Reading through the Bible together
Chapter 13 closes the letter with a practical exhortation to his audience. The author does not remain soaring in a powerful theological exposition of what God has accomplished in Jesus. He lands his thoughts in practical counsel to a congregation that badly needs it. He knows them well.
In the beginning of their history, they experienced the goodness of the word of God, tasted the heavenly gift and shared in the Holy Spirit (Heb 4:6). They witnessed powerful signs and wonders and various miracles that confirmed their faith (2:4) and responded with a work of love and service for the saints (6:10). Later on, however, they lost their possessions and were publicly exposed to shame and affliction because of their faith (10:32). Some of them had been put in jail and had not been liberated (13:2). Then came the false teachers (13:9–10) and the temptations of sex and money (13:4–6). Others failed to grow in knowledge (5:11–14) and their hearts had been hardening by the deceit of sin (3:12–13).
The author argues that little things count. Verses 1–3 tell us that brotherly love is necessary. Hospitality is part of the means God uses to bless us and visiting those in prison is part of our duties as members of the church body. Verses 4–6 speak about the temptations of sex and avarice. They are like roots of bitterness that start small but produce a bitter fruit. Verses 7–17 talk about the importance of paying attention to our leaders—so necessary today when independence is seen as a sign of maturity.
Leaders can help us discern the danger of false teachings and focus instead on hope and good works. The author of Hebrews finishes with a call to intercessory prayer on his behalf so that he can have a good conscience. He concludes by appealing to his brothers to hear his “word of exhortation.” But as we read, it may dawn on us that we are part of those “brothers,” that we also need to hear this “word of exhortation” today.
Felix H. Cortez
Andrews University Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary