by Matt Fray
About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
The book of Hebrews contains some of the deepest and most nuanced theology in the New Testament. To be honest, it can be a hard book to read and understand! But Hebrews was written to a group of Christians for a strikingly simple and practical reason: these Christians had a problem.
But like many problems, their problem was not obvious to them. It was not something that was happening to them from the outside. Rather, their problem was something happening in them that would only be recognized if their pastor, like a skilled physician, helped them see both the symptom and the root of their problem.
From the beginning of the letter to its climax, the pastor identifies the symptom of their problem as this: they had a low view of Jesus Christ. While they trusted in Jesus, He was not the primary feature of their faith; He had become peripheral in their eyes. This is why the pastor opens his letter with such a captivating and exuberant description of Jesus as “the heir of all things (1:2)” and as “the radiance of the glory of God (1:3).” And this is why the climax of the letter is the pastor’s exhortation for them to be “looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith (12:2).” These dramatic statements are meant to transform their low view of Jesus into an appropriately high and lofty view of Jesus.
But why, precisely, did these early Christians have a low view of Jesus? What had distracted them, confused them, or numbed them to the power, beauty, and centrality of Jesus Christ in redemption and in their lives?
Throughout this letter, the pastor identifies the root of their problem as this: they were not hearing God’s Word. They were exposed to it and were hearing it with their ears, but they were not understanding it rightly with their minds, believing it rightly with their hearts, or responding to it rightly with their lives. This is why Hebrews is filled with extended quotations from the Old Testament. This is why the pastor repeatedly employs the command of Pslam 95:7, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts (3:7; 3:15; 4:7).” And this is why the pastor rebukes these Christians saying, “you have become dull of hearing (5:11).” The faith of these Christians was eroding because they were failing to hear God’s Word as they should.
Of course, this problem is not unique to the original recipients of the book of Hebrews. For as long as God has been speaking, His people have had problems hearing. We are highly forgetful, highly distractable, and highly inattentive creatures. And the consequence for our dull hearing is severe. The consequence is not merely knowing a little less about the Bible and its stories. The severe consequence is that we too may find ourselves with a low view of Jesus Christ. We too may be a people whose faith, hope, and love for Jesus has grown lukewarm. We too may be Christians whose light does not shine brightly before men, and who do very little to glorify our Father in heaven.
May it not be so for us! May we be a church diligent in hearing God’s Word. May we be a church delighted in the wonder and glory of Jesus Christ. And may we be a church who for the joy set before us proclaim the glories of Jesus in the Word to a world desperate to hear.