyone has goats that they could hypothetically offer to God, but everyone has time and themselves. When we give to each other in service, we give to God.

And there’s one last bit of Old-Testament-based theology before the author pens his closing lines. On the topic of sacrifices, he notes:

For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. (11-12)

In much the same way that sin offerings were burned outside the camp, Jesus Christ was crucified outside Jerusalem, and many Jews continued to view him as a social exile after his death. Mounting persecution from the Jewish authorities led the first Christians, who were also Jewish, to leave Judea and take the gospel to the broader Greco-Roman world. Writing to such “exiles of faith,” the author encourages them to continue identifying with their crucified Messiah: “So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach” (13). Authentic Christianity thrives under pressure.

I don’t know about you, but I found this chapter challenging. I’m fortunate to have religious freedom, copious material resources, and negligible persecution, if any. Since God has placed so many advantages at my disposal, I could at the very least stand to up my service game.

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2 thoughts on “Hebrews 13 – Worship Services

  1. “Take notice that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom, if he comes soon, I will see you. “(Heb. 13:23 NAU) Released is apoluo in Greek, which doesn’t mean to be released from prison, but I think prison is a fair assumption. My understanding is that if friends or family didn’t bring you food in first century Roman prisons, the prison didn’t feed you. Besides, your Christian buddies would likely be among the prisoners.

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    1. Thanks for the notes on the historical scene and the Greek. I considered saying a few words about the author mentioning Timothy by name, but unfortunately there’s only so much time in the day for blogging. And it didn’t even cross my mind that Timothy might very well have been recently released from prison!

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