The overarching theme of Hebrews is encouragement. Encouragement to a group of fledgling Christ-followers living in a hostile Rome where folks would rather revert back to or claim Judaism and be protected than risk their lives as ‘Christians.’ The book argues that Jesus Christ is better than angels, Moses, the law, the priestly order of the Levites, and the blood sacrifice of goats and bulls. Four warnings pepper the thirteen chapters—each with reminders of how Jesus was the promised Messiah and that buying into that message brings both joys and sufferings.
The book ends with this statement--“Brothers, I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written you only a short letter” (Heb 13:22). Short letter? The word ‘exhortation’ here and the ‘urge’ to begin the sentence are in the same root words--the cognate family of parakaleō. Which can be translated as ‘urging, encouragement, consoling, comfort, exhortation.’
The author uses a ‘let us…’ motif to rally the community together. Throughout the book there are sixteen uses of ‘let us…’ in English encouraging the listeners to do specific things. The list may seem long, but definitely doable and a strand in our X/N DNA. Since they are scattered throughout the book, I thought it might be fun and succinct to put them together in one list. Meditate on this list as a fundamental aspect of our community together. If all of us do these things, we are a force to be reckoned with. Let’s change our town for Jesus by inculcating these ideas firmly in our lives.
1. 4:1 Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.
2. 4:11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.
3. 4:14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.
4. 4:16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
5. 6:1 Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God,
6. 10:22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
7. 10:23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
8. 10:24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
9. 10:25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
10. 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
11. 12:2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
12. 12:28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe,
13. 13:13 Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore.
14. 13:15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise - the fruit of lips that confess his name.
My challenge for you today is to read through these ‘let us…’ scriptures and ask yourself various questions (but limited to these certainly): What is the author saying to the community? Is there a theme to these exhortative statements? Do I need to repent for something I am omitting from my life? Do I need to repent of something I am committing which I ought not? Are all of these exhortations reasonable and/or possible? Are any of these rubbing me the wrong way? Do I need to add a community group to my life to help me be more like the person the author wants me to be? Are there any community groups in my area I can join? If not, I will pray about starting one myself.
Whatever we all do, the Hebrew author is speaking to a community in which everyone must pitch in. It was true then and it is true now. Church is not about watching or letting others do the things that we are all called to do. All of us must be fully bought in and getting the work done. Otherwise it is not a church; rather a movie, a bench to warm, a place to consume, a place to criticize, and all about me.