Milk or Meat?

Hebrews 5:11-14

In October, 2003 call to police in Collingswood, NJ at 2:30am – child loooking for food in neighbor’s trash. 4 feet tall, 45 pounds, appeared about 10 years old. Bruce, along with 3 brothers, fed diet of “pancake batter, dried-up grits and oatmeal, uncooked Cream of Wheat, and raw potatoes”. Was actually 19 years old, had been routinely malnourished for more than decade. Brother, from age 7 to 14 only gained 2 pounds, no detectable medical reason for small size. 2 years later Bruce had grown 15 inches, added 95 pounds, all from proper nutrition; his brothers – similar gains.

When think of someone needing milk rather than meat, mental picture apt to be cute little baby at early stage of development. Those being addressed in our text more like Bruce than newborn. Had started out well, developed up to a point, then something happened. Now, at this point in development, were at risk – when Bruce and brothers’ situation was discovered, bodies would have rejected a “normal” meal. Was their situation because of neglect, not because something was wrong with their digestion. Hebrew Christians had similar problem – unable to properly process a “normal” spiritual meal.

Here in our text, have the symptom described, diagnosis given, treatment prescribed, desired outcome identified.

A. symptom (11a)

much to say and it is difficult to explain

apostle had been going along at pretty good clip, addressing topics like Jesus better than the prophets, angels, Moses, Joshua and Aaron

now introduces Melchizedek, expect author will give thorough explanation, especially since he “has much to say”!

every so often, get into teaching situation – offering profound insights on particular topic, then look at listeners’ eyes, wonder if you have unwittingly been speaking in tongues

eyes are glazed, no sign of recognition or understanding, wonder just how far back you need to go for lights to come on again

somewhere along the way, speaker and listeners got disconnected, effective communication ended

in order for listeners to increase understanding on that particular topic, need to re-connect, pick up the threads, then move on

“hard to explain”, not impossible

extremely important point here: writer uses specific word – dusermēneutos, translated “hard/difficult to explain”

why important? what needs to be communicated can be expressed / taught / learned / understood; emphasizes important principle regarding entire Bible, one that all of you have assumed

principle is called: perspicuity of Scripture; you assume when you pick up Bible, open it, read it, you will get something out of it

Bible, written to reveal not hide, when translated into your language can be understood; in fact, God intends it so

some qualifiers: understanding is process – requires time, work, help of Holy Spirit and Spirit-led teachers

not everything that is taught plainly can be understood comprehensively: we believe Creation, Trinity, Incarnation, e.g., can grasp what Bible says even while much about each goes beyond our full understanding

some is far more easily grasped than other parts; means need to get handle on the less difficult parts, work up to tough ones as understanding grows

things about Melchizedek essential to Hebrew Christian’s progress in godliness that in present condition they couldn’t grasp without a lot of preliminary work, something that took the author by surprise

B. diagnosis

sluggish in hearing (11b)

unlike Bruce’s problem, issue was not the kind of food that was provided, it was how they responded to what was in front of them

Paul Stookey, listening to someone in social setting, mind at punchbowl, suddenly realize by how other person is looking at you they expect answer; so you don’t look like total idiot – if you could rephrase the question, maybe…. “what are the ages of your children?”

Hebrew Christians had been sitting under good teaching for long time, minds were far from what was being said – had bellied up to the table, didn’t pick up their forks

wasn’t the way they started out – “you need someone to teach you again” – like Bruce and brothers, developed properly…up to a point, then stopped

different things can contribute to that sort of mindset: learned enough to get by, don’t need any more; this is too hard, let smart folks figure it out; lack of interest, lack of discipline, lost fire of first love

needing a teacher (12a)

shocking role reversal here: ones who should have progressed to point of teaching in need of being re-taught the basics

important note here: is expected that all believers will be teachers in some capacity, formal or informal, public or private

so…when you are listening, be as attentive as if there will be a test – ’cause there will be, sooner or later

children, grandchildren, coworker, neighbor, someone in church family – ask a question, provide teachable moment

but, you say, I don’t know much, I’m not qualified to teach others; do you understand what it means to repent of your sins and trust Christ for salvation?

that’s 2 of elementary principles identified in ch. 6; you can at least help someone else understand that! The Hebrew Christians needed refresher course in those basics

needing milk (12b)

two things happening here: need for milk and complacency with living on milk – “you have come to need milk”, “everyone who lives on milk” ESV

have regressed spiritually to point where need milk because they can’t chew and digest solid food, meat

not talking about desire but what is developmentally appropriate; adults appreciate and enjoy milk, are not dependent on it

same should be true spiritually: most mature Christian never outgrows love for basic truths of the Gospel; at the same time, has understanding of more difficult concepts and desire to learn more

important point: knowledge for sake of knowledge puffs up; shouldn’t want to know more so we can rest in superior knowledge

desire to progress to meat rather than milk should be fueled by love for God and his Word, desire to know him better

inexperienced in the message of righteousness (13)

being slow or dull of hearing leads to: sub-standard living – not living up to level of righteousness expected from spiritual age

babies dependent on milk alone cannot walk by themselves, be outside alone, care for any of own needs or needs of others

is one thing for toddler to be unsteady on feet – good parents know to expect stumbles and tumbles, do what is necessary to keep damage to minimum

is entirely different when adult, one who has appearance of maturity, toddles and stumbles and tumbles through life

expectation is regular exposure to Word of God taught and read and meditated upon will result in growth to maturity

number of years ago, Ruthie’s folks had chimney fire; required extensive repair, remodel; Ruthie made sure to rescue piece of door casing with names, dates, heights

so…here’s the challenge: how do you “measure up” in your spiritual growth? would today’s mark show progress from yesterday’s? last month’s? last year’s?

are you walking more surely in the way of righteousness, growing in your understanding of God, his word, his ways? if not, here’s the prescription: get your ears working again and…

C. prescription

exercise – training by practice (14b)

take your senses, powers of discernment, to the gym and give them a regular workout; have gotten flabby, lost muscle mass and tone from lack of nutrition and use

to discern (14c)

take what you’ve heard and learned from God’s Word, compare it to what you see, hear, say, do – on basis of Bible, what is right, what is wrong

do that in every situation, start with very simplest and go from there; accept the good, reject the evil as Holy Spirit enables you to understand and do

keep doing it, over and over; before long, with practice, you’ll discern good and evil automatically in the basics, the simple things

good trainer won’t let you hang out with 2 lb. weights forever; will gradually add a little, then a little more, building strength and endurance

to handle solid food (12c)

result of exercise is need for increased nutrition….and ability to use more substantial food properly; milk just won’t cut it

take better advantage of opportunities for nutrition you are already engaged in, work at getting more out of them

spend regular time reading, studying, meditating on God’s Word; use study tools if necessary, expect God will speak

just like Bible, good teaching and preaching sessions have something for those who are new to faith, also the mature

come prepared – if you know topic or text, read it over before; expect God will speak to you, listen for His voice

be an active listener – keep mind engaged, make personal connections, take notes (writing in Bible is ok!), review/discuss what you heard with children/spouse

if there are more opportunities, avail yourself of them; remember, is one thing on very short list that has eternal payback

to teach (12a)

major purpose of growing “in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” is to “edify one another”

be use used by God as means of bringing others closer or even into Christ’s kingdom, building up those in the family

D. desired outcome

maturity (14a)

solid food for the mature, full-grown, is the goal for all believers; not to be satisfied with only the basics, desiring to grow and mature – even Paul at end of life didn’t think he’d arrived, was still pressing on toward the goal

Are you satisfied with milk or do you desire meat, real solid food? Pleasing God requires we work out our salvation, working toward greater maturity, being able to handle the meat of the Word. What does that look like? We will have the mind of Christ; the Word of Christ will dwell in us richly; the peace of God will rule our lives; the love of Jesus will fill us; we will run the race before us; the beauty of Christ will rest upon us.


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