Hebrews Chapter 3.
Paul is now going to go on to explain how Jesus is greater than the second pillar of Judaism, which is Moses.
In our introduction, we outlined the three pillars of Judaism, which are angels, Moses, and the Levitical System.
This is based on a “Midrash”, which are basically Old Testament commentaries by Jewish scholars and rabbis.
In Isaiah 52:13, we read:
Isaiah 52:13 KJV – 13 Behold, my servant shall deal prudently (or with wise caution), he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.
To be exalted means to be raised to a lofty height. To be elevated. To be honored with some high office or rank.
To be extolled means to be praised and magnified.
So these descriptions are describing the Messiah, which is the Hebrew word for “anointed”, or the Christ, a title given to the One who would be the Savior of the world.
Now the “Midrash”, or one of the Hebrew textual interpretations of Isaiah 52:13, is this:
The Messiah will be more “exalted” (or higher) than Abraham,
more “extolled” (or more magnified and praised) than Moses
and more “high” than the angels. [Tanhuma – Buber’s edition, Toldot 134-135; Vulgar edition, Toldot 14]
This is where we get our three pillars of Judaism, which again are the Angels, Moses, and the Levitical System.
Jesus being greater than the Levitical System has the implication that Jesus is also greater than Abraham. But we will discuss those details in Chapter 7 when we get there.
And so in Hebrews chapter 1, Paul makes the case how Jesus is superior to the Angels.
Then in Chapter 2, Paul introduces a warning, and gives an application teaching, based on the first evidence he presented in chapter 1.
Which was, if Jesus is superior to the angels, then we ought to give special attention to Jesus and His Words, lest we end up drifting away, and neglecting our duty and calling.
And now we are in chapter 3. And Paul will show us how Jesus is greater even than Moses.
Now the background to this section is in Numbers 12:5-8.
In Numbers chapter 12, we have Miriam, the older sister of Moses.
Miriam is the sister who watches over her baby brother Moses as he was floated down the Nile in a basket in order to protect his life.
Later, in the Exodus story, we see God using Moses, as well as Miriam and Aaron to lead the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land in Canaan.
Miriam is also given the title of “prophetess,” the first of only a handful of women in Scripture identified in that way.
So Miriam is a kind of important person.
Unfortunately, However, Miriam later falls into a spirit of complaining.
Both Miriam and Aaron criticized Moses for marrying a Cushite or an Ethiopian woman. In the complaint, in verse 1, Miriam is listed first, before Aaron. (Numbers 12:1)
So it is likely that Miriam instigated the complaint.
While the complaint was mainly against Moses’ wife, the discontent ran deeper:
Miriam said: “‘Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?’ ‘Has not He also spoken through us?’” (Numbers 12:2).
In her criticism, Miriam was questioning the Lord’s wisdom in choosing Moses as the leader.
God was angry that Miriam and Aaron were so willing to speak against the servant God had chosen.
So the Lord struck Miriam with leprosy.
Aaron, realizing the foolishness of their words, repented of his sin, and Moses, who is always ready to intercede,
prayed and cried on behalf of his sister, saying “Lord, ‘Please, heal her!’”
Moses’ pleading seemed pretty earnest. She must have looked like she was close to death.
But God heard Moses, and after a seven day period, Miriam was healed of her leprosy, and rejoined the camp.
Now one of the application teachings Paul will make here, referring to this account in Numbers:
Is that, as Miriam and Aaron spoke foolishly against Moses, God’s chosen servant,
these Hebrews, should therefore, be careful not to make the same mistake Miriam and Aaron did, by rebelling against His anointed Son. His chosen Son.
We see Moses being very faithful, but defection in the Old Testament took place under faithful Moses.
Now that one greater than Moses is here, will there be yet another defection?
This is Paul’s concern.
Now at first, comparing Jesus to Moses may seem anticlimactic. Especially after Paul just made a strong case in chapter 1 that Jesus is already superior to the Angels.
If Jesus is greater than the Angels, then it should go without saying that Jesus is obviously greater than Moses.
However, in first-century Jewish thought, Moses was held in an almost God-like esteem, even higher than the angels.
So actually, comparing Jesus to Moses becomes an even stronger proof, not a weaker proof, than what was laid out in Chapter 1.
To understand how important Moses was to the minds of first century Christians:
We see Moses’ name appearing more times in both the Old and New Testament, 847 times total, more than any other name, with the exception of Jesus Christ and King David.
So it could go without saying, that Moses is a very important, highly respected, and highly praised individual.
Held in almost greater esteem than that of the angels.
And so Paul will begin, in versus 1-4, with his comparison between Jesus and Moses, making the case how Jesus is greater than Moses.
So let’s begin:
[Hebrews 3:1-4] – 1 Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;
2 Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house.
So Jesus was faithful to the Father that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house.
3 For this man (Jesus) was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, just as he who builds the house has more honour than the house.
4 For every house is built by some man; but he that built all things is God.
In verse 1 and 2, the point of the comparison is the faithfulness of Moses.
Moses was faithful, but still rebellion under Moses occurred. That’s the background in Numbers that we needed to know, to understand what Paul was talking about.
But now that one greater than Moses is here, will there be another rebellion, will there be disobedience, by these Hebrew Christians?
So that is the question.
Now as we dig into this, let’s take note of the introduction.
We read of two terms that clearly show the author is writing to true believers:
Holy brethren, and partakers of a heavenly calling.
He is not writing to people who came close to believing, but to those who were true believers.
The term heavenly calling refers to the calling of salvation. And the readers are partakers of that calling.
The word partakers mean “they are part of it”.
They are partakers because they are real believers.
Therefore, the writer calls upon them to consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession.
To profess means you have made a public declaration of your belief.
And Paul includes the readers with himself, speaking of “our” profession.
Now Paul also gives Jesus two titles: Apostle and High Priest.
This is the only place where these two titles are used.
First, He is an Apostle. In this sense, Jesus is like Moses.
An Apostle, like a prophet, represents God to man.
And Paul is not using the word Apostle in the same sense as the Twelve Apostles.
But he is using the word Apostle in the sense of a messenger through whom a new dispensation and covenant has come in.
The very word Apostle means “one who has been sent.”
Exodus chapter 3 makes it clear that God sent Moses. Likewise, in the book of John, we read clearly that Jesus was someone who had been sent by God.
[John 3:34 KJV] 34 For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God…
John 1:17 makes the parallel between Moses and Jesus more clear:
[John 1:17 KJV] 17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
Through Moses, the Mosaic Convenant was made and the Law was brought in.
Through Jesus Christ, the New Covenant was made and the idea of Grace was brought in.
Now the second title that Paul gave to Jesus is the title of High Priest.
A high priest represents men to God.
In that sense, Jesus is like Aaron.
So as an Apostle, Jesus is like Moses, and as a High Priest, Jesus is like Aaron.
The High Priest theme will be developed in the following chapters, so we will not touch on that right now.
In verse 2, Paul points out that Moses is the highest example of human faithfulness, building upon Numbers 12:7:
Numbers 12:7 KJV – 7 My servant Moses … who is faithful in all mine house.
The house is the House of Israel. Moses was faithful in his work in the House of Israel.
Jesus was greater in faithfulness than Moses because even Moses failed occasionally. But Jesus never failed.
Moses was hailed as a leader in Exodus. To Moses, God entrusted the Law. Moses is listed in Hebrews chapter 11 as having exemplary faith.
In Deuteronomy 34 we read that God Himself buried Moses.
Think about that. God Himself buried Moses. That’s a pretty high honor right there.
Deuteronomy tells us that no prophet has risen in Israel like unto Moses.
Yet, for all of Moses’ blessings, and great honor bestowed upon him, Moses also was not allowed to enter the Promised Land.
In Deuteronomy 32:51-52, God tells us why:
[Deuteronomy 32:51-52] “This is because . . . you broke faith with me in the presence of the Israelites at the waters of Meribah Kadesh in the Desert of Zin and because you did not uphold my holiness among the Israelites. Therefore, you will see the land only from a distance; you will not enter the land I am giving to the people of Israel.”
And God was true to His promise. He showed Moses the Promised Land, but because of Moses’ sin, did not let Moses enter into the Promised Land.
In contrast, Jesus had the confidence to stand up against the Pharisees, who were zealous for trying to obey the law, and Jesus challenged them, asking them:
“Which one of you convicts Me of sin?
No one was able to answer him a word.
So Paul is making clear, that Jesus is superior to Moses in faithfulness.
In versus 3 and 4, Paul states that he who built the house is superior than the house.
Moses is a member of the House of Israel. He is one of the children of Israel. Whose father is Abraham, Issac, and Jacob.
But Paul is telling us that Jesus built the house of Israel.
Colossians 1:16 KJV – 16 For by him (by Jesus) were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
John chapter 1 tells us that Jesus was in the beginning with God.
John chapter 8 tells us that before Abraham was, Jesus existed.
And we read in Genesis 18 and 19 of the preincarnate Christ, this would be Jesus, before he enters into his humanity, talking with Abraham.
Abraham, who is the Father of the Hebrew nation, talked with the LORD God, through the pre-incarnate Christ, who was responsible for providing for Abraham his promised son, Issac.
In that regard, Jesus himself was overseeing and taking care of Abraham and his children, even before Israel was a nation.
In that sense, Jesus is the builder of the House of Israel.
So Jesus built the house. Moses was part of the house.
In conclusion, in His person and work, Jesus is superior to Moses.
Let’s go to verse 5.
Hebrews 3:5-6 KJV – 5 And Moses verily (or truly) was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after;
6 But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.
Moses was faithful in all his house, but his position in the house was that of a servant.
Moses was responsible for ministering to the moral and spiritual needs of Israel.
But Moses’ ministry was also preparatory.
…for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after…
Everything Moses would do, would serve as symbols, and typologies, for the coming Messiah.
For example, in John 3:14 , we read:
[John 3:14] And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
This is just one of many examples of how Moses actions served as a testimony which would be spoken afterwards about the Messiah.
Also, just as an interesting note, if Moses actions were to serve as typologies, or symbols, or a testimony, of the coming Christ, Moses sin of disobeying God, and angrily striking the rock twice, instead of speaking to it, could have broken an important typology representing Christ.
I will not go into too much detail on that right now, but that’s a rabbit trail you can explore on your own if you want.
Now in verse 6, Moses and Jesus are compared.
While Moses was a servant in the house, Jesus as the Messiah is over the house, whose house these believers now are.
The house could be either the Church, because in Ephesians 2:19, the Church is viewed as a household.
It could also refer to the house of Israel (Galatians 6:16).
Moses was a servant in the house. But the Messiah is a son. And as Son, Jesus is the owner and heir of the house.
Lastly, the closing statement shows the mark of a true believer:
…[if] we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end…
This does not mean that believers are saved only if they just hold on to the end.
That would mean salvation is attained by works, not by faith.
The point here is that continuance in faith is the evidence that a person is a true believer.
A lack of continuance in faith does not mean the person is not saved; it only means that the person does not have the evidence that faith exists.
Continuing unto the end would be the final evidence of a person’s faith.
Now we have three parallels that serve as a background to the Jesus and Moses comparison.
- Moses delivered the Israelites from the bondage of slavery and from Egypt.
- Jesus delivered all believers from the bondage of sin and damnation (2:14-15).
- Through Moses, God established the Israelites as the people of God.
- Jesus makes all believers as the sons of God. (2:10).
- Moses brought the Israelites the Old Covenant.
- Jesus brings all believers into the New Covenant, giving now greater access to God than ever before. (4:14-16).
So Jesus both replaced, and exceeded, all that Moses did.
So Hebrews 3:1-6, points to Jesus’ supreme honor, faithfulness, and access to God the Father, with Jesus being High Priest, and also Apostle and Son.
Then starting at verse 7, we get to the application teaching of this point Paul just made.
The Danger of Disobedience.
Hebrews 3:7-19 KJV – 7 Wherefore (as the Holy Spirit says, To day if you will hear his voice,
8 Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:
9 When your fathers tempted me, tested me, and saw my works forty years.
10 Wherefore I was angry with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways.
11 So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.)
12 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you with an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.
13 But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
14 For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;
15 While it is said, To day if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.
16 For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses?
17 And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness?
18 And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not?
19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.
Now the background to this section is Numbers 13-14: which is the sin of Kadesh-Barnea.
This was a crucial turning point in the history of Israel in the Wilderness.
The Israelites had finished one year of journeying in the Wilderness,
A great portion of the Mosaic Law had been given, and the Tabernacle had been built.
They were now at the oasis of Kadesh-Barnea, located on the border of the Promised Land.
Before the conquest could begin to take the Promised Land, Moses sent out twelve spies to survey the territory.
When they returned forty days later, the twelve men gave a report.
Two of them, Joshua and Caleb, declared that with God, Israel could take the Land.
The other ten claimed that, due to the numerical advantage and the military strength of the Canannites, it would be impossible to conquer the Land.
And the majority of the Exodus Generation decided to follow the voice of those 10 spies.
As a result of their unbelief and distrust, there was widespread revolt against God, and Moses.
If you were following Moses during this time, and you didn’t like the plan or action set before you, and you didn’t believe it would be successful, and that death for you and your family was likely, you would probably want to have Moses removed as leader.
You would probably want to set up your own leader, whose plans and actions you would have confidence in.
And so because of Israel’s unbelief, the Israelites came close to the point of killing Moses and Aaron until God intervened.
This was a major, crucial turning point.
The children of Israel had rebelled and murmured previously, but this was so unique that it was referred to as “The Provocation” in Psalm 95.
In that Psalm, we read:
Psalm 95:6-11 KJV – 6 O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker.
7 For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if you will hear his voice,
8 Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness:
9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work.
10 Forty years long was I grieved (or angry) with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways:
11 Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest.
And that’s what God did. God declared judgement on that generation.
The Exodus Generation that came out of Egypt would not be allowed to enter the Promised Land.
Which God describes as entering into his Rest.
They had to continue wandering for forty years until every person, except Josua and Caleb, and those under the age of twenty, died in the Wilderness.
The application of this section is that these believers (the readers of the book of Hebrews) are in a similar danger.
It is possible for them to make an irrevocable decision, to make a decision in which there becomes a point of no return, and to become subjected to physical death.
For the Hebrews, that judgment would be the judgment of 70 A.D., which was the Siege of Jerusalem by the Romans, which was still future at the time of this writing.
Josephus records that about 1.1 million Jews died during this seige.
The point of the Scripture here is that once a point of no return is reached, the offenders will be subjected to divine judgement.
This judgement is physical, not spiritual.
It does not mean loss of salvation.
In fact, in Numbers 14:20, it does say that the people of the Exodus Generation repented; it even goes on to say that God forgave their sin.
Their sin did not affect any one person’s individual salvation, but it did have physical consequences. They died in the wilderness.
Once a point of no return is reached, no matter how much repenting one does afterwards, the fact of coming physical judgement cannot be changed.
King David, after committing adultery with Basheba, and Murdering Uriah, was forgiven of his sins, but even with much fasting and tears in his repentance, David and Basheba’s baby died as a direct consequence of his sin.
Even Moses had to die outside the Promised Land because of a specific sin he committed.
Moses was not able to enter into God’s Rest.
Does that mean we will not see Moses in heaven?
Of course we will see Moses in Heaven!
In fact, Peter, James, and John, saw Moses, along with Elijah, during Jesus’ transfiguration.
That event right there should make it very clear for us that Moses is with God in Heaven.
Now, the Old Testament lesson begins with Wherefore, starting at verse 7, pointing to the application.
Wherefore (or for which reason), if you shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the Provocation.
So we should be encouraged to not disobey, and to not harden our hearts, based on the greatness of Jesus, being Superior to Moses.
Do not do to Jesus, what the Israelites did Moses, during the Exodus period.
And three times, Paul uses the word, today, emphasizing a sense of urgency. To listen and act, even right now. To do it today!
But the urgency is not so that they may keep their salvation, or to keep their status as a redeemed people.
That was already sure.
But the warning was to keep them from hardening their hearts, and not continuing in faith.
Failing to continue in faith has a three stage progression.
- The first stage is that you fall into unbelief.
- The second stage is that unbelief leads to active disobedience.
- And the third stage was that active disobedience leads to wide-scale, open sin.
And the events that occurred at Kadesh-Barnea is suppose to serve as a warning to the Hebrews.
And it can serve also as a warning to us.
The Israelites failed the tests that took place in Kadesh-Barnea. And that remained etched in their memory forever.
Their unbelief led to the postponement of entering the Promised Land in Canaan and claiming God’s blessings.
The men who had left Kadesh-Barnea to scout out the Promised Land, except for Caleb and Joshua, failed to believe that God could give them possession of Canaan (Numbers 14:30; Joshua 14:7).
Instead, they insisted that the people of Canaan, who included the Nephilim, were too powerful for them to fight.
The ten scouts bringing the discouraging report persuaded the Israelites that the land would be impossible to acquire, not trusting in God’s ability to make it happen. (Numbers 13:32–33).
And because of their failure to believe, they rebelled and sinned against God.
The sin they were guilty of: they tempted and provoked God; they distrusted God; they murmured against Moses, and they would not attend to the voice of God.
And they sinned against God when they had previously seen God’s mighty works in delivering them from Egypt.
And the source of their sins, they erred in their hearts.
And these heart-errors produced many other errors in their lips and in their lives.
That’s why the Bible says in Proverbs:
[Proverbs 4:23 NIV] 23 Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
And the reason they have erred in their hearts…because they did not know God’s ways.
They did not know the way of God’s providence, in which He had walked towards them,
Nor did they know the ways of God’s laws and precepts in which they ought to have walked towards God.
[Hebrews 3:10 NASB95] 10 “Therefore I was angry with this generation,…’; (God said)
All sin, but especially the sin committed by God’s professing people, does not only anger God, but it grieves him.
To grieve something means that it gives pain to the mind to even think about it.
God is patient with Christians before bringing down judgment on Christians for continuous sin.
But Paul gives good counsel along with the caution:
[Hebrews 3:13 NASB95] 13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
Paul is telling us, that Christians should be encouraging one another, not just once, but day after day, to follow God, to keep his commandments, and to continue in faith.
If Christians do not exhort one another daily, they will be in danger of being hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
There is a great deal of deceitfulness in sin.
- It appears fair, but it is filthy.
- It appears pleasant, but is destructive.
- It promises much, but it performs nothing!
And the deceitfulness of sin has the effect of hardening the nature of the soul.
Sinning against your conscience is a sure way to sear your conscience, which can harden your heart.
And one sin allowed, prepares for another sin to follow.
Therefore, it should be the great concern of every person, both you and me, to exhort and encourage ourselves, and others around us, to beware of sin.
To fight the good fight of faith. And to strive always to say Yes to Jesus, and No to sin.
Let me close in prayer, and we can continue with table discussions.