I once asked a friend a simple question: If you had one message, just one thing you could tell the world, what would it be? One thing that if you never got to say it your whole being would groan in agony and the stones would rise up and cry out.
This friend is a talker! A good talker...a brilliant talker. I love listening to him talk. He started waxing on about the intricacies of God's...I don't even know... I stopped him saying, "No no no! ONE thing. One message. The crux of it all for your personally. THE thing God is trying to tell world through you and if you don't get to say it...man it pains you deeply!"
I have long known my one message. My groaning. What my whole body aches to proclaim about my God, my Majesty.
How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
And my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
And my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken.
But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
Because He has dealt bountifully with me.
I have been transformed with a long and bountiful love affair with the Letter to the Hebrews for the better part of twenty years. Through that letter I have fallen in love with God all over again, and with God's scriptures. What I adore about Hebrews, one of the many beauties of the letter, is its encapsulation in thirteen chapters, one slow hour of reading, of the whole counsel of God.
Yet in its complex simplicity, the message rises crystal clear:
To those of you who have never seen Jesus with your own eyes--you never touched his robe, wiped his feet with your hair, never walked alongside him, or heard his words from his own mouth--cling to him for he is the better, higher, perfect.
The author of Hebrews tells his readers he knows life is hard, painful, sorrowful, and it may well get worse, but hold on to Jesus. Do not give up on God Immanuel. Do not forget as our forefathers did. Remember, he says.
And then he tells them what to remember.
That Jesus is Higher than the Angels
Better than Moses.
The Perfect High Priest
With a New Covenant
Who Made the Final Sacrifice
Jesus Messiah, God Immanuel made the final sacrifice. It was complete and did not need repeating. So cling to him. Do not forget and return to the Law, delightful and perfect as it was. Jesus is that much better in his completion and fulfillment of the Law.
Turn your eyes fast to Jesus when life hurts. When there is persecution and pain. There is suffering just as there was for our ancestors. They forgot God was God and begged to return to Egypt where they were slaves.
You. You hold on to Jesus, the Perfect One, who brings freedom.
Remember like Abel and Noah and Abraham and Moses and Rahab and Gideon and Barak. Remember with faith like these who believed in what they did not see.
Because, our Hebrews writer say, you haven't suffered to the point of shedding blood. Jesus, God Immanuel, suffered to the point of death. You have not.
And that's where most of us stop.
Well, if Jesus could handle death and dying for me, surely I can manage a little sorrow.
But that's not where Psalm 13 stops.
How long, Oh Lord? Will you forget me forever?
Consider and answer me, O Lord my God!
But I have trusted in your lovingkindness.
And it isn't where Hebrews stops. Hebrews journeys much farther.
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel (Heb. 12:22-24).
In its lament that life is hard, painful, sorrowful, Hebrews tell us to hold on to Jesus. Cling to God Immanuel in your lament and you will be transported to Mt. Zion, to the city of the living God. This is the miracle the lament Psalms describe. It is how the Psalmists move from crying out how long to trusting in God's lovingkindness in what seems like a breath. Because in our lament, we are transported to the city of the living God where our God Immanuel laments with us.
Lament that ends at the beginning of Hebrews 12 leaves us bleeding and broken. It tells us to buck up because we haven't suffered as much as others.
But true lament. Lament that continues the journey with the Hebrews writer cries out and begs God to take us from where we hurt to where God is. Lament past the beginning of Hebrews 12 does not make comparisons. It transports us to Mt. Zion, to the city of the living God. There God enters our pain and joins our suffering to God's suffering.
And it heals.
This is what my soul longs to cry out. What the stones would rise up to proclaim if I did not.
This is the message of the whole counsel of God.
God loves us. God knows our deep wounds. It was never meant to be this way. We can, we must cry out to God. We must lament. In the darkness of lament we experience the miracle of the lament Psalms. In lament we cry out to God, we are transported to God's holy mountain, and we are transformed by God's lovingkindness. So we can proclaim, "Still, God, I will trust you."