Devotionals from Hebrews
A PREVAILING PROBLEM
By Henry Jaegers
Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God, and are become such as need milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who because of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Hebrews 5: 11-14)
At this point in the book of Hebrews, Paul is forced to discontinue his teaching for a while to deal with what is an obvious, prevailing problem among these people. It seems that Paul has run into a snag. That word "snag" is a term known to those who enjoy the sport of fishing (especially fly-fishing). It is when our line either gets tangled in the reel or gets caught on a rock, a tree limb, or a bush that keeps us from enjoying the sport. It is necessary to take time to unravel and solve the problem and that's the part of fishing that is not fun. Well, that is what Paul has faced at this point in the book. He must now take time to untangle the tackle (Pun unintended).
To understand what Paul is up against I need to go back and do something I should have done earlier. That is to present three important factors.
1. Who are these people that Paul is addressing?
2. What is the source of the problem?
3. What is Paul's goal in addressing these Hebrew Christians?
Know, that what is important to consider, for without knowing this it will be hard to progress clearly through this book and solve the problems that are so apparent in chapters 5 and6.
1. Who are these Hebrew Christians?
We know that they have a strong Hebrew background and were probably convert to Christianity. With their Jewish background, it was strongly steeped in Hebrew theology and tradition. So much to the point that it was difficult for them to let go of non-essential elements. That is always a problem when you're trying to get people to change.
2. What was the problem?.
The problem was their background. It was a good background and we know that God worked through the ministry of the prophets and angels, the priesthoods and offerings, but there was a spiritual element missing from their understanding, so Paul is trying to take them from where they are and create a new, fresh understanding of the greater meaning behind all of these.
3. What was Paul's goal?
Evidently, first, it was to help them to understand what these symbolic teachings are meant to guide them. They were still babes in their understanding but as we progress through the book, we see some little hints of resistance (remember, Moses, face quite a few of these?)
When we came to chapter 2 we saw the first signs of a potential problem. The need for them to give as much attention to the teachings of Jesus as they did to the angels. It seems that they have not arrived at this point as yet. Then later in the same chapter, Paul admonishes them not to “neglect so great salvation”. Not understanding what this great salvation is and their responsibility as new Christians, this lack of understanding was another potential problem.
Having laid down a foundation, we get to chapter 5 when Paul is so eager and caught up with explaining the priest-hood of Jesus after the order of Melchizedek, he is facing resistance. Sometimes we as pastors get so excited about the message we forget about the people that we are presenting them to and when we face resistance, we are forced to think through a different way and method of presenting the gospel to eliminate the resistance. So, it is important to pay attention to the people to whom we are preaching.
For now, I will end our message and continue next time and examine the problem and how Paul dealt with it and what the final outcome was.