Hebrews is a letter of confidence written to Christians in crisis.
It is likely they faced persecution for their faith--past, present or future. They were Jewish Christians, given the author's pervasive use of Hebrew history and teaching. To follow Jesus the Messiah in a world where not all believed could mean cutting oneself off from family and economic resources. Though the letter itself does not delineate the nature of the crisis, readers today can surmise it was significant.
Significant enough to cause the letter's original reader to seriously consider leaving behind their faith in Jesus Christ and returning to the sacrificial system the Messiah came to fulfill.
And so, the crisis for the author.
Throughout the letter, the author spends his time showing readers the unmatchable greatness of Jesus Christ.
Jesus is the one and only the people of God must cling to for salvation in this world and for eternity. Look, after all, at all those who, in faith, believed in things they did not see: Enoch, Jacob, Rahab, Gideon. True, you have not seen this Jesus with your own eyes (the recipients of this letter are among the first believers who did not have the benefit of laying eyes and hands on the one called Messiah). But Jesus is higher, better, perfect over all our forebears received and in whom we put our faith.
So hold on! Have faith! Don't turn back.
Eleven bold chapters in, the author of Hebrews marches triumphantly into chapter 12.
With so many who have gone before you in faith, believing in what they could not see, hold on to "Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith" (Heb. 12:2b). God disciplines those God loves. So strengthen weak hands and share in God's holiness. Be at peace.
You stand at the foot of Mt. Zion, the author goes on, where lies the city of God. Do not turn back. Jesus is there!
And so the message to us remains true.
We are Christians in crisis. Living in a world that calls us to cling to other things for hope and salvation. Political structures, financial security, health and wellbeing, friends and family.
But hold onto Jesus, says the author of Hebrews. You have not seen him, but I have. He is higher than any political party, better than the president, more perfect than any church doctrine or blogger or preacher on earth. He is The High Priest who gave himself as The Final Sacrifice for your salvation. Put your trust in him alone.
The message of the Letter to the Hebrews, which climaxes at the end of chapter 12, is the same for us today.
We are standing in God's kingdom which, though the earth shakes to its core around us, cannot be shaken. No matter the apparent danger, we are safe with God. So live grateful lives offered in service with reverence and awe.
God is a consuming fire!