Usually, I look at the gospel text for the week. For the last few Sundays, I have looked at the Old Testament text. This might surprise you that for the next three Sundays, I will be looking at the epistle texts. During this particular time of the three-year series, the epistle looks at the last part of the Epistle to the Hebrews.
I think the Epistle to the Hebrews is a fascinating work. It is like a gospel account in that it focuses on Jesus. It is also like an epistle—and obviously so, because of its title. It is also like the Old Testament, and that should also be obvious. If you increase your understanding of the Epistle to the Hebrews, you essentially increase your understanding of the entire scriptures.
Since this epistle does not have a regular epistle-like format, there is the chance for the literary style of the text to come through much more clearly. The introduction (1:1-4) has a structure which is reflected in the rest of the work. There is first the mention of a ‘Son’, and then there is the mention of him making ‘purification for sins’. As in the layout of the tabernacle or temple, there was, near the entrance, the place for making a sacrifice, and then, farther along, where that special blood of the sacrifice was sprinkled—the ‘holy of holies’ or the ‘most holy place’, and this is also the progression of the writer. The epistle has that special structure in a literary way, a way that shows how important it was that God and man came together in Jesus—and also how important it was to have Jesus’ death on the cross (and the curtain of the temple torn in two, from top to bottom).
What was, for a time, so special in this very special place of the tabernacle or temple was the so-called ‘ark of the covenant’. It also has other names, but I would like to focus on the title of ‘ark’. After all, it seems that the writer wants to focus on various arks in Hebrews 11.
This chapter is called ‘the faith chapter’, and that is an appropriate title. It seems like at the start of every paragraph (although that structure of paragraphs is not in the original text), the text says, ‘By faith…’ and then it gives an example of someone who lived by faith. Near the end of the text for this Sunday (verse 16), there are some summary points. But I thought it was interesting that the following people are mentioned along the way:
Verse 3: By faith we…. Verse 4: By faith Abel…. Verse 5: By faith Enoch….
Verse 7: By faith Noah….
Verse 8: By faith Abraham…. Verse 9: By faith he (Abraham)…. Verse 11: By faith Sarah….
In this case, the ark is at the center (of seven different kinds of faith, no less). We will see next week where an ark comes up again.