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Prayers for challenging times

Prayers for challenging times

(7) Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith

…(9) Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so. 

Hebrews 13:7, 9, NIV

Lord our God, dear Father in heaven, we thank you for all you do in our lives, for you stretch out your hand to us on earth through our Savior Jesus Christ. We entrust ourselves to you, knowing that everything depends on your rule over our lives. It is your rule that enables us to go forward in your strength and in your light, always finding new joy in spite of struggles and temptations. May your mighty hand be with those who call to you, no matter how they may do it. You see into their hearts. You know those who are sincere, and you will send your Savior to bring them out of all evil and darkness. Be with us today and every day. Amen.

The context of the words of Hebrews 13:7, 9, NIV

Hebrews 13:7–17 contains practical instructions for the Christian believer. These follow major themes from the rest of this letter, including perseverance, peacefulness, and praise. This text also continues to parallel components of the old covenant with the ministry of Jesus Christ. Specifically, these verses compare the disposal of sacrificed animals with Jesus' crucifixion; both occurred outside the borders of the community. The writer also encourages good works and for believers to cooperate with their spiritual leaders.

Chapter Summary

Hebrews chapter 13 adds a few specific reminders about Christian conduct. This passage also reiterates the idea that Christ is meant to be our ultimate example. The letter concludes with a request for prayer and words of blessing.

Meaning of the words

"Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith"

The prior passage mentioned a series of practical instructions. These were all aimed at Christian behavior and followed major themes offered in the rest of the New Testament. Among these were brotherly love, charity, sexual purity, and contentment (Hebrews 13:1–6). The ultimate source of confidence for Christian living, despite hardship, is our knowledge that Christ is on our side.

Here, the writer continues offering instructions, but with a more theological approach. The first instruction involves respect for Christian leadership. This might be a call for cooperation under the spiritual guidance of those leaders, similar to what Paul expressed to Timothy (1 Timothy 5:17) and Titus (Titus 3:1). Spiritual growth is meant to come via discipleship, which involves a more mature believer helping to grow the faith of a less-experienced Christian (Matthew 28:19–20; Ephesians 4:12–15). Reasonable respect is a necessity for learning.

However, the intent of this passage might be something more historical. Chapter 11 gave an extended list of figures who attained victory through faith, despite persecution. The ideas of remembrance, outcomes, and imitations seem to mirror earlier depictions (Hebrews 12:1). Context, then, suggests remembering the specific spiritual leaders in our lives, and their examples, when living out the Christian life

"Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so"

This command follows the important point made in the prior verse. The book of Hebrews explains in great detail that God's will does not change. The new covenant is not a "plan B"; it was something God intended from the very beginning. Likewise, Jesus Christ, and His gospel, are the same throughout all of history. The heroes of the faith mentioned in chapter 11, as well as the spiritual leaders of more recent past, were teaching the same story, at least from their perspective, and the same good news. 

Here, the implication is made explicitly clear: changing doctrine is false doctrine. The gospel was delivered "once for all" (Jude 1:3), and those who attempt to change it are subject to a curse (Galatians 1:8–9). As imperfect people, we need to admit the possibility that we might have misinterpreted God's Word, or His will. So a "new" teaching that improves our understanding of what God truly meant is not a bad thing (Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:21). On the other hand, any teaching different from what was originally given is false, by definition.

This verse also contains a strangely specific reference to foods and those who gain no special benefit from them. It's possible the writer has a particular group in mind. This sect might have focused on eating or avoiding specific foods. Colossians 2:16 brings up a similar point. That being said, the following verses make specific reference to the tabernacle and the Levitical system. The faction hinted at here might have claimed supernatural value of the foods given as offerings in the temple. Or, they might have simply been devoted to the system of animal sacrifices.

In any case, the point made here flows from the constancy of the gospel back into the main theme of the book of Hebrews. Namely, that the covenant offered to us by Jesus is far superior to that provided in human temples.

Illustration

Jesus and his 12 apostles


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