Friday, January 14, 2011

Small Concordance Study: Hope In Hebrews

For those of us who do not have a working knowledge of Greek and Hebrew, word studies and concordance studies may be the mainstay method for Bible study. If I want to understand the way the concept of "Passion" is used through the Bible, I don't have the knowledge or resources (yet!) to do a comparison of the Greek and Hebrew words and how they change in context or are altered by prefixes, suffixes etc. unless I go to Strong's, Vine's and a number of other reference books which I must confess are not in my library (yet!). One of the most basic ways to begin grasping a concept, word or image through scripture is to trace its English use and identify how it's used in different contexts. Comparing and contrasting the use of an individual word through the Old and New Testament using only a concordance and the Bible may seem limited in this age of information, but it is still my most commonly used form of study, and it has many strengths.

Though I hope to do more in-depth studies later that take advantage of Greek and Hebrew resources. I'm still learning, and I'm sure that many of my readers have a better knowledge of these things than I do. My hope is that God's grace will reveal to us what our human resources fail to discover, and that He will honor our desire for truth as we pursue Him and study the Word to the best of our ability.   

A concordance or word search using an online concordance such as Biblegateway has the benefit of not straying from the text itself in order to find understanding or answers. While I rejoice in the knowledge and teaching that is available from so many anointed teachers and scholars, it can be a temptation to read far more books about the Bible than the Bible itself, and to sacrifice a direct interaction with God's word for a quicker interaction with someone else's text. Many times Jesus himself wants to be our teacher Matthew 11:29 and wants to make our education a moment of special intimacy between His heart and ours. Though I have no intention of forsaking the teaching of Godly men and women, I do want to make sure I keep a firm balance in my reading that allows the Holy Spirit control over how I learn. A concordance study keeps me in full contact with the Bible text without any major outside sources, allowing me the opportunity to read every single verse the Bible contains with a certain word or phrase.

Concordance studies can be daunting as well though. The word "Hope" is found 165 times in the ESV Bible (this is actually less than I expected). Many times I enjoy reading every single verse in context; however, its often better to break the study up into different categories in order to allow the maximum attention to the word. 

While reading through Hebrews in our ministry's Bible meditation session ("Fresh Encounters" which should get a post at some point), I was struck by the use of the word "Hope" in Hebrews 6:19. Instead of a look at all 165 verses in the ESV, I decided to focus a concordance study on the specific use of the word "Hope" in the book of Hebrews. This came down to seven verses which I could lay out and study and pray through in a more thorough way. In addition, focusing on a single book allows the word study to draw out how a concept works within the context of a single letter, by a certain author. This can draw out different understandings. The use of the word "Sacrifice" in Romans will probably be different than the use of the word "Sacrifice" in Hebrews because the focus, audience and source are different. This highlights the multiple facets of concepts in scripture and isolates unique ways these words and concepts are used.

By pasting the seven Biblegateway results into a Microsoft Word document, I can print out the verses and proceed with highlighting and notes on a separate sheet of paper, using my own Bible for context and references. The proximity of the verses allows me to compare the writer's use in specific verses and sentences easily without needing to look up the references and flip back and forth to reread the verses.

I highlighted sections that were of specific interest and took notes on the verses much the way I do in my wide margin Bible, attempting to trace the logic of the statements and arguments.

Hebrews 3:6
but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.

Christ is over us as God's house if we own that identity through active hope. We are God's house IF we believe. 

Hebrews 6:19
We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain,

Hope leads to spiritual intimacy. It is hope that penetrates the external barriers and brings us into the secret place with God. That hope is Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 7:19
(for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.

We draw near to God, into the secret place, into intimacy through hope, because of hope, in hope. This hope is founded in grace not law.

Hebrews 11:1
 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Faith completes hope. Faith seals intimacy and substantiates what hope has initiated.

These notes trace the connection between hope and intimacy with God. Hope, prayerful expectation and anticipation bring us close to God. They enable us to draw near. If Christ is functioning as our hope, we can have a spiritual excitement and confidence in the promises of God and follow Christ through the veil into the secret place with the Almighty. The Levitical priesthood entered into the holy of holies because of their hope in the law's covering. They placed their hope in washings and sacrifices, but that hope could only sustain one visit per year for the high priest. Our living hope is Christ who lives beyond the veil and has penetrated all barriers for us. Our hope in Him, in the cleansing of His blood, in the regeneration available to us through His resurrection and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, draws us near to God. We step closer and closer to Him as we find greater hope in the love that's revealed to us and the sufficiency of grace.


  1. Concordance, take your pick:

    Strong's for the strong,

    Young's for the young,

    Cruden's for the crude.

    (Old joke, I am ashamed to admit that I first heard it in a seminary classroom.)

  2. Take a look at

    You'll be surprised at the resources it offers for those of us who does not read the original languages.

  3. Great site. I will have to look more deeply into this. I've never been as into web resources as I should. I guess I like old-fashioned books the best.