Christ is Better than Moses
Text: Hebrews 3:1-4:13
Jesus is the apostle of our faith
Because Jesus is our High Priest, all Christians are invited to consider him whom we confessed to believe (Matthew 10:32-33; Romans 10:8-10). He is our apostle, which mean a person sent as a messenger or representative (John 20:21). Jesus was sent by God. “I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 5:30; see also John 6:38-39). He delivered the message given to him (John 8:26; Malachi 3:1).
Moses was also sent by God (Exodus 3:10-15) and for that he received glory.
Jesus is the builder of his house
Jesus carried out his tasks faithfully, just like Moses. “Not so with My servant Moses; He is faithful in all My house” (Numbers 12:7). It is likely this is the verse the writer had in mind as he continues to use the imagery of a house. Moses was faithful, but Jesus was greater than Moses and deserves greater glory. Moses saw a part of God (Exodus 33:19-20; 34:5-7), but Jesus resided with God (John 1:14,18).
Moses brought in the law that established Israel as God’s people (Numbers 12:6-8). But Moses only delivered God’s laws (Deuteronomy 4:1-2), he did not establish his own nation or his own religion. Jesus, however, established his own church (Matthew 16:18), which is the household of God (I Timothy 3:15). Being God, he delivered his laws (Matthew 28:18). The builder of all things is God, which means Jesus is God (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17).
Moses was a servant in God’s house, but Jesus is the Son over the house. He is the heir and possesses authority that Moses could never have.
Just as Moses and Jesus were faithful, we who are a part of Jesus’ house (I Peter 2:5) must also remain faithful in order to remain a part of the church (Colossians 1:21-23). The word translated as “confidence” translates the Greek word parrhesia, which means to be outspoken with frankness and boldness. The writer here is alluding to our confession of Christ (Romans 10:8-10). The word “boast” or “rejoicing” is not in ourselves but in our hope of salvation. We should not be ashamed of our faith or our expected destiny.
Warning: Don’t be Stubborn
Since we are to be faithful until the end of our lives, the writer quotes Psalms 95:7-11 to encourage his audience not harden their hearts like their ancestors. Though it is a psalm of David (Hebrews 4:7), it is a quote attributed to the Holy Spirit because David was writing under the direction of the Spirit (II Peter 1:20-21). David penned the words, but they were the Holy Spirit’s words.
The problem is that anyone can fall away from God. This should be noted since you cannot fall away from something you have never had. Hebrews 3:12 proves that the idea of once saved, always saved is false. It is a continual problem. Each day we must be resolved to obey God. As God told the Israelites: “Behold, I am going to send an angel before you to guard you along the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. Be on your guard before him and obey his voice; do not be rebellious toward him, for he will not pardon your transgression, since My name is in him. But if you truly obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. For My angel will go before you and bring you in to the land of the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will completely destroy them” (Exodus 23:20-23).
The application is not limited to the Israelites of old. The writer reminds us that any one of us can develop unbelief and fall away from the living God. We may not wander in a wilderness for forty years, but we do exist in a spiritual wilderness during our time on this world. It is sin that can make a person hardened against the teachings of God. Thus, we must constantly encourage each other so that we all can reach heaven at the end.
Warning: Don’t Become Unbelievers
We can be partakers with Christ, but only if we hold that assurance we had at the beginning of our life as Christians firm until we reach the end of life. “Assurance” is not referring to a feeling, but the solid foundation that supports our faith. It is what we are convicted of as being true.
The Israelites continually provoked God by ignoring the evidence that they had repeatedly seen of God’s power and care. “The LORD said to Moses, "How long will this people spurn Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst?”“ (Numbers 14:11). They were led by God out of slavery by great miracles; yet, they complained all along the way and, as a result, died in the wilderness.
It became so bad that God promised to not bringing the adult Israelites into the land of promise (Numbers 14:22,29; 26:64-65; Deuteronomy 1:34-38). Notice that the writer states that it was because of their disobedience in Hebrews 3:18 and because of their unbelief in Hebrews 3:19. The Greek word apeitheo is a compound word. The prefix a means "not" and the verb peitho means "to obey" when used in the active sense or "to be persuaded" when used in the passive sense. In John 3:36, Jesus contrasts belief (pisteuo) against disobey (apeitheo) demonstrating that God sees belief and obedience to be two sides of the same coin. So many denominational teachers have claimed that faith and works are separate issues and that we are saved by faith alone that people are often surprised to find that God sees things differently. James said, "You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only" (James 2:24). Belief cannot be separated from obedience. A person who is obeying is demonstrating his belief. A person who believes won't sit there and do nothing. The writer of Hebrews makes the same parallel. Hebrews 3:18-19 shows that disobedience and disbelief are two views of the same problem.
The failure of the Israelite’s faith caused them to physically die, but if a Christian’s faith fails, the danger is spiritual death. Recall the initial warning in Hebrews 2:1-4.
Notice the series of questions from Hebrews 3:16-18. Questions engage the reader’s mind challenging to give an answer before it is revealed. It is because the answers are clear that the fact it applies to the reader becomes all the more obvious. You prove that you knew the answers before being told, so you know exactly what was wrong.
Warning: Don’t Fall Short of the Rest
It is easy to be smug and think this only applies to the Israelites of old. As he points out in Hebrews 4:2, we have the same good news of a promised rest preached to us as Israel had preached to them. The writer of Hebrews makes sure we understand that their example should cause us to fear that we might fall in a similar way. Too often we see fear as contrary to faith, but fear is a motivator to keep us obedient and obedience is the other side of the coin of faith (Philippians 2:12). The Israelites journey toward the promised land, but came short of entering it despite the journey. In the same way, Christians need to be concern that they don’t spend a life of following Christ and come short of obtaining the promise. The promise didn’t benefit Israel because they lacked the necessary faith.
Since Israel couldn’t enter the Promised Land, there must be something yet remaining because God always keeps His promises. Joshua did lead the younger Israelites into the promised land and God gave Israel rest (Joshua 23:1). But Psalms 95 was written by David, long after Israel entered Canaan; yet David said, “Today.” Therefore, Psalms 95 is not about entering Canaan. Instead, it is using the rebellion and the wilderness wandering as an example. However, David had another rest in mind for the application.
Are we in that rest already? It cannot be something in this world. God rested from his creation on the seventh day (Genesis 2:1-3). The word “Sabbath” means “rest” in Hebrew. He did not take up the work of creating again on the eighth day or any day following. The creation was finished on the sixth day. Therefore, in a true sense, we are living in God’s rest right now. But since God speaks of not entering His rest at a later time, then this world is not what God had in mind.
The Hebrews writer isn’t saying that Christians should keep the weekly Sabbaths. The writer is saying there is still a rest awaiting Christians in the future. Christians don’t have it yet. It remains in their future. That is why the writer is warning them to remain diligent, lest they fail to enter the rest like the Israelites failed to enter their rest. In the Greek, “enter” is something in the future. There is a single rest that is in each Christian’s future which he must work diligently in order to enter into it. It should be clear that the Hebrew writer is not talking about next Saturday.
The writer puts emphasis on the fact that God has promised a rest; a rest limited to the people of God. It is a promise that gives each Christian hope (I Timothy 4:8). It is the promise of eternal life to come, a promise of an eternal inheritance (Hebrews 9:15), and a promise of new heavens and new earth (II Peter 3:13). In other words, the rest we are longing for is our home in heaven (Revelation 14:13).
Heaven will be like a Sabbath rest. We get to rest then after our efforts here on earth, just as God rested after the creation. But it still means to reach that rest, we have to put the effort in now; otherwise, we can fall by following the same example of disobedience that caught the Israelites.
Warning: We Will be Judged
We are not going to slip into heaven. We will be judged by the word of God. This is not some dead, outdated, ancient text that has no application in today’s world. It is living and active.
A two-edged sword is a sharp weapon, but God's word is even sharper because it can divide or make a distinction between things we generally think of as being closely related or indistinguishable. For example, what is the difference between a soul and a spirit? What is the difference between a person's thoughts and his intent? God’s word can make such a distinction.
God's word is able to penetrate to the heart of a person and cause a change, and unlike a physical sword, it leaves no physical scar. That is why you find those hearing Peter's message responding, "Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart" (Acts 2:37).
A two-edged sword is considered to be a dangerous weapon because of the two edges. Handled improperly it can cut the wielder just as easily as it can cut someone else. When the Bible is used as a weapon to point out the flaws in another person, the person using it often finds himself convicted by the same word. "You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, "Do not commit adultery," do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?" (Romans 2:21-22).
When someone says, “God knows my heart,” it isn’t the excuse that people think it is. The answer is, yes, God truly knows your heart to the very core of your being and that ought to make you tremble because nothing is hidden before His sight (Psalms 90:8; Proverbs 15:11). We will be judged by God’s word and will be without excuse (Jeremiah 23:29).