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Lowell Brueckner

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Christ is Greater than Moses


 An expository study of the book of Hebrews

                             Chapter 3

 1. Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus,

2. who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all His house.

3. For this One has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who built the house has more honor than the house.

4. For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God.

5. And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward,

6. but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.

 An attempt to compare the incomparable

 Knowing their Jewish history, the believing Jews struggled in leaving it behind. God’s hand was powerfully and notably in all that they had learned since childhood. It was the task of the writer to show them that what God had done through the gospel was so much greater than their past. He addresses them as holy brethren, whose present calling was from heaven. God had separated them from the world around them and their Jewish nation hated them for it. They needed to see this as a high privilege.

 The first challenge to a church in crisis is a consideration of Jesus Christ. There is no greater argument or reason to continue in their confession, than to present His person.  He is the Apostle and High Priest, whom they have confessed and in whom they have trusted. The meaning of the word, apostle, is literally one who is sent; an ambassador. John quoted Him saying 14 times in his gospel, by my count, that He was sent by the Father.  It was His purpose that people would believe the truth that He did not act or speak by His own initiative. His authority was based on the fact that the Father sent Him and His disciples came to believe that truth. Christ is also the High Priest, the only mediator between God and man, and much will be said about this office, as we continue.

 Moses was highly regarded among the Jews. There was no greater authority, upon which their entire religion was established. The Sanhedrin confirmed it, speaking to the man who was born blind: “We are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spoke to Moses” (Jn.9:28,29). However at one point, Moses was unfaithful and, because he hit the rock, when God ordered him to speak to it, he forfeited his opportunity to enter the Promised Land. Jesus never failed, yet the Sanhedrin continued, “As for this fellow, we do not know where He is from.” The man, who had been blind, answered wisely: “Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from, yet He has opened my eyes!” (Jn.9:30) Their dishonest hearts did not allow them to investigate. Then he said, “If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing” (Jn.9:33). He believed that He was sent from God and he worshiped Him (2).

 The writer of Hebrews assures the Jewish Christians that Jesus is absolutely faithful, beyond Moses, and is worthy of honor, glory and worship. Do they not remember that Jesus said, “I will build My church” (Mt.16:18)? He is the only one, who can build it, because it is spiritual, heavenly and supernatural. The house is the creation of the Architect and owes its existence to Him. It exists for His glory.

 In this passage again, the Holy Spirit takes the things of Christ and reveals His divinity. “He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you,” said Jesus (Jn.16:14). Verse 3 tells us Christ built the house; verse 4 assures that the builder of all things is God and verse 6 shows that it belongs to the Son of God. It could not have been stated more clearly; Jesus Christ is God! It may be a bit of a paradox, but the comparisons that the writer makes only demonstrate that Christ is incomparable. All comparisons are unworthy and the glory and honor belong to Him alone.

 Jesus is the focal point of Scripture and the entire Old Testament is geared towards Him. As to Moses, he was simply a humble servant in the Old Testament house, among those who looked towards the New. Jesus said that Moses wrote of Him (Jn.5:46) and in Deuteronomy 18:18, 19, the Lord said to him, “I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. And it shall be that whoever who will not hear My words… I Myself will require it of him.” Jesus then could warn, “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him - the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day” (Jn.12:48).

 Moses was part of Christ’s house and was His menial servant (as the Hebrew dictionary defines the word servant, 5).  Let’s glance ahead to chapter 11: “By faith Moses… esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward… he endured as seeing Him who is invisible” (He.11:24-27). He saw the invisible future and saw Jesus Christ in it, just as did all the prophets. He looked to a future reward and served Jesus Christ long before He came into this world. Look for a moment at the choice that Moses made: Egypt was the world’s leading empire in his time and he was the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter. As a prince and possible heir to the throne of Egypt, he compared its treasures to the reproach of Christ. His future in this world could not have been brighter, but it was outshined by a vision in the eyes of the inner heart of the prince. He saw Christ and knew that the very worst that serving Him could cost was far better than the best that Egypt could offer; he chose the reproach of Christ and it caused him to endure against all the opposition. He is a testimony to us of an amazing revelation! We should meditate long upon it.

 This is the house, of which the Hebrew Christian was a part and this is our house, if we are truly putting all our trust and hope in the Son. Trust is the enduring faith, which the Lord gives freely by grace to those, who have been to the cross. It is a hope, which they can enjoy. It is for those who can look back in time, as Moses looked forward, and see the Christ, the Son of the living God, the riches of His suffering, the strength in His weakest moment, and the wisdom in that, which was scorned by men. This is the revelation that the Holy Spirit gave to Peter and it is upon this rock of revelation that Jesus builds His church: “On this rock I will build My church” (Mt. 16:18). Every living stone in this spiritual building is placed upon this rock.

7. Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: Today, if you will hear His voice,

8. do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, in the day of trial in the wilderness,

9. where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, and saw My works forty years.

10. Therefore I was angry with that generation, and said, “They always go astray in their heart, and they have not known My ways.”

11. So I swore in My wrath, “They shall not enter My rest.”

 An immutable word from the past

 As stated earlier, the writer wants us to see that the Scripture is the work of the Holy Spirit. Psalm 95, which he quotes, is untitled and therefore, we simply know that the human involved was one of the Psalmists. The quote is from verses 7-11. The Holy Spirit, who authored the Psalm, also knows that in every church there are people at different levels of spiritual life. There are those who hear His voice (7), but harden their hearts. He wants the readers to look inside to examine their own heart to see if it is truly transformed. Are there rebellious ones, who put the Lord to the test (8)? God kept that entire 40-year generation from entering the Promised Land (9).

 The number 40 is symbolic; as in the years in the wilderness, it means a time of testing. The rain fell for 40 days and nights in the time of Noah. Moses was on Mount Sinai 40 days and nights. The spies explored the land of Canaan 40 days. For punishment, an offender could be given 40 blows and no more. Goliath challenged the armies of Israel 40 days. Fed by the Angel of the Lord, Elijah went in the strength of that meal 40 days and nights. God gave Nineveh 40 days, before He would destroy it. Jesus fasted 40 days and nights. For 40 days after His resurrection, Jesus showed Himself to His disciples before His ascension. There are quite a few more 40-day or year periods, which are perhaps of more minor significance.

 “He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel” (Ps.103:7). Moses pleaded with God, “Show me now Your way” (Ex.33:13) and he did well to ask. In Isaiah, God demanded that the wicked must forsake his own way and then revealed, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways.” In the next verse, He declares, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways” (Is.55:8,9). Israel witnessed God’s acts, but they did not know His ways and, by continuing in the ways of their own heart, they rebelled.  Witnessing the works of God did not bring faith to the Israelites, but Moses knew the blessing of knowing His ways (10).

 As in so many places, the Psalm proves that anger is an attribute of God. It is an undeniable fact and in order to present the entire counsel of God, we must be faithful to it. In fact, to omit this part of His nature, is to deny the God of the Bible Himself. It is not a popular doctrine and I am sometimes challenged on this point by fellow-Christians, who can get very angry with me. In order to adhere to a contrary opinion, they must collide with overwhelming scriptural evidence, New Testament and Old, thereby falling to deception. To be sure, to see the anger of God makes people uncomfortable and ushers in fear, but the Bible teaches that a lack of that fear is a curse and not a blessing. The entrance of godly fear is the beginning of wisdom (Job 28:28; Ps.111:10; Pr.1:7, 9:10; 15:33).

 In His wrath, God swore, making the sentence doubly sure (11). The word of God is infinite and faithful, and in chapter 6, He will teach us the immutability of His counsel, by swearing with an oath. In this passage, He shows the immutability of His curse, “They shall not enter my rest.” They did not enter, nor did Moses, and they died in the wilderness. To die in the wilderness does not signify damnation, for they had been delivered from the curse of slavery in Egypt. God forbade that Moses himself should enter. It simply meant that they could not enjoy the Promised Land, which the next generation experienced.  

 12. Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God;

13. But exhort one another daily, while it is called “today”, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

14. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end,

15. while it is said: Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.

16. For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses?

17. Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness?

18. And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey?

19. So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.


Unbelief, the damning liability in man

 Man, in his fallen state, always runs away from His Creator. By nature man is evil, godless and unbelieving. The Holy Spirit challenges the church to uncover the hearts of the unconverted among them (12). It can be done by exhortation and it should not only be the job of the preacher. They were to exhort one another and they had to do it without delay. Resistance produces hardness of heart, as sure as physical labor produces callouses. The continual roughness of work eventually makes the skin difficult to penetrate and reduces pain.

 Those who attend the gatherings, where people hear the word of God, if they resist, their heart will gradually harden (13). This is an extremely dangerous process, which may go by unnoticed. Notice that sin is deceitful and often is not recognized as sin. The exhorter must call sin by its name and uncover it, otherwise the listener will not see himself as sinful. If the process continues, at some point the word will bounce off his heart like a ball against a cement wall.

 Notice the word if in verse 14: There must be evidence to prove the genuineness of having partaken of Christ. One of the proofs is the consistence of steadfastness. Saving faith endures: Jesus said, “He who endures to the end shall be saved” (Mt.24:13). He does not teach that endurance saves, but that saving faith endures. Those who have truly experienced Christ, continue trusting Him throughout the rest of their lives.

 What does it mean to partake of Christ? It means to personally have Him in our lives, partaking of His life within ours. Please, look carefully at the teaching of the apostle John: “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 Jn.5:11, 12). These are the same ones, who are partakers of the heavenly calling (v.1).

  He repeats the quotation from the Psalm and puts the emphasis on the word rebellion (15). The inspired writer asks three questions: 1) Who rebelled? He asks other questions, which in fact, give the answers to these three. 2) With whom was He angry 40 years? 3) To whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest? It is amazingly clear from history that all that generation rebelled and that He was angry with that entire generation. Only two entered the Promised Land, Caleb and Joshua, and their leader, Moses himself, did not enter (16). All sinned and all were buried in the wilderness (17).

 The point seems to be that it was not just a few of the worst of them, but was a general consequence for all of them. They were all disobedient (18). At the root of the entire, sad story was unbelief. It is the producer of every sin and is the single cause behind all the calamity and evil that exists.

 The one requirement for salvation is faith and the absence of faith is unbelief. Faith means trust in the Father and the Son and God prizes it supremely. Jesus said, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent” (Jn.6:29). We see again the concern of Christ that men should understand that He was not present because of any personal appointment, but He was sent by Another, who was their God. He was sent for their salvation. The one act that they must do is to trust a faithful God to bring about the eternal salvation of their souls.

 We should also understand that the faith required is not found inherently in fallen man. There is nothing in him that seeks or believes God. He naturally runs in the opposite direction in unbelief. The Father must draw him and also give him the faith that will save him: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (Jn.6:44), then “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Ro.10:17). It is essential that we see this. The Holy Spirit will deal with the subject in the next chapter.    



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