Hellen Keller lost her ability to see and hear at 19 months (scarlet fever?). She learned about 50 signs in order to communicate with her family. When she was six-years-old, the family hired a visually impaired instructor named Anne Sullivan.
The first thing she taught her was how to spell words. She gave her a doll spelling “d-o-l-l” into the palm of Keller’s hand. Keller didn’t realize that a different word was used to identify each object. After a month of frustration, Keller had a breakthrough. Sullivan held Keller’s hand under running water while spelling “w-a-t-e-r” and it finally made sense. Keller immediately ran from object to object so she could learn the spelling. She began to understand her world in an entirely new way.
When we comprehend the basic structure of God’s word with the eyes of faith we will see the value of every jot and tittle. None of it is expendable because all of it has been revealed to us by a sovereign God.
The author of Hebrews is making a larger case for the superiority of Christ over the Old Testament prophets, but he makes it in such a way that it upholds the authority of all Scripture. There is continuity and discontinuity between the Old and New Testaments, but all of it reveals God’s will.
The fog of sin and distress distorts our ability to clearly see what God is doing (Jn 5:39-40).
Search the Scriptures with eyes of faith firmly fixed on Christ and you will have life.
Read Heb 1:1-4.
The author’s oratorical instincts are revealed by the fact that three out of four of his opening words begin with the letter π.
In general revelation God reveals himself through creation. The heavens declare His glory (Ps 19:1). “His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made,” (Rom. 1:20).
But his progressive special revelation is the subject in this passage. The times/occasions in which God spoke, and the means by which He spoke varied.
“Long ago” – The content of the old covenant had been completed almost 500 years prior, under Malachi’s prophetic ministry.
WCF 1.1 “Therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his church; and afterwards…to commit the same wholly unto writing; which maketh the holy scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God’s revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.
In other words, a drastic transition took place when Christ came. What had been promised by the prophets was now fulfilled by God’s Son.
The primary contrast throughout the letter is between the revelation of God’s law given through Moses and the revelation that was given through Jesus. The entrance of the new covenant brings the old covenant to a close.
“Many times” (lit. many parts) – God gave content in pieces (Hos 12:10). Manifold portions of revelation. The varied chapters of special revelation under the OT were incomplete and anticipatory.
“Many ways” – He spoke to Adam and Eve directly. He spoke to Abraham and the fathers by dreams and visions. He spoke to Moses through a burning bush as well as through storm and thunder at the top of Mount Sinai. He spoke in a still small voice to Elijah. Other prophets received God’s revelation through the Urim and Thummim. All of these forms of revelation took place “long ago”—under the old covenant.
The author is making the point that the way God spoke in the past has been radically transformed with the arrival of his Son. And yet, what God said in the past continues to speak (Heb 3:5; 11:4; 12:24-25)!
God formerly spoke to the fathers (not “our” as ESV) through the prophets. Could there be some Gentiles in the audience? Otherwise, why wouldn’t he say “our fathers”? Paul, writing to Gentiles in Corinth did use the phrase “our fathers” in reference to the wilderness generation (1 Cor 10:1). Additionally, Jesus condemned his audience for their likeness with “your fathers” who killed the prophets (Lk 11:47-48). So we shouldn’t read too much into the author’s word choice here. Nothing about their ethnicity can be determined by this verse.
Jesus spoke of the OT as holding infallible authority (Mt 4:1-11; 5:18; Jn 10:35). Paul upheld the authority and inspiration of the OT when he told Timothy that “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Tim 3:16). And again when he told the Corinthians that the wilderness generation served as an example that “we might not desire evil as they did” (1 Cor 10:6). Peter taught that the prophets “spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pt 1:21).
Things Concerning Christ!
In Luke 24, Jesus confirms the ultimate purpose of the Old Testament. Two disciples, on the road to Emmaus, had read their bibles wrong. Like most of Jesus’ disciples, they were confused about the Savior who was to come and rescue them. They had a distorted view of the person, purpose, and power of Jesus Christ.
Jesus responds by criticizing their ignorance, correcting their false assumptions, and teaching them (Lk 24:27).
It wasn’t until Jesus accurately taught them the Scriptures that their eyes were opened and they were able to rightly see Him (Lk 24:31-32). Had the words of that sermon been recorded for us, we would incorrectly assume that those are the only passages from the OT that speak of Christ. Instead, we are compelled to search for Christ every time we open our Bible.
A Picture of Faith
Now, I don’t know how things began to make sense in Helen Keller’s mind. One moment she was confused and frustrated; the next moment it all made sense. Earlier in the day, when her instructor was teaching her words, she grabbed her doll and smashed in on the ground shattering it. After her breakthrough at the well, she went back inside her house. In her autobiography she wrote:
On entering the door I remembered the doll I had broken. I felt my way to the hearth and picked up the pieces. I tried vainly to put them together. Then my eyes filled with tears; for I realized what I had done, and for the first time I felt repentance and sorrow.
The happiest day of Helen Keller’s life involved a breakthrough in knowledge that coincided with genuine repentance. That’s what faith looks like.
Once you have really seen Christ, there is an earnest desire for more of Him. You will search for Christ everywhere. When our distorted vision is repaired, we become enamored with God. We seek to know him and see him more clearly. And Christ’s beauty is infinite. We will never come to the end of our growth in Christ—even into eternity!
Jesus is the climax of history! The last days are the age of the Messiah. Christ fulfills all previous revelation.
Have you placed your faith in him? When the Holy Spirit grabs your attention, everything else fades away. The hearts of those disciples burned for more of Christ. They begged Him to remain with them. Have you ever felt that way? Do you still feel that way?
Jesus is ready to receive you. The Holy Spirit can lead you to Him when you open His word in faith.