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BURNING BRAMBLES AND FULFILLING PROMISES
I THE SUBSIDENCE OF THE SUPERFICIAL
i) The Sight in View
BURNING BRAMBLES AND FULFILLING PROMISES
I THE SUBSIDENCE OF THE SUPERFICIAL
i) The Sight in View
How often is Hebrews 6 used to signify subsidence of spirit from initial elevation. Put like that, this is sound. But it can be used to suggest rupture of saving faith, and nothing could be further from its teaching.
In fact, it rebuts the extremist idea that because of sin God does not actually knead the fallen heart of hopeless man. In fact, he can taste of the things of the world to come, without swallowing (cf. John 6, to pursue the image in view), be enlightened and even be made a partaker of the Holy Spirit (and Saul and Balaam both give indications of remarkable initial involvements). Judas was close to Christ, sent on mission, had a special post and yet became more fodder for the devil, crafty and caught like a sheep in a fence.
Yet he was quite simply as seen from the first, a devil (cf. John 6:70). In other words, there was superficial joy, as in the parable of Matthew 13:20, when the seed feel on stony places (no repentance), leading to rejoicing for a season. That was shallow, no root, mere psychic action; and in that case, the plant having no root, could not endure, instead on a hot day, shrivelling from the sunshine. Notice that it was the seed, the word of God, which shrivelled in that placement: the soil remaining just bad.
Just as there was no broken ground, for the seed, no heart awake to its own unsoundness, far less broken and ready for divine action (Luke 13:1-2), so there was no penetrating seed or establishment, the barren result something alien to agriculture. Out of parable, Hebrews 6 declares the same: action, reaction but no penetration. How challenging can be the initial phases of impact of Christ on the unconverted but highly attracted soul, as in the case of the rich young ruler who came running, and departing grieving (Mark 10:17ff.). This was for very good reason: he did not want to pay the price of actuality, merely surging in desire, like a window shopper.
Alas, the heart may burn with desire, but where the soul is not cleansed, the heart remaining remorselessly hard, what is left but a certain fiery looking forward, like land in relentless drought, finding its destiny in the desert. Without God, by its own informed flourish of will, that heart abides in the desert of barrenness, settled in the sand of void through avoidance, filled with itself and empty of merit. Yet God has gone far to bring back the deserter in the desert, the empty wilderness of deceptive sin, before the drought becomes permanent. Dispel the gift, however, and there is no change in reality, for the only access to new inhabitants comes from the seed that finds entry. Then there is growth into its beautiful peace and peaceable truth. But some shrink back, even as time approaches for better things!
This functionless spiritual fiasco, however, is not the case in mind as the writer of Hebrews goes on to speak to his audience (Hebrews 6:9). "But beloved, we are persuaded better things of you." Even though he has been moved to speak of such degradations of the superficial, yet what he has in view for them are things "that accompany salvation." There is no question of disruption of all that has been moving in the work of the Lord. In fact, this sudden insight is used to urge them on to "the full assurance of hope to the end," 6:11. Leave sluggishness to slugs, and let the spiritual live in their own realm, in confident faith and much assurance.
ii) The Example that is True
The case of Abraham is then made an illustration. It identifies this absolute confidence, this full assurance, with its absolute base, the covenantal main road to the things promised. Let us join in the excursion.
2 THE CERTAINTY OF THE ACTUALITY OF FAITH
In making this discovery of His grace to Abraham, God not only made a promise, but gave an oath (Hebrews 6:16-17), as in Genesis 22:16-17. This came at the occasion of Abraham's willingness to offer his only son as a sacrifice, something repudiated by the Lord, but indicative of his belief that God could raise even the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19), which of course was the main theme when in the raising of the body of the Saviour, He demonstrated both salvation and eternal life, vindicating the one and indicating the other in the way that past all poetry, punishes unbelief (John 20:26-28) with testable observation, personally and publicly provided.
When God so acts, nothing can daunt that, whether crime or nails or crosses or tombs or soldiers or lies or fraud. God had already also confirmed the covenant with a most dramatic sacrifice, as seen in Genesis 15, His very life the guarantee of His gift to Abraham of his place, and through Abraham's seed, of blessing to the entire world.
Therefore it all came to pass, including of course the temporary exclusion zone for Israel when they both hated and killed that self-same blessing, when He did come, as foretold (Isaiah 49:7, 53). But God used this the more to confirm it, this being part of the gift in His overcoming of mortality for man, for as many as believed, and so received it! But it had to be obtained, the Founder of this world confounding the mordant and the murderous. How overcome what is not met, and how beat it except by breaking its claws! So He suffered it, and overcame it. Actually, the weird priests fulfilled their office in slaying THIS sacrifice, through their frothing envy and insatiable self-service.
3 THE APPLICATION OF THE CERTAINTY
This example, drawn at first from Abraham, is not some interesting aside, but as in Romans 4, the very basis of the coming of Christ, the covenant of grace, the sacrifice of splendour and the resurrection of power. As in Romans, Abraham was one focus in terms of faith and the Messiah to come, and it was not written for his sake alone, that he believed God; for was it reckoned to him only as the gift of righteousness that he believed, but for us also in the same vein, receiving for our part the outcome, the risen Christ, crucified not in vain but to redeem from transgression. THIS is the degree of warranty, not only a promise but an oath, not only for God but BY GOD, so that nothing is stronger.
Now Abraham went to God for his life, and was given all these things, God using that very salvation to come in the heart and mind of Abraham, so that faith in receiving Him in this His gift, received a righteousness that no man could generate, but God could and DID give, so SAYING at the time (Romans 4:22, Genesis 15:6). We too, in receiving by the very same faith the very same God in His very same covenant, now of course itemised in splendour and fulfilled in payment, are doubly sure.
Indeed, not only have we fled to Him for refuge (Hebrews 6:18), but He to whom we have fled has entered into glory, beyond the veil, beyond symbol into substantial reality as the triumphant Saviour, His merits and grace, His wonder and kindness, His compassion and Shepherding, the gift, with our place secured past symbol in heaven itself. As He said, I go to prepare a place for you, and what a place! (John 14:1-3).
Now if you had a job and the employer promised you it would continue, and gave an oath, and made the oath such that it meant he would rather die and lose his very life than break it, so underwriting his promise to you, you would feel reasonably confident. If however, as is so for the Christian, your employer is God (did not Paul labour day and night for the Ephesians as delivering the whole counsel of God, as seen in Acts 20, and is He not to be served with all the heart and soul and mind! (I Samuel 7:24, Acts 20:19), then how much more abundant is your certainty of security in Him whom even the cross could not secure! But the work comes to the believer, to the servant of Christ, not as a condition but as opportunity for an expression of faith found in Him who is vital! It is a privilege. How, then is there doubt! GOD is the guarantor, CHRIST crucified and risen is the CONTRACT CONFIRMATION, Christ in heaven is the PLACE ASSURANCE, and as faith is the input, so the free covenantal gifts are the outcome.
It is not a matter of dizzying heights, nor of dalliance for that matter, but simple, child-like confidence in your Maker and Saviour, His mission and His triumph, yes IN HIM (John 6:47, 5:24, 10:9,27-28), who in accepting a sheep through Himself as door (not as a name called, but a plane entered), undertakes their spiritual care with all the power of God (I Peter 1:5-8).
For me, that is sufficient; for me, nothing else is sufficient. None but God is sufficient, but God is entirely sufficient. Infinity does me, in spirit, as rose scent delights in body (especially the red ones, Black Boys if I recall, that seem to seek to heaven for their wonder); and He who in mind showed mercy, in body made sacrifice and in Spirit showed love, overflows in majesty and warranty. There is no doubt where He is, and when He is in your heart by faith (Romans 10:8, John 15:22ff., Revelation 3:19-20), then doubt has no solace and folly no scope.
So this shafts home its wonder. If God is for me, what does it even matter who is against me! (Romans 8:31-36), and as God is committed eternally, not to spurious, pseudo-spiritual enterprise, as if shunting Him into various waiting lines, but to receiving those who by faith receive Him in His offer and gift of grace, by grace, then I rest eternally, even in the midst of many labours, rejoice eternally (cf. Isaiah 51:11), with His joy resting on my head, delighting as one on whom the wedding garment is placed (as in Isaiah 61:10).
It is well, for in the faithfulness of such a God as this, there is no end, in His mercy no retreat, in His commitment no lien, in His love no ache or anguish and in His word no slightest suggestion of turning (James 1:17). So is the believer built on the very basis for the universe, which itself leaving in due time (Matthew 24:35), comes and goes at His pleasure, while we who have come to Him for refuge, stay where He is.
Hope has here a steadfast anchor already vested in glory, refuge has the Redeemer, the ultimate has its placement, eternity has its translator and truth its income through faith, with outcome in sight. And what a triumphant conclusion comes from the exhortation, in Hebrews 6:20-21:
"Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead,
that great Shepherd of the sheep,
through the blood of the everlasting covenant,
make you complete in every good work to do His will,
working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ,
to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen."