Hebrews 3:2-3, Numbers 12:7

The building or the Builder?

The second verse of Hebrews chapter 3 continues the comparison between Moses and Jesus. It says that Jesus “was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house.” This is God’s testimony regarding Moses’ faithfulness not just the author of the Book of Hebrews.  Back in the book of Numbers (12:7) when Aaron and Miriam challenged Moses’ authority, God speaks and says that in the past He spoke to prophets through dreams and visions, “But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house.” It’s obvious that the writer of Hebrews is quoting from Numbers. Moses’ faithfulness is with respect to God’s house or household.  This refers to the people of God. Moses did God’s bidding, although reluctantly, in leading God’s people out of slavery in Egypt. But Jesus had a more honorable role with respect to God’s people.

Hebrews 3:3 explains this. Putting verses 2 and 3 together, it says Jesus “was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself.” If “God’s house” is referring to God’s household as I believe it does, then it’s right to say “in” God’s house includes the fact that Moses was part of God’s household. God chose him to a specific task within God’s people and God stood up for Moses when he was challenged by others with respect to that calling.

The writer of Hebrews leans on what he had already said in Hebrews 1:2. God used to send his “Word” to his household through His prophets, of which Moses was one, “but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” Moses was faithful to His calling and deserves recognition. But Jesus was the caller. Jesus was the builder of the house of which Moses was just a part of. Whereas Moses spoke words from God to God’s people, Jesus is the “Word” of God Himself. Moses was a messenger. Jesus was both the messenger and the message! Choose the builder!

Hebrews 3:1, Romans 3:20, Matthew 11:28

We Believe in Jesus!

The author of Hebrews is speaking to those who have come to faith in Jesus and are living in the hope of heaven. Verse 1 of chapter 3 says, “Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession…” Our “confession” might more clearly be translated as our “profession.” The literal rendering of that Greek word is “say the same thing.” Guzik adds, “In regard to salvation, all Christians ‘say the same thing’ about their need for salvation and God’s provision in Jesus.”[1] The author is addressing those who have made a profession of faith in Jesus. He’s reminding them that they have chosen Jesus over Moses! The problem he addresses is that Moses, the law, sneaks back into our lives and takes over our devotion. We become more interested in doing good and exhorting others to do good than being declared good through our faith in Christ.

Jesus calls us to “rest” in Him; “Come to me all of you who are burdened down with religion and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).  He calls it rest for “your souls.” When we come to faith in Christ, the burden of our failure under the law, our sins, is taken off our backs and we’re set free. We have true rest! Repentance is the acceptance of the reality of our own personal failure to live up to standards of the law. But the pull of religion is extremely strong. Once we receive God’s forgiveness in Christ, we are easily persuaded that we can now go back to living up to the standards of the law. But what invariably happens is we fail again and again. There is no “rest” in trying to live up to the standards of a law that was given to show us we can’t. The New Living Translation accurately renders Romans 3:20, “For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.”

There is no rest in trying to live up to the standards of the law! But Jesus promises us “rest for our souls” if we come to him. Coming to faith in Christ is like coming in out of the wind and rain of the law. In Christ we find rest, protection, and comfort. But the tendency in our flesh is to want to step back out into the storm of the law and demonstrate how we can stand up to it now. Once again, we find there is no rest outside of Christ. He is the subject of our profession. Our faith is not about how good we might become or about how much we might accomplish in life. Our faith always sees Christ as the subject and looks to Him, reflects diligently on Him, and finds rest in Him. The problem that Paul addressed in Galatians and the author of the book of Hebrews seems to be addressing is not just “entering” into God’s rest, but staying there.

[1] David Guzik, Hebrews, David Guzik’s Commentaries on the Bible (Santa Barbara, CA: David Guzik, 2013), Heb 3:1b.

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.

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