During the winter Bible class quarter where I minister some of our adult classes will study the book of Hebrews on Sunday mornings (Dec. 1 thru Feb. 23). This study is entitled Hebrews: Keep Calm & Carry On.
To aid lesson prep, I’m posting ten sets of twenty exercises/questions to research and consider from each major section of Hebrews (as broken down in David A. DeSilva’s work Perseverance in Gratitude). Today’s section is Hebrews 3.1-4.13 and is entitled The Inexpediency of Distrust.
1. This entire section of Hebrews (3.1-4.13) is devoted to elaborating on Jesus’ faithfulness as our high priest before God. The section that follows (4.14-5.10) will discuss our high priest’s compassion. Faithfulness and mercy. How are both of these qualities critical to our being able to be forgiven (cf. 2.17)?
2. What does it mean for Jesus to be “the apostle … of our confession” (3.1)?
3. Why do we humans need Jesus Christ as a “high priest” (3.1) to intercede for us with God the Father?
4. Why would the author feel it necessary to prove Jesus’ superiority to Moses (3.1-6) when they have already proven Jesus is superior to the angels (1.5-14)?
5. “We are his house if we hold on to the confidence and the pride that our hope gives us. … We are partners with Christ, but only if we hold on to the confidence we had in the beginning until the end.” (3.6,14) Note the word “if.” As you read through Hebrews, underscore every occurrence of the word “if” when it is used in relation to our relationship with Christ.
6. The words of Psalm 95 form the footing for most of what’s said in Heb. 3.7-4.10. Read Psalm 95 slowly and thoughtfully, doing some research as well. What was the original context and message of this psalm? How does that come into play in Heb. 3.7-4.10?
7. What did it mean for Israel to “hear his voice” (3.7,15a), that is, God’s voice? What does it mean for us as Christians today? How does it happen?
8. God says “your ancestors challenged and tested me.” (3.9a) How did the Israelites challenge and test God? Can we be guilty of the same today? Explain.
9. As you read 3.7-4.3 again, note every reference to God’s anger. Why do God’s people need to keep with them this understanding of God being capable of being “angry” with his people?
10. How is it anyone could be led away from God? Let the matters specified in 3.8a,12-13,15,19b inform your entire answer. Ponder what such could look like in action.
11. “The living God” (3.12) is a common way of referring to God in the OT (cf. Deut. 5.26; Ps. 42.2; 84.1-2; Jer. 10.10) as well as here in Hebrews (3.12; 9.14; 10.31; 12.22). Why emphasize the fact God is “living?” What other kind of god(s) could there be that people might be tempted to serve instead?
12. One way to “watch out” for each other (3.12a) and to shield ourselves and each other from developing “an evil, unfaithful heart that abandons the living God” (3.12b) is to deliberately “encourage each other every day” (3.13). How can this be done? What sort of things might we be about doing if we were to devote ourselves to such?
13. What does it mean “we are partners with Christ” (3.14a)? How might a deep sensitivity to this reality help keep us from straying away from the living God?
14. Sadly, many make a start with Christ, but drop out along the way and no longer continue with him. This is precisely what the author of Hebrews wants their readers to avoid doing (3.14b). Make a list of matters you’ve personally witnessed smother the life of faith out of Christians who had made a good start. Now make another list of how “encouragement from others” (cf. 3.13) might have helped prevent their apostasy.
15. The image of a desert become cemetery for a multitude of people is certainly a sobering scene (3.16-19)! Even more sobering is the fact this was written as a reminder/warning to Christians (4.1). What does this say to you?
16. Reference is made to yet another blessing from God in 4.1 (“the promise”). Literally count your blessings by listing every blessing God’s people enjoy that finds mention in 3.1-4.13.
17. In contrast to the blessings list, make a list of all the negative human reactions to God’s blessings that are recorded in 3.1-4.13.
18. Heb. 4.1-11 is what’s known as an “inclusio.” That is, an idea laid down at the start (4.1) is returned to at the end (4.11). Here the concept is of Christians entering “the rest” that Israel did not enter. Consult a quality commentary and study the entirety of 4.1-11 closely.
19. Heb. 4.12 is full of deep thought. How is God’s word “living” and “active?” What is the difference between the “soul” and the “spirit?” And how is it that it is God’s word that “judges the heart’s thoughts and intentions?”
20. Like the rest of humanity, Christians will “have to give an answer” to God for “everything” (4.13). What is stirred up in you at the thought of this?