Hebrews – Lesson 3
Who is the most faithful person you know? Who is it that always does what he says, always keeps his promises, and always is impeccably honest? Who is the person whose words can always be trusted?
If the Hebrew Christians were asked that question, the answer might be – MOSES! His record is outstanding. He is perhaps the most faithful human in their history. All through the Pentateuch we find the words, “The Lord spoke to Moses.” Every time God spoke, Moses wrote it down and carried it out precisely as God said. With the exception of one personal mistake for which he paid a price, he accurately and faithfully recorded the very words of God. His mistake was acknowledged and willingly paid for. As a result, all of the words and pictures and types and commands were presented accurately in the Law of Moses (which is the foundation for all of Scripture).
But now Jesus is being presented as greater or more faithful than Moses. How can that possibly be? Jesus’ superiority does not minimize the roles of prophets or angels or Moses or anyone with whom Jesus is compared as we move through Hebrews. All of God’s servants are vital in the full story of the redemption of man and the building of God’s Kingdom. It is a great honor to be a servant of God in helping to prepare for the savior. But Jesus has a unique role that supersedes all others.
Thus far we have examined the excellence and superiority of Jesus as the author builds his case for Christ. Only when we fully understand the superiority of Christ can we begin to fully trust him alone.
Chapter 1: As SON OF GOD, he is greater than the prophets – He has the complete and final word from the Father.
As SON OF GOD, he is greater than the angels. He is a ruler; angels are servants. He is the creator; they are created.
Chapter 2: As SON OF MAN, He became a little lower than angels to redeem man. Then, He was returned to the highest position in heaven at the right hand of God.
Chapter 2 ends by calling Jesus our faithful high priest.
DAY ONE: JESUS’ FAITHFULNESS PROMPTS EARNEST WARNINGS.
READ: Hebrews 3:1-6
A. JESUS IS REVERED AS MORE FAITHFUL THAN MOSES.
The word “therefore” always alerts us to go back and see what it is “there for.” What has just been said or what have we just learned at the end of chapter 2? Jesus is a faithful high priest. The fact that Jesus is called a high priest would likely have been difficult for the Hebrews to understand. Aaron and his descendants are the only people qualified to be priests (Read: Exodus 28:1-4). (The subject of Jesus’ qualification to be a priest will be picked up at the end of chapter 4.) Now the subject of Jesus’ faithfulness will be addressed.
In Hebrews 3:1, Jesus is called an apostle and high priest. We need to stop and consider two definitions:
- Apostle – an apostle is a “sent one” — someone who is sent out to represent God to Jesus was sent from heaven to represent God to man. Moses was also an apostle – sent to represent God to the nation of Israel. Both were faithful. Moses faithfully delivered the Law or Mosaic Covenant to the Hebrew people. Jesus faithfully delivered grace or the New Covenant to the people.
- Priest – A priest represents man to God. The priest acts on behalf of man in relation to God, offering up gifts and sacrifices for sin. Jesus is now our high priest, having offered up his own body as a permanent sacrifice and now offers up prayers on our behalf and represents believers to God. Moses could not serve in this office of priest.
Moses and Aaron together filled both offices. Moses was the national leader; Aaron was the spiritual leader. In the person of Jesus the two offices are united. He is both king and priest.
B. MOSES AND JESUS CHRIST ARE COMPARED.
- Verse 5 — Moses was faithful as a servant in God’s house. He spoke of the house to come. Moses’ faithful work was all a preparation. He could not build the house.
- Verse 6 — Jesus as the Son of God and Son of Man came and built the house by permanently reconciling man to God. He was the master builder of his own house.
We are the house – the true house or the true dwelling of God is his own people. Jesus made it possible for God to dwell in us. So, Jesus is greater than Moses, even though Moses was faithful and loyal to God as far as he could go in his limited role.
If our faith in Jesus is real, we will hold fast to our courage and hope (V. 6). Faithfulness is the same as trustworthiness. As we see the evidence of the trustworthiness of Jesus, our faith and trust will arise into joyful assurance that He will be with us through the hard times until the end, and we will be able to persevere. It is possible to remain steadfast, even in the most difficult of times.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION
- What do the following Scriptures say about Jesus’ faithfulness as God’s sent one?
- Matthew 3:17
- Matthew 17:5
- Luke 2:52
- II Corinthians 5:21
- Matthew 26:42
- John 19:30
- What is the final proof that Jesus faithfully accomplished his task on earth? (Hebrews 1:3)
- What does God say about Moses’ faithfulness? (Numbers 12:7)
- Why do you think it takes courage to follow Jesus in our day?
- How would you describe your hope?
It takes courage to be a Christian, but Jesus is faithful over His house. Hold on to this hope in the hard times. If the Hebrew Christians go back to what they perceive to be a safe place in Jerusalem and into the Old Covenant for a while, they will be captured or killed when Jerusalem is destroyed. Jesus has already revealed that this destruction is coming. His words can be trusted.
DAY TWO: A SECOND WARNING IS GIVEN.
READ: Hebrews 3:7-11
A. HEBREW BELIEVERS ARE REMINDED OF PAST MISTAKES.
Now we come to the second warning. Don’t harden your hearts against God’s word. God is faithful to speak. Both Moses and Jesus were faithful to give the very words of God to humanity. The wisdom of God (the ultimate truth of the universe) is available to us. But man often chooses to reject the words of God.
The children of Israel made this mistake. The author gives an illustration from the Old Testament Scriptures. The majority of the Israelites ignored the promise of God that he would bring them safely into His rest (the Promised Land). They failed to take into consideration that God had faithfully brought them to this point in time by a series of great miracles:
- They saw God’s miracles in Egypt during the ten plagues.
- They saw God’s miracles at the Red Sea as they left Egypt.
- They saw God’s miraculous provision of water in the desert.
- They saw the pillars of cloud and fire that guided and protected them.
Yet they reacted in unbelief when the new trials came. They hardened their hearts against God’s promise to give them this land. This reminds us of the way we often behave when we are faced with new challenges.
B. HARDENED HEARTS ARE A PRENNIAL PROBLEM OF MAN.
Someone has said – “The heart of every problem is a problem of the heart.” Do I really believe what God has said? Do I really believe that God is able to do what He promises? Trials and tests reveal our true heart condition.
It is our great privilege to have the creator of the universe speak to us. If we want the blessings that come from God’s words, the words have to enter our hearts and direct our lives. God’s words are a personal message to us. Why then, are hearts so often hardened? We can think of several reasons from personal experience:
- Listening to other voices in our culture draws us away from or drowns out the true voice. We may begin to think God’s Word is outdated or irrelevant in our time. We may begin to think that the voice of the majority in our culture trumps the voice of God.
- Becoming preoccupied with the world keeps us too busy to hear God’s voice that he has carefully preserved in Scripture. We fail to spend time in the Word.
- Developing a root of bitterness makes God’s words seem too hard. We resent any suffering that may come to us.
- Trials cause fear and often make us react in a wrong way. We depend on our own resources for survival. We begin to doubt that God’s words apply in our crisis.
We need stillness, concentration, and time to give heed to the words of God. We need to learn to meditate on God’s words until the light dawns and we see the depth and truth and beauty of what He says to us. Then we take His words and claim His promises and wait for His creative solutions.
Part of verse 7 is a quote from Psalm 95. This passage attributes these words to the Holy Spirit. All of our Scriptures are God’s words. The same Spirit who spoke to the Israelites in the desert and to first century believers still speaks to us today. How special is that? The author emphasizes that we can learn from the mistakes of our forefathers. TODAY is a new beginning – don’t repeat the mistakes that caused dire consequences in the lives of God’s people in former days.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION
- What are the reasons for God’s displeasure with the Israelites in Hebrews 3: 8-11?
- What was the judgment of God that resulted from their rebellion?
- What is one mistake that you have seen repeated in your life or in the life of someone in your family?
- How can you protect yourself against making the same mistakes over and over?
DAYS THREE & FOUR: HEBREW BELIEVERS FACE A SERIOUS CHOICE.
READ: Hebrews 3:11-15
A. JESUS OFFERS HIS REST.
What is the REST of God that is mentioned in verse 11? This word is used in several ways in scripture.
- Rest from creation – Genesis 2 speaks of God resting on the 7th day from His work of creation.
- Sabbath rest – God proscribed a physical rest for His people – rest from everyday labor on the seventh day. This modeled God’s pattern in creation and was a constant reminder of the one true God.
- Canaan rest – This term is used of entering the Promised Land –a rest from wandering as God defeats their enemies.
- Rest of salvation – This describes our peace with God as we enter into belief and rest from the works of the Law. (Hebrews 4:9-10)
- Rest of faith – This describes spiritual maturity when we place ourselves in the will of God – believing and obeying His word and trusting God to provide. This puts us in the place where God can bless us, fulfill his promises to us and use us.
Mature believers have a peace that passes understanding because they have faith in a living God who has all power and who can be trusted to help them. They rest in this belief in times of great testing.
We see the comparison the author is making for the Hebrew Believers of his day:
- The Israelites spent 40 years trying to learn to trust in God.
- The Hebrew believers have had about 40 years since the resurrection to learn to trust.
- Many of the Israelites failed to enter the Promised Land because of unbelief. They died in the desert.
- The Hebrew Christians are in danger of making the same mistake. If they go back to the old system, many will die in Jerusalem in A.D.70.
B. All BELIEVERS FACE REAL TESTS.
The thought of entering God’s rest and living in perfect peace is a beautiful picture. But what about the hard times? Psalm 60:3 says, “You have shown your people desperate times; you have given us wine that makes us stagger.” Hard things disturb our rest and peace.
FROM STREAMS IN THE DESERT:
I have always been glad that the Psalmist said to God that some things were hard. There is no mistake about it; there are hard things in life. Some Beautiful pink flowers were given to me this summer, and as I took them I said, “What are these?” And the answer came, “They are rock flowers; they grow and bloom only on rocks where you can see no soil.” Then I thought of God’s flowers growing in hard places; and I feel, somehow, that He may have a peculiar tenderness for His “rock flowers” that He may not have for His lilies and roses – Margaret Bottoms.
The tests of life are to make, not break us. Trouble may demolish a man’s business but build up his character. The blow at the outward man may be the greatest blessing to the inner man. If God, then, puts or permits anything hard in our lives, be sure that the real peril, the real trouble, is what we shall lose if we flinch or rebel – Maltbie D. Babcock.1
C. ALL BELIEVERS HAVE REAL HELP.
What shall we do when the hard things hammer at us? The talk of REST in Hebrews follows the announcement that we have a high priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses and temptations. He is able to help in time of need. There are also ministering angels and comfort in the word of God. We are not left without help!
But something else is mentioned. We have each other. We must encourage each other daily (verse12). Backsliding could be compared to sledding down a mountain. Once we get started, we quickly lose the ability to stop. When we turn our backs on God, our hearts quickly become hardened and sinful and evil. We need to stop it before it is too late – daily encourage each other.
Unbelief is not presented as a weakness but as a sin.
D. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION
- How does a person enter God’s rest? (Hebrews 4:2)
- How do we guard against falling away? (Hebrews 2:1, 3:1)
- Who in your “circle” needs encouragement right now?
- How is God’s peace modeled in your life?
- In your devotional life, how do you insure that your reading doesn’t become mechanical or only intellectual?
Read: Hebrews 3:15
How do you emphasize something you consider to be very important?
- You might bold it on your word processor.
- You might put it in all CAPS or underline
- With your children you might tell them several times.
The last option is what God did for His children. This verse is placed in scripture three times. We had better PAY ATTENTION! It is a matter of life and death.
- Don’t turn a deaf ear to God when the times are terrible.
- Listen with all your heart to the plan and promises of the living God.
- He is faithful to speak what we need to hear.
There are at least three reasons for the Hebrew believers to listen:
- This is the way of salvation.
- This way is far superior. They can enjoy the fullness of the living Christ, not dead sacrifices. Jesus is sitting at the right hand of God as our Priest with all power.
- The old religious system will soon be destroyed. The temple with all of the sacrifices will soon be wiped out.
DAY FIVE: AUTHOR REPEATS SOURCE OF PROBLEM.
READ: Hebrews 3:16-19
A. GOD PROVIDED AMAZING EVIDENCE.
There is a sad reality in the pages of scripture (and in the pages of life) – very few people finish well. All throughout Scripture God has given clear and wise instruction for right living. He has given proper guidance as we travel through His road. We start out full of zeal and good intentions but often we fall victim to pressures of the world.
B. GOD HAS DEMONSTRATED AMAZING POWER.
God’s miraculous works in the Scriptures are stunning. We love to tell the amazing stories in our Sunday School classes. God has demonstrated absolute power over the Universe He has created. Nothing is impossible with God.
C. MAN HAS A PATTERN OF FAILURE.
We need to examine the reason for failure. Are we hard wired for failure or is there some other reason that may be preventable?
- Verse 16 – The people who heard and rebelled were the Israelite slaves Moses led out of Egypt. They saw the plagues in Egypt. They saw the prophecies fulfilled and the miracles in the desert and at the Red Sea. They saw the pillars of fire and cloud every day.
- Verse 17 – These same people rebelled and refused to enter the Promised Land. They did not believe God could defeat the “giants” in Canaan. They wandered for 40 years and then died in the desert. Their faith gave way to fear. God swore they would not enter His rest. If we can’t trust God, He cannot trust us to work His best in our lives.
- Verse 19 – The problem is not God’s lack of power or lack of evidence or lack of love or His setting us up to fail. The problem is unbelief.
When we don’t really believe the words of life that God has spoken and when we don’t really trust the power of God, we will never realize the best God has planned for us. He is anxious to fulfill His promises and bless us. He will do for us what we cannot do for ourselves — when we believe His words and remain in His will.
D. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION
- What did Paul say about finishing well? (I Corinthians 9:24)
- What did John say about fear? (I John 4:18)
- Who is the author of irrational fear? (II Timothy 1:7)
- What kind of fear is healthy? (Proverbs 1:7)
- When have you let fear control your actions?
- What can you do to be sure you will finish well?
Chapter 3 started with a discussion about the faithfulness of Jesus and Moses. The chapter ends with a warning about unfaithfulness in believers. God’s message was given out faithfully by both men. There was a failure on the part of the hearers to listen with their hearts and truly believe and thus their faith had failed to mature.
PRINCIPLE FOR THE WEEK:
Unbelief takes us away from the place of God’s greatest blessing.
Make a plan for growth that steadily builds a faith that will stand when “giants” loom large.
- Cowan, Mrs. Charles E.: Streams in the desert. Volume 1 ( Zondervan Publishing House , Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1965) pp. 336-337
About the author
LaWanda Neel is a lifelong Bible student. She has served as a Teaching Leader for Bible Study Fellowship and has conducted studies for neighborhood and church groups. She is now retired and lives with her husband in Lakewood, Colorado. She spends time reading, studying, teaching, writing, traveling all around the world and entertaining her five grandchildren. This is her third Weekly Word series for Thrive Ministries. Contact her for questions or comments at [email protected]View all articles by: LaWanda Neel
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