On Sunday morning, Jan 21, 1776, pastor John Muhlenberg stepped into the pulpit in Woodstock, VA to preach. As did many preachers of the day, he was wearing a black ‘clerical robe’. He preached from Ecclesiastes ch 3 “a time for all things”. There’s a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to harvest. Thundering out that “There’s a time of war, and a time of peace. There is a time for all things, a time to preach and a time to pray. But there is also a time to fight and that time has now come”. He then removed his robe revealing a colonial officer’s uniform. Muhlenberg then stepped down from his pulpit and challenged the men of his congregation to join him in the fight for liberty. He had been commissioned by General George Washington to raise a regiment from the Woodstock area. As Muhlenberg walked down the aisle and out the door of his church, a drum began to roll outside. One by one, the men of Muhlenberg’s congregation walked out of the church and signed enlistment. Muhlenberg lead the 8th Virginia regiment fighting the War of Independence at the battles of Morristown, Brandywine, and Monmouth Courthouse. By the war’s end, he was promoted to Major General and was one of Washington’s most valued commanders. Muhlenberg was front and center at the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown.
The Holy Spirit grabs the attention of all the readers throughout the ages by opening this Epistle to the Hebrews with the most important word in any language – GOD. In times past this alone would have arrested the attention of the reader and given pause to those who make a living ‘mishandling’ the word of God. Not so in these last 1,500 years of theological blunderings, some of which we’ll see as we move deeper. But first lets set the audience in focus – as if the title alone wasn’t sufficient “Hebrews” and in verse 1 we see who was spoken to “the fathers” and just to clear up an important issue of our day, the Holy Spirit clarified exactly who God spoke to His prophets.
In Genesis 3 Satan approached Eve and called into question what God had said and meant. He challenged her regarding what God actually meant and while she pondered what Satan (Lucifer) was saying he offered her an alternative interpretation. It worked like a charm then and it has been working like a charm ever since. *That is a monumental Lesson to remember! Satan is always trying to challenge right doctrines and he always offers alternatives. Alternative views, alternative versions of Scripture, alternative interpretations. He strives to convince people to set their own interpretations beside the scriptures like a parallel commentary wherein their own interpretation has equal merit with any. As such it is no surprise here that the Holy Spirit stresses that God did not speak through just anyone with a Youtube channel or a desk in their bedroom. He spoke through the prophets. Doubtless we are thankful for anyone who strives to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ via whatever means are available to them, so long as they do so rightly. But there is also a danger that false doctrines are spread this way as well.
Note also that God didn’t select prophets from every race and religion. He spoke to the Jews, through his own prophets. Yes, the messages and lessons and scriptures were to be copied out and sent abroad and YES! The scriptures are for us all to learn from and the events of the Jews are wondrous lessons for all peoples and all races but make no mistake in your comprehending that there were no prophets of God among those world religions of the time. There were no prophets of God in the religions Egypt, China, Iran, or Korea. There were no Muslim prophets of God. No, God spake exclusively in various ways and at various times in the Old Testament to the fathers of the Jews and only then through his prophets.
Remember the primary audience here are the Jews and Secondarily everyone else. It has been said that the keyword of the book of Hebrews is “better” a better way, a better offering a better reward. Certainly, whether this keyword is right or not, one things is certain – Christ is better by far than anything the fathers of the Jews understood on the whole. So the Holy Spirit grabs their attention by reminding them that God has spoken to them in old times and in vs 2 He takes another massive step with them.