Reading Hebrews Together

This spring, Grace & Peace will begin a 21 week sermon series walking through the book of Hebrews. To help everyone get the most of our time in this wonderful book we created this reading guide.

One of the biggest challenges in trying to study the book of Hebrews is all the references to the Old Testament. As long as we are willing to have an open mind, even without this background knowledge, we can still learn a lot from the book of Hebrews. Yet, without the back story we will be missing many important connections.

Here is how this guide is organized:

Each week we give you the sermon text for the next Sunday, followed by several Old Testament passages that are quoted or references in the sermon text, or passage which give us background information to the sermon text.
The readings that we’ve included are small selections from many different passages which span over two thousands years of history. Some people might find moving around from book to book a little difficult. For some this might be their first exposure to some of these books of the Bible. To help alleviate some of this difficulty, we’ve label each reading so you can see where each passage fits into the overall story of the Old Testament (We don’t do this for the poetic books of Psalms and Proverbs).

Here is a short overview of the Old Testament (please keep in mind that we are summarizing 2,000 years of history in a few sentences).

  • God creates the world good, but we twist creation, and begin suffering the affects of our distance from God.

  • God Call Abraham and makes a covenant with him, and his family.

  • (A couple of hundred years later)

  • Abraham’s kids end up enslaved in Egypt, but God calls Moses to bring the Israelites into the land God promised(this takes 40 years because of the sin and stubbornness of the people)

  • (40 years later)

  • Finally the people come into the Land (though they are still stubborn)

  • God establishes Judges, Prophets to lead the people (and everyone keeps being stubborn)

  • (A couple of hundred years later)

  • God establishes kings to rule like the other nations they see

  • Within a few generations the Israelites turn against each other and God and they divided.

  • Within a few more generations, most of the people are conquered.

  • The Old Testament ends with a remnant of God’s people living in the land of promise, but they are under the political authority of foreign kings. Yet, through the Prophets, God makes lets his people know that he still cares, and that the story is far from over.

So that you can see where you are in the overall story of the Old Testament each Old Testament reading will be labeled in one of the following ways:

Creation– includes any part of God’s story before he comes to Abraham

Abraham – includes the part of the story where God is specifically interaction with Abraham and his family

Moses – includes the story of God’s redemption of Israel from Egypt and includes the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers Deuteronomy and Joshua.

Judges – only includes the book of Judges

Prophets – includes any writing that is written by a prophet or about a prophet (remember Prophets lived at the same times as the kings)

Kings – includes the rest of the Old Testament historical books (1 & 2 Samuel, 1&2 Kings, 1&2 Chronicles, as well as any stories of good working with his people once they’ve been settled in the land)

As you get started here are a few things to consider as well
The Bible was written a very long time age, to people living in a totally different world.
The genre of literature matters when we are trying to interpret a text. Are we reading a song? Is it a historical account? Is this a letter from God to his people?

It is important to read the Old Testament in light of the New Testament. Consider the three following NT passages:

“And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight.”

(Luke 24:25–31, ESV)

Jesus says that the whole Bible is pointing forward to his life and ministry. Also notice that Jesus uses the Bible to explain a difficult part of their faith to them.

“And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, ‘Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.’”

(Acts 15:7–11, ESV)

Peter reminds the early church that the laws of the Old Testament were never fulfilled by the Israelites, but were a burden that revealed their weakness (and ultimately made the work of Jesus very good news).

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

(2 Timothy 3:16–17, ESV)

Paul says that all Scripture ( The New Testament and the Old Testament) were given to us by God to shape our lives. This means that when we ought to consider how we can sit under the text rather than ignoring what we don’t like or understand.