Jesus Is No Angel

As a warning, and by way of apology, I’m reviewing the whole chapter in a single blog entry. I haven’t taken the time to break it down like I usually do. So, this post will be long. I’ve used headings to break it up, and you may want to skim those just to get an idea of where I’m going and end up. I process Scripture this way, and have been missing these entries tremendously. Hebrews is a deep letter, and says profound things about Jesus. I need to think it through.

Jesus as God’s Method of Communication

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.

Hebrews 1:1-2 NASB)

So, God used to use prophets to communicate a variety of pieces of His message to His human creatures. Now, His message to us is through His Son, the designated Agent and Heir of creation. There are all sorts of opinions about Jesus, some of them are even biblical. But this letter to the Chosen People, descendants by blood of that Hebrew, Abraham, this letter claims that Jesus is the means by which our Creator communicates with us.

The Gospels aren’t just informative about Jesus, interesting records of His words and deeds, they are the message. Paul’s writings to churches about belief in Jesus aren’t just guidance, they are the pathway to understanding our Creator’s message to us. The letters of Peter, of John, of Jude and James, these aren’t suggestions about how to live in cultures hostile to Jesus, they are course corrections, clarifications directing us back to the message of our Creator given through Jesus.

“In these last days, He has spoken to us in His Son.” It’s a common Greek preposition, “in”, but it has a vast range of meaning. It can refer to location (in a box), it can refer to time (in a moment), or agency (by means of a Son).

That may sound fairly common and boring, but it was a choice to not use “through”, or “with”, or so many other prepositions possible. Instead, the choice was the preposition of agency having the greatest proximity. You can not get any closer than within someone. And, therefore, it holds the greatest impression of intimacy.

Look at Exodus 23:20-23, and see how God used this preposition with regard to His “angel”:

“Behold, I am going to send an angel before you to guard you along the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. Be on your guard before him and obey his voice; do not be rebellious toward him, for he will not pardon your transgression, since My name is in him. But if you truly obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. For My angel will go before you and bring you in to the land of the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will completely destroy them.”

Exodus 23:20-23 NASB (bold typeface added)

This is an obscure reference, and we’re never told anything further about this angel. For all we know, after the failure of the spies, his job may have been done. But did you notice the sign of his authority over the sons of Israel? The Name of Yahweh was in him. So, to say that the message of our Creator to us is now “in” His Son, Jesus, is no common passing reference.

This message is now made in Jesus, through Whom all things were made (see John 1:1-3). This Jesus, Messenger of God, is also the Agent of creation. Paul refers to Him as the “Firstborn” of all creation (Colossians 1:15). We would be very wrong to consider this a reference to Jesus as created. As the “Agent”, He must be present before anything is created. For He is not the Agent of the creation of this world but of all creation, even the angels, which leads to the next section.

Jesus as Superior to Angels

And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.

Hebrews 1:3-4 NASB

Jesus is not only the radiance of His glory (that which emanates from and gives evidence of), but He is the “kharakter” of His “hupostasis” (“struck” likeness of His “underlying reality”). In Philippians 2:6, Paul claims that Jesus did not consider “equality” with God as plunder. He used a word, “isos” which only means “equal”. But here, the writer uses imagery beyond “likeness” it is indistinguishable, and not in appearance, but in the “underlying reality” of God. Jesus is indistinguishable from God in underlying reality. There is no discernible difference, on any level, between Jesus, the Son, and God, the Father.

But the writer supports his assertion further by pointing out that Jesus is superior to the superior creatures, angels. He does so using several Psalms, and a reference to David’s descendants in 2 Samuel. The writer’s use of Scripture aside, these references demonstrate that Jesus is not just different but superior to angels. I’ll take them in the order the writer does:

Jesus Is Declared His Son

“I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.'”

Psalm 2:7 NASB

“When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.”

2 Samuel 7:12-16 NASB

The 2 Samuel reference is used with Psalm 2:7, and the context of the Psalm is easy, while the context of 2 Samuel is not. Immediately following the reference to “sonship” is a reference to correction for sin, something which cannot refer to Jesus (there was no need for it, right?).

The reference in 2 Samuel is clearly to Solomon, but I included the rest of it because I wanted to point out the obvious reference to that which only fulfills in Jesus. Once we see that this reference is only complete in Jesus, then the rest of it can actually fit nicely into a reference to Him in its entirety. In fact, the writer of Hebrews covers each element of this text in the rest of the letter. And that includes the reference to “correction” (see Hebrews 5:8).

Jesus is superior to angels because He is declared to be the Son of God.

Jesus Is Worshiped by Angels

And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, “AND LET ALL THE ANGELS OF GOD WORSHIP HIM.”

Hebrews 1:6 NASB

Let all those be ashamed who serve graven images,
Who boast themselves of idols;
Worship Him, all you gods.

Psalms 97:7 NASB

Psalm 97 is a psalm of praise for God. The writer of Hebrews brings in a reference calling all “gods” (in Hebrew) to worship Him. The Greek translation has “angels” in the same place to clarify it’s not a reference to God worshiping something/someone. But what makes this reference a “messianic” reference instead of a reference to the “Father”? Nothing. There’s actually no need.

The writer has already pointed out the equality Jesus has with God, therefore this reference is only to show that God is worshiped by these angels. They are not equal with God, have not become equal with God, and will not ever be equal with God. Jesus is, but they are not.

Angels Are Messengers and Ministers


Hebrews 1:7 NASB

He makes the winds His messengers, Flaming fire His ministers.

Psalm 104:4 NASB

The Hebrew and Greek for this reference are not in opposition, as it might seem. The structure of Hebrew poetry leaves out certain elements that then require some interpretation. For instance, the Hebrew is literally, “One making His messengers spirits (or winds). The normal Hebrew grammatical element designating the direct object is missing, so what is the direct object, “His messengers” or “winds”? One has to be the direct object. But does it change the meaning either way? Apply the same logic to the next segment.

God makes use of flames and wind to achieve His purposes, and deliver His messages, and Jesus is neither flame nor wind. That is the point here. He is not “subservient” to the Creator, He is the Creator.

Jesus Is The Creator-King


Hebrews 1:8-9 NASB

The use of Psalm 45 is interesting, because the Psalm is interesting. It purports to be a love poem perhaps referring to the marriage of Solomon to the princess of Tyre. But it has clear references that are difficult to ascribe to descriptions of Solomon. For instance, both the Hebrew and Greek refer to God’s throne. It’s clearly God’s, and not an earthly king, except, perhaps by extension of the reference “gods” to refer to Solomon. It isn’t typical Hebrew practice to deify human kings. Not even in Solomon’s day.

Yet the reference immediately switches to “God, your God” having anointed the “king”. It’s an odd reference to follow the reference to God, the reference to His throne, and clear indication of a divine king. So, it’s possible that this was initially a reference to an earthly king, but along the way, someone left out “your God” from Psalm 45:6. If so, this happened so early, that it became a reference to the Messiah to come rather than Solomon. A happy accident or divine intent? Whatever works for you, as long as you see it refers to Jesus, who is The King, but also the Creator…


Hebrews 1:10-12 NASB

The writer has asserted that Jesus is the Agent of creation. Here the writer asserts that Jesus is as eternal as the Creator. Psalm 102 is worth a good careful read. The context of our quote is this:

I say,
“O my God, do not take me away in the midst of my days,
Your years are throughout all generations.
Of old You founded the earth,
And the heavens are the work of Your hands.
Even they will perish, but You endure;
And all of them will wear out like a garment;
Like clothing You will change them and they will be changed.
But You are the same,
And Your years will not come to an end.
The children of Your servants will continue,
And their descendants will be established before You.”

Psalm 102:24-28 NASB

The Psalmist cries for help to the One having created all things, Who alone endures beyond all that which He created. So, the writer of Hebrews isn’t relying on this Psalm as “proof” of Jesus as Creator, he is connecting Jesus as Creator to this familiar poetic verse. He simply asserting, “This refers to Jesus”. We want an “argument” with supporting elements, and so on. The writer side-steps the whole thing and simply says it is so. Or does he?

Isn’t Psalm 102 a “messianic psalm”? If it is, if it relates to the life of Jesus, and speaks of Him, His ministry, and His role in history, then so does this passage. Psalm 45 jumps to different “characters”, but this psalm does not. It is God who comes to restore Jerusalem (v.13-15). It is God who rescues prisoners (compare v.19-21 with Luke 4:17-21). And it is Jesus who does these things. The psalm is Messianic, and Jesus is the Creator.

Jesus Rules Over Defeated Enemies

There will be a day when the enemies of Jesus will become His “footstool”. It sound odd to modern ears, but Scripture is not a modern book. Yet, it still sounds harsh, regardless of historical period, and it is. Comparing the angels to Jesus, the writer concludes with this:

But to which of the angels has He ever said, “SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET “?
Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?

Hebrews 1:13-14 NASB

Jesus sits to the right of the Father until that time that all His enemies are His footstool. Even speaking figuratively, this refers to a real time. There will be a time when all enemies of Jesus will be subjected to Him. The audience of the Hebrews knew exactly who those enemies included. Those enemies had oppressed these disciples of Jesus already, taking property, freedom, and even life. For them to hear that, one day, the One they follow will subject these enemies is comforting. It tells them that one day, all will be right in the world. The rebellion put down, and the righteous King will reign.

Our struggle is that it seems wrong to oppress those who oppose God. Somehow that makes Him as bad, in our modern minds, as the oppressors themselves. It’s not, we’re wrong, and to our shame, balance will come in spite of us. It will be best for us to be found on the right side when that happens. And, for the record, being an oppressor before our Savior comes is the wrong side.

If you held on to the end, bless you, and I, again, apologize for the length. It’s a full chapter. There’s more to come, though hopefully in more manageable bite sizes.


Back and Forth

Do you ever imagine the scene you read about in Scripture? When you read chapter 19 in Exodus, try to imagine Moses’ as he goes back and forth from the mountain to the people. After a bit, it begins to seem like Moses is a pretty busy guy.

On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. They set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness. There Israel encamped before the mountain, while Moses went up to God. The Lord called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel:

Exodus 19:1-3 NASB

Israel sets up camp, which is a lot of work, and Moses heads up the mountain to speak with God. And Yahweh speaks to him, so, clearly Moses is supposed to go up on the mountain. If you like hiking, this might sound great, like a lot of fun. And, in some ways, it had to be one of more awesome experiences of Moses’ life. At least it probably was the first time.

So Moses came and called the elders of the people and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. All the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” And Moses reported the words of the people to the Lord. And the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever.”

Exodus 19:7-9 NASB

It doesn’t say that Moses went back up the mountain to “report the words of the people.” But, later, in verse 14, Moses goes back down the mountain to give the words of Yahweh to the people. But then, for three days, he remains with the people in the camp until they all go out to meet Yahweh as He descends on to Sinai.

The Lord came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain. And the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to the Lord to look and many of them perish.

Exodus 19:20,21 NASB

Moses heads back up, at the request of God, Who then sends him immediately back down. I’m not trying to obscure the message of Yahweh to His people. And I’m not trying to play down the importance of it. The things that Yahweh says to the sons of Israel are monumental, and the appearance of Yahweh on Mount Sinai blows away the visual effects of any movie ever made. I don’t want to detract from that at all. Those things are lying about the surface of this chapter, and they are important.

What I’m saying is that we can get so impatient with our Savior that we can miss what He’s saying to us, and through us to His other children. Sometimes we get the runaround, going back and forth from the people to God, and back to the people. For instance, pastor’s preach sermons, and people listen. But nothing changes, and the pastor goes back and does it again, and again, nothing changes. At what point does the pastor stop?

What about teaching? When does the teacher stop teaching because it’s not “working”? When do you stop attending church because “you’re not being fed”, or the people are cold? When our Savior might be giving us the runaround, it may be that we’re carrying messages back and forth. The term for such messengers, in English, is “angel”. And some of us have entertained “angels” without knowing it. And, I suspect, some of us have been angels without knowing it.

God chose a frustrating, rebellious, willfully disobedient people, from out of all the peoples of the earth, to His special possession. They are very similar to the Hebrews of Moses’ day. They are us. The message that we have been chosen, even though we don’t deserve to be, that is the message we carry. For our Savior is coming, and will be showing up in the most dramatic of ways. We are called out to stand before Him when He appears, and it will be terrifying, and marvelous when it happens.

So, go ahead and run back and forth, relaying the message of God, He’s coming, He has chosen, and we are to go out and meet with Him.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation

Passion Week XXI

Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him.  And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.  When He rose from prayer, He came to the disciples and found them sleeping from sorrow, and said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” (Luke 22:43-46 NASB)

Why is it we remember Jesus sweating drops of blood but not the angel comforting Jesus as he does?  Luke adds two details, only one of which have made it into common imagery of Gethsemane.  We don’t have verses 43 and 44 in the other Gospels, and, honestly, they are missing from the majority of the early manuscripts (Alexandrinus, Vaticanus, and especially the Bodmer Papyrus).  There is a single reading in the Sinaiticus “original hand” which supplied an early witness, yet a “corrected” version doesn’t have it; as if it were removed later from that manuscript.  The rest of the evidence is from later copies of these.  So, our best evidence is that it was written, disappeared, and shows back up nearly 800 years later.  Weird.

So, why do we remember the intensity with which Jesus prays but not the strengthening angel?  Perhaps it’s because the angel comes, but Jesus still sweats blood (or like blood); as if we don’t think the angel was all that effective.  On the other hand, the intensity with which Jesus prayed purged His will in total submission rather than obtained His own will.  The prayer aligned Himself with the divine purpose rather obtaining an alternative.  How often have we prayed with such intensity to purge our own will?  How driven are we to obtain alignment with our Master that we will sweat out thick dark drops as we pray?  Probably not as often as we pray to gain our own will.

Rising from this intense prayer for submission to His mission, Jesus finds the disciples sleeping.  Only Luke provides the reason of their sorrow.  The other Gospels record that their eyes were heavy, but we assume they were simply tired because it was late.  Luke has the detail that their weariness came from sorrow.  After the intensity of the meal they just shared, sorrow seems a fitting reason.  Reading John 13 through 16, gives us a very intense picture of that event.  It had to be confusing, yet leaving an indelible sense of Jesus’ doom.  Just as Jesus had surprised them by changing the meaning of the Passover itself, He forced changes in their view of the purpose and work of the Messiah.  It made no sense, yet left the impression that this was His end.

Jesus still returns to call them to prayer in order to avoid temptation.  There is no statement about weak flesh and willing spirit.  And there is only a single instance.  Matthew and Mark both have 3 repeat prayers.  John, as we’ve said, has none.  And Luke has just this single instance.  It’s likely that there were 3, and that Luke sees no need to repeat, and John sees no need to repeat the other Gospel writers.  Therefore, that Luke has only a single prayer isn’t a disagreement, but a literary compression of the event.

It may be more important that Jesus repeats His call to pray to avoid temptation.  Jesus sees their need differently.  Matthew and Mark both have Jesus desiring that they “watch” with Him rather than praying to avoid temptation.  Luke records a different reason for their act of prayer, just like He records a different reason for their sleep.  Praying to avoid temptation is critical, and not praying a critical error on the part of the disciples.  Is prayer our first defense against temptation?  Or is it more often that we try another tactic to avoid it.  Or would it be even more accurate to say we react against temptation rather than try to avoid it at all?  Praying that we avoid temptation would sure simplify our struggles against our propensity to give into temptation.  Perhaps we would do so much better to “keep the barn door shut” rather than trying to shut it as the horse bolts or after it escapes.

I have resisted praying to avoid temptation.  Sometimes I prevent myself from surviving temptation because I want to fail.  By not being proactive I have an excuse in that it caught me off guard.  Yet simply being proactive would have prevented the problem from appearing, and once appearing from overwhelming me; or at least providing an excuse for my failure.  I have to want to succeed to pray consistently to avoid temptation.

That’s my view through this knothole this morning.  What do you see?

Christmas In July: Familiar Problems in the Light of the Summer Sun

While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.  And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:6-7 NASB)

Perhaps it’s because this isn’t the Christmas Season that I see this passage differently.  In that season it’s familiar, and there seems to be an agreement about what all the elements mean, how we emphasize them, how we apply them and so on.  But now, in the light of a July sun, it seems oddly different. While it’s not radically different, somethings seem less important or stark, and other things come to the foreground.

Continue reading “Christmas In July: Familiar Problems in the Light of the Summer Sun”

The Messenger

So the Lord sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning until the appointed time, and seventy thousand men of the people from Dan to Beersheba died.  When the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the Lord relented from the calamity and said to the angel who destroyed the people, “It is enough! Now relax your hand!” And the angel of the Lord was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.  Then David spoke to the Lord when he saw the angel who was striking down the people, and said, “Behold, it is I who have sinned, and it is I who have done wrong; but these sheep, what have they done? Please let Your hand be against me and against my father’s house.” (2 Samuel 24:15-17 NASB)

The sheer number of theological problems in this chapter boggle the mind.  The version in 1 Chronicles only smooths out a few of them.  This account in Chronicles is actually more visually problematic.  What I want to focus on in this view through the knothole is the character of God.  Because, I find it comforting that God changes His mind.  But it’s a problem too.

Continue reading “The Messenger”