My reading of the Biblical book of Hebrews came to a sudden halt. Where have I heard that before? These familiar verses resound in my head because they are from the prophet Habakkuk. His cry to the Lord 2700 years ago continues to resonate with familiarity.
The author of the New Testament book of Hebrews presents many arguments to prove emphatically that Jesus is better. And because he is so superior to anything else, we are exhorted to stick with him to the end, despite suffering or persecution.
Eager eyes looked at me expectantly as I quoted this verse while sitting on the patio of a wooden home on stilts in the middle of a rice field in Indonesia. As the only believers in their community, this handful of women depended on gatherings like our retreat and the message I delivered for their growth and endurance. This fellowship was as crucial for them as it was for the readers who first received this counsel.
"Why don't you take over the women's Bible study? Come along with me to a village to share your testimony. I'm planning a retreat for the church planter's wives and you can share the messages." As a young and tentative cross-cultural worker, my teammate's many suggestions for serving sometimes irritated me. But she believed in me and continued to create opportunities for me—all the while cheering me on. She spurred me on as we are taught to do by the anonymous author of Hebrews.
Learning to walk inevitably involves failure. But we don’t chastise toddlers for not making it across the room because we understand they are acting their age. However, if two years later they still cannot walk without falling, that would be a problem for babies are supposed to mature. The author of the letter to the Hebrews equates physical growth with spiritual growth.
“Scripture in the trade language only hits the surface, but in the Biangai the message goes deep. If everyone hears this they will all repent,” the youth pastor exclaimed with a wide grin. My parents, missionaries in Papua New Guinea, had just tested a newly translated passage of the New Testament on some local believers.
I regularly speak about rest. The author of the New Testament letter of Hebrews also speaks about rest. But a thorough study of the text reveals that this is a different kind of rest than I typically speak of. Since Hebrews is all about presenting Jesus as superior to all else, I wonder if this rest is also better?
Public insults. Conflict. Persecution. Prison. Confiscated Property. The readers of the the New Testament letter of Hebrews experienced all this in the early days of their walk with Jesus. While I cannot attest to this kind of suffering, I do know trial—wrecked car, bureaucracy headaches, ant infestation, health issues, the passing of loved ones. Like the early Christians, I too need the author’s counsel on facing trying times.