It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. But there is a place where someone has testified: What is mankind that you are mindful of them, a son of man that you care for him? (Hebrews 2:5-6)
This world is just no durn good. You’ve got tornados here and flooding there. People are protesting against the military and other people don’t care. The government taxes us too much and they don’t do enough for us. People are wasting far too much time watching TV and there’s nothing good on. Have I mentioned that they’re putting all sorts of chemicals in our food? I tell you, it’s a mean old world.
And if all of that weren’t bad enough, I’d mention–and I guess I am mentioning–the fact that everything seems to be getting worse. Take a look around you and you’ll see topsoil washing away, jobs moving to Indonesia, and families disintegrating. Just this morning gas prices jumped by 13 cents. If that isn’t a sure sign of the final collapse of American civilization, then I’m not sure what is.
I tell you, I look at my children and my grandchildren, and I worry about what sort of a world they’ll be inheriting. I figure that by the time Uri, the youngest, is 25, the ozone will be depleted, Social Security will be a dim memory, and the K.C. Royals will still be mediocre or worse. There’s just not much hope.
If all of that rant sounds anything like you, then I have to direct your eyes, ears, and heart to to the verse above. It is not angels to whom God has subjected the world. True, but that sentence suggests that the world, the awful, disintegrating world, has been subjected to somebody. To whom?
It’s here that we break out the All-Purpose-Sunday-School Answer: “Jesus.” I have to ask myself, when I get into a despairing mood, if any world that has been made subject to Jesus is truly headed for a complete and final disaster. A disaster? Yes, but neither complete nor final. That’s the hope I’ll hang on to when times are difficult.
The Son is the radiance of Gods glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. (Hebrews 1:3a)
Today I had a grand experience, helping my daughter to move out of her old apartment. As marvelous as moving can be under the best of situations, this one topped the list. You see, we moved her family out of the apartment but not into a new place. The reason for moving? They had a house fire that rendered the building uninhabitable.
With the electricity now turned off and the broken-out windows covered with plywood, the apartment was dark. I raked through wet sheet rock and charred paneling to try to locate salvageable items, all the while limited by the narrow cone of light coming from a head lamp.
You don’t appreciate the presence of light until you don’t have it. You don’t realize how incredibly dark a place can be–a place full of sherds of glass and jagged boards–until you’re there with the windows covered. Darkness, I can now attest, is not conducive to successful searching or moving.
I mention this because of the description of Jesus as the “radiance of God’s glory.” Radiance fills a place, a situation, a life, or a world with light. That feeble head lamp I wore this morning offered only a tiny fraction of the radiance provided by the sun through the windows or the lights on the ceiling. But even those normally ample light sources pale by comparison to the radiance of God’s glory.
God is so amazing that even the train of His robe filled the heavenly temple with glory according to Isaiah 6. That vision so overwhelmed Isaiah that he knew himself to be in deep trouble having witnessed it in his sinful state. That full glory of God overwhelms. But in Christ, the radiance of that glory comes to earth in a form fit for human experience.
Isaiah also tells us that the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light (Isaiah 9:2). I understood a small glimmer of that experience as I walked from the darkened bedrooms of Emily’s charred apartment into the well-lit living room. How much more light do we receive from Christ.
but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.
(Hebrews 1:2, again)
Not too far from my home, you’ll find the foundation of an old house. Recently, I met a man whose uncle formerly lived in that house. I’m not sure who first built it, but I do know that people farmed our property beginning in about 1840. Today, less than 200 years later, nature is reclaiming everything that hasn’t been maintained over those years. The fencing around that old foundation has rusted and will be fragmented in a few more decades. Human use of the land, it seems, is a temporary thing. Once our stewardship over it relaxes, the cedar trees and vines begin the succession that will culminate in towering oak trees. Nature, it would seem, prevailed here long before humans arrived and will reclaim anything that the humans relinquish.
But there is something that predates nature and that will survive its reign. We could easily slide over the words in the second half of today’s verse, missing their incredible import. To avoid such a mistake, though, I thought it necessary to dwell on this verse once more.
Who is this Son of whom the author of Hebrews speaks? Of course, it is Jesus, and we learn valuable things about Jesus from these dependent clauses. We learn that God created the universe through Jesus. What precisely does that mean? Does that make Jesus the general contractor? Somehow I don’t think that’s answer. Many would point to the powerful speech of God in Genesis 1 and then the equating of Jesus and the Word and God in John 1. In reality, I’m not sure that such connections truly get us a great deal closer to understanding God creating the universe through Jesus.
Similarly, I’m not entirely sure what it means for Jesus to be the heir of all things. I do understand inheritance from a human standpoint, but how do you inherit the universe that you’ve had a hand in creating? I don’t really understand that either.
What I do understand, however, is that nature was not here first. Nature will not be the ultimate victor over my farm or any other place. By aligning myself with Christ, I align myself with the first and the last, I allow God to make me a joint heir. That ‘s enough for me to understand for today.
But in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. (Hebrews 1:2)
There’s something about picking up eggs that delights me. In a few minutes, I’ll go outside and determine how many eggs my hens have left for me to collect today. I did the same chore yesterday and the day before. It doesn’t matter. When I look in the egg box, I marvel at the little brown oval of protein that the girls deposit.
Unlike the wonder of those eggs, some things lose their charm after time. As a demonstration, I would invite you to open a large bag of jelly beans. Those first few pieces of candy taste marvelous. Perhaps, like me, you keep eating them after the new has worn off, but eventually (and hopefully long before the bag is empty) you can’t stand the idea of placing another one in your mouth.
The speech represented in this verse, the speech of God delivered by Jesus, is not in the jelly bean category. Although the English versions of this verse present it in a past perfect form (has spoken) a more accurate rendering might say “has spoken once and for all.” That speech, spoken once, endures for all time with the same power and same appeal. It’s a bit like those eggs, which strike me as a wonder each and every day.
Muslims attempt to demote Jesus to the place of a prophet, a great prophet followed by Muhammad, a greater prophet. The reality, however, is quite different. Once the Word has been spoken–and it has been spoken–no further prophets are necessary, except those who, like the prophets of old, point to that enduring Word.