The Superiority of Christ over Moses. Heb. 3, 1-19.

Christ compared with Moses: V.1. Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus, v.2. who was faithful to Him that appointed Him, as also Moses was faithful in all His house. V.3. For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honor than the house. V.4. For every house is builded by some man; but He that built all things is God. V.5. And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; v.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. Having shown the superiority of Christ over the angels, the sacred writer proceeds to strengthen the allegiance of his readers in presenting Christ as the final Mediator. The angels, although the mediators of God in the disposition of the Law and of great power in the forces of nature, yet could not compare with the Lord of the angels. The same is now proved in regard to the earthly mediator of the Law: Wherefore, holy brethren, associates of the heavenly calling, mark well the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus, who was faithful to Him that appointed Him, as also Moses was in His whole house. The inspired author here apparently goes back to the first statement of his letter, concerning the fact that God spoke His final and saving word through His Son Jesus Christ. This the readers should mark well, for which reason they are tenderly urged and encouraged by the name “holy brethren” which the writer applies to them. All Christians are holy, sanctified, consecrated to God by virtue of the faith which was kindled in their hearts. By reason of this fact also they are companions of the writer, associates with him in the heavenly calling. Through the call of God in the Gospel they have actually secured a participation in all the heavenly treasures and blessings, Col. 1, 5. This being the case, the readers are also in a position to look upon Christ in a proper manner, to realize the scope of His office, to understand the greatness of His dignity, at least in a measure. For He was truly made and appointed by God as the Apostle and High Priest of our confession. He was sent forth by God with the message of our salvation, He was appointed to be our High Priest and Sacrifice at and on the altar of the cross. This we, who believe, freely and gladly confess and praise. The special qualification of Jesus for this important office, to which we and all believers should direct our careful attention, is His faithfulness or trustworthiness. It was the faithfulness of the Son to the obedience of the Father. Moses indeed was also faithful in God’s house, in the congregation of the believers of the Old Testament, in the Lord’s Church. This testimony God Himself gave him while he was yet living, Num. 12, 7. Even here the structure of the sentence, if not the words themselves, indicates that the faithfulness of Moses cannot truly compare with that of Christ.

This idea is more fully substantiated by the writer: For of greater glory than Moses has this Man been deemed worthy by as much as he that erects a house is greater than the house. For every house is erected by some one, but He that establishes all things is God. With emphasis the writer says “this Man,” since he is referring to that great God and man in one person, who assumed a true human nature in order to gain salvation for the whole world. He has been adjudged of God worthy of greater glory than Moses, the greater glory being seen in the more important place occupied by Him in the fulfillment of God’s purpose of salvation. So far as the worth and the dignity of Christ and Moses, respectively, are concerned, there is the same difference of degree as in the case of a man that erects and prepares a house for occupancy and the house itself. The man that plans a house, builds it, and equips it with all the paraphernalia necessary for a well-conducted household is greater than the household in its condition in the house. But He that builds, prepares, and equips the house of God, the Church in all its fullness, is Jesus Christ, who is thus identified with the Builder of the house of the Church, with God Himself, while Moses is considered only a part of the household. In the form of a proverb the author adds that every house naturally has some one that plans the building and the equipment, Jesus Christ in this case being the Builder of the structure of the Church. God, however, being the Author and Creator of all things, it follows that Christ is on a level with God and worthy of much more honor than Moses.

The argument is continued in the next verses: And Moses indeed was faithful in His entire house as an attendant, to a testimony of the things that would be spoken of, hut Christ is as a Son over His house, whose house are we, if we shall have held fast our confidence and the glorying of our hope firm to the end. This is not an unwilling concession, but a willing praise of Moses. He was faithful in every department of God’s house, in every branch of his difficult ministry. But he was, after all, only in the house of God, only in the congregation of the believers, as an attendant upon holy things, as a servant of God. So far as the people, the children of Israel, were concerned, the fact that God Himself had testified to the faithfulness of Moses was the guarantee also of the trustworthiness of the report and message which he gave of what the Lord had spoken to him on the mountain. The Law, as he preached it, was indeed the Word of God, and as such served a very definite purpose in the Church of the Old Testament. But Christ is more. As the Son of God, He is over the house, He is the Lord of the structure of the Church, to which, as the author points out, we and all believers belong. We are members of the Church of God and Christ, if we remain faithful to the end, if we adhere with all confident boasting to the hope of our salvation until the end. The hope of the Christians is not an unstable, uncertain quantity, which is subject to every fluctuation of feeling, but being founded in the promises of the Lord, it is a cheerful confidence, a quiet boast, that there is laid up for them a crown of righteousness, which the Lord will give them on the last day, 2 Tim. 4, 8. There is no self-reliance, no self-sufficiency in the true Christian, but only an unwavering trust in the love and power of God. “The Christian’s hope of a heavenly inheritance, of perfected fellowship with God, should be so sure that it confidently proclaims itself, and instead of being shamefaced, glories in the future it anticipates. And this attitude must be maintained until difficulty and trial are past and hope has become possession.” 3)

A warning lesson from the history of Moses: V.7. Wherefore, (as the Holy Ghost saith, Today if ye will hear His voice, v.8. harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness, v.9. when your fathers tempted Me, proved Me, and saw My works forty years. V.10. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known My ways. V.11. So I sware in My wrath, They shall not enter into My rest,) v.12. take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. V.13. But exhort one another daily while it is called Today, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. v.14. For we are made partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end. The last thought in the first paragraph of the chapter had been that of persevering faith and trust, looking forward to the joyful realization of our hope on the last day. The sacred writer now wishes to emphasize the need of this faithfulness for obtaining the prize, and to that end refers to the journey of the children of Israel through the desert and some of the principal incidents of the forty years included in that journey. He quotes Ps. 95, 7-11, stating at the same time that it was the Holy Ghost to whom the words there written are to be ascribed as the real Author. The passage gives a reason for his earnest warning: Today, when you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the provocation (Meribah), as on the day of temptation (Massah) in the wilderness. The prophet refers to the incident related Ex. 17, l-7; Num. 20, 1-13, and the writer of our letter quotes the Greek translation of the Hebrew words which are probably the proper nouns of the station in the wilderness where the people rebelled. Their conduct at that time was provoking to the Lord; it challenged His wrath, it demanded His punishment. For, as the quotation continues: Where your fathers tested Me, putting Me to a proof, and saw My works forty years. It is a bitter complaint which the Lord here voices. The children of Israel, by their unruly behavior, put the Lord to a trial, to a proof, just as though they wanted to satisfy themselves as to the length of time that they could oppose His will. The entire history of the journey through the wilderness presents practically a succession of incidents of a nature calculated to provoke the wrath of the Lord. Although He performed miracles of goodness and mercy and judgment before their eyes during all that time with the intention of winning them to Himself, yet they remained a stubborn and rebellious generation.

But the Lord will not be mocked, as the quotation from the prophet continues: Wherefore I was indignant with this generation and said, Always they are astray in their heart; but they, not would they understand My ways; so I swore in My anger, They shall never enter into My rest. The Lord finally grew tired of the continual challenge of the people of Israel; He was exasperated, filled with disgust, loathing, and abhorrence, as the Hebrew text implies. Cp. Num. 14, 21-23; 32, 10-13; Deut. 1, 34-36. All the attempts of the Lord were turned aside in scorn; they persisted in going astray from the way marked out by His Word and command: they refused to acknowledge that He was leading them in paths of goodness and mercy and long-suffering, that His every thought for them was a thought of peace. So the Lord finally swore in His bitter anger at their obstinacy that they should not enter into the land which He had intended for them as a haven, a place of rest and security. The idea of rest in the Land of Promise incidentally acquired a wider scope and a deeper significance, as the application of this passage throughout the present letter indicates.

The sacred writer, having inserted this quotation with its warning lesson, takes up the thread of his argument once more, in driving home the moral of the story: See to it, brethren, lest there be in any one of you a wicked heart of unbelief in departing from the living God. The earnest anxiety of the writer is apparent in the entire structure of the sentence, which, incidentally, is contracted as if he had written in great agitation. They should see to it, they should take heed, lest perhaps, by any bad chance, there might be in any one of the readers a bad, wicked, evil heart, caused by a condition of unbelief. For this condition would show itself in departing from the living God. The Lord is the Author and Source of life; not only is He able to come to the assistance of all people that are in need, but He is the only One that can transmit and keep the one true life in the hearts of those that are His own. Should a believer, therefore, scorn and spurn the fellowship of God by departing from Him and His life, he would have only himself to blame for the final damnation which would come upon him.

The sacred writer, therefore, continues his warning on the positive side: Rather admonish one another every day, so long as that period endures which is called “today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceit of sin. This is one of the functions of their calling which Christians should be glad to take upon themselves, to exhort, to admonish one another, to spur one another on in sanctification. It is a kindness which is not a mere matter indifferent, but whose manifestation is required by the duty which Christians owe one another. Sanctification in every Christian congregation is a matter calling for constant vigilance, for the practice of love which must be carried on daily, day after day. For now is God’s great Today, now is the time of grace, now is the time that He wants us to listen to His wonderful invitation to the heavenly meal. So long as God still issues His pleading call, we should take heed to pay attention to it quickly; for we do not know when this time of grace may come to an end. And there is always the danger of being hardened by a neglect of the Word in time. Sin is present in so many pleasant and deceitful guises, and the devil is so unusually proficient in his ability to make the greatest defections from the will of God appear as mere innocent pastimes, that it requires the most vigilant care on the part of every Christian lest he become callous to the pleadings of the Word of God and become a prey to eternal death. Sin in heart or life blinds a person to the beauty and the meaning of God’s wonderful offer of salvation.

To the observance of this vigilance we should be inspired also by another consideration: For partakers of Christ we have become, if we but hold firm the beginning of our confidence to the end. Cp. v.6. This is a thought which is often brought out by the Apostle Paul when he warns the Christians against carnal security, and by Peter, when he bids us make our calling and election sure, 2 Pet. 1, 10. We must never lose sight of the fact that by our conversion we have partaken and are now partaking of Jesus Christ, of all the blessings and gifts which He has earned for us by His redemption. This fact, however, puts us under the obligation of remaining in His grace, of keeping unto the end at least that amount of firm confidence in His redemption which is the essence of faith. So sure must the believer’s confidence in His Lord be that it will withstand all attacks until the end, till it will be beyond trial and temptation, finally triumphant, in the presence of Christ. Firmness, confidence, faithfulness, are required of all disciples of the Lord Jesus.

The danger of unbelief: V.15. While it is said, Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. V.16. For some, when they had heard, did provoke; howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. V.17. But with whom was he grieved forty years? Was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness? V.18. And to whom sware he that they should not enter into His rest but to them that believed not? V.19. So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. The inspired author here defines and justifies his use of the word “today” in connection with his warning to all believers to remain steadfast to the end: in that it is said, Today when you hear His voice, harden not your hearts as in the provocation (at Meribah). Ps. 95, 7. 8. This present day is the time of which we may be sure; we know that the Lord’s grace is being proclaimed to us now. It is now, therefore, that we should heed the Lord’s warning and make the most of the present opportunity. For the dangers attending an insolent testing of God’s patience are such as to make salvation a matter of chance and gambling: For some, having heard, yet provoked Him; was it not all that had gone forth from Egypt through Moses? Although all the children of Israel that went forth from Egypt heard the Word and will of God, yet they deliberately and maliciously challenged God’s government and set about to embitter and provoke Him. And, unfortunately, there was not much choice among the rebellious people; they were all guilty of this provoking conduct, all the men that left Egypt under the leadership of Moses. It was not a case of having a few exceptional sinners to deal with, the whole mass of the gloriously rescued people whose faith had “carried them through between the threatening walls of water and over whom Miriam sang her triumphal ode,” were in the same condemnation.

The sacred writer, drawing another lesson from the incidents in the wilderness, asks: But with whom was He angry, exasperated, forty years? Was it not with them that had sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? It was not a matter of change of mind, of foolish caprice on God’s part, nor was it lack of power to carry out His promise to the children of Israel. But their conduct provoked His anger, their sins challenged His punishment, the result being that all the men of twenty years and over that had left the land of Egypt sank into forgotten graves in the wilderness. That was God’s punishment upon them because of their sin. The author, therefore, concludes his series of rhetorical questions by asking: And to whom did He swear that they should not enter into His rest unless it was to them that believed not? Not disobedience primarily, but unbelief, which was the cause of the various outbreaks against the Lord, caused the punishment to strike them. Moses freely and frankly told the people this very fact, Num. 14, 28-35. God finally affirmed with an oath that He would pour out His punishments, having the soundest reasons for vindicating His course of action. They did not reach the Land of Promise, they did not enter into the blessings of rest and peace which the Lord had promised to obedient, believing children. The conclusion of the sacred author emphasizes just this one point: And we see that they could not enter in on account of their unbelief. They could not reach their goal, the end of the way, because at the bottom of their entire unruly conduct lay the refusal to believe in the Lord, their God, with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their mind. Their example should have its proper effect upon the Christians of all times. Every attention to sin with its deceitfulness, every shrinking from conflict in the interest of the Lord, endangers the faith, if it does not outright pluck it out of the heart. Our trust in God, to be of the right kind, must be centered in the promises of Scriptures and not permit itself to be moved from this foundation. There is too much at stake to make light of the matter or fatuously to rely upon a safe solution in the future. Today the Lord is calling; today we should give heed. To-morrow may be too late. Our Mediator is in every respect greater than Moses, but for that very reason we should cling to Him in all humility of heart.

Summary. The sacred writer, in showing the superiority of Christ over Moses, compares the two mediators, draws a warning lesson from the wilderness journey, and pictures the dangers of unbelief.