Christ is Superior to Israel’s Leaders: Moses and Joshua
Hebrews 3 – 4
Hebrews 3 – 4
Ch.3-4. Asks to consider Jesus in contrast with Israel’s leaders. Christ is faithful as Son over house of God in contrast with Moses a servant. Digresses thru end of ch.3 warning against unbelief. Superior to Joshua, will bring children into His rest! God’s rest still future, meanwhile a difficult wilderness, some will apostatize. Not left alone. Three great provisions.
Moses and the House of God (3:1-6)
v.1 Apostle and High Priest. Two titles correlate to previous chapters. Apostle, Christ as Son of God, coming from God to man. As High Priest, Christ as Son of man, from man to God. In rest of epistle, compares apostleship with Moses, priesthood with Aaron. Two resources: Word of God (brought by Moses), and intercession (Aaron). The writer writes as teacher, expertly opening up typical teaching. Only room for One Apostle! “Our confession” used to allow professors, but addresses the believers. Not “natural brethren, partakers of an earthly calling”, but believing Jews (and all Christians) are “holy brethren” and partake of a “heavenly calling”. The Principle of Calling, earthly not confused with heavenly. Earthly not stolen from Israel (Rom. 11:29).
v.2 Faithful. Christ compared to Moses as sent to Israel with authority from God. A parallel: both were faithful in their sphere (Num. 12:7). Moses in a general sense, Christ perfectly so. Something more than faithfulness: the glory of His Person (vv.3-4). “His” at the end of v.2 is God, not Moses, as Num. 12:7 shows.
vv.3-4 Builder and Building. Moses didn’t build the house (i.e. tabernacle). He followed the pattern. The builder was Jehovah, now manifest in flesh! The builder has more honor because a work emanates from a person. A person is superior to his creation. Christ built the universe is His house! The tabernacle a type of the heavens. Connects with ch.1, Son is creator and sustainer. In v.4 the argument from design. Observation of the universe, scope, variety, balance, fine-tuning for life, etc. gives overwhelming evidence. Every house has a builder. It requires faith to see that the builder is God.
vv.5-6 Son vs. Servant. Relative position of Christ and Moses. Moses “a ministering servant”, Christ is “Son over his house”. Christ over the house of God because of who He is, the Son. Universe is the house of God, but saints collectively are His house in a higher sense (1 Tim. 3:15; 1 Pet. 2:7; Eph. 2:22). A condition: will the house be faithful to Him? Many “ifs” in Hebrews: a danger of apostasy, genuine faith will hold fast. The “ifs” and “whens” show the wilderness pathway manifests reality, or apostasy. No “ifs” in Ephesians.
The Wilderness: Warning Against Unbelief (3:7-19)
vv.7-11 Warning Against Unbelief. Quotes Psa. 95:7-11 warn against unbelief. Israel’s old besetting sin. Ten temptations. Saw His deliverance, erred in there hearts. Three phases. (1) The “day of provocation” at the beginning in Meribah (Ex. 17:7). (2) Journey for 40 years. (3) Last temptation at Kadesh. Jehovah angry, swore in wrath. Psalm prophetic of Jehovah inviting Israel to enter kingdom. A new day, His old anger now gone. The cross opened a way. Old sins will not bar them; but a fresh repetition will. Unbelief must be avoided. Application to the Jews professing Christianity.
vv.12-13 Carefulness and Encouragement. Not doubt, or weakness of faith, but a heart that ultimately refuses to take God at His word. Turning away from God for a professor is apostasy. Influenced by the spirit of apostasy. Need to “encourage” ourselves, remind that God is to be trusted and obeyed. Still called “today”, God’s grace and patience continue. If give into sin of unbelief once, effect of hardening us to Word of God. Ultimate sense, completely “hardened by the deceitfulness of sin”, only possible for an unconverted.
vv.14-19 Reality Proved By Steadfastness. In Hebrews salvation proved out by steadfast devotion to Christ through life. Asks important questions to highlight difficulty of maintaining confidence. Who provoked? Not just part of Israel, but the whole congregation. Who was Jehovah angry with? Those who refused to believe (Deut. 2:14-15). Sin emphasized: not a mistake, but positive willful sin. Caleb and Joshua the exceptions. Who did He promise not enter His rest? Those who heard and refused to believe. Common theme: sin of not believing. A progression: provoked at beginning, then angry forty years, finally swore in His anger. No one can argue, they deserved judgment. Rest only shared with believers. Unbelief the root of sin. Death a type of apostasy, only possible for unsaved. A parallel condition is apathy.
The Rest of God & Need of Faith (4:1-11)
vv.1-2 Application to Christianity. Now begins apply lessons of Israel to professing Jews in Christianity. We too have a promise. “Rest” viewed as future. Have “rest” in our conscience, a future rest when God Himself rest, we with Him. Not looking for rest in this world; become a wilderness to us. Will fail to enter it if not receive glad tidings, just as Israel.
vv.3-5 A Future Rest for the People of God. A second application. Point in vv.1-2 that faith is required to enter rest, point in vv.3-10 that true rest is future. Two facts brought together. God rested once (Gen. 2:2), but speaks of His rest as future (Psa. 95:11). For Israel, God’s rest still future at time of David. Unbelief of Israel barred them, but in grace the “today” of David is still open. Joshua (called Jesus, Greek) not able to bring them in. Christ’s superiority to Joshua. The great point: rest is future. Must refer to the Millennium, when Israel enters, and heavenly saints enter, Christ vindicated. The “rest” begins in the Millennium will fade into eternal state. It is “his rest”, therefore perfect, God finds His satisfaction. No work, no conflict. Very nature of God satisfied… we look forward to it.
v.11 Exhortation. Applies “same example” to the Hebrews, a powerful exhortation. Same refusal to listen caused Hebrews’ ancestors to fall could now cause some to apostatize from the profession of Christian faith. “Use diligence” by believing the Word of God.
Three Provisions to Help Us Reach the Rest (4:12-16)
vv.12-13 The Word of God: It’s Effectual Penetrating Power. A number of attributes of the Word make it a vital instrument to bring us into presence of God. An invaluable resource.
- An Active Agent. “Living”, never becomes dead or outdated, carries means of giving spiritual life, adapts to different needs and situations (John 6:63). “Operative”, works (by Holy Spirit), accomplishes God’s purpose (Isa. 55:11).
- A Discerning Agent. Compared to a sword (Eph. 6:17), pierces, also cuts or makes divisions. Word of God is “sharper”. Two edges: works on the external level (actions), and on the internal level (motives). Division of soul and spirit takes supernatural discernment. Soul: seat of consciousness, identity, responsibility, and desire (Rom. 7:15). Spirit: above the soul, capacity to reflect on his soul, gives God-consciousness. Animals have no spirit (Psa. 49:20; Isa. 31:3). True worship (John 4:24). Humanly impossible to discern, by scripture can. Illustrates with a physical image: “of joints and marrow”, intricate parts of the skeletal system, difficult to locate from periphery, hard to distinguish where one ends, other begins. Only the Word of God can penetrate and separate. Motives and intentions are often disguised (Jer. 17:9; 1 Cor. 4:5). The Word through Holy Spirit identifies the activity of the flesh with conviction.
- A Revealing Agent. Brings us into the presence of God, our soul is laid bare (1 John 3:20; Jer. 17:9; 1 Sam. 2:3). We are fully known of God. Nothing of the flesh is allowed to pass unnoticed, new nature rejoices, any sin we tolerate spoils communion (Psa. 139:23-24). Puts us into responsibility, “with whom we have to do”.
The proper response is self-judgment, vital to maintaining communion.
vv.14-15 The Priesthood of Christ: Our Sympathetic High Priest. Pick up from end of ch.2, also introduction to next section (Heb. 5-7). The comparison here, as with Heb. 2:17-18, is with the high priest in the Old Testament. Ch.2 focused on day of atonement, here on normal function as intercessor. No OT priest called great. Tabernacle a type of “the heavens” passed through, just as Aaron through tabernacle into sanctuary. Two things required: (1) to be in heaven, and (2) to first tread the earth, with trials and temptations (both Moses on mountain and Joshua in valley, Ex. 17). Majestic Son of God, no mere transient visitor or associate. Always tendency of priests to elevate into privileged upper class. Not so; “able to sympathise”. Tested beyond us. Deity did not shield from suffering. Important qualification: “sin apart”, not “without sinning”. Sinless perfection. Temptations never from within (Jam. 1:14). A “holy thing” (Luke 1:35). Peter says He “did no sin” (1 Pet. 2:22), Paul says He “knew no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21), deepest John says “in him” is no sin (1 John 3:5). Nature holy. “He was not alone perfectly man but the perfect man” – W. Kelly. Sin within blinds and dulls. Christ’s sinlessness meant a better sympathizer! Experiences and sufferings coupled with glory qualify only Him to be our sympathetic High Priest. Intercedes for us (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25), brings down grace and mercy, gives us endurance, preserves us from falling. His advocacy different from intercession (1 Jn. 2). Can’t take one successful step apart from Christ’s continued intercession (“Aaron’s rod that budded”, Num. 17:8). Exhortation, “let us hold fast”. Why turn back to Judaism with such a resource? Every reason to press on. How awful to take other men as priests!
v.16 Prayer: the Ever-Approachable Throne of Grace. Privilege of prayer. Not confused with Christ’s prayer or intercession. He prays continually (Heb. 7:25), we do not. His presence there makes the throne available to us, approachable continually. Without fear, “with boldness”, we should approach throne of God of the universe, of a holy God “with whom we have to do”, but cross has made it “the throne of grace”. How precious! At any season, find help “seasonable”, or suited to needs. Two forms: (1) “mercy” or deliverance from a trial, or (2) “grace”, strength to pass through the trial in communion (2 Cor. 12:8-9). Always help available!