The position of the Hebrew Christians in the world was very precarious; they are surrounded by cruel foes, not the least of their own country-men. They have need of patience, that, after they have done the will of God, they may receive the promise. They are pilgrims and strangers in the world as were their patriarchal fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And it was needful that they walk in faith as the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 10:36-11:1, 2)
This is the presupposition in this passage which we now seek to interpret. It speaks of not fearing “what man can do unto me.” (Hebrews 13:6) The quotations, both from Joshua 1:5 and Psalm 118:6, indicate that the church of the New Testament is also surrounded by those who would destroy them. And in view of this the church is admonished not to set affections on things like money and earthly possessions, but rather to be content, resting in the fatherly providence of God. Theirs is to be a certain basic, positive attitude in which all their trust is in the covenant God, the faithful and almighty Father of His children. For puny man cannot harm the church of God.
IMPOTENT MAN VERSUS THE MIGHTY PROTECTING GOD (Hebrew 13:6)
There is only one way in which the saint in the world can be “content with the present.” It is the contentment of the child who knows that his heavenly Father is near to help him in the time of need. That is true of every earthly child in relationship to his earthly father and mother. Only when we are sure that the Lord is “on my side” will we be free from all anxious cares. This truth Jesus underscores and teaches in Matthew 6:8, “For your heavenly Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him.” It is only blessed to live in the assurance that “herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, yea, and all things come, not by chance, but by his fatherly hand.” (Ques. 27, Heidelberg Catechism) In the text the heavenly Father is called the “Lord.” He is “Jehovah” in the Old Testament passage in Psalm 118:6. This “Jehovah” is extolled in Psalm 118; the people of God all join in “giving thanks unto the LORD.” That is the keynote in the Psalm. That is the first utterance and the last utterance in this beautiful Psalm. The constant and abiding mercies of the Lord are to be remembered over Israel. And this mercy manifested itself in Israel’s distress as they are harassed and oppressed by the enemy most sorely. Back of Israel at this point is the terrible history all through the coming of the kingdom of God, from the time of the Judges till the Babylonian captivity under Nebuchadnezzar. And ever Israel could only be content in the present affliction, even when they were so sorely thrust by the enemy that it seemed they would utterly fall and perish.
In the midst of this the church is ever admonished trusting in the Lord to be “content with the present,” with their food and raiment, their clothing and shelter, their amount of money and earthly possessions. They are not to begin to think that life and joy and happiness consists in the abundance of riches (Luke 12:21); but they are to be rich toward God in humble trust, and not to place their confidence in the things of this life. We must then notice how God deals with the sparrows which do not sow, nor gather into barns. God feeds these sparrows. We must then notice that God clothes the grass, and beautifies the flowers with more glory than king Solomon in all his earthly splendor in Jerusalem. Such a mighty God can also much more take care of us. We need not feel that our bread and sustenance is dependent on men, princes in high position; but it is all firmly in the hand of Jehovah God, who has put the government of the world in the hands of Jesus Christ.
The saints are to seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and believe the word of Jesus that “all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33) Here we see that all men are impotent, great and small, and less than nothing, compared with the mighty Creator and Sustainer of the universe. All the Gentile nations are concerned with bread and butter. But the saints have the assurance that their bread is certain and their water sure. The Psalmist rejoices and says, “I have been young, and now I am old, but I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” (Psalm 37:25)
CHARACTER FREE FROM THE LOVE OFMONEY (Hebrews 13:5
The KJV translates the term “ho tropos” as being “conversation.” Evidently this refers to the total “walk” and attitude of the church in relationship to the things of this present life. The term really means the basic “turn of the mind.” This basic turn of the mind Jesus portrays very masterfully and instructively in the parable of the rich farmer in Luke 12:13-21. We do well to take our Bibles and read that section very carefully; it is a very good commentary of what is a basic, constant “love for money” and what is the basic attitude of all who put confidence in the flesh, in man and princes, and not in the living God. Such believe that one must have “abundance of things” in order to be blessed, to feel secure in this life. It is the man who finally desired to find the utopia of “total security” in life. And hence he is never “content with the present.” He will build bigger barns, until he can say, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink and be merry.” Enjoy life, the good life here, the abundant life of an affluent society. But such a man is a fool. He cannot take it with him in his coffin and in the grave. Naked he comes into the world, and naked he goes out!
Hence, we should have the fundamental and basic attitude which prays, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Give me neither riches nor poverty, but feed me with bread convenient. (Matthew 6:11; Proverbs 30:8)
Have not the Hebrew saints come to mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem? Are they not different from the world of unbelievers and profane such as Esau was? (Hebrews 12:16) Esau could sell his birthright for a mess of pottage. All he sought was this world. He was a fornicator and a glutton. His basic attitude was love for money. The Lord’s protection he did not know or cherish in his heart. Let, therefore, that basic attitude of love for money be far from us. For the fashion of this world passes away. (I Cor. 7:29-31) Hence, it is sure that the time here is short on our pilgrim journey. The reality is that they who have wives be as though they had none, and those that weep as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not, and they that buy as though they possessed not; and they that use the world, as not using it to the full, for the fashion of this world passes away—constantly.
Contentment with the present means that we see the present things in the light of their meaning for the present moment in our pilgrim journey, passing through this vale of tears to the new heaven, the new earth where righteousness shall dwell.
THE LORD HIMSELF HAS SAID (Hebrews 13:5)
The end of all contradiction is what “the Lord has said.” The tense of the verb here is perfect in the Greek. This means that what the Lord has said is still being said by Him as recorded in His Holy Word. This is not merely a “record” of what the Lord has said. It is what He is saying to us up till this present moment in completed state.
This word of assurance reads in full, as follows, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” This word of promise the LORD spoke by Moses His servant to all of Israel in the plains of Moab before they entered into the land of Canaan to take the land by faith. They shall surely take the land even as they had slain the great kings on the east side of Jordan. They are, therefore, reassured in the following words, “Be strong and of good courage, fear not, be not afraid of them; for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee nor forsake thee.” This same promise is once more spoken by the Lord directly to Joshua after Moses has died, and when he stands before the awesome task of casting out the Amorite out of the land of promise. At that time the Lord says to Joshua, “. . . As I was with Moses so will I be with thee, I will not fail thee nor forsake thee. Be strong and of a good courage. . . .” (Deut. 31:6; Joshua 1:5, 6)
Now this word of the Lord is still spoken to the church of the ages. It was spoken to Israel in their deepest night of darkness in Babylon. The Lord was with Israel when they were compassed about by the enemy. And this is the Word which is laid upon the hearts of the Hebrew saints in this text. And this is the Word which the Lord speaks to us today as churches, as individual believers. Be strong and of good courage. I will never leave thee nor forsake thee. Daily the Lord is with us. We need not become lovers of money; we may surely be content with the present boon of good gifts from our Father’s bountiful supply.
In view of what the Lord has said, and still is saying, we, too, may say something in the response of faith. We may say: we will not fear what man shall do to us. We may say this boldly and most confidently. We need not doubt the right and appropriateness of saying this. Fact is, that is the expected answer: that we boast in the Lord and His ever-abiding mercies. This is very personal. The Lord is my helper in every time of trouble.
For the Lord has a New Covenant of grace. He is not related to the church and Israel by any covenant that can be broken. It is on the chief cornerstone that our faith rests. It is rejected of men (Psalm 118) but is chosen of God and precious. And if God there has showed His great love to us His people, He will surely give us all things with Him. Lo, I am with you always unto the end of the world. That, too, the “Lord has said.” He said that to His disciples and, in them, to the entire church. He ever says: fear not, for I am with you. It is the Father’s good pleasure, little flock, to give unto you the kingdom. Be not then lovers of money, but be content with the present bounties of God’s hands as pledges of future glories and riches untold.