As we continue this series on the glory of God, let’s briefly review. What is the glory of God? It is the divine essence of who he is. How is the glory of God known? First, it is has been revealed through what he has created, both on the earth and in the sky. Now we will look at Hebrews 1:1-2a, which gives us further insight into how God chose to reveal himself and his glory.
“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son.” NASB (Italics mine)
It should be noted that the pair of words translated “in many portions and in many ways “in the original language are used only here in the New Testament. On first reading they may appear to be Hebrew parallelisms that were often quoted in the New Testament. Parallelisms were two ways of saying the same thing for emphasis. However that is not the case here. Each of these words has its own meaning.
I usually don’t give the original words, but in this case I think it is warranted for these two. They are polumeros and polutropos. Do you see that both begin with “polu?” Sound familiar? The English words that begin with “poly” mean many or multiple. Such words as polytheism, polygamy, and Polynesia are familiar to most.
The “meros” of polumeros means part, share, piece or portion of the whole. The NASB translates it “in many portions.” Some translations translate it “at many times.” That is acceptable because the prophets who gave portions of God’s revelation in the Old Testament era did so over time. The NEB translates it “fragmentary.”
How did God speak “in many portions” to the fathers of old? The various prophets such each gave a portion. These partial revelations were spread out over thousands of years. They were later recorded in what we refer to as the Old Testament. To the Jews, these writings were known as the “Scriptures.” You may recall that Jesus and other writers of the New Testament often quoted from the Scriptures.
The “tropos” in the companion word “polutropos” means way, manner, or fashion. Literally it can be translated “many ways or avenues.” Figuratively, it means the multitudinous number of ways God revealed himself through the prophets.
What were some of the “in many ways” that God revealed himself to the fathers of old via the prophets? He did so by means of dreams, visions, audible voices, the appearance of angels and other ways. If you are reading the Bible through this year, I want to encourage you to look for some of these various ways that God spoke or revealed himself in the Old Testament.
During my childhood and teen years, I always looked forward to the fall because that was the season when the new car models were revealed. In that era, body styles changed every single year, and I couldn’t wait to see the new style. The car dealerships were careful to keep the new models hidden until the day arrived for the reveal. There would be ads in the local newspapers weeks before the reveal date.
When the reveal date arrived usually in mid to late September, it was a big deal. Most dealerships had good eats and lots of souvenirs for just about every member of the family-potholders, pencils, yard sticks, balloons, etc. In our home you will find some those items from a bygone day.
Yes, that is a bygone day.
Even though styles very seldom change, there is one vestige of that bygone custom still around. In our digital world, when a rare new model is announced, it is done so by spy shots of heavily camouflaged vehicles on the internet. In the camouflaged vehicles, one can get a general idea of the shape of the vehicle, but the details are concealed. In some cases there is a picture of a headlight, taillight, or a wheel.
Isn’t that what Hebrews 1:1-2a is saying? In the past, God revealed bits and pieces about himself through the prophets at many times and in various ways.
What he revealed was somewhat like spy shots of soon to be revealed vehicles. In automotive language, if one put enough spy shots together, he can get some idea of different aspects of the new vehicle. If one put together what all the prophets said, he could get a general idea of what God was like. However, the sending of his Son was like the final and ultimate reveal of what God was like.
Please allow me to share one further illustration that may shed some light on our text.
Perhaps during the past year in times of confinement, many families chose to spend time together by working jig saw puzzles. These can be quite challenging and even frustrating at times, especially at the very beginning. Here are 500 or more pieces that make no sense as individual pieces. As more and more pieces come together, the picture begins to take shape little by little.
Perhaps the revelations of God in the past given in many parts and in many ways were like a puzzle. No one piece or revelation fully revealed God. It wasn’t until Jesus came that the puzzle was completed. So in Hebrews 1:2 we read: “…but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…” By the way, this one verse very well summaries the New Testament.
Let me close with the Amplified Bible’s translation of Hebrews 1:1-2a
“God, having spoken to the fathers long ago in [the voices and writings] of the prophets in many separate revelations [each of which set forth a portion of the truth] and in many ways, but has in these last days spoken [with finality] to us in [the person of One who is by His character and nature] His Son [namely Jesus].”