Greater: A Series on the Letter of Hebrews
Week 3: Greater than Moses
HEBREWS 3:1-11 NIV
We’re in week three and, ironically, chapter 3, of the book of Hebrews. From previous lessons, we remember and celebrate that Jesus is the exact representation God’s being, the radiance of God’s glory, sustaining all things by his powerful word. He is GREATER THAN the angels. And even though he became human, that did not impair him from his salvific work.
In fact, it enabled Jesus to regain our dominion over the earth, to bring many sons and daughter to glory because he could make our salvation perfect through his suffering as a man. His humanity enabled him to render powerless the work of the devil so that believers need not fear death. And his humanity allowed Jesus to sympathize with his people as the great High Priest, making atonement for our sins and identifying with our suffering when we are tempted.
Remember the context of this 1st century letter to 1st and 2nd generation Jewish Christians. Many were beginning to doubt whether the work on the cross could atone for their sins. They wondered if he would be returning for his Bride, the Church, and so they began to drift away from the truth they heard from the likes of Paul, Peter, and James.
I’ve mentioned several times that Hebrews has been described as a “sermonic letter” containing real meaty theology about the supremacy of Christ, but also practical exhortation for the church, warning us to pay attention to what we have heard about Jesus Christ SO THAT we don’t drift away. I like how pastor and commentator Warren Wiersbe breaks down Hebrews by a downward progression of problems with the early church by ignoring God’s truth.
Hebrews 2:1-4 warns us to pay attention to what was spoken about salvation through Christ, lest we drift away.
Hebrews 3:7-4:13 speaks of doubting God’s Word and developing a hard heart. Listen to 3:7-8à “So, as the Holy Spirit says: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the times of testing in the desert,’”
He’s quoting Psalm 8:4-6 and referencing the newly freed Hebrews when they made a golden calf to worship while Moses was away receiving the Law on Mt. Sinai. Because of unbelief, they hardened their hearts toward God and paid the price of never entering the Promised Land…what God calls “entering my rest.” [MORE ON THIS LATER…]
Hebrews 5:11-6:20. This doubting can lead to dullness toward God as He pursues us into a love relationship with Him. We may come to church week after week, but we are not growing in our love relationship with God. We neglect times of intimacy in prayer and study of God’s Word. We neglect growing in Christ together through Life Groups. The writer calls that being “slow to learn.” We want to stay in “elementary teachings” about Christ and not go on to maturity.
Hebrews 10:26-39. The next step in the downward progression is despising God’s Word. Because we are sluggish and dull toward God’s truth in our lives, and because we ignore his Word, we keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth.
Example: God’s word is clear about telling the truth, yet we deliberately lie to protect our reputation, our resources, etc. Or, we know God’s word says that we are to love all people, yet we single out groups of people that we don’t like or we hold grudges against someone for what they may or may not have done to us.
We think these things are no big deal, but that’s only because we’ve become dull to the truth. We think God will look the other way because He’s full of forgiveness and grace. It is true that he is, but remember that we’re talking about knowing better. Wiersbe calls it being “willful” in our sin.
Yes, God forgives all sin (except cursing the Holy Spirit), but to deliberately sin because God is “obligated” to forgive you later is a dangerous thing! Here’s how the apostle, Paul, put it in Romans 6:1-2à “What shall we say then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” Doubting the truth of God’s word and growing dull toward its truths can lead us to despising it…willfully ignoring God in our lives and living life on our terms.
12:14-29. Which leads to the fifth and final downward step: defying God’s Word. We simply reject God’s activity in our lives. We have a defiant attitude toward God. We live our lives without any regard to the consequences with God, almost daring him to do something. The writer of Hebrews says it like this, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son.”
What is he saying? Esau thought so little of his inheritance that he sold it for the personal pleasure of a bowl of stew. Do we think so little of our inheritance as sons and daughters of the Most High God that we willfully disobey the one, true, living God?
Drifting away from the Word…Doubting the Word…Dullness toward the Word…Despising the Word…and Defying the Word. All these problems are addressed in the letter to the Hebrews. Along with warnings against such attitudes, the writer offers sound Christology (truths about Jesus Christ) and encourages us to exercise faith like the patriarchs of old.
In our time left, let’s look at one reason the writer claims we should not harden our hearts toward God’s truth, namely because Jesus is GREATER than Moses. Other than Abraham, Moses is THE MAN when it comes to the history and identity of the nation of Israel. He was the man God used to rescue the Hebrew slaves from Egyptian captivity. He was the man God used to provide the Law, which created not only an ethical system but a civil and religious one as well. Through the Law, a gaggle of ex slaves become a mighty nation of over 2.5 million people under the kingship of Yahweh, Almighty God.
Moses was both prophet and priest, representing God to the people and the people to God. Later, through the tribe of Levi, a priestly order was established along with a sacrificial system for Israelites to atone for their sins if they did not keep covenant established by God and given through Moses, the law-giver.
Whereas, Moses was faithful in all God’s house, Jesus is of GREATER honor as the BUILDER of the house! Jesus is the son over God’s house, the writer of Hebrews tells us, and WE are God’s house…IF we hold on to our courage and the HOPE of which we boast. The problem, as I’ve said several times, is UNBELIEF. Then, as now, there were people within the church who began to disbelieve the truth claims of Jesus.
“He’s a good role model and all that, but we shouldn’t go overboard with what we believe about Jesus. The resurrection story…salvation from sins…it’s just mythology…man-made stories to help us sleep at night. Even if it is true and I believe in Jesus, that doesn’t mean I have to make any real changes. It’s fine to have religious practices like going to church. But don’t expect me to buy into all the truth claims of Jesus, like:
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matt. 7:13-14
“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” Luke 14:26 NASV
Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I’ve commanded you. (Matt. 28:18-20)
Hear this warning from the writer of Hebrews : “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. 14We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.”
He compares the children of Israel who wandered in the wilderness for a generation with some of the folk in the church. Because of their disbelief in the promises of God, they did NOT get to enter the Promised Land. God put it this way, “They shall never enter my rest.” In the same way, folks in the church who do not hold firmly to the truth claims of Christ are turning away from the living God and will NOT enter his rest! I want to suggest to you today, that some in this very room think you can skate by because you’ve been in church all your lives, yet you have hardened your heart to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Sin has infected your hearts so long that you don’t even know you’re sick. It may not be outward, covert sins of cheating, lying, stealing, or killing; but it’s the sin of hate, bitterness, envy, greed, lust, pride, and the like.
Sin is deceitful. It says, “Peace, peace. When there is no peace.” And our only remedy to sin’s effects is the blood of Jesus and the forgiveness of our sin through repentance…turning from unbelief to belief. As the writer puts it, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.”
Sisters and brothers, I know this is a hard message this morning. Believe me when I say that I would prefer not to give it. But give it I must. Some of us are closer to meeting our Judge than we think. The hour is drawing near and I fear that many, because of the deceitfulness of sin and the work of the enemy, we have fallen asleep at the wheel of our spiritual lives.
But there is good news! You are here today and it is not too late. God has made for us a great rescue plan through his Son Jesus Christ. He IS our salvation. Jesus IS GREATER THAN the Moses. He is GREATER THAN the church, or denominations that so many put their faith and trust in. Jesus is not only the builder of this spiritual house of LIVING STONES, he is the CORNERSTONE. We put our faith in Christ alone for salvation.
Will you serve Jesus? Will you be courageous and resolute in your faith God? Will you believe and follow the truth of ALL God’s Word rather than “relative truth” of our culture? And when you sin, will you REALLY turn (repent) and receive forgiveness? Let’s Pray.