BY MARGARET SEMENOV
Have you ever read a passage of scripture and skimmed over profound words because they are written with seeming nonchalance? It’s easy to do. For example, in Acts 7 when Luke is giving a dynamic yet succinct history of the Hebrew people, he talks about how Moses was raised by Pharaoh’s daughter “and when he was full forty years old” (vs 23) he decided to visit his Israelite brethren. Now when I was forty, I felt like I had lived a mighty long time already. For forty years, Moses had been living and being trained by the Egyptians – 40 years! That’s a long time in life’s economy. But wait, there’s more! After killing the Egyptian, he flees and lives in Midian, gets married, has two sons, then the Bible says, “when forty years were expired” he saw the burning bush. What? Forty more years? That’s right. These are the details I think it is easy to miss. At 80 years old, God calls Moses on a rescue op of massive proportions! No wonder he was reticent at first. It’s easy to miss, however, because the Bible speaks of it as a matter of course – 40 years here, 40 years there, but think about it in terms of your life…I’d be in Midian right now.
One such passage struck me recently as I was reading Hebrews 10:32-34:
But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions; Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used. For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance. (KJV)
The italicized section has also been translated, “and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one” (ESV). This is written without fireworks or fanfare, but I have to stop and wonder how I would feel if the police or military showed up at my door and plundered my property because I was a Christian. The word “joyful” honestly does not pop into my mind at that scenario. It is so easy to read through that passage and not truly grasp what is being said. It seems so “out there” to most of us to think about such atrocities.
Something easier to comprehend and therefore a good example would be a house fire. For me to talk about a house fire is a very different thing than my friend who lost her house to a fire a few years back. For me, it is just an idea of what it might be like. For her, there are mental pictures, smells, and vivid memories attached with the words “house fire.” Likewise, I can only surmise what the plundering of my property would be like. However, there are places in the world even today where this plundering is not out of the realm of possibility. I’ve spoken to Christians from other places in the world in which this was their reality, but for me it seems so hard to grasp and therefore is easy to read over quickly without comprehending the weight of the words that the Hebrews likely felt.
This small part of scripture, however, does expose my priorities. Why were the original readers of Hebrews known for their response of taking these abuses with joyfulness? Because they understood that they had in heaven a better and an enduring substance, a better possession and an abiding one. Endurance is not founded in the temporary. It is founded in that which is better and abiding, that which cannot be taken away. It is founded in Jesus.
Endurance is not founded in the temporary. It is founded in that which is better and abiding, that which cannot be taken away. It is founded in Jesus.
This brings to mind Matthew 5-7. Jesus is preaching and turning everything upside down for the listeners as He introduces the Kingdom of God. Everything they thought they knew, He was challenging. In the midst of that sermon, He speaks of where we should place value because that reveals where we place our hearts. We should place value on heavenly things, not on earthly things. The believers of Hebrews seemed to have taken that teaching to heart. Have we? How loosely do we hold our worldly possessions? Are they grasped loosely enough that God can remove them or use them at will?
When I read, “and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one,” I picture the Hebrew believers standing aside as their possessions are being plundered with a glint in their eyes thinking I know something you don’t….these are not my most valuable possessions. You can have these paltry things. My most valuable things you cannot touch. I want to live that life knowing that these earthly things are simply temporary. At best, they are tools for the Lord’s use. At worst, they weigh us down and shackle us in servitude to inanimate things, dead things which cannot give life. Let’s instead cling to the Life-Giver, enduring because we have a “better possession and an abiding one.” As we continue to study, take note of the details. Ponder passages that are easily missed. It will enrich and even change your life.
I want to live that life knowing that these earthly things are simply temporary. At best, they are tools for the Lord’s use.