20th Sunday after Pentecost; Hebrews 4:12-16
This book is aptly named Hebrews because it draws comparisons between this new life of following Jesus and the faith of the ancient Hebrews. This chapter recalls the exodus where Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt. It talks about those who walked in the wilderness on their way to the promised land. They didn’t all make it. We know the exodus story is a story of grace, but it seems grace wasn’t part of everyone’s story. Some were killed and some died before they crossed over to the promised land. Some turned away from God, some made up their own rules, and some doubted—those are the people who didn’t enter God’s rest.
This text has a double edge. It compares us to these ancient wandering people who were heading to the promised land. It then bluntly reminds us that we can’t hide our faults or our weaknesses from God. Not only that, but our innermost intentions and motivations—the inner beliefs that drive us, about which we ourselves may be blind, God can see those as well. We can’t bullshit our way out of this. The facade that fools our pastor—or our congregation, doesn’t fool God. The parts of ourselves that keeps us up at night—God sees all of it.
The text doesn’t expose this as a threat, or a slap in the face, but rather to give us hope. It’s only after we fully digest this truth that the “news” can truly be “good.” This isn’t news we should make sure “those people” hear. This is the news we need to hear every day. We are far from perfect and God sees the exact nature of our wrongs—even before we are ready to tell them.
This is where the text takes a sharp turn. The good news is, even knowing this about us—or because of it—Christ came for us. The work of Jesus is similar to the work of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt. Jesus lived, died, rose again, and extends the offer to follow him to the “promised land”. The first stop on this trip is the wilderness of our own imperfect selves, our frailty, and yes, our sin.
And here we find ourselves in this chapter of Hebrews. The author draws this parallel, but takes it a step further. We don’t need to fear judgment. We are told to approach God boldly. Jesus understands the struggle, the pain, the frailty, he gets it. This is a promise that we can live, one day at a time, knowing we have access to grace. We can be confident that God will extend grace and forgiveness when we need it. With that assurance, we approach God boldly, because we know God will meet us with love.