I got distracted in the last post… It’s hard not too with so many different voices demanding to be heard. The image of the mechanically inspired prophet (ear-cocked, stylus at the ready, listening for the whispers from the beyond) seems a very long way from the full-on, multi-voiced shouting match that is enacted in the pages of a prophet like Micah or Isaiah. And yet, it’s this whole conversation that is envisaged when the author of Hebrews writes: In the past God spoke to our ancestors through [by] the prophets at many times and in various ways… (Hebrews 1:1–2 NIV11).
Various Ways: God to prophet – prophet to God – God to people via prophet – prophet to people commenting on above – people to God via prophet – people to prophet commenting on above. And then all of the above performed while laying on your right side for a couple of years, cooking your food with excrement. Or doing a chicken dance.
Now the author of Hebrews adds another dimension to this choir of scriptural voices: God addresses his eternal Son in the words of Scripture.
Check out the chain of Old Testament quotations running from v.5 – v. 13. In quick succession the author gives us a list of instances when God could have (but didn’t) speak to angels in the words of Scripture: For to which of the angels did God ever say... [and repeated] To which of the angels did God ever say (Hebrews 1:5, 13 NIV11). And God certainly speaks about the angels in the words of scripture: In speaking of the angels he says… (Hebrews 1:7 NIV11) But this is just teasing. Look at the whole of verse 5 and let the implications of who God isn’t talking to really sink in:
For to which of the angels did He ever say,
“You are My Son; today I have become Your Father,”
“I will be His Father, and He will be My Son?”
When He again brings His firstborn into the world, He says,
“And all God’s angels must worship Him.”
And about the angels He says:
“He makes His angels winds, and His servants a fiery flame,”
but to the Son:
“Your throne, God, is forever and ever, and the scepter of Your kingdom is a scepter of justice. You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; this is why God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of joy rather than Your companions.”
“In the beginning, Lord, You established the earth, and the heavens are the works of Your hands; they will perish, but You remain. They will all wear out like clothing; You will roll them up like a cloak, and they will be changed like a robe. But You are the same, and Your years will never end.” (Hebrews 1:5–12 HCSB)
He isn’t talking to the angels because he is talking to his eternal Son.
The texts are presented with an extraordinary rhetorical flourish: the author seems to suggest that God is speaking these words directly to the Son at the same time as the text being read to the congregation. God speaks as the text is read. The words addressed in this letter to human ears, addressed at this moment by a human voice, are the words of the Father addressing the Son. The moment of the ascension, when the words which had been applied to the Davidic Kings find their true referent in the King of Kings, that moment is made present to those assembled to hear the Letter read. God speaks and re-speaks those words, testifying again that Jesus is Lord, Creator (v. 10), Eternal (v.11-12) and God (θεος v8).
Who speaks in Scripture? The Father speaks about the Son, to the Son, for a human audience to hear and worship.
And yet, all the quotes above, words which the author of Hebrews explicitly attributes to God, come from the book of Psalms where their original setting is clearly on the lips of a human worshipper speaking them to God in praise (for his deeds).