Tuesday 27th October 2020 – Hebrews – The Son Above The Angels
Hebrews 1: 5 – 14
For to which of the angels did God ever say,
‘You are my Son;
today I have begotten you’?
‘I will be his Father,
and he will be my Son’?
And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,
‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’
Of the angels he says,
‘He makes his angels winds,
and his servants flames of fire.’
But of the Son he says,
‘Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever,
and the righteous sceptre is the sceptre of your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.’
‘In the beginning, Lord, you founded the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands;
they will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like clothing;
like a cloak you will roll them up,
and like clothing they will be changed.
But you are the same,
and your years will never end.’
But to which of the angels has he ever said,
‘Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet’?
Are not all angels spirits in the divine service, sent to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?
“You know how Jesus is the Son of God and the son of Mary?” The four-year-old at my church is in a questioning mood. “So that means he is a demi-God like Hercules!” No amount of argument dislodges the little one from his newly formulated theory today, but he’ll understand given time.
The Hebrews reading this letter love Jesus; they are impressed by him, honour him, and follow him. But still they need to be shaken out of the idea that Jesus is an angel. Perhaps it is hard for us to imagine Jesus as ‘just another angel’ or angel-in-chief, but a 2nd century Jewish-born Jesus follower would know that the angels of Genesis 6 are described as sons of God. They might know well the variety and apparent hierarchy of angels in the Bible. They might know that angels are unable to eat food (see Judges 13 and the book of Tobit). Gospel-writer Luke seems to know these angel traditions and is very careful to show how Jesus, even once resurrected, eats and drinks unlike the angels (Luke 24:41-43).
We can assume that these Hebrews are also deeply aware of the monotheistic claim that our God is the only God, a jealous God, who does not share the status of God with any other. The writer wants them, and us, to understand that Jesus, as Son of God and heir of God, is sharing God’s throne – that God and Jesus act as God together. To summarise these verses is to undersell them, but the thrust is that Jesus is above every angel, is seated on God’s throne (not below it), and is eternal. Like God. Being God. With God.
Perhaps these arguments seem strange today, if it is some time since you first became convinced that Jesus is more than a prophet, not merely a good man, and more interesting than Hercules. Imagine sitting down with a child who wants to understand what Jesus is – how would you answer?
In this hymn prayer, first translated to English by D. T. Niles, the chant “Saranam” means finding refuge and surrendering to God. For the tune and a modern translation see https://music.churchofscotland.org.uk/hymn/573-saranam
Jesus, Saviour, Lord, to thee I fly;
Saranam, Saranam, Saranam;
thou the Rock, my refuge that’s higher than I:
Saranam, Saranam, Saranam.
In the midst of foes I cry to thee,
from the ends of earth wherever I may be;
my strength in helplessness, O answer me:
Saranam, Saranam, Saranam.