Thursday, 16 August 2018
For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, Hebrews 2:2
The word “For” is given to make a contrast between the word spoken by angels to that which comes through the Son. It is an argument from the lesser to the greater. It next says, “if the word spoken through angels.” Scholars generally argue that this is speaking of the Law of Moses as having been given through the mediation of angels (meaning heavenly beings). The way Bibles are translated, Stephen seems to allude to this in Acts 7:53. Likewise, because of the translation, Paul also seems to allude to it in Galatians 3:19. In this, it is argued that the Lord communicated the law through angels (meaning heavenly beings) to Moses. However, this is not the case. Rather, the law was spoken by the Lord directly to the people (Exodus 20:1), or he spoke out the law face to face with Moses (Exodus 33:11 & Numbers 12:8). From Moses, it was conveyed directly, or along with Aaron, to the people.
The word “angel” simply means “messenger.” In the case of the Law of Moses, it is Moses and Aaron who conveyed the words of the Lord to the people. They acted as the angels, or messengers, of the Lord. Later during the time of the law, it is seen that angels, such as Gabriel and Michael, also spoke out words to certain people though. Further, prophets and seers continued to receive the word, passing it along to the people. The point of what is being said here is that “the word,” meaning the law, was “spoken through angels.” The Lord spoke, and His chosen messengers – be it Moses and Aaron, the prophets, or heavenly angels – relayed His word to the people. And this word “proved steadfast.”
Despite being conveyed to the people through a secondary source, it remained the word of the Lord, and it was considered inviolable. It was set, established, and firm. As Albert Barnes says, “It did not yield to circumstances.” If a violation of the law occurred, there was either a punishment to be meted out, a sacrifice to be made, or a covering over of the sin would be required on the Day of Atonement. When any portion of the law was broken, the entire law was broken (James 2:10). Jesus said as much concerning the law –
“For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” Matthew 5:18
Understanding this, the author then notes that “every transgression and disobedience received a just reward.” The word translated as “transgression” is a compound word which signifies “an overstepping.” It signifies a willful disregard of the law of God which defies His set drawn-lines. In this, one could think of the violation of a specific command concerning something forbidden – “You shall not.” The word translated as “disobedience” is also a compound word in the Greek. It signifies that which rises up from a negative attitude, such as one who refuses to properly pay heed to what is said. In this, one could think of the violation of a general command concerning something expected – “You shall.” In such violations of the law, for the offender, there was a “just reward.”
The idea of this is that a repayment of a price due was to be expected. It is a compensation which corresponds to a set standard. One can think of a reward for living in faith, or for punishment when failing to meet a set standard. God is the Source, He sets the standard, and rewards or punishments are set based on that. The Law of Moses was a set standard, and though it was spoken indirectly to the people (apart from the Ten Commandments), it was expected to be adhered to. The “from a lesser to a greater” will be seen in the coming verses.
Life application: The Law of Moses had its expectations. To show the severity of violating its standards, examples of punishment for infractions are given. For example, the first recorded Sabbath-breaker was taken out and stoned. Likewise, a person was stoned for speaking blasphemy. This was what was expected. The explicitly named penalty for numerous laws was given. If the law was this great, and yet something greater is found in the word of the Son, how carefully then should we pay heed to the message which comes from Him, or those who proclaim Him!
Lord God, where can salvation be found apart from Jesus Christ? The answer is given right in Your word. It is not attainable. All salvation in history was looking by faith to the coming Messiah, or it is looking back on the Messiah who has come. Only by faith in Him is man restored to You. Help us not to put our trust in deeds of our own doing, but to faithfully trust in the full and final work of Jesus our Lord. Amen.