Dark Alleys, Convicting Passages
You hurry through the dark streets of Jerusalem with the words of the letter still echoing in your head. Back at the house you eventually stopped interrupting your friend so much that he was able to read through the rest of the letter quickly. You still had many questions but much of what was read simply reaffirmed issues you had already been battling with in your heart.
Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus…
Why was that so hard? You had never seen Jesus yourself, but in the vivid storytelling of disciples like your friend, those who had seen Jesus, you once were able to picture and believe in Him as though you had been one of those fishermen from Capernaum, walking with the Lord; seeing His miracles and hearing His words firsthand. Was it the turmoil all around you in the rioting city that distracted your thoughts and hurt your faith so much these days? No, the truth was that your heart began to drift before the insurgency took over the streets. You were already becoming mentally and emotionally choked out by legitimate concerns before the Roman garrison was overthrown and the Ka-na-im became so publicly bold. How long has it been, really, since you began to find your mind clouded by sorrow over the past, distractions about the present, and fears concerning the future? Now you honestly ask yourself, “Can I once again fix my eyes solely on the Lord? He is greater than the angels, greater than Moses. Greater than my worries and fears. When our people came out of Egypt, those who didn’t put all their faith in the Father became wanderers in the wilderness for 40 years. The Father said, ‘They will never enter my rest’ . Will that be me? Will I never enter that rest after all this time? I became a follower of the Lord to escape the meandering path I was on, a life heading to some dark point where I had no hope of seeing the Father. If I don’t fix my eyes back on Jesus won’t I be like those wandering in the desert never to enter the promised land?” The letter relentlessly resonates in your heart, word by word; joining your pounding pulse and becoming louder in your head until you think that maybe your eyes bleed and your ears are on fire.
See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first….Hear His voice…Do not harden your hearts…
“Is that what has happened to me?” you ask. “Is my heart hard?” Inside your thundering brain only one other thought competes with this question…this question you’ll now ask yourself until you know that you have really answered it and settled the matter for ever…the only other thought is: I’ve got to find him. I’ve got to find him now! He’s got to hear this letter! This letter could change everything for him.
You hurry through the narrow, stone alleys urgent to find the one person who should have been with you tonight, and while you do, your other friend…your old friend…the Reader, sits alone in dim lamp light. He unwraps the leather strap again. Untying the knot that holds the parchment safely curled, he unfurls the letter and studies it; his thoughts drawn to a particular place in the writing:
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. For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said,
“So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’ ” And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world. For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “And on the seventh day God rested from all his work.”And again in the passage above he says, “They shall never enter my rest.”
It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience. Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before:
“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
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. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. 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.
Your friend is reflecting on these words while you are quickening your pace in the darkness. Your mind is still so completely absorbed by those two things: the convicting words of the letter echoing in your head and your determination to find the one person who needs to hear this message as desperately as you did. You are so focused on both these thoughts that when your face is smashed suddenly, forcefully, painfully…jerking your body to a halt… you first think you’ve tripped and brutally landed flat up against a wall. But it’s not a wall. Walls don’t hold daggers like the one the Sicarii is holding in one hand; clutching you by the throat in the other…