Things That Cannot Be Shaken
- Tuesday, June 10, 2008
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When Jesus is tempted in the wilderness, he knows that the devil's design is to get him to stop trusting what God has said. So, instead of arguing with the devil about Jesus' own powers, Jesus replies to the devil in a way that shows that he is trusting what God has said. Even though he has been in the wilderness for forty days, and even though he is hungry, he knows, because God has said, that his life is not defined by what he eats. It is defined by the "spiritual" food of God's Word. God had already said, "You are my beloved Son." No more proof was needed.
Here is Jesus, the perfect Son of God. If anyone could trust his own experience, it was Jesus. He could have been a perfect empiricist. If anyone could trust his own thinking, it was Jesus. He could have been a perfect rationalist. His experiences and his thinking were never affected by sin. They were perfect. But unlike us, though Jesus could have trusted himself, he didn't. He trusted God's Word alone.
Now, the question we must ask is, whom do you trust? Do you trust your own experience to guide you into all truth? Do you trust your own mind to give you all that is necessary for this life and the next? Or do you trust "every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4)? Do you want to put your faith in yourself? Or would you rather put your faith in one in whom millions, for over two thousand years, have trusted, not only for their "spiritual food" in this life, but in the life to come as well?
The Authority of the Son
We have been discussing the problems unique to a "new" generation of people—people who have grown up in a context in which truth is supposed to be confined to each individual or group and in which the notion of authority, if applied at all, is meant to always be up for debate.
But, as we have been hinting all along, the problems that seem unique to this generation are not unique at all. Though contexts and concerns have varied over the centuries, the issues have not varied. They have remained relatively uniform throughout history.
Around two thousand years ago, there was a small but significant group of Hebrew Christians who were struggling with many of the same issues that we have been discussing.
The contexts, of course, were different. We should not expect that the issues faced by first-century Hebrew Christians would conform exactly to those faced by twenty-first-century folk. Though the contexts in which the Hebrews struggled and lived were different, the contours of their struggle were, at significant points, coincident with ours.
One of the occasions for writing the epistle to the Hebrews was that issues of truth and authority—issues that this group of Jewish Christians had, in the past, addressed by its strong commitment to Christ—were now under suspicion.
The Jewish people had a rich and deep tradition. It was a tradition that has no equal in history. As we write this, the United States has just celebrated another July 4. That date is set aside to mark the beginning of a new nation, now more than 230 years old. But 230 years, though it may seem like a long history, is merely a blink compared to the history of Israel.
Unlike any other nation on the face of the earth, God himself worked mightily and miraculously for the sake of Israel. In the United States, debates have swirled around the question as to whether God was "on our side" in various conflicts and wars. But there was no need for such debates in Israel. God had declared to Israel that he was on their side (see Gen. 17:8; Jer. 24:7; 31:33; 32:38; Ezek. 11:20; 37:23, 27; Zech. 8:8).
But, as is often the case, Israel's strength became her weakness. One of the things that plagued the Hebrew community to which this epistle was written was that it was in danger of letting its rich and deep traditions eclipse the truth.
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