************ Sermon on Hebrews 3:3 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on November 29, 2015
"Greater Than Moses"
Remember why Hebrews was written? It is a word of encouragement, a sermon, for Jewish Christians (Heb 13:22). These Christians, because of persecution, were thinking of going back to their Jewish faith. "Don't do it," says Hebrews. "Don't return to your Jewish roots. Stay with the Christian religion."
In arguing against the Jewish faith and for the Christian faith, Hebrews repeatedly uses four words or phrases. I've mentioned the words in other sermons but let me restate them for you this evening: "better," "perfect," "eternal," and "once-for-all."
Today, we want to look again at the word "better." Our passage uses the word "greater" but the idea is the same. We are being told again that Jesus is better, greater, superior to anything in the Jewish faith.
So far, in looking at this idea of "better," Hebrews has told us that God's last word in Jesus is better than what was said through the prophets at many times and in various ways (Heb 1:1-2). And, Hebrews has told us that Christ is "superior" to God's mighty angels: He has a superior name, a superior birth, and a superior calling (Heb 1:4-14). In our Bible reading this evening Hebrews tells us Jesus is better, greater, superior to Moses.
I Moses, the Great Servant
A World history has seen all sorts of political messiahs. Each one has fallen. After the fall of the U.S.S.R., Stalin's portrait was defaced and Lenin's statue was thrown down. The Chinese used to clutch Mao's little red book, but now you can buy them on eBay and Amazon for next to nothing. Many Americans revere John Kennedy, but plenty of scandals have shown a dark side to his character. Muslims look to Mohammed and Mormons look to Joseph Smith but there is plenty of evidence they both were dirty, old men.
The Hebrews Christians were starting to look back to a leader more worthy than any Premier or President. They were being tempted to go back to Moses. Moses was a great leader; about that there can be no doubt. So much so, that no other earthly leader can be compared to him.
B What was so great about Moses? Moses was great because he was humble. Moses was educated in the court of Egypt as royalty, the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He spurned royal privilege to identify with the Israelite slaves. Moses the prince became Moses the exile, tending sheep in the wilderness for forty years. Moses was great because God humbled the prince to be a servant. Numbers 12 tells us,
(Num 12:3) (Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)Moses showed the truth of Jesus' words said many years later:
(Mt 18:1-4) At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" (2) He called a little child and had him stand among them. (3) And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (4) Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
(Mk 9:35) "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all."
What was so great about Moses? One day from a bush came the Voice that called Moses to lead God's people out of Egypt. Moses found his true greatness in this calling.
What was so great about Moses? As the leader of God's people, Moses had the rod of judgment. When he stretched out the rod of God over Egypt, he brought judgment on their gods and plagues on the house of Pharaoh. He raised the rod over the Red sea and the waters parted to deliver Israel and then drown the Egyptians. He lifted the rod during battle and Israel defeated the Amalekites.
At God's command Moses used the rod of judgment on the Lord God Himself (Exodus 17:1-7). Israel had rebelled in the wilderness because there was no water. They quarreled with Moses and wanted to kill him for leading them out of Egypt. But their complaint was actually with God, not Moses. "Is the Lord among us or not?" was their question and their charge. God instructed Moses to go out before the people, taking the elders of Israel as witnesses and the rod of judgment in his hand. Then God the Judge took the people's place. God, whose name is the Rock, commanded Moses to strike the very rock where God stood. God, in symbol, bore the blow that Israel deserved; and, it was Moses who executed the punishment. Who can compare with Moses? Who, but Moses, can strike out against the Lord?!
What was so great about Moses? He was the mediator who stood between an angry God and a sinful people. After Israel's idolatry with the golden calf, God threatened to destroy the rebels and make a new nation from the family of Moses. But Moses stood before God to ask that his name be removed from God's book of life if Israel must perish. He prayed that the people would be spared for the sake of God's holy name.
What was so great about Moses? Moses begged to see the glory of God and to know the Angel of His presence. His prayer was answered; God's glory passed by and Moses heard the name of God proclaimed, a God of covenant faithfulness and love.
What was so great about Moses? He was the great prophet. When Israel could not bear to hear the voice of God speaking from Sinai, it was Moses who climbed the mountain to face the fire of God's presence and to receive from God's hand the Ten Commandments. Moses was God's mouthpiece, God's spokesman. The prophets who followed Moses were like him, but God Himself announced that Moses was superior (Deut 34:10). Ruth and I read Numbers 12 for devotions this past week. Turn there with me and see the greatness of Moses as prophet:
(Num 12:1-9) Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. (2) "Has the LORD spoken only through Moses?" they asked. "Hasn't he also spoken through us?" And the LORD heard this. (3) (Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.) (4) At once the LORD said to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, "Come out to the Tent of Meeting, all three of you." So the three of them came out. (5) Then the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the Tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When both of them stepped forward, (6) he said, "Listen to my words: "When a prophet of the LORD is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams. (7) But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. (8) With 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?" (9) The anger of the LORD burned against them, and he left them.
Moses. What a great man. What a great leader. No wonder the Hebrew Christians were tempted to forsake Jesus and go back to Moses and the Law.
II Jesus is Greater than Moses
A Remember what we are looking at today? Hebrews tells us Jesus is better, greater, superior to Moses. Great as Moses may be, Jesus is better. Therefore, the Hebrew Christians should not go back to their Jewish faith. "Don't go back to Moses and the Law. Stay with the Christian religion. Fix your eyes and your thoughts on Jesus." That's what Hebrews is saying.
Our Bible reading from Hebrews 3 provides a series of comparisons and contrasts between Moses and Jesus.
I don't know whether you noticed it or not, but the word "house" is used six times in our Bible reading. It refers to the people of God, not to a physical building. In the Old Testament the house of God is Israel. In the New Testament the house of God is the church (cf Heb. 3:6).
So in God's house, how is Jesus better than Moses?
B First, we are told that both Moses and Jesus were faithful in God's house:
(Heb 3:2) [Jesus] was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God's house.Jesus never failed and will never fail. Remember, Jesus was tempted in every way, just as we are -- yet was without sin (Heb 4:15). Moses, however, did slip. Remember what happened? I already mentioned one time when Israel complained about a lack of water and Moses struck the Rock that was God. There was another time when Israel wanted water and Moses was commanded to speak to the rock. But Moses took the rod of judgment and struck the rock twice (Num 20). Remember the importance of the phrase "once for all"? Once for all time. Once for all men. God the Rock already took the punishment once for all and is not to bear the punishment twice. Moses pled and Moses cried. But God did not allow Moses to lead Israel into the promised rest of the Promised Land because he failed.
The conclusion: Jesus is greater than Moses!
C Second, Jesus has greater honor because He is the builder of the house, whereas Moses is part of the house itself:
(Heb 3:3-4) Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. (4) For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.
In 1 Corinthians 3 Paul talks about building on the foundation of Christ. Some build using gold, silver, and costly stones. Others build with wood, hay, or straw. Moses was one of those who built well. Continuous trials by fire showed the quality of his work. Yet, Moses is only part of the building.
Jesus, the second person of the triune Godhead, is the builder of everything. Unlike Moses, Jesus is not the building; He is the builder. Jesus is the builder of the house and thus deserves greater honor than those who merely belong to the household.
The conclusion: Jesus is greater than Moses!
D Third, Moses was faithful as a servant in the house, but Jesus is faithful as a Son:
(Heb 3:5-6) Moses was faithful as a servant in all God's house, testifying to what would be said in the future. (6) But Christ is faithful as a son over God's house.
At the time Hebrews was written, everyone knew the difference between a manager and a son. Who owns the house and the property? Not the manager. He simply manages the house for the master. His administration is temporary. The son, on the other hand, is the heir. And someday He will take over forever. Moses was the manager and Jesus is the Son. Moses' position was temporary whereas Jesus' position is permanent.
Think also of the difference between the temple on earth and its counterpart in heaven. What is on earth is only a shadow; the real deal is in heaven (Heb 8:5). Now that the permanent has come, the shadow must depart.
The conclusion: Jesus, the Son and heir, is greater than Moses, the steward and manager!
E Jesus is greater than Moses. And, we can add, Moses points forward to Jesus. The Old Testament house with its tabernacle and laws and ceremonies is but a shadow pointing forward to the house built by Christ. For the Hebrew Christians to reject Christ and to go back to Moses is to reject what Moses stood for.
In the Old Testament no one has higher status than Moses. Yet, Jesus is greater than Moses. In other words, Jesus is awesome indeed.
How awesome? How great? Our Bible reading says Jesus is "the apostle ... whom we confess" (Heb 3:1). A couple of months ago I looked with you at the word apostolic. I said an apostolic church is a church that is based upon the teachings of the apostles. I also said a church is not apostolic just because it can trace its line of bishops back to Peter. Since the teachings of the apostles were all about Jesus, an apostolic church focuses on Christ. As for an apostle, he is one who proclaims Christ.
How great is Jesus? We confess Jesus, not Moses. Jesus, not Moses, is the apostle whom we confess. Jesus, not Moses, is our focus. Jesus, not Moses, is our message.
How awesome and how great is Jesus? He is also the "high priest whom we confess" (Heb 3:1). Remember what a high priest does? We looked at this the last time we looked at Hebrews. The high priest makes satisfaction for the sins of the people. The high priest provided purification for sins. Jesus is the high priest Who purifies us by the shedding of His own blood. I said earlier that Moses was a mediator between an angry God and a sinful people. He offered to take the people's punishment. God did not and could not accept the offer because Moses was a sinner just like the people. Only Jesus, not Moses, provided purification for sins. Only Jesus, not Moses, is the Mediator Whose sacrifice was acceptable to God.
Jesus is greater than God's mighty angels. Jesus is even greater than Moses, the greatest of all the Old Testament saints.
Go back to what we have already been told about Jesus. He is God's last Word for these last days. He is the heir of all things. Through Him the universe was made. He is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His being. He sustains all things by His powerful Word. He provided purification for sins. He sat down at God's right hand.
Therefore, holy brothers [and sisters], fix your thoughts on Jesus (cf Heb 3:1). Fix your thoughts on Jesus and not on the angels. Fix your thoughts on Jesus and not on Moses. Fix your thoughts on Jesus. Make Him the goal of your life. Focus on Him. Think about Him. Mediate on Him. And not on anything or anyone other. Even in the face of persecution, focus on Jesus. Even in the face of trials and tribulations, focus on Jesus. Don't lose heart. Don't forsake Christ. But hold on to your courage and confess Christ.
I want to end with the same warning as Hebrews. Did you notice the "if" in verse 6? "And we are his house, if IF we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast."
Do you hear the warning? If we take our eye off the prize, if we focus on Moses or the angels or anything else for that matter, we lose our share in the heavenly calling (Heb 3:1). Those who turn from Christ -- as the Hebrew Christians were tempted to do -- lose their place and their calling. But those who fix their eyes on Jesus are His house. Meaning what? Meaning He is faithful to us; meaning He builds us up as His workmanship; meaning He makes us coheirs with Him.
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