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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
Hebrews 1

 

 

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Verses 1-14

In the first verse is compressed admirably the one most vital truth as to the history of man in all past ages; to which Jews would fully agree. God is, without preliminary, presented as having "in many parts and in many ways" spoken "in time past unto the fathers by the prophets." This was certainly revelation, yet gradually added to, and therefore only partial, not in any sense a complete revelation of God. Let us note too that He was not limited as to the ways in which He saw fit to communicate. Israel well knew this, and should have expected, in the advent of their Messiah, a revelation no less distinctive and worthy of so great a God. But they were determined to circumscribe the action of God by their pre-conceived assumptions, and bind Him by human tradition.

Thus, through the perversity of man's heart, the former partial revelations of God's glory have been used as a basis and excuse for rejecting the full revelation of Himself in Christ Jesus, rather than (as Divinely intended) to prepare hearts for the greater glory of this manifestation. Indeed, the entire value of the Old Testament lies in its anticipation of something infinitely better than could then be brought to man. Nothing but the blindness of willful unbelief can deny so evident witness.

Assuredly, Israel did look for something, but every prophecy she regarded from a viewpoint of mere self-interest, looking for glory to invest the nation itself, rather than expecting the glory of God to be revealed in a marvelous and blessed manner.

But verses 2 and 3 proceed immediately to summarize this present-day transcendent manifestation of the glory of God in the Person of His Son. It is not simply that God is seen thus speaking in the words spoken by the Lord Jesus, but that in Him personally God has spoken; for the words are literally, "hath in these last days spoken unto us in Son." This may not be correct English, but exactly expresses the mind of God, which is the important thing. Prophets had but borne audible witness to God's glory: the Son has Personally manifested that glory.

But let us examine now the seven-fold description of this glory. First, "Whom He hath appointed Heir of all things." This appointment is consistent with the official capacity of the promised Messiah. The public assuming of such an office is future, of course; but the Old Testament had prophesied of One to occupy this place (Psalms 89:27-29).

This one must of course fulfill every qualification, and (secondly) "by Whom also He made the worlds." He must therefore have creatorial power. The Old Testament too declares this. Psalms 102:25-28 is explicitly said to be the words of God to the Son (Cf. Hebrews 1:10).

Thirdly, "Who being the brightness of His glory" involves His Personal revealing of the light of the glory of God. This is not reflection of the light, but "effulgence," - the light itself,-just as the light from the sun reveals the glory of the sun, which in itself is too bright to behold. Isaiah 9:6 strongly presents in prophecy this glorious representation of the glory of God: "His Name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Father of Eternity, the Prince of Peace."

This prophecy too intimates the fourth glory declared in Hebrews 1:1-14 : "the expression of His substance." So fully is this true that He Himself is called "the Mighty God, the Father of Eternity." Certainly none could express the very substance of God save God Himself. Nor is it simply that He expresses the substance of God, but is Himself the expression. He is Himself the perfect imprint of the substance of God. It is therefore impossible to ascribe to Him too high a place.

This too is evident in the fifth glory mentioned: "upholding all things by the word of His power." If He is the original Creator, He must he also the eternal Sustainer of all things. Nothing can subsist except by the Word of His power, which maintains all things in existence. This is indicated remarkably in Isaiah 40:1-31, the first part being the witness of John the Baptist to Christ, and verses 9 to 11 declaring His coming: "Behold, the Lord God will come," and the remainder of the chapter occupied with the greatness of this One, Who measures the waters, the heavens, the dust of the earth, and maintains the order of the heavenly orbs, so that "not one faileth." Only blindness could ignore this magnificent prophetic reference to the promised Messiah.

The sixth glory is that acquired in His advent in the world, "having made (by Himself) the purification of sins." The unique greatness of this work, consistent with the greatness of His Person, is here insisted upon. Many are the prophecies of this marvelous sacrifice of Himself, notably Isaiah 53:1-12, Psalms 22:1-31 and Psalms 69:1-36.

Finally, in the seventh place, "sat down on the right hand of the majesty on High." Such exaltation is impossible for any mere creature, but testifies rather to the august dignity of His Person and His work. Psalms 110:1 had prophesied of this in clearest terms: "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit on My right hand until I make thine enemies Thy footstool." This is not only the due recompense of His mighty work, but rightful public recognition of the glory of His Person.

Verse 4 involves these two aspects of His glory. Having humbled Himself to a place lower than angels, He is now, as Man, exalted by God, "taking a place by so much better than the angels" (New Trans.). Thus His work of self-humiliation has earned Him a place of highest majesty. But this was only consistent with the fact that "He inherits a Name more excellent than they." Because He is the Son of the Father, He is Heir of all things. "The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand" (John 3:35).

How fully and wonderfully does this blessed One fulfill every detail of the minute qualifications laid down in the Old Testament. The heart can only marvel at so full a summation of His glories in so brief a compass. How worthy of God, Who, in the revelation of His Son, has revealed His own full identification with His Son.

But a second section in the chapter (beginning with verse 5) now develops further His glory in contrast to angels, noted in verse 4. He must not in any way be confounded with the greatest of created beings, for he is infinitely above them all. Though angels "excel in strength," (Psalms 103:20) they are but creatures, and worshippers, not objects of worship. This section quotes seven times from the Old Testament.

First, "For unto which of the angels said He at any time, Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee?" The importance of this public announcement at the time of His birth must not be underestimated. False Christ's have arisen, and after foisting themselves upon the public, have dared to claim to have been miraculously born of a virgin: but in no such case would a public announcement have been made at the time of birth. To attempt such an imposture by some such declaration at the time of birth of a child would of course be too hazardous: the child would not likely turn out in the mold desired by its wicked promoters. But Luke 2:1-52 :S gives us historically the public announcement of the birth of the Lord Jesus: "Unto you is horn this day in the city of David a Saviour which is Christ the Lord" (vs. 10). This is confirmed also independently by the wise men. who had seen His star in the east (Matthew 2:1-2). Let us weigh well then the force and power of this first quotation.

"And again, I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son." This second quotation (from 2 Samuel 7:14) again presses the relationship of Christ to the Father. This was most needful to be established beyond question. If in the first case, this is publicly announced, in the second it is the consistent testimony of His entire life on earth. The Father owned Him fully, bearing witness to His words and walk, with signs and wonders, which in not one instance failed Him. He proved to be Son of the Father in practical character, in every detail of life. Twice also from Heaven the Father announced His delight in Him: "This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased."

But then is more: "Again, when He bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, He saith, And let all the angels of God worship Him" (Psalms 97:7). The Psalm speaks of "the presence of the Lord of the whole earth," therefore the advent of Messiah, and calls upon the highest created intelligences to "worship Him." When thus He "was manifest in flesh, seen of angels," there is no question but what He was rightly the Object of their adoring worship. (Cf. Luke 2:13-14).

"And of the angels He saith, Who maketh His angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire." This fourth quotation insists that angels are simply creatures, made by the hand of God, however awesome their power. Him whom they worship is infinitely greater than they.

The fifth quotation now rises to the blessed climax of the truth concerning this glorious Person: `But unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of Thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows." It has been evident that all that has gone before must involve the fact that He is God. Hence, this is now asserted in plainest terms, when God addresses the Son as "God," whose throne is for ever and ever. Psalms 45:1-17 is quoted, where the King, the Messiah of Israel, is thus addressed by God.

The eternity of His nature assures the eternity of His throne, in contrast to all mere human thrones. In further contrast is His sceptre of righteousness; for history has proven this woefully lacking in every other kingdom.

Yet if verse 8 declares His glory as God, verse 9 no less beautifully indicates His true Humanity. In lowly experience on earth He is proven in perfection to love righteousness and to hate iniquity. This glory in Humanity is also in contrast to all others. Therefore God, His God, has anointed Him with the oil of the Holy Spirit, as above all others with whom He has condescended to link His Name in fellowship. If in grace He has "fellows," yet He is above them. This anointing as One unique and apart from all others is seen when He was baptized by John, and the Spirit, like a dove, abode upon Him. The actual assuming of the throne is still future, of course, but the anointing is already His, as typified in David's anointing long before he was exalted to the throne of Israel. Yet, at this very occasion (the baptism of John) He linked Himself in grace with repentant Israelites. How beautifully is His solitary glory and dignity maintained while He finds delight in identifying Himself with His "fellows."

Verses 10 to 12 add the sixth quotation (from Psalms 102:25-27). Here His eternal glory is seen an the visible creation, and also in contrast to it. He who is addressed as "God" is now addressed as "Lord," the former denoting His supremacy, the latter His authority. He has founded the earth and formed the heavens, and they therefore declare His glory (Psalms 19:1). But "they shall perish." In their present form He has decreed they shall not continue, and their very destruction serves to emphasize that He is the eternal One: "Thou remainest."

Creation is but as a temporary garment with which He has clothed Himself in partial display of His glory: it will he folded and changed. "But Thou art the Same, and Thy years shall not fail." This grand title of our Lord is often used, and Ch. 13:8 briefly states its eternal significance: "Jesus Christ the Same yesterday, and today, and forever." In eternity past, in present manifestation to faith, in future, visible glory, His very Name is "The Same." His "years shall not fail." The decline of age that so affects creation has no bearing upon His blessed Person. These verses quoted from Psalms 102:1-28 are words addressed to Him by God, just as is true in verse 8.

The seventh quotation completes this series: "Sit on My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool." He thus occupies this place of present, highest exaltation, in contrast to angels. This is His position upon the Father's throne, which could be given to no created being, for it is the throne of Deity. In the Millennium He will take His own throne as Son of Man, but prior to this His title to such a throne is abundantly proven by His present exaltation to the highest throne of all. And here in calm patience He waits for the subjugation of His enemies, - not that there is the slightest doubt as to this, for this present throne involves His own sovereign control of all things, His wise and timely disposal of every issue according to Divine counsels. Blessed, holy dignity!

It may be remarked that His literal coming for His saints at the rapture does not in any sense interrupt this session on the Father's right hand, for this exaltation does not mean a confining to a strict location, no more than we should expect a sovereign on the throne to be always literally seated. But He remains infinitely exalted, although not yet publicly so, as will be the case when all enemies are put under His feet and He sits upon the throne of His glory (Matthew 25:31).

He therefore is in the place of absolute authority, but angels are "all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation." Theirs is the place of servants simply, their place infinitely lower than His, just as in person they are as much lower. But it is nevertheless a blessed place they occupy, in being delegated to minister in temporal protection, comfort, sustenance, to those destined to eternal glory. Doubtless we owe to angelic ministry far more than we discern in matters of physical strength and wellbeing, yet as spirit beings their ministry is completely veiled, and they are content to remain unknown to us, that glory for this may be given only to God. Blessed service indeed! Compare their ministry to the Lord Jesus in Mark 1:13, and an angel strengthening Him (physically of course) in Luke 22:43.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Hebrews 1:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/hebrews-1.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, December 14th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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