Having shown Jesus’ unique lordship in God’s self-revealing and all-restoring purpose, the writer narrows down his lens to focus on his Apostleship and High Priesthood. These are the ministries of the Messiah on which he concentrates in the rest of his letter. Just as Moses, and Joshua after him, were to lead the children oflsrael out of Egypt, through the wilderness, and to the Promised Land, and Aaron and his descendants were to intercede for them on their way, so Jesus leads his people out of the kingdom of darkness, through this wilderness of a world, praying for them on their way to their heavenly home.
1. The Household of God (Heb 3:1-6)
b. The House – closely connected to “Apostle”. It is the people of God related to God through the Messiah.
i. One People – there is only one ‘house’ and only one people. Moses, Christ, and all who believe in Christ, are all in this house. There is unity across the phases of God’s redemptive self-revelation. See also Heb 11:39-40, Rom 11:12-36.
ii. Two forms under Two Apostles – God’s house was built in two stages. First was the ‘apostolic’ ministry of Moses and then of Christ’s. Each was faithful in the task assigned (Heb 3:2, 5-6). With their harmony, there are differences.
1. Differences between Moses and Jesus
a. Moses was God’s servant (slave, deacon). Term indicates service to a deity. Moses occupied a dignified, not a menial, place in God’s service. Moses was a prophet (Num 12:7-8), a priest (Exo 24:8), and a king (Deut 33:5). Gal 3:19 calls him a ‘mediator’ of a covenant (Heb 10:19). The ‘church in the wilderness’ (Acts 7:37-38; Heb 3:7-4:13) was under the ‘apostleship’ of Moses (1 Cor 10:2).
b. Jesus was also an ‘apostle’ appointed by God and this carries with it the idea of service but he is not called a ‘servant’ here as Moses is. Heb 3:6 says Jesus is the ‘Christ’ of God, and ‘Son’ of God. His mediatorial Sonship (Heb 1-2) is in view here. He is over the house and not merely in it.
2. Differences between their ministries
a. Heb 3:5b – ministry of Moses was ‘to testify of things that were to be spoken later’. Moses pointed forward to what was to be revealed in Christ.
b. There is basic harmony to the two stages of messianic ‘house-building’.
3. Only One Founder – Heb 3:4 says that God builds all things. Christ is the builder (Heb 3:3) and has more glory than the house that Moses is a part of. It is because Jesus is Christ, God’s Messianic Son, that a church is possible. All is brought into being by God through Jesus.
i. Their Confession – Public confession of Christ qualifies people to be treated as Christians. This is not just accepting a creed but relates entirely to the one whom they acknowledged. They had acknowledged Christ as Messiah, Apostle, and High Priest. They had professed to submit to his authority as the one sent form God and to trust in his atonement that admitted them into the presence of God. This entitled them to be regarded as ‘holy brethren and partakers of the heavenly calling’. The Church is made upof those who have received this call which is both from and to heaven.
ii. Their Continuance – Hebrews is dealing with people on the basis of this profession and heavenly call. He can exhort them to genuineness and sincerity by continuing to look forward in hope. Faith and hope are connected (Heb 11). Their hope was waning and so their faith was shaking. The object of faith is Christ and hope is based on the prospect of what is promised in Christ. To fail to continue in hope is to cast doubt on the reality of faith and doubt upon Christ’s honor and faithfulness.
iii. Their ‘Consideration’ – How are they to continue? Who can help? Consider Jesus! Christ is faithful! Our Apostle and High Priest.
2. On Pilgrimage (Heb 3:7-4:13) – Psalm 95 runs like a refrain through this section in 19 of 29 verses. They are in a ‘wilderness situation’ and God is speaking as He did to their forefathers. They need to persevere, they are on pilgrimage to a ‘better country’, which is a ‘heavenly one’.
a. The Scope of Psalm 95 – the theme is ‘rest’. The Psalm looked backward and forward.
i. Retrospective – Psalm 95 records incidents in Num 14. The unbelief of the wilderness reached its climax and God declared an oath that nobody over 20 years old (except Joshua and Caleb) would enter the land.
ii. Contemporary – Heb 4:7 ‘saying through David’ refers to the period when the Psalm was composed. People were in the land and God was reminding them of what had happened.
iii. Prospective – The real speaker was the Holy Spirit. This is God’s ‘today’ – the day that God calls people into his rest. God’s word is ‘living’ (4:12) and it transcends time and speaks of eternity.
b. The Theme of the Psalm – this is God’s rest. Referred to ten times in the passage and is God’s good news to man. It is the ‘gospel’ (Heb 4:2) and is God’s Sabbath-rest. Man had forfeited it in the Fall and God was restoring it.
c. The Purpose of its Use – idea is to visualize God’s people in the wilderness with God’s rest before them. Realize the danger beforethem but know the way to respond to it. It is warning and encouragement.
i. Avoid a repetition – Heb 4:11 ‘same example of disobedience’. Don’t be unbelieving and disobedient. The people in the wilderness did not believe God’s promise and, therefore, were disobedient to it. Don’t be like them! Don’t just profess Christ and then have a hard heart to His promises. Daily, we are to persevere and partake of Christ in confidence (verse 14).
ii. Appropriate the Reality – It is by continuing to belive that the danger of ‘falling short’ or ‘not entering in’ is countered. God’s promises are not to be trifled with but trusted. We are weak and ought to have a sober and reverential realization that others have fallen short and so cling to Christ!
3. A Throne of Grace (Heb 4:14-16) – The priestly ministry of Christ is the theme. Christ is a unique High Priest in relation to Aaron and Melchizedek. The section gives a call to action but it’s based upon Christ’s unique status.
a. What They Had – A ‘Great’ High Priest – the people had forgotten their privilege. He was better than anything they had left behind in terms of glory and honor. He shows that Christ is greater than what they had left behind.
i. Supremacy of the highest possible order – First, Jesus ‘has passed through the heavens’. He is no longer visible. He is actually ‘in the presence of God’ for his people. Secondly, he is ‘the Son of God.’ His indestructible deity forms the foundation for his work of atonement in human flesh and for his intercession in heaven. He reigns and distributes blessings.
ii. Sympathy to the greatest possible degree – even though he is supreme, he still sympathizes with us. Even though he could not be higher, no one could be nearer to them as well! Christ still remembers what it is like to be on this earth. He has true compassion for his needy people.
b. What They Could Have – HELP – they lacked confidence and this is the key to true perseverance (Heb 3:6, 14; Heb 6:11). This is not confidence in self but in Christ, the High Priest. Hebrews teaches us that we can ask for such help. Needy, pathetic people ask for help and our High Priest is already moved with pity toward his people before they come to him to ask for it. His mercies are ‘tender’ and he delights to be merciful, time and time again! He is not only merciful and tender, though, but powerful enough to deliver strength in time of need! His mercy cradles us and his might sets us on our feet.
4. Our High Priest (Heb 5:1-10) – this section unpacks Christ’s ‘greatness’ by comparing him with Aaron. There is similarity in that Aaron (and his successors) and Jesus can sympathize but there is also an all-important difference.
a. The Humanity of Aaron (Heb 5:1-4) – the High Priest was ‘taken from among men’ and not angels. He was one among his own. Sinners could approach God via gifts and sacrifices and, since the High Priest dealt in a gentle manner, God would do so too. Aaron and his descendants were ‘beset with weakness’ and needed sacrifice for their own sins. They were fitted to deal with the ‘ignorant and erring’ in a gentle way. The needy worshipper was to have a display of a God who was glad that he had come and even come again – even ‘seventy times seven’ (Matt 18:22).
b. The Humanity of Jesus (Heb 5:5-10) – How could the sinless and divine Son be sympathetic to sinners? These verses describe the humiliation of the Son.
i. What did the Son learn? – he learned obedience. He knew what was in man (John 2:25), who he was, where he had come from and where he was going to (John 13:1-3). He learned in the doing of God’s will, not in merely saying he would do it, but doing what he said he would do from time eternity. What a lesson!
ii. When did he learn this? He learned it ‘in the days of his flesh’ from birth to death. He personally entered a fallen world and took on an infirm body. He entered into the limitations of man and the emotional and physical frailties of our lives. He entered into the actual reach of sinners and Satan. What a school!
iii. How did he learn this? It was ‘through what he suffered’. Obedience to God is never easy in a fallen world. He suffered his whole life from womb to tomb beyond human measurement. In the Garden we wept for himself. He was in need as he faced a cup extended to him by his Father which he knew contained all that sin merited at the bar of the Father’s justice. His most awful suffering came at the greatest demand of him and it caused the most intense suffering. Being obedient to the Father’s will made his work complete and made him replete with the sympathy and the grace to help his people in need. Even now in heaven he remembers his ‘time of need’, how he prayed in godly fear and was heard and help, ad so he will help all those who come to him in their time of need. As he was kept in death and raise from the dead, so will his people be, by his grace!
Taken from: Jones, Hywel. Let’s Study Hebrews. Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 2002.