God’s Revelation to the Prophets (series: Lessons on Hebrews)
by John Lowe
Lesson 1: God’s Revelation to the Prophets
Scripture: Hebrews 1:1 (KJV)
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
In this opening chapter it is made clear that Paul’s primary object in writing the epistle to the Hebrews was to show the importance of the Christian faith, that it is the faith once delivered unto the saints, and to prevent the Hebrew believers returning to Judaism or attempting to mix law and grace.
In the very outset of the epistle Paul proclaims Christ the Son of God1 as the One through whom God has spoken in these last days, pointing out that the testimony of Christ is far better than the testimony through the prophets in the former days.
These verses waste no time in getting to the main point. They simply tell us that Jesus Christ is superior to everyone and everything. These words are meant to be encouragement to the Jewish readers, according to Hebrews 13:222. No other book so exalts and magnifies Jesus Christ. The theme is the fact that Jesus is better. We have a better high priest (one who serves as a bridge between man and God), a better sacrifice (once and for all), and a better destiny (heaven).
What follows is a carefully developed statement about the significance of the Word from God spoken through the prophets.
(1:1) God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
Without any small talk and even without any salutation, the letter of Hebrews is unveiled. From the very first sentence, there is a powerful proclamation of the good news of God through Jesus Christ the Son. This introduction is intensely brief and to the point. At the same time, it is astoundingly broad in its sweep and scope.
The reference, “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,” leaves the clear impression that those originally addressed were of Jewish origin. The Hebrew prophets, men like Jonah, Jeremiah, David, Daniel and Moses, were God’s spokesmen who uniquely brought the word of the Lord’s judgment and the word of the Lord’s loving-kindness to His chosen people. I believe God has created a vacuum in man that only God Himself can fill. Man realizes that something is missing, but he is unaware of what it is. By and large, almost all people seek to be religious. Religion is man’s attempt to find the supernatural God. Salvation is God’s entry into human existence to reveal Himself.
John MacArthur illustrated the difference between religion and salvation by asking and answering this question: “How can human beings who are enclosed in time and space in a natural box make contact with the supernatural God who is outside the box?” There are two possible answers:
1. Man can attempt to chip a hole in a corner of the box.
2. God can come down into that box and reveal Himself in an understandable way.
Religion is my reaching up trying to make contact with God. Salvation is God reaching down into my existence and making contact with men
Hebrew theology was built on the conviction that God is, that He is one, and that He has spoken. Paul’s sermons bring audiences face-to-face with the God who speaks. God is not silent, but vocal. He has repeatedly taken the initiative to disclose Himself because He wants to be known. The prophetic tradition was a forward-looking tradition of religious zeal, spiritual depth, and ethical passion. In that tradition, plain people, men like Amos and Micah and woman like Miriam (Ex. 15:20) and Anna (Luke 2:36), were caught up by God’s Spirit and compelled to proclaim His Word in a language that could be clearly understood by the common people. As Amos said, “The lion hath roared, who will not fear? The Lord GOD hath spoken, who can but prophesy?” (Amos 3:8). The Prophets’ “thus saith the Lord” was the standard by which Israel moved forward from Ur of the Chaldees to Bethlehem of Judea. That forward movement was a dynamic progression toward the Messiah. The prophets “of old” were both seers of the messianic hope and speakers for God concerning the revelation of redemption that was progressively drawing near.
God made His will and His grace known in many ways and at sundry times various times. Sometimes He revealed Himself by a theophany, or divine manifestation, as He did to Adam in Eden, and to Moses in the burning bush and elsewhere (Num. 12:6, 7); sometimes, by dreams and visions, as He did to Jacob and Joseph; sometimes, by the ministry of angels, as He did at the giving of the law; sometimes, in great grandeur by audible utterances; and sometimes, by writing with His own finger, as in giving the precepts of the Decalogue Ten Commandments on tables of stone. Often He inspired men to speak and write His mind. This was His most common method of revealing His will. Whatever were their private views and feelings, the prophets were controlled by divine inspiration. They spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. Even Balaam confessed his inability to speak counter to the divine will. Many were prophets who wrote nothing. The Spirit of Christ, which was in the prophets, infallibly, secured the utterances of the truth. The phrase―in time past―simply means formerly. The Greek word thus rendered marks the distinction between all former days and those of the gospel.
Special notes and Scripture
1 There is no attempt in the Bible to prove the existence of God, rather it is assumed. We find the same in Gen. 1:1 and John 1:1.
[2} And I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation: for I have written a letter unto you in few words. (Heb. 13:22)