The true and better Moses (Hebrews 3-4)

For me, one of the most compelling things about Christianity is its coherence—that the pieces of God’s story come together to form a whole.  The Bible isn’t a bunch of different stories collected between two covers; it’s one story, from beginning to end, and it’s a story about Jesus.


As I was reading the story of Moses this past week, I was struck by the fact that though the Pentateuch (those first five books of the Bible) is so focused on Israel’s journey to the Promised Land, the people never actually get there.  Moses leads them to the border—though they never actually go in.  It isn’t until the book of Joshua that we see the people actually enter into God’s Promised Land.

The writer of Hebrews notes that neither Moses nor anyone in Israel’s great hall of fame truly experienced the full breadth of God’s promises:

39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:39-40)

This side of the resurrection, each of us is a sojourner, an exile, someone wandering toward God’s future yet never truly getting there—yet. 

We catch a hint of this as the book of Deuteronomy winds to a close:

And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him. So the people of Israel obeyed him and did as the Lord had commanded Moses.

And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, 11 none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land,12 and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.  (Deuteronomy 34:10-12)

Israel, of course, had many prophets who followed Moses.  It may be that they regarded some of these prophets as more or less successful than one another, but ultimately Moses was the man most admired by God’s people.

Except, if we understand how these pieces fit together, then we must conclude that we need a prophet—a true and better Moses—to lead us not merely to the edge of God’s promises, but into them to see them fulfilled.


Jesus is the true and better Moses.  The writer of Hebrews picks up on this exact theme, noting that while Moses served God as a servant, Jesus was faithful as a son:

3 Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, 2 who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. 3 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. 4 (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) 5 Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, 6 but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.

7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,

“Today, if you hear his voice,
8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
on the day of testing in the wilderness,
9 where your fathers put me to the test
and saw my works for forty years.
10 Therefore I was provoked with that generation,
and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;
they have not known my ways.’
11 As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest.’” (Hebrews 3:3-11)

You may recall that Moses and the Israelites had previously doubted God and refused to enter the land when they saw the Canaanites there.  Their fear—their disbelief—condemned them to their wandering (Numbers 13-14).  They did not at that time get to experience God’s rest, a lesson the writer of Hebrews uses to illustrate the consequences of not turning our focus to Christ.

Jesus promises a better rest, not found only in the land but in the eternal splendor of God’s renewed and restored Kingdom.  The writer of Hebrews takes the word “rest,” applying it not only to the Promised Land of Israel’s history but to the promises of God’s eternal future:

8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. 9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. 11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:8-11)

Jesus is the true and better Moses, whose obedience leads us all into a new world of promise, a renewed and restored creation where perfect joy and perfect justice flow like the fabled milk and honey of Israel’s dreams.

In today’s political and social climate, there are many things that engender fear and disbelief.  But hope engenders hope, and by looking toward God’s glorious future, we are reminded that the battle scars we bear are not exceptions or setbacks to God’s great promise—they are the very reasons for it.  And so we turn, this day and always, to the true and better Moses, to the Savior whose obedience leads us onward into the very heart of promise.


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