That's the Book: Hebrews
A couple of days ago I took a walk, grabbed my gear and parked myself at a favorite view. I sat and painted and pondered Hebrews. I've noticed some parallel lines.
The book of Hebrews is a visual book. It draws pictures of how Jesus’ life, death and resurrection mirror the heavenly reality. Hebrews spends a lot of time explaining how the temple, priesthood and sacrifices on earth are shadow copies of the more real ones in heaven. The things on Earth, while temporary, are important because they mirror the permanent ones. The forms help us understand our situation and our need for salvation. Hebrews then details how Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of the sacrificial system which gives him the authority and position to act as high priest for our relationship with the Father.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain that is his body, and since we have a great priest over the houses of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10: 19-23.
Art mimics reality. Or reflects reality. Or it tells us something about truth we didn’t notice previously. In the same way, the temple reflected the real truth. When people get obsessed with rules, or the church’s structure or the legalism of a religious order they are forgetting that those symbols only reflect. They should point us to the real eternal truth. The symbols aren’t the valuable things themselves. And art, while lovely, doesn’t reflect perfectly. Especially for an artist in training.
However. Jesus himself reflects God perfectly.
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and though who also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right had of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs. Hebrews 1:1-4
Hebrews is calling us to live lives that reflect the glory of God. And faith -while not flawless- is strong enough to carry us to the finish line where it will be perfected.
Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are convinced of better things in your case - the things that have to do with salvation. God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. Hebrews 6: 9-12
And then we come to one of the best sections in the entire New Testament. Hebrews chapters 11 and 12. If you feel like quitting these are the verses to read. Read them out loud to your weary soul. Shout these promises. Write them on walls. I promise God will strengthen your resolve, steady your quacking limbs and put some starch in your spine.
Chapter 11 summarizes the stories of the Old Testament and calls us to notice how these people of faith did great actions and stood for truth in the midst of hardship by holding fast to the promises of God.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that her rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6
The end of chapter 11 is a great reminder we are not alone in any sort of suffering. The stories in the Bible include torture, flogging, chains, stoning, persecution and mistreatment. The world was not worthy of them.
Then chapter 12! The author calls you to apply the lesson to your own life.
THEREFORE, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes onJesus, the pioneer and perfecto of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12 1-3
I’ve been trying to learn how to draw trees for years. Finally can do a passable fir tree. But my leafy trees still look like green blobs. Kinda like a large green stuffed garbage bag. Not a tree. So earlier this week I saw a post Jini77 had put on an urban sketchers Facebook page. I decided to try and copy it. Perhaps my hand and eye would crack the code to the elusive deciduous tree. So I penciled in a simliar study. Inked and water colored. And while not nearly as nice as the original artist - I think my trees look more like trees than garbage sacks. Yay for progress.
When I looked around and mimicked someone who had it down I did better in my own art. And this is what chapter 11 and chapter 12 are saying. Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses. Not perfect people. But faithful souls who were reflecting the deep truth of God. Since we can see their lives let’s run like them. Not because they are worthy but because they reflect God so well.
I fussed over this painting. I second guessed the color. I enjoyed the time outside and wasn’t at all crashing on myself but I also wasn’t ready to post it anywhere. I had it laying on my desk at work while I pondered how art reflects what is good. And my friend came up and said she loved it. Said it was great. Said she wanted to hang it up.
See - when our lives reflect Christ we don’t have to second guess everything or over criticize. We can be a mess and slip frequently and still the reflection is what reminds people of truth. And so its worth painting. And running our race well.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled but rather healed. Hebrews 12:11-13
If I fall and get back up people around me gain more courage to get back up. When I quit their load is heavier. When you stay the course - you become a part of the great cloud of witnesses that tells others to keep their eyes focused on heaven and their feet on the narrow path. Keep on my friends. This dark time is not the end of the story. Don’t let your light go out. Don’t buy into the lie that its too hard. Too much. Too late.
I believe in Christ and His ability to carry you.
Therefore, since we have a great hight priest who has ascended into heaven, 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 empathize with weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. h=Hebrews 4:14-16
Hebrews is a loud cry into the battle field to the other believers to NOT GIVE UP.
But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved. Hebrews 10:39
Jesus is the sacrifice therefore our sins are covered. Jesus is the priest therefore we have access to God. Jesus gives believers power to persevere therefore we can be faithful. The lines are drawn and we can hold onto that picture. Isn't it just gorgeous?
When we talk about art reflecting the glory of eternal ideas then we have to mention the team at The Bible Project. Their art definitely amplifies the glory of God and expands understanding for the viewers.
The team at New Spring Church has some fairly fantastic art in their infographics. Here is one for Hebrews.
www.chetsmom.com. had this beautiful rendering of Hebrews 12:1
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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