Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son… (Hebrews 1:1-2, ESV)
One of the most amazing and gratifying facts of God’s dealing with humans is that He has spoken to us. He is not the Deity of Thomas Jefferson’s Deism who makes the world and then leaves it to itself. He has not left us to figure out from what is created the truth of who He is or what He wants for us, though indeed His creation shouts that eloquently (Psalm 19, the first half). Instead He has spoken to us at many times and in many ways. It hasn’t been a once or twice kind of thing saying, “Here, get it now because I’m not going to say it again.” And it hasn’t been through one format alone.
He came in the form of a human and talked to Adam and Eve in the garden. He spoke directly to the ear of Abraham. He met Moses in the tent of meeting and made Moses’ face glow with His glory. He gave us laws, He gave us songs, He gave us history, He gave us wisdom, all through men and women whom He had gifted to be able to receive His message. All these people could be termed “prophets” in that they were navi (Hebrew, ‘spokesmen, announcers’) or prophetes (Greek, ‘those who speak, interpret’) for Him. They were sometimes called “seers” as those who could see or perceive what He wanted communicated. He wanted to communicate to us so He equipped chosen humans to be His voice.
What these people said had God’s authority so He gave His people tests for determining who was truly His prophet with His authority. Moses taught us in Deuteronomy 13 and 18 that a true prophet would always speak in line with the message of the 10 Commandments that there is only one God, the God who delivered Israel from Egypt, whose name is Yahweh. The true prophet, if he or she made a prediction, would always be vindicated by that prediction coming true. And so we would know.
But in these last days, the days that have seen the fulfillment of all those prophecies regarding God’s coming in His Messiah to establish His kingdom on earth and await only the return of the Messiah to finish all, God has chosen to speak through His Son. The human prophets were authoritative and special, but none could be more authoritative or special than the Son. If we were required to obey the message of human prophets, how much more the divine prophet or spokesman for God!
This is the beginning of the author of Hebrews’ message to a congregation of Jewish believers who have been toying with returning to the unbelieving Jewish system of sacrifices, Sabbaths, and stipulations that carried on as if the Messiah had not made his grand entrance into history and brought to completion what these practices only foreshadowed. He is needing to remind them of the truth and warn them against sliding back away from that truth, because such a step back would be disastrous in the way it defamed God’s Son and what He accomplished.
Do we toy with going back to the way things were before we met Jesus? Do we need a reminder and warning? How tempting is it to “hang it up” or just let our Christian life run on automatic, without any real feeling for or commitment to it? What is it that tempts us to take such a backward step? Is it the same thing that tempted these believers? We will see.