When in your life did you feel discouraged and chose to meet with other Christians, to be part of Christian fellowship? Did it result from persecution from people, friends, or family who do not share your faith? Have other Christians hurt your feelings? You‘re not alone. The readers of the letter to the Hebrews might have felt the same way.
This letter was written to encourage its original readers to persist in the faith especially in the face of persecution and suffering. The writer encourages them to “hold fast to our confession” (4:14), “lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees” (12:12). The believers lack commitment, and worship attendance is dropping. Opposition is so great that many are tempted to abandon their faith.
The author reminds his readers of the hope they have in Christ in moments of difficulty. Believers are saved not only from sin but also from the fear of death because they place their eternal hope in Christ who redeems them. Jesus establishes our confidence to enter God’s presence and to approach God “with a true heart.” We “hold fast to the confession of our hope,” and finally we “provoke one another to love and good deeds.”
The author emphasizes the importance of Christians meeting together in support. With one another’s help, we endure and are strengthened and emboldened in times of hardship. The meeting together itself bears witness to our faith in Jesus, and we eagerly await his return.
Jesus, help me depend on you when I go through trials. May your life and the lives of others inspire my living that I may bear faithful witness. Amen.
The inability to have a child brings pain to many today, and this was equally true in ancient times. In that context it was sometimes even worse, for Peninnah openly ridicules Hannah for being unable to conceive. But as a result of her desperate, heartfelt prayer, God blesses Hannah with a son, Samuel, who will become a powerful prophet. Hannah then rejoices in a God who exalts the poor and needy. Hannah provides an example of the boldness with which we also can approach God now because of Christ’s sacrifice. The destruction of Jerusalem is the focus of the passage in Mark. Jesus here predicts the demolition of the Temple and the city, which the Romans executed in 70 ce.
• Read 1 Samuel 1:4-20. When have you felt trapped by circumstances not of your own making? How did the situation resolve itself?
• Read 1 Samuel 2:1-10. When has a situation in your life changed because you persisted in prayer? What did that experience teach you?
• Read Hebrews 10:11-25. Do you perceive God’s remembering your sin no more as encouragement or license? Why?
• Read Mark 13:1-8. What signs make you anxious about the world’s future? What helps you rest easier?
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