September 3

Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Living Ethically in the Light of the Bible

Reading schedule

Luke 19:28-48; Hebrews 2:1-9; Proverbs 18:1-13; Isaiah 27-28

An initial reading of Hebrews 2:1-9 might suggest that this passage speaks of the high status of humanity. The Bible does affirm this view, especially in stating that men and women are made in the image of God. However, careful attention to this passage shows that it is not addressing the status of humanity. Rather, the son of man described here is Jesus Christ. Hebrews 2 quotes from Psalm 8, which elsewhere in the New Testament is taken to be referring to Jesus. This passage addresses Jesus’ glorified status, and in doing so has an important message for those who suffer and are in pain.

The context of any passage provides crucial guidance to its proper interpretation.Readingisolated passages, such as the way this Bible-reading schedule is set up, has a major limitation.ReadingHebrews 2:1-9 in isolation makes it easy to ignore what comes before and after it. On its own, it would make sense to think that this passage is about humans being made a little lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honour, and with everything under our feet. But that interpretation makes little sense as you read through Hebrews 1 and 2. To do so would be taking these verses out of context.

Hebrews begins by affirming that in these days God has spoken through his Son, Jesus Christ. The author makes it clear that Jesus has greater authority than any angel. Some teaching must have been circulating around his audience that angels were to be viewed more highly than was appropriate. We, like the Hebrews audience, need to pay more careful attention to what is being said about angels. No matter how great an angel might be, Jesus is far superior. The angels are not in control of things. Everything has been made subject to Jesus, even though at present it does not look that way.

Here is where the take-home message lies. Our passage helps make the transition from Hebrews 1 to the rest of Hebrews 2. These chapters are moving from declaring the authority of Jesus Christ to a discussion of his suffering. The one who has been exalted greatly is the same one who has suffered greatly. Jesus was made a little lower than the angels so that he could identify with us in our suffering. As the audience of Hebrews was suffering, they needed somewhere to place their hope. But hope involves faith in what is not seen (Hebrews 11:1). The world does not look like one in which Jesus is in control. Everything does not look like it is subject to Jesus. If God is in control, why does he let the world rage on apparently out of control?

The answer lies in God’s timing. As I write this, the battle forTripoliis over; the forces of Gaddafi have lost control ofLibya. The outcome of the war is settled, but the fighting and suffering continues. The spiritual battle for humanity is one of those ‘already’–‘not yet’ tensions in the Bible. Christ has already won the victory, but the war is not yet ended. During this transitional time, suffering continues. Our hope is to ‘see Jesus’ (v. 9). We may feel that God doesn’t hear our prayers, or that he can’t solve our problems. He must trust that he does and he can. As we turn to Christ, and get to know him, we see that he has suffered like we do. We can draw near to him and know that does help us.

The difficulty for us, as Larry Crabb puts it, is that, ‘Feeling better has become more important than finding God.’ Suffering is part of the Christian life. Jesus suffered. Pain will not be removed completely in this world. But in the midst of suffering, we can draw close to Jesus, get to know him intimately, and find strength to continue. We can resist the temptation to take ethical short-cuts to feel better. And ultimately, we know that just as Christ endured suffering and was glorified, a time is coming when all pain and suffering will be taken away (Revelation 21:4).

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