In our first seven readings and devotionals of this series, Chris has gotten us off to a great start. The passages he covered in the first two chapters of Hebrews were related to his sermon theme of week #1.
Now, as we turn into chapters three and four, I will be sharing with you over the next seven writings about this material – most of which was going to be included in my sermon this past Sunday that got snowed out!
Let us recall again the critical necessity of understanding the background of this letter. The original audience receiving this writing were first century followers of Christ, and they were now out of step with their Jewish brothers and background, as well as with the Roman authoritarian world. Life was easier before they got into this “Jesus following” thing. After all, it now involved a lot of faith. In Judaism there was a real temple with a real priest … and all of that was at least tolerated by the Romans. The Jesus thing was leading to such hatred and conflict as to incite real persecution.
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what may have caused this hostile condition, but it may have been the events of 49 A.D., when it was written in an ancient historical account that “Claudius expelled the Jews because “they were constantly indulging in riots at the instigation of Chrestus.” Perhaps it was the preaching of Jesus in synagogues may have led to disorder … Romans hated disorder … the Christian Hebrews were blamed, abused and forsaken … many may have lost homes and been persecuted in various ways (all of which is hinted at later in the letter).
So for these early Christians, there was an ever-widening gap between the promises of God and their fulfillment. And that is exactly what a lot of people are feeling today, especially newer and younger Christians who have to function more actively in a very hostile and secular world.
And so it is that the book of Hebrews holds, I believe, a tremendously practical message for a time such as we live in (and may increasingly live in) where we are totally out of step with the rest of the culture around us. And we are out of step as well to the extent of being even hated by that culture.
The writer’s admonition throughout is to tell his readers to “hang in there” … to look to Jesus and run to him as the greater answer to their life circumstances. And in the process the writer is pulling the readers to understand just exactly how great Jesus is. The early chapters of Hebrews contain one of the great teachings of the Bible on who Jesus is. Up to this point it has talked about how Jesus was greater than the angels, and that’s pretty awesome, because angels are very, very cool. But, they’re just God’s messengers and servants.
Today in chapter three the writer turns to describe how Jesus is greater than Moses – the #1 hero of the Jewish people. And it was a big deal to say that anyone was greater than Moses. In Exodus 33:11 it says that “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.” (Don’t miss our children’s musical program on the 22nd that I’m putting together. There is a song on Moses that I am actually singing – rapping even! – with the kids, and it repeats this “friend” idea over and over in the song.)
We could maybe think of it this way, Jacob as the father of the Jewish people was sort of like George Washington; and Moses, who led the people out of Egyptian slavery and to the gates of the Promised Land, was kind of like Abraham Lincoln. So, to say that Jesus was better than Moses was really a big, big, deal. And that is what the writer does:
3:1 – Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. 2 He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house. 3 Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. 4 For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. 5 Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house,” bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. 6 But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.
Notice that the readers are called “brothers and sisters who share in the heavenly calling.” These folks were true believers – secure in Christ (there is nothing here or anywhere in Hebrews that teaches any sort of works toward earning salvation or losing genuine salvation by throwing it away. Rather, it is all about how to be faithful in the salvation one possesses without throwing away its rewards and benefits).
The writer tells them to fix their mind, their thoughts, their eyes on Jesus. Why? Well, let me ask you this – why are you not supposed to text message on your phone while you are driving? If you crash while doing so, is it the road’s fault? Is it a lack of signs and directions? No, it is because you took your eyes and attention off where they should be fixed! Do you think that might have any application to your spiritual life? What are the root causes of spiritual failures? Is it because the Scriptures aren’t clear? Not at all; it is because we don’t look to Jesus.
Jesus is called the apostle and high priest – the one who brought the message of truth with authority, and the one who is the high priest. This latter concept is going to get several chapters written about it later in the book. The high priest was a big deal to the Jews, and the writer would prove that Jesus is the ultimate high priest.
Jesus was faithful like Moses, thus bringing Moses into the equation. Moses, the father of the very system of worship they were thinking of going back to!
But why do that? The author argues that Jesus is greater than Moses. How? In a variety of ways as pointed out in these verses – which are not to degrade Moses, but to exalt Christ as unbeatable …
- Moses was a temporary servant, whereas Christ is the eternal
- Moses was a witness, whereas Christ is the revelation itself.
- Moses was a faithful steward in the house, whereas Christ is its owner.
- Moses loved God, but Jesus IS God.
The implication is plain. To forsake the way of Christ for the way of Moses is to go from the greater to the lesser. It is to abandon the permanent in favor of the temporary. It is to reject the fulfillment and accept the foreshadow.
Why would anyone want to do something so stupid as that? That is a timeless question! Why would anyone walk away from the only thing that fills the heart with contentment?
Fix your attention on Jesus; that is the thing to do. (And that is point one of three – come back tomorrow for point two.)