Jesus, Moses, and You

Hebrews, Moses, Idolatry, temple

We live in a world where people are regularly ranked. We look for the student that has the highest grade point average, the most valuable player in sports, the most beautiful woman in the pageant, the best actor, director, etc. We select a song of the year. We rank people in terms of how they compare to others: the best President, the greatest villain or the employee of the month. We are all about rankings.

At the beginning of the book of Hebrews the author takes all of the highest ranking things, beings, and people and compares them to Jesus. He started the book by showing that the prophets spoke from God but now Jesus speaks to us in person. Next he showed that the angels are special beings who serve the Lord but Jesus IS the Lord. Angels are unique but only Jesus can bring salvation. In the weeks ahead we will look how Jesus compares to the High Priest, the Temple, and the sacrifices in the temple. This morning we look at Moses and compare him to Jesus.

And so, dear brothers and sisters who belong to God and are partners with those called to heaven, think carefully about this Jesus whom we declare to be God’s messenger and High Priest.

Thinking Carefully About Jesus

Before we get to Moses, our author gives us a general reminder. We are told to “think carefully about Jesus”. We are to stop what we are doing and pay attention. We must really study Him, think about Him and reflect on Him. That’s good advice. We are much too prone to declare our love for the Lord without really paying attention to who He is. It is like telling another person you love them without making any kind of commitment to them. That expression of love is nothing more than empty words.

When we really think about Jesus we see that He is God’s messenger. The actual Greek word is “apostle”. The apostles (the disciples of Jesus) were the most revered authority in the church. Our author reminds us that Jesus is the superior Apostle. He is the one who is “sent by God” to communicate the truth to us in the most effective and powerful way. Jesus said, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” In other words, if you want to know what God is like . . . look at Jesus! If we want to know what is right and what is wrong we should listen to the Lord! If you want to know who carries ultimate authority in the church, it is Jesus!

Second, we see He is our High Priest. The writer to the Hebrews is going to mention Jesus as High Priest many more times in this letter so we will just touch on it here. The High Priest was the highest religious authority for the Jews. He was a “bridge-builder”. He spoke to God for men and spoke to men for God. Jesus is the ultimate and the perfect High Priest. Jesus is the only One who can perform the role of bridge-builder to perfection.

Pastor John MacArthur has written,

Why do we need to keep considering Christ, when as Christians we are already in Him and identified with Him? Simply because all of us are far from fully discovering all of His glories, all of His beauties, all that He is. So the Spirit says to us, as to those early believers, “Gaze on Jesus. Keep gazing on Him and don’t look around at all the rituals and all the problems and all the persecutions. Keep considering Jesus. You don’t need anything else. He is sufficient for everything. Now that you have the supreme Reality, keep your attention on Him. [Mac. 76]

Jesus and Moses Compared

 For he was faithful to God, who appointed him, just as Moses served faithfully when he was entrusted with God’s entire house. But Jesus deserves far more glory than Moses, just as a person who builds a house deserves more praise than the house itself. For every house has a builder, but the one who built everything is God. Moses was certainly faithful in God’s house as a servant. His work was an illustration of the truths God would reveal later. But Christ, as the Son, is in charge of God’s entire house. And we are God’s house, if we keep our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ.

Why do we shift gears now to Moses? It’s because the most revered person in Jewish history was Moses. God protected him at his birth and personally buried him at death. Moses was known as a man who spoke to God face to face. Moses received the law from God. He was used by God to lead the Children of Israel to the Promised Land even in spite of his age and the enormity of the task. Moses was so close to God that he had to cover his face after meeting with God because the glory of God reflected from Moses’ face was too much for others to bear.

Moses was not only in the “Hall of Fame” of faith, there is a good chance that Hall was named after him! As a Jew, if you are ranking people, Moses was at the top right there at the top. Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with admiring Moses for his faithfulness. However, Moses is not the one who deserves our fullest allegiance.

Our author knows he must tread carefully here. He must show appreciation and respect for Moses while at the same time showing that no man . . . not even Moses should be revered in the way that Christ alone deserves. We as human being are prone to idolatry. We quickly find ourselves worshiping the created rather than the Creator and that is what the Holy Spirit is trying to correct.

As we look at the argument, two points of comparison between Moses and Jesus are made. First, though Moses was faithful in God’s house . . . the Son (Jesus) owns the house.

Suppose you lived in a mansion and employed people to serve in the house. Some of those employees would naturally be more trusted than others. Some might be trusted so much that you think of them as part of the family. As the owner of the house you never had to worry about things because your chief of staff was extremely competent. However, no matter how competent that person was; no matter how valued they were even as a part of your life; there is still a difference isn’t there? You own the house, they work in the house.

You can be a faithful ballplayer that plays for a team. You may even be called a franchise player or a “legend”. People may cheer for you but . . . you still work for the team, you do not own it. You could still be traded or be out of a job at any time.

So, even though Moses was a Hall of Famer in terms of his faith, he still worked for the Kingdom, He did not possess it. The Kingdom belongs to Jesus therefore Jesus is superior to Moses.

Babe Ruth was a great baseball player in his era, but he is not baseball. Likewise, Moses was a great prophet and man of God but he is not God. The Son (Jesus) is God.

Second, Moses was faithful in the work that he was called to do. Like one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, Moses helped set things up. However, even though Moses was faithful in the work God gave him to do, the Son is the One for whom we work.

The authority of Moses was a derived authority. He received his authority from the Lord. In other words, since Moses should be honored for His faithfulness as a “Founding Father” of the faith, how much more honor should be given to Jesus who is the Object and Fulfillment of our faith: Jesus?

God’s House . . . New Address

we are God’s house, if we keep our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ. (6b)

Jesus owns the house, Moses works in it. In this last part of our text there is one extra point being made. For the Jew, the house of God was the Temple. It was the place where God “lived” among the people (No one thought God was “confined” to the Temple but that this is where the people could go to meet with God.) It is kind of like the idea that “we go to church on Sunday morning”. When we say this we mean we are going to a place where we believe we can meet with God.

The Holy Spirit is reminding us that the house of God is no longer a place. It is not a building; it is people. The house of God is now lives in us. Our bodies, says Paul, are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Those who “keep their courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ are seen as God’s house.” In other words God now lives in His followers.

Two things to notice. First, the true house of God remain confident in the hope.  This hope is not in a leader, a system of teaching, a certain “brand” of belief, or even in our own ability to rise above the circumstances of life so we can overcome the world. Our hope is in the Lord.

People are going to disappoint us but Jesus never will! The true believer knows that they can trust Christ completely. He is faithful.

Second, those who are His temple are courageous and confident. N.T. Wright comments,

“Most first-century Jews, faced with the idea of ‘God’s house’, would think at once of the Temple. But Hebrews, again like Paul, and also like some other radical Jewish groups of the period, thought of the true ‘house’ not as a building of bricks and mortar but as a community of people.

The people who make up this house are described in verse 6 as a bold, confident family. There is no room here for the rather mealy-mouthed confession of faith one sometimes hears in the Western world (‘some of us feel drawn to follow Jesus’, implying that we might be wrong and that plenty of other people are just fine doing other things). Either you believe that God’s new world has come to birth in Jesus and is waiting for us, as a solid and definite hope – which means you can be bold in living and acting on that basis, and can make sure and confident claims about it. Or you haven’t really understood what Christianity is all about. This isn’t a recipe for arrogance, using the gospel as an excuse for the kind of pride which covers up our own insecurities. Rather, it’s a matter for cheerful celebration, knowing that the gospel and the hope it brings has nothing to do with our achievements, and everything to do with God’s love and grace”[1]

Courage and confidence should be the hallmark of the true believer. That doesn’t mean we will not have difficult times. It is common for followers to have periods of weakness and struggle. If we are true believers we hang on to Him in those difficult times. We look past our own inability and find our confidence and strength in His character, strength, and person. The person who is a true believer is learning to look at the Lord rather than the circumstances of life. They are learning to trust Him rather than our ability to work things out.

Those who are characterized by steadfast faith and courage can be sure that they are God’s temple. He is living in them.

Applying this to Life

So here is the question: What are we supposed to learn from all of this? How do we apply these truths about Moses to our own discipleship? Here are two suggestions.

First, we must beware of our tendency to worship personalities and programs rather than the Lord. We live in a day of celebrities. We have media, music, and sports celebrities. Even as believers, we have a host of Christian celebrities we can become devoted to: TV Preachers, Conference speakers, musical artists, authors . . . they can all become Christian celebrities. Like Moses, this doesn’t mean they aren’t good at what they do. And the fact that they are popular does not mean they are not faithful servants of the Lord.

The problem is not so much with the person who is prominent, it is how others respond to this person. It is good to respect and learn from faithful leaders. However, when respect turns to devotion; when we begin to be more concerned and give more authority to the teacher than the Word of God; we are heading into trouble.

Once again we are reminded that we are to keep the main thing, the main thing. In this case the main thing is to worship and be devoted to the Lord and Him only. To devote ourselves to someone other than the Lord is to exalt the servant of the house over the owner of the house! Even if it is a solid Christian teacher, such devotion is still idolatry!

Second, we are reminded that we need to be concerned about how we are living AS the church rather than merely when we are AT the church. To many people, living as a Christian is about going to church (when you don’t have any better things to do). It is about singing the right hymns, reading from the right version of the Bible, putting money in the offering plate, and taking communion on a regular basis.

We are reminded here that living as God’s temple is about living daily and boldly in the hope of Christ. It is about following Jesus in the things we do, the priorities we establish, the relationships we pursue, and in the way we handle the hardships of life. Living as the temple of God is not a punch list of religious behaviors; it is about lifestyle.

Paul said,

Give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let god transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)

So, how do we rise above the superficial faith that is so common in our day? It goes back to the beginning of this text, we must “think carefully about Jesus”. If He is who we say He is, God living among us, then we should live our lives with utmost devotion. If He really is the One who has given His life to save us, then we should be deeply moved to honor and serve Him with every breath that we take. If He really is the One who has conquered death, then we should live for Him, we should follow Him, and we should do so with enthusiasm and devotion.

We will give thanks and appreciate the teachers, musicians, and special people God brings into our lives, but we will continue to see them as fallible people just like we all are. We will remain truly devoted to only One: the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus took our approach to ranking everyone and turned it on its head! He said the one who wants to truly be great must take the form of a servant. In other words, the person who is great in God’s eyes is not the one with the long resume or even the biggest following. It is not the person who makes the most money or is most revered by the world. Here’s the principle: The person who is great in God’s eyes is not concerned with being great in God’s eyes! The focus is not on them . . . it is on the Lord!  They are trying to love and serve the Lord in any and every way they can.

Do a little personal inventory. Do you find yourself feeling smugly self-righteous because you believe you are doing pretty well? Compared to others, you may see yourself as an example of what a true believer looks like. You may want to think again. The only way to receive the blessing of God is to receive it with your hands wide open. And you can’t do that if you are trying to carry all your worldly trophies around!

Second, you may be on the other extreme. You may feel like a complete failure. You know you have made poor choices. You recognize that you live inconsistently. You feel there is no hope for you. However, the truth is that you are closer to the Kingdom of God than the self-righteous person. You know you need Him. Your hands are open. You are being honest. God loves to work with honest people.

I was stunned by this quote from Dr. John Gerstner. He said the thing that keeps most people from Christ is not their sin . . . it is their perception of their own goodness! When we see ourselves as good we conclude that we don’t really need Christ. We believe we can save ourselves! That only moves us farther away from Him.

The person who is aware of their weakness and their need is in a better position that the person who feels they are doing OK.

Maybe you don’t fit either of these categories. You know you need Christ in your life and you continue to grind it out day after day. Some days are better than others. To you I remind you to, “Keep your eyes on the prize!” In other words, remember that you are serving the King of the Universe. You are part of God’s family. He has prepared a place for you. You and I aren’t there yet . . . but we are getting closer to home every day. And frankly, that reality by itself will help us survive the madness that is called life.

[1] Excerpt From: N. T. Wright. “Hebrews for Everyone.” Westminster John Knox Press, 2004. iBooks.

 

Scripture:

Hebrews 3:1-6