Chapter 3 of Hebrews begins, as did Chapter 2, with a “therefore”. Once again, anytime you encounter that word, it’s a good idea to go back and put it in context by reviewing the main point of the previous section. The author is making a new point based on some previously established point.
The previous point, at the end of Chapter 2, was that Jesus is fully human. Now, as you’ll recall, the author had already established in Chapter 1 that Jesus is superior to all things and the means through which God created and sustains all things. In other words, Jesus IS fully God. However, Jesus is ALSO fully human, and the author built that case in Chapter 2. He emphasized that Jesus, being fully human, is able to help those who are tempted because he, as a human, experienced temptation himself, but was able to consistently overcome it. This is the thought in which the author picks up with Chapter 3.
There are two main lines of reasoning in this chapter – verses 1-6 and verses 7-19. Let’s consider verses 1-6 first.
1 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.
In verse 1, the author refers to the holy brothers. Remember, this book is addressed to Jewish readers in hopes of convincing them that Jesus is their Messiah. In calling these readers “holy brothers”, the author is not claiming that they are already Christian believers, but rather reminding them that he is a fellow Jew, and the entire Jewish nation has been set apart (that’s what “holy” means) to be in special relationship with God. He goes on to remind them that they “share in a heavenly calling” – God is the one who set them apart for His service. They did not set themselves apart to serve God.
Now that the author has reminded them of their intended relationship to God, he says to “consider Jesus”. who is the “apostle and high priest” of the Christian. He then launches into a comparison of the greatest example of a Jewish “apostle and high priest” – Moses – with the Christian one – Jesus. Like Moses, Jesus was faithful to the purposes of God for His people, but then the author makes the bold statement that Jesus deserves MORE glory than Moses, and his argument uses the metaphor that the builder of a house deserves more honor than the house itself. In other words, Jesus, just as human as Moses, also just happens to be the “builder” (creator) of Moses and the whole covenant that God made with the Jews through Moses. The author then makes the distinction that Moses was a “servant” of God, but Jesus is the “son” of God. In other words, Jesus carries every authority that God has. Remember the statement made in Chapter 1:3 that Jesus “is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.” Lastly, the author defines who belongs to the “house” of God – those who “hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.” A Christian is certain of his relationship with God and stands firm in the assurance of the salvation that Jesus gives.
Now, having proposed that Jesus is due more honor than Moses, the author continues in the rest of the chapter suggesting what should be done with that knowledge. Notice that this section also begins with a “therefore”.
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.’” 12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15 As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” 16 For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.
The author begins by quoting Psalm 95:7-11 (which comprise verses 7-11 here). Then he follows up with the warning, “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.” Remember, these readers are NOT currently followers of Jesus, so the author is warning them that they are at the same point of decision that the Hebrew people of Moses’ day were. Either believe and follow the commands that have been given you, or risk the judgment of God.
The Hebrews to which the book of Hebrews was originally addressed would have been orthodox Jews who claimed to be God’s people and “put their trust” in Moses as God’s mediator and prophet. The author is saying here that since Jesus is greater than Moses, you need to carefully consider what decision you make regarding him. Are you going to believe him and obey his commands, or are you going to let your sin deceive you into disobedience and rebellion?
Then, in verses 16 through 19, the author makes the following point. The people who were physically with Moses and experienced God’s leadership through him ultimately rebelled and rejected God’s ways and received eternal judgment and exile for it. Why do you, who are now living 1500 years after Moses (this is approximately when the first-century Jews were living), think that you are living in more obedience to God than your ancestors did? Likewise, you are living in the day and time in which Jesus ministered during his human life. Are you going to reject him as the people in Moses’ day did?
He concludes this chapter with the assertion that the people of Moses’ day were unable to enter God’s rest because of unbelief. It is their unbelief that ultimately gave them trouble! This thought doesn’t end here. The author begins chapter 4 with another “therefore”, and we’ll pick this thought back up next week.