You read it and, while you can’t help but whisper “Amen” ’cause you know it’s true, it does strike you as being kind of out of place.
Starting in on the final chapter of the letter to the Hebrews. And, as is so common in these New Testament letters, after so much time spent on what to believe, the writer is clear on the “so what” and how to behave.
And so, to these believers who were shaken in the faith — those, to quote the hymn writer, who were “tossed about with many a conflict and many a doubt; fightings within and fears without” (Just As I Am, Charlotte Ellliott) — the writer exhorts them with a series of rapid commands as to what it would look like to remain faithful. Because of the rejection from their kinsmen and the persecution of their statesmen, they were to: continue in brotherly love; show hospitality to strangers; remember those in prison; hold marriage in honor; keep their lives free from the love of money being content with what they had; and, they were to remember their leaders (because they had been martyred?) and imitate their faith (Heb. 13:1-7). If I’m doing the math correctly, there’s eight rapid-succession commands to obey in these seven verses.
And then, seemingly out of the blue, there’s this:
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
(Hebrews 13:8 ESV)
True statement! Theologically sound. Christologically accurate. Foundationally necessary. If Jesus isn’t the same yesterday, today, and forever then “the fullness of God” doesn’t dwell within Him. And if He is not the incarnate embodiment of the fullness of God, if He is not in essence God Himself, well then, no reconciliation and no peace made by the cross (Col. 1:18-20). Like I said, true statement. Great theology. But why’s it dropped here?
I’m thinking it has something to do with the fact that these believers were struggling with remaining faithful to their beliefs and behaviors because they were losing their bearings. Their situation was impacting their determination to live for Jesus. Their circumstance was tempting them to rethink their spiritual stance. Their season was an assault to their sanctification. So, when exhorted to behave according to what they believe, the writer anchors these commands with a situation-transcending truth — Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and today and forever.
The Jesus who is the better revelation of God, who is better than angels and better than Moses, who is the better high priest and the better sacrifice, and is the guarantor of a better covenant, is better, in large part, because He is eternal and unchanging. We need to believe that, for without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). But not only do we believe in an eternal, unchanging Savior, we behave according to an eternal, unchanging Lord. Our obedience not about the convenience of the situation, circumstance, or season, but all about our Savior who is the same yesterday and today and forever.
And so we keep on keepin’ on — not ’cause it’s easy but because He is worthy. We obey, not in our own power, but in the power of the risen Christ through the indwelling Holy Spirit. We aim to live in a manner worthy of who we are in Christ — not to show that we are something, but as a response of love conveying that, for us, He is everything.
The same yesterday and today and forever. Such is Jesus. Such is our holy determination, through His enabling, to faithfully walk in obedience.
Only by His grace. Only for His glory.