Hebrews 3:1, John 9:28-29

Choose Jesus!

The first three verses of Hebrews chapter 1 are about how Jesus is superior to the prophets. God speaks to us through Jesus now, not prophets. Hebrews 1:4-2:18 is about how Jesus is superior to the angels. The angels are messengers from God, but Jesus is both the messenger and the message from God.  Chapter 3 begins his discussion on how Jesus is far superior to Moses and far more deserving of honor. To the Jews in Jesus’ day, Moses was the bomb! They rejected Jesus and claimed to be disciples of Moses (John 9:28-29). Pink writes, “During the most memorable portion of their history, all of God’s dealings with Israel were transacted through him (Moses). His position of nearness to Jehovah was remarkable, awesome, unique. He was in his own person, prophet, priest and king. Through him the whole of the Levitical economy was instituted. By him the Tabernacle was built. Thus we can well understand the high esteem in which the Jews held this favored man of God.”[1]

It was inconceivable to the Jewish leaders that this Jesus, standing before them in the flesh, was to be more highly esteemed and praised than Moses. That was heresy to even consider such a thing. But that’s exactly what the author of Hebrews called his readers to do; consider it! The first verse of chapter three calls us to think profoundly about it and to reflect on this “Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession.” Moses was certainly “sent” by God, as were all the prophets and angels of old. The Greek word for sent is “apostello.” An apostle was one sent by God. Moses certainly was an apostle in that regard, but Jesus was “the” sent one! Moses was a prophet of old but Jesus was “the” apostle. Yes Moses performed prophetic miracles, but Jesus performed more! By the hand of God, Moses did incredible miracles that delivered a whole nation from slavery, but Jesus did incredible miracles that delivered individuals from sickness, blindness, imprisonment, and even death! Moses was sent by God to redeem a people. Jesus was sent by God to redeem all people!

It’s easy to see how Moses served as a priest to his people. He interceded for them when they broke the Law of God. He even dissuaded God from the entire destruction of the sinful nation. Moses offered sacrifices for the people. Moses sprinkled the blood for the people. Moses gave them drinkable water in a poisoned land. Yes, and more. Moses was certainly a priest for the people. But Jesus is “the” priest for all the people.  He was the sacrifice that satisfies God’s anger over all sin. It’s His very own blood that eliminates the need for any other sacrifice from us. He completely and totally makes peace with God for us. When we choose to focus our attention on the law and our own righteousness, we in essence choose Moses. The author of Hebrews is still addressing people who have been so ingrained and trained in religion that it’s inconceivable to turn from the law to Christ. That’s us! We still want religious rituals, restrictions, and regulations in order to prove ourselves worthy rather than accept the grace of God that makes us worthy through faith in Jesus. We have a choice! Choose Jesus!

[1] Arthur Walkington Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews (Swengel, PA: Bible Truth Depot, 1954), 143.

Hebrews 3:1, Numbers 12:7-8, Exodus 33:8

Jesus or Moses?

Moses’ name was synonymous with the law he mediated, but it’s important to remember that the man himself was profoundly revered in Israel throughout its history. He was chosen by God specifically. God spoke to Moses directly from the burning bush. Moses became their deliverer through a series of incredible miracles including turning his staff to a snake and back again, turning water to blood, and then 10 incredible plagues that distinguished between Egyptians and Israelites. He then opened the Red Sea with his staff! He was the greatest of all the prophets as well. In Numbers 12:7-8 God explains Moses’ superiority to the other prophets. God says when he calls prophets he reveals truths to them through dreams and visions but, “Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the LORD.”

There were a few other reasons that Moses was so highly revered by the Jews. He is the “Lawgiver.” Kent writes in his commentary, “Moses was the lawgiver. To the Jew, the Law was the greatest thing in all the world.”[1] Don’t forget that Moses was also the greatest Jewish historian. Through him came the history of creation and the connection of all Jews with Abraham and Noah. The Jews know who they are because of Moses. Moses could also be called the greatest high priest in Israel as well. His brother Aaron may have had the title, but it was Moses who made intercession for his people after the golden calf incident where Aaron was implicated. It was Moses who held up the rod for victory over the Amalekites with Aaron and Hur supporting his arms. It was Moses who sprinkled the blood.  Through all this, Moses was still called the “most humble” man in the Old Testament. According to Exodus 33:8, whenever Moses walked around the camp, the people would come out of their tents and stand to honor him.

Yes, Moses was all these things but Jesus is better! The author of Hebrews wants us to consider, or think carefully about Jesus. He says, “Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.” Moses was great! But Jesus is greater. The College Press Commentary says, “He is our savior. Without his death we would die forever. With his death we can live forever. He is our high priest. No one else could enter God’s presence for us to make atonement for us. No one else could intercede for us like Jesus.”[2] When it comes to choosing between Moses and Jesus be sure to think carefully.

[1] R. Kent Hughes, Hebrews: An Anchor for the Soul, vol. 1, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1993), 90.

[2] James Girdwood and Peter Verkruyse, Hebrews, The College Press NIV Commentary (Joplin, MO: College Press, 1997), Heb 3:1.

Hebrews 3:1, Matthew 11:29

Consider Jesus…

Chapter 3 of Hebrews begins a fascinating study of the difference between Jesus and the Law. Whoever the writer is, it’s obvious that he is well informed regarding the struggles facing the early church with regards to the place of the Old Testament Law in the lives of Christians, especially the non-Jewish ones. He is going to contrast Jesus with Moses. The Religious leaders in Jesus day often rejected Jesus because they said “We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from” (John 9:29).  The term “Moses” did not just refer to the man himself, it was used to refer to the whole Pentateuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy) which Moses wrote. Moses is traditionally referred to as the “law-giver” because he wrote what has been known as the “law.” The law is a third of the Old Testament and by Jesus day when people refer to Moses, they mean the Law. So the comparison the writer of Hebrews is making is between Jesus and the Law.

He knows the subject isn’t going to be the easiest thing to talk about so he begins by exhorting his readers to “consider” his suggestions about Jesus and the Law. The Greek word is “katanoeo” (Greek: κατανοέω).  According to the Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament it means, “to give very careful consideration to some matter.”[1] According to the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament it means, “’to direct one’s whole mind to an object, also from a higher standpoint to immerse oneself in it and hence to apprehend it in its whole compass.”[2] Because of these definitions I’m not satisfied with the standard English translation of “consider.” It doesn’t carry the intensity the Greek word suggests. Therefore, I’d subscribe to the New Living Translations phrase, “think carefully about this Jesus…” It more accurately reflects the author’s intent.

Please note that verse 1 of Hebrews chapter 3 addresses Christians. The chapter begins with, “therefore, holy brothers, sharers in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus…” His appeal is to people he believes will be in heaven with him. He’s not threatening them in any way about the loss of their place in heaven, he’s addressing the experience of their faith in the here and now. This exhortation is not to try harder, to be better, or more diligent in religious expressions. That’s work! He’s calling them to understand Jesus’ role more profoundly to find the rest that He promises. Jesus said in Matthew 11:29, “learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

[1] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 349.

[2] Johannes Behm and Ernst Würthwein, ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 973.

Hebrews 2:16-18

It’s Your Choice

The angels do not get the attention that God gives to us believers. That’s one reason why the angels stare intently at Christ’s work on our behalf. It’s something that’s not available to them. They are either fallen or unfallen! The fallen angels are irredeemable. They are what they are and can’t be redeemed from their fallen state. It’s their fallen state and willful, continual rebellion against God that makes their redemption impossible. But mankind, for some reason, has received the blessings of redemption from our fallen nature. God sent His Son, not for the angels, but for you and me! The author of Hebrews begins the next passage, Hebrews 2:16-18 with this idea. He writes, “For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”

The perfect humanity of Christ is an essential doctrine. The first Adam failed and passed on that failure to us. The second Adam, Jesus, succeeded in all things and passes on His success to us through faith. That’s why the writer talks about the “offspring of Abraham.” The Abrahamic covenant, unlike the Mosaic covenant, is based on God’s unconditional promises. The Mosaic covenant is conditioned upon our obedience. The “tests” than Abraham endured were tests in regard to whether or not he was going to trust God’s positive disposition towards him, or believe that lie that God was a policeman or his boss. It’s important here to understand that the word for “temptation” is the same word for “testing” or “trials.” The question associated with all these things is “will we trust God to have our best intentions foremost in mind regardless of our circumstances?” Job’s faith in God’s love was tested through some of the most difficult trials imaginable. Abraham was tested directly to see if he would trust God’s love for him under all situations. He did, and that made him righteous. As the writer will tell us later in Hebrews, “it was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac.”

God tells us something in this passage and everywhere in the New Testament. God loves us and sent his Son to be our merciful and faithful high priest. He made “propitiation” for our sins! He reconciled us to God and wiped away the account of our sins through His sacrifice on the cross as the ultimate demonstration of His love for us. I believe the question that the author of Hebrews is challenging us with is “are we going to believe that?” Did Jesus make us right with God or do we have to do it ourselves? Did Jesus “help” us in our failures in line with the first Adam by succeeding on our behalf? Is His success really ours? Do we trust in what Christ did for us, or do we trust in what we do for Him. Is God’s love unconditional or do we have to earn it? Do we think more about being good and measuring up to standards, or do we trust Christ to have met all the standards for us? It’s your choice.

Job 1, Hebrews 2:14-15

For the Love of God!

There is an enemy in the world that draws us away from God’s love to think that God really doesn’t care that much about me, that He is not a good God who has my best interests foremost in mind. Many people see God this way. He’s a policeman hiding behind a billboard trying to catch me speeding. He’s a boss trying to get the best performance out of me that’s possible. Or like Job, the pains and hardships of life come headlong at us and we are tempted to question God’s goodness and His good intentions towards us. The power of Satan is seen in his leading us to think ill of God.  In the Garden of Eden, it was the thought that God was trying to keep something good from us in order to sustain His own supremacy, as if that could ever be threatened. With Job, the effort to demean God in Job’s eyes revolved around the pain and hardships that Satan was allowed to bring upon him. When all his attempts failed to get Job to curse God, Satan attacks Job’s own health and says to God, “Skin for Skin.” Satan challenges God that Job will indeed curse Him to His face if He permits sickness and disease to strike Job. But Job held on and said, “Though He slays me, yet will I trust Him.” “Naked came I into the world, and naked from it I will go.” “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Death is our supreme enemy! It casts a shadow across our lives from the moment we are born until the day it claims our flesh. We’ve all heard of the four teenage girls who died in a car accident in Gretna recently. What a tragedy. I couldn’t help, as I looked at their beautiful faces, thinking of all the families and children and grandchildren the world will never see because of their premature death. Death is the greatest of our enemies. However, “flesh and blood” is part of being human. But God did not create man for death. He created us for life! The author of Hebrews is addressing this fact in Hebrews 2:14-15. He writes, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”

Death is our supreme enemy and slave master. But Jesus had to come in the flesh, to become like us and one of us as a brother, and then to die the only death that could have destroyed the one who wields death as his instrument of slavery. God isn’t trying to keep anything good from us. He only wants the best for us. He’s not a policeman or a boss. He’s our creator who, as Jeremiah puts it, “Loves us with an everlasting love.” That love was undeniably demonstrated to us all on Calvary when He gave His only begotten Son. Sinking our roots into that love  and growing in the understanding of that love enables us to enhance our view of God and begin to see others as God sees them! Only in receiving and growing in our understanding of God’s love for us, will we be able to grow in our love for God and others. This is how we mature spiritually. It’s not by trying harder, doing more, or becoming more committed.

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