Listen Up (Hebrews 3:7-9)

So, as the Holy Spirit says:    “Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion,
during the time of testing in the wilderness,
where your ancestors tested and tried me,
though for forty years they saw what I did.
(Hebrews 3:7-9)

I’ve been thinking recently about those movies where a character somehow goes back in time and gets a second chance to make a decision. Did you miss out on love? Did you waste your opportunities for success? Did you trade what was truly important for the trivial? Hollywood loves to take those regrets and create wish-fulfillment films.

As I look back at my life, I see a number of errors I would love to correct. With those in mind, I have been considering how I might script my own turn-back-the-clock movie. The problem with this sort of thinking is that when you slip back in time to, let’s say, high school graduation in order to avoid errors, you never know what new mistakes you’ll make and what correct moves you might miss.

Then there’s the simpler notion. What if you could go back in time and tell your former self what to do or not do? Sounds great, right? But then there’s the question of whether your former self would listen. My guess is that my former self would not. Why? My current self often fails to listen to me when I tell it not to waste money or to eat properly or to exercise. What makes me think that if my current self won’t listen, my former self would?

That’s what Hebrews gets at in today’s passage. Today, with the benefit of hindsight and the presence of the Holy Spirit, we have no excuse for failing where those who went before failed. How did the tribes of Israel grumble and rebel after seeing the plagues, the Red Sea, the wonders at Sinai, the Manna, and so for forth? I suppose they did it the same way that I fall into the same sins time after time despite every good reason not to do so.

The answer? According to our passage, it is to listen to the voice of the Lord. It’s hard to fall into sin while listening to God’s voice. So where does the problem lie? At the risk of being obvious, it lies in failing to listen.

Split Identity (Hebrews 1:6-8)

And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” In speaking of the angels he says, “He makes his angels spirits, and his servants flames of fire.” But about the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.” (Hebrews 1:6-8)

There’s an entire genre of movies and TV shows involving people traveling back in time or being magically transmogrified into a younger or different version of themselves or somesuch. One well known example of this is the Back to the Future films, but dozens of others exist. One feature that is virtually required in such a film is a moment where the changed character nearly blows his or her cover by referring to somebody by the wrong term. For example, in the first Back to the Future, Marty nearly blows it by referring to George McFly as “Dad.”

In real life, where time travel and body-jumping don’t exist, we don’t often make these sorts of mistakes. For example, in twenty-nine years of marriage, I don’t believe I’ve ever called my wife “Mom.” Why then, does God seem to forget not only who he’s addressing but who he himself is in these verses. Look carefully.

In verse six, God is the proud father, commanding the angels to worship his firstborn, the incarnate Jesus. Several times in the gospels, we see God commending Jesus as his Son and commanding people to hear him or otherwise respect him. So far so clear.

But in verse eight, God the father seems to forget himself. He refers specifically to the Son and says, “Your throne, O Son…” But that’s not what the Father says. He says, “Your throne, O God…” The Father speaks to the Son and refers to the latter as “God.” Does God the Father forget that it is he himself who is God? Is God the Father confused? Of course not.

This passage holds one of the great mysteries and marvels of Biblical theology. Not only is Jesus God, existing from (and actuating) the creation of everything, but Jesus is Man, God’s firstborn. By that birth, God enters creation to set right what Man has broken. If that’s not action worthy of worship, I don’t know what is.