God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,…
This Epistle was written to those Jewish Christians who were in danger of relapsing from their profession of faith in Jesus and returning to the sacrifices and ceremonies of the Jewish Law. If we consider that they had been brought up in the acknowledgment of the Mosaic rites as being of Divine origin, with the power of early impressions; that it was a vast step from Moses to the simple and spiritual system of the gospel; that there were many forms of persecution to be endured, and that the love of many waxed cold, it will appear that such an Epistle was necessary, and admirably adapted, by its assertion of the superiority of Christ to all the prophets and priests of the past, to prevent apostasy and restore and confirm their faith.
I. HERE ARE FOUND THE PROGRESSIVENESS OF DIVINE REVELATION. God conveyed portions of truth to Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, and the prophets; and in divers manners, as in vision to Abraham, face to face to Moses, by Urim and Thummim, by proverb and psalm, and by prediction and apocalyptic images. This was gradual revelation, and was suited to the ages of the Church before Christ came, who treated his disciples in this way and said, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now" (John 16:12).
II. NOTE THE PERFECTION OF CHRIST AS THE PROPHET OF THE CHURCH. This is to be seen in his superiority to all preceding teachers who were sent by the Divine Spirit to make known the will of God. He was the Son:
1. In his resemblance to his -Fail, or in creative energy. "Without him was not anything made that was made."
2. In resemblance of sustaining power, by which he upholds all law, preserves all harmony in creation, and maintains all life, from the highest seraphs to the humblest believers, and even to the lowest forms of existence.
3. Resemblance in personal glory. Jesus Christ is the Brightness of the Father's glory, and the express Image of his person; the latter idea drawn from the monarch's portrait stamped upon golden coin. Such words are the best human language supplies; and the treasures of these Divine ideas are put in the earthen vessels of our speech, and fall infinitely below the sublime reality. Our Lord's condition on the holy mount best illustrates the thought of his resemblance to the glory of his Father, when the ineffable resplendence which streamed from himself appeared to add emphasis to the words, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father."
4. Resemblance of power of enjoyment. He is to be "Heir of all things." Abraham was to be heir of the world; but here is a wider inheritance, which no finite mind can ever grasp. Jesus Christ is to be the Heir of all the results of his incarnation, ministry, and sacrifice. He is to see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied; and through eternal ages he will receive the gratitude and adoration of a "number that no man can number." All judgment is committed to him, and on his head are many crowns.
III. OBSERVE THE PERFECTION OF CHRIST AS THE PRIEST. There is here a suggested contrast to priests of the Jewish Law. It is said he purged our sins by himself; then he stands before us as the One in opposition to the many who did not continue by reason of death. Aaron, Eli, Zadok, and Joshua successively disappear. There is a contrast between other priests and our Lord, who did not offer victims, as sheep, goats, lambs, and kids; but offered himself through the eternal Spirit. There is unlikeness inasmuch as the services of the ancient priests did not purify the conscience; but the sacrifice of our Lord cleanses by faith from all sin, restores to the Divine favor, and imparts the enjoyment of Christian hope. There is a contrast between the priests of the old Law in respect of dignity. The ancient ministers of the temple had to offer for their own sins, and then for the sins of the people; our Lord was "holy, harmless, separate from sinners." The descendants of Aaron had to minister in the holy of holies when it was darkened by the smoke of sweet incense, and none dare to sit down near the mercy-seat; but the Redeemer sits down "at the right hand of the Majesty on high." Once more, the Jewish high priests ministered for their own nation, while other populations in Egypt, Arabia, and Syria had no share in their service; but our Lord is exalted, and sits a priest upon his throne, and a multitude of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues enjoy the benefit and blessing of his ministry. - B.
Parallel VersesKJV: God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,