Hebrews 3: Greater Than Moses

1Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling…

This verse is a perfect example of continuity of the book of Hebrews. Only a couple of verses beforehand, the author again gives us claim to being brothers and sisters of Christ and now, he builds on that theme in the opening of chapter 3. We are called “holy” brothers and sisters, who “share in the heavenly calling”.

Interestingly, there is only one other place that this word for sharing is used in the Bible. In Luke 5, Jesus is teaching a large crowd. The crowd is so large, that he has his disciples help him into a boat so that he can out beyond them a bit and be seen by everyone.

On this particular morning, the disciples were a bit on the downtrodden side. They had been fishing all night and had caught nothing. Jesus, then asks them to lower their nets on the other side of the boat.

I’m sure what’s not written here is what Peter (who was in the boat that Jesus was in) was actually thinking. I have no trouble imagining Peter lips dripping with sarcasm as he responds “Ohhhh! the other side of the boat…why didn’t I think of that! Of course…we’ve just been putting the nets down on the wrong side!”

But of course, that’s not what is said. In fact, it is here that we see a rare glimpse of restraint on the part of Peter. Tired as he was, he manages to only hint about his frustrations and willingly obeys…

“Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” – Luke 5:5

Of course, you know the rest of story. Even if you’ve never heard it, as you can imagine, their nets were then full, so full in fact that they had to call their other “partners” to come over and help them pull in the catch.

And there it is. When Luke says they called their other “partners”, the same word is used by the author of Hebrews to describe those who “share” in a heavenly calling. What could be the correlation there?

We can only speculate of course and it is entirely possible that there is no significance to it. However, it is not lost of me that this was certainly a moment which would define the lives of the men in the boats. This was a moment where Peter was ashamed of his unbelief and fell at Jesus’ feet, covering his face so he could not be seen. What happens next, he never saw coming; Jesus lifted his chin, looked in his eyes and said “from now on, you will be fishers of men.”

It was always Jesus’ intention to leave his work to a group of people known as the church. The men in the boats would be the ones initially charged to lead that church and we are recipients of this faith and of course of the charge that comes with it…the work of the church is to share the gospel. To preach Christ crucified.

Guess what? The rest of this chapter is about the importance of doing exactly what God tells us to do and the consequences if we don’t. That may sound like a very depressing statement, but in fact, it all boils down to this…God knows that we are most fulfilled when we are doing what he created us for.

If that seems like a concept that is beyond your ability to grasp, I would suggest this: it’s the basic plot of Toy Story. Toys were created for a purpose, and just as toys aren’t fulfilled unless they are loved and played with by a child, we aren’t fulfilled unless we are doing what we were created for, and that is living our lives in fellowship with God and with his church.

You can’t have one without the other. This is one situation where you can’t love the groom and hate the bride.

Now here’s the rub – this church that we are to be a part of has a holy calling…an awesome responsibility, and we can’t fellowship with the church unless we partake or “share” in what the church is called to do. If you’re a believer who just shows up on Sunday, you aren’t being faithful to that calling and you’ll never feel that sense of fulfillment…like you’re doing what you were created to do.

With that said, here’s our first challenge to do what God tells us to do…

fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.

Chapter 2 finished off by declaring Jesus as our high priest. This is no small claim and we will devote considerable time to it in the upcoming chapters, but for now, let’s focus on the other title that is given here to Jesus.

Did you know that this is the only place in the scriptures where Jesus is referred to as an apostle? We don’t think of Jesus this way, but in order to understand why the author would do this here, we have to understand who the audience is. The name of the book “Hebrews” gives you the only clue you need…this book is written to the Hebrew nation, or the Jews. It is written to tell them that Jesus is the fulfillment of what their Old Testament prophets said.

Not only that, but Jesus would eclipse them all. The word apostle means one who is “sent by God”. Follow the logic here…remember how chapter 1 opened with these words…

“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…”

Again, the Jewish nation was used to hearing from God through his appointed mouthpiece. This was why they had prophets. But the prophets had be silent for the last 400 years. Now, the author of Hebrews tells them, God has once again decided to reach out to mankind and speak from on high. Only this time, he did it himself. He became human. He became Jesus. Jesus was the very expression of God in human form.

That is why he is referred to as an apostle…as one sent by God. It is a term with which they were familiar, and dare I say “comfortable” with.

However, Jesus was even greater, because instead of God speaking through a man, he just spoke. It was the very God speaking. Put it another way, he “became flesh, and dwelled among us.”

But there is another reason for using this word. Not only is Jesus greater than the prophets, but he was greater than the greatest prophet of all.

2He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house. 3Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. 4For 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. 6But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house.

Moses was the greatest prophet who ever lived. He is the most important human in the Jewish faith. They put his words, or the Torah above all else. In fact Deuteronomy says this about him…

No prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face – Deuteronomy 34:10

He is reverred because while God spoke to the other prophets in visions, dreams or an audible voice, he appeared to Moses “face to face”.

This was actually cause for some jealousy, even amongst Moses’ family. His brother Aaron and his sister Miriam actually complained about it, wondering aloud, “what’s so special about Moses? God doesn’t just speak to him does he? He also speaks to us right? In fact, Moses has a lot of flaws, for example, he married a cushite woman!” However, here was God’s reply…

“When there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions, I speak to them in dreams. 7But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. 8With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?”

So now you see where the author of Hebrews is quoting when he says that Moses is “faithful in all God’s house”. Remember though, this story isn’t about Moses is it? No, as great as Moses was, when compared with Jesus, even he doesn’t measure up.

Interestingly enough, Moses also is described as one who is “sent by God”. God said to Moses…

“So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” – Exodus 3:10

See that little word “sending”? It’s the word “shaalach”. It’s a verb meaning to send. It is the root of the word “shaliyach” which is a noun describing one who is sent. Pop Quiz: what word do we have that describes one who is sent? That’s right, apostle. So guess which word is used to describe Jesus when it calls him an apostle? You got it…the same root word is used to describe both Moses and Jesus as ones who are sent by God. And, it’s the only time that Jesus is called an apostle. Is there any doubt that the author of Hebrews is pushing for a side-by-side comparison?

But there is no comparison. Moses was faithful to God, yes. But Jesus is God! The creator is always greater than the creation. The voice is always greater than the mouthpiece. Jesus is greater than Moses.

To top it all off, Jews used this word “shaliyach” to describe the minister of the synagogue or one who is over the affairs of the synagogue. Now consider this: Jewish practices like the tabernacle and the role of the high priest were all instituted by God through Moses. He is seen in many ways as the founder of their religion, but in fact, all of his work (in setting up the tabernacle and other rituals and laws) was simply to reflect a deeper meaning which God would reveal through his son Jesus.

For example, the high priest was simply a man who himself sinned. Now, our high priest is God himself in the person of Jesus, having committed no sin.

“God’s house” was the tabernacle. That was where God dwelled, symbolically at least. It was a physical structure built with human hands. However now, God’s temple is each one of us! We are his church and the church is now the “building” where God dwells. This is affirmed elsewhere in scripture…

If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple. – 1 Corinthians 3:17

And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. – Ephesians 2:22

Yes, Moses was a faithful servant in the house, and yes God created the house, so what does the house represent? Us. The believers who are partners in a heavenly calling.

So now that we are God’s house, the author is about to flip the switch and take the spotlight away from Moses to focus on…us!

And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.

There is an interesting word used here for “hold firmly”. The word is used mostly with ships and makes an appearance in the book of Acts during the story when Paul and his companions are shipwrecked…

Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea and at the same time untied the ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and made for the beach. – Acts 27:40

With these big ships, the rudders were both attached to a single pole and with that pole the driver could focus the direction of the ship on the spot where he wanted to end up. Thus, they “made for the beach”. It’s all about fixing our eyes on what we’re headed for and then holding fast to that course.

The larger implication here is that we are to focus on Jesus and doing the things that God tells us to do. The problem with that of course, is that we often don’t want to. We know in our minds the difference between right and wrong, but we often choose a different path don’t we? Why is that? Scripture is about to reveal the answer…

7So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, 8do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, 9where your ancestors tested and tried me, though for forty years they saw what I did. 10That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’

This passage is found in Psalm 95:7-11. It is describing the people of Israel from a time past, but the message is actually meant for us as well and that is why it is included here.

The word here “know” is often used in the Scriptures in the sense of “approving,” or “loving”. It means that we don’t just obey God, but we love his ways and approve of his Word.

This passage describes people who are always going away from God’s Word. Sadly, this passage is describing us.

I see this happening so much in the church today. We have begun interpreting God’s Word through the lens of our own reality. We read things that sound outdated and decide that those passages are describing another time, another place. They have no relevance for us today.

For example, God might say that men have different roles than women in the church. We then respond that the Bible was written during a male dominated point in history and that made sense back then, but now the roles of men and women are not so clearly defined. Women do a lot of things that were typically male only at one point in time. They can own property now. They can vote. They can lead companies. They can work circles around men. They can raise families on their own when the deadbeat dad decides to split. Women can do everything that men can do. Shouldn’t it be the same in the church? Then shouldn’t we treat all passages that suggest that men and women have different roles in the church as passages written for another time and place and not for us?

I’m sure you can think of a ton of other examples right? A lot of the time, we can see the wisdom in doing things God’s way. Other times, we don’t like it. And those are times that our Father in heaven would point to us and say “Look…they don’t approve. They don’t really like that part of my Word.” Or, to put it another way, “Their hearts are always going astray.”

This attitude toward God’s Word is what is referred to as a hardness of heart. The worst part of it all, is that God promises that the result of our hardness of heart is a life of chaos.

11So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’ ” 

This passage refers to the Israelites entering the land of Canaan. God showed his people the promised land and then gave them a command which they ignored and as a result, they wandered for 40 years in the desert. That generation never saw the promised land. Here it is referred to as God’s “rest” and has significant meaning for us, both here on earth and in eternity (chapter 4).

While this obviously symbolizes the inheritance of eternity with God, the fact remains that unless we are living in adherence to God’s Word, we are not doing to do what we were created to do. And if we are not doing what we are created to do, then we can never be fulfilled in this life. We will never have that inner peace, or that “rest”.

So where does this hardness of heart come from? What causes us to stray from God, to hate his laws and disapprove of His Word?

12See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

In a word, sin. Sin causes us to look less favorably on God’s Word. How? By appealing to our desires. Look at what the apostle John wrote…

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

This is the secret to sin’s success. It appeals to our basic desires. A very worldly slogan that became popular some time ago is “if it feels good, do it”. The problem with that is that not far behind it is the slogan “If it feels good, can it really be wrong?” or “How can something that feels so right be so wrong?”. While subtle, this attitude warps our perspective of what is right and wrong.

Think about it…when you bought your home, how did you make your decision? After searching through home after home, did the one you chose just feel right? How about how you choose to discipline your children or how you manage your budget? Are those things based on God’s eternal wisdom or your own feelings and sense of what is right?

14We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. 15As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.” 16Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? 17And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? 18And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? 19So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.”

This is really what the entire chapter is about…a warning against unbelief.

Remember Peter back in the fishing boat? That was his problem. Here’s a guy that has tried everything all night and nothing he is doing is working. He’s tried different bait and everything else he can think of and yet still has no fish. Have you ever been there? Where you tried everything but it just wasn’t working and you really had no place to go but up?

This is what happened to Peter, only he had God himself, in the person of Christ, right there in the boat with him. Jesus speaks…God speaks, and while Peter does follow the instruction, he doesn’t believe that obeying the words of God will change his situation. His heart is filled with unbelief.

Do you know what grieves God’s heart more than anything except, perhaps, sin? Unbelief. God’s heart is grieved when his people don’t believe him and don’t love his instruction.

If you are sensing that God may be speaking to you, inviting you back to fellowship with him, don’t fight it. Don’t let your heart be hardened to it. Today, if you hear his voice, respond to him. Whatever sin is in your life that may be taking your mind off of the things of God or breaking your fellowship, confess it. Be reconciled to God today.

If you do that, then you will start to see your life in a different light. You will see yourself as one created by a God who loves you and ultimately has a plan for you. He has shaped you for his purposes and he knows best what will ultimately fulfill the desires of your heart.

Listening to him and surrendering to his Word are the keys to a life of fulfillment and rest. A life of peace, and calm assurance because of your confidence in your Creator’s plan for your life.

Matt Jones

Matt is the lead pastor at Lakeside Church. When he's not "pastoring" in the city, you can find him "pastoring" at Schneiter's Bluff Golf Course.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *