Devotions from Hebrews


DAY ONE Heb. 1:1,2

Tyndale: God in time past diversely and many ways, spake unto the fathers by prophets: but in these last days he hath spoken unto us by his son, whom he hath made heir of all things: by whom also he made the world.
NIV: In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.

The opening verses of Hebrews have long struck me for their simplicity and elegance. They set forth a God who has been active in history engaging with people. They introduce us to Jesus, the final word today yet place him at the creation of the world. It must be the colon that makes the anal phrase stand out so much. Tyndale's wording passes into the AV, but there a comma is used. The colon was probably put into Tyndale when the spelling was modernised. Or maybe it's the contrast with the NIV. In the NIV, Jesus' role in creation balances with his appointment as heir, but in Tyndale's version, his role in creation comes almost as an afterthought, yet his agency is more awesome than his appointment as heir. Hence it stands out (to me anyway.)

As I write this the signs of spring are all around: birds, buds, blooms, blossoms and the ice cream van. New life is breaking out. Easter is coming with its bunnies and eggs. Every year spring comes whether we have time to notice or not. Hebrews places Jesus squarely at the beginning of it all. He is the one through whom God made the world. Spring happens because of Jesus. But more than this, Easter reminds us that God can bring life out of death as much as he brought life out of nothing at the creation. Jesus is life itself.

DAY TWO Heb. 1:3

Tyndale: Which son being the brightness of his glory, and very image of his substance, bearing up all things with the word of his power, hath in his own person purged our sins, and is sitten on the right hand of the majesty on high....
NIV: The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

The first phrase that catches my attention here is: 'bearing up all things'. The AV follows Tyndale closely but uses the verb 'upholding' and the NIV has turned to Latin. Neither the AV or NIV are as earthy as Tyndale. Did he have in view a peasant bent under a load? Though he lived as a gentleman scholar, he was writing for the work-a-day folk of England: hard manual labour 12 hours a day with no security. 'Upholding' sounds too noble and sustaining' sounds rather clinical compared to Tyndale. For our stressed-out decade, Tyndale gives us a Jesus who is 'bearing up all things'. His yoke is easy and his burden is light because he is sharing the load with us, and the next part of the verse reminds us that he has lightened our load by removing the burden of our sins.

The second phrase is: 'and is sitten on the right hand of the majesty on high'. The archaic form 'sitten' is too close to our colloquial 'sittin' to escape my notice. Tyndale has given us a picture of the Son of God, exalted to the right hand of the Father, the One through whom the universe was made, the very image of God, the inheritor of all things, just sittin', just hangin' out, just waitin' for you 'n' me to come along ...

DAY THREE Heb. 4:9,10

Tyndale: There remaineth therefore yet a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest doth cease from his own works, as God did from his. Let us study therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example, into unbelief.
NIV: There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God: for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.

This morning at church someone stood up and spoke about tiredness in the congregation. We were rather sagging. The Easter holiday is still some weeks away. We can pray for power and energy, or we can pray to do what this passage would have us do: enter into God's rest. Tyndale has used the verb 'study' where NIV has 'make every effort' and the AV similarly has 'labour'. Organising our lives certainly takes effort and Tyndale's choice, 'study' suggests making that effort with intelligence.

DAY FOUR Heb. 4:12

Tyndale: For the word of God is quick, and mighty in operation, and sharper than any two edged sword: and entereth through, even unto the dividing asunder of the soul and the spirit, and of the joints and he mary:
NIV: For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow;

'Mighty' isn't a word we use much anymore. We hear it in westerns; it has a backwoods sound to it. There's a dog food in America called 'Mighty Dog'. I find myself using it more (the word, not the dog food) as a result of reading Tyndale. After all, our God is a mighty God and his word is mighty in operation. I commend the word to you. Though 'mighty' sounds quaint, 'operation' is certainly twentieth century, The phrase 'mighty in operation' works. It is so much more focussed than 'active' or the AV's 'powerful'. Most of us want to be thought of as 'active' people. 'Power' is a buzz word too. How easy it is to be 'active' or 'busy' or 'powerful' and achieve very little. But God's word is mighty in operation. It's directed and effective. It gets on with the job. May the Word be mighty in operation in our lives.

DAY FIVE Heb. 4:12,13

Tyndale: ... and judgeth the thoughts and the intents of the heart: neither is there any creature invisible in the sight of it. For all things are naked and bare unto the eyes of him, of whom we speak.
NIV: ... it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

One of the reasons why Tyndale's version was worked over was that it was too raw to be read in church. The AV retained 'creature' and 'naked' but 'naked and bare' was too much. The NIV steps back altogether and gives us the more abstract and less animate 'creation'. The targets of God's word are the thoughts and the intents of the heart of living sentient creatures. The word of God exposes our innermost being as if we were stripped naked and bare. We can hide from family, friends and society generally, but never from the Lord. Yet at the same time. Tyndale's picture reminds me of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden: '... and they were either of them naked, both Adam and his wife, and were not ashamed.' 'The word of God comes to cleanse, heal and restore us to what men and women were meant to be. May our lives be open to the Word.

Deborah Pollard

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