THE BACKWARD GLANCE IN THE TEXT (vs. 1)
In the first two Chapters of this letter the writer had laid down the solid basis for the entire argument and for all the exhortations which follow in this letter. He had pointed out the greatness of the Son of God, his exaltedness over all creatures in heaven and on earth through the suffering of death. He is appointed of God as the one who will destroy him who had the grip of death upon all the sons, the brethren who must be led to glory. He is made like unto us in all things, sin excepted. We see him stand before us in the Gospel as the merciful and faithful high priest.
There is abundant reason why we should take a good look of faith and consider this high priest â”€as he is presented to us in the Old Testament Scriptures. Did not Moses, the Prophets and all the Psalms speak of him; did they not all speak of the sufferings to come upon him and the glory to follow? Must not the Christ suffer all these things and thus enter into his glory. Must not the Son of man be lifted up on the Cross and thus be lifted up on high at God’s right hand? (I Peter 1:1-12: Luke 24:26-27Luke 24:46; John 3:14) If Christ the anointed of God is so great, if the historical Jesus is so central and all-important, then surely we ought to give good heed and consider him a bit more in depth as portrayed and revealed to us in the Scriptures.
Besides, the Hebrew believers are not sharers (metochoi) of some earthly benefits, an earthly land and privileges, but they are in a common possession of some heavenly calling, a heavenly hope which is extended into the world to come. And this world to come is not some mere “world tomorrow,” an earthly Utopia of peace on earth, but means that by means of the efficacious calling by the Holy Spirit we are now already come to the heavenly mount Zion, the city of the living God! (Hebrews 11:12-16; Hebrews 12:18-24) The status of the church, whether in the Old Testament in hope or in the New Testament in the risen, exalted and glorified Lord Jesus, is ever that we share in things heavenly. (Ephesians 2:6-10)
Since such is our status as believers in Christ Jesus our Lord we do well, and we are in good spiritual decorum and taste when we give an accurate and believing consideration to Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our profession!
JESUS, APOSTLE AND HIGH PRIEST OF OUR PROFESSION (vs. 1, 2)
The writer is here speaking of the historical “Jesus.” He refers most emphatically to the one of whom Peter says on the day of Pentecost “a man approved among you of God by signs and wonders.” (Acts 2:22) Yes, God performed these wonders through him. Such was the testimony of a Nicodemus when he said “Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God; for no man can do these miracles (signs) that thou doest except God be with him.” (John 3:2; compare Hebrews 2:3;John 14:10)
There is some question as to the correct reading of the Greek text here. In some readings the name “Christ” is omitted. It really makes no essential difference whether it be retained or not. The main emphasis seems to fall on the name “Jesus.” That he is the Christ is, of course, implied already in his being High Priest and that he is the Sent One, the Apostle of our profession. At any rate it ought not to escape our attention that the name “Jesus” is very often employed here by the writer to the Hebrews. Already in Chapter 2:9 we read “but we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels crowned with glory and honor for the suffering of death.” Is he not a brother amidst the brethren? (Hebrews 2:11-14) Is it not Jesus, the Son of God, who has passed through the heavens? (Hebrews 4:14) And did not the forerunner of our faith enter into the holy place as Jesus, who saves his people from their sins? (Hebrews 6:20) Was not Jesus made the surety of a better covenant? (Hebrews 7:22) And do we not have boldness to enter into the heavenly holy place by the blood of Jesus? (Hebrews 10:19) And is Jesus not the Author and finisher of our faith? (Hebrews 12:2) And is Jesus not the Mediator of the New Testament in his blood? (Hebrews 12:24) And, finally, did Jesus not sanctify the people through his own blood, while he suffered without the gate? (Hebrews 13:12)
Surely there was abundant reason to underscore the name of Jesus, the historical Christ, who was made like unto us in all things, sin excepted. The question is exactly, who is this Jesus? How does he stand and rate in glory compared with the greatest in the Old Testament amongst the servants of God? Hence, the writer proceeds to examine the greatness of this Jesus by comparing him with what God says of Moses’ greatness in the Old Testament Scriptures. Surely both Jesus and Moses had a direct testimony from God, and that repeatedly. For were not these Hebrews in danger of forgetting that if they would choose Moses instead of the historical Jesus, they would also deny Moses’ meaning and exaltedness in the economy of salvation? It is here no question of either/or, Moses or Jesus; it is emphatically a question of adhering to both, but each in his God-ordained place and rank. We must have both Moses and Jesus. Does not Christ say to the Jews of his day “for if ye had believed Moses, ye would have believed me.” emphatic “emoi” = me, in Greek text for he wrote concerning me.” (emphatic “emou” = me, in the Greek text) No, Moses did not simply write a few references to Christ, but the entire Moses, the Pentateuch Scriptures, have one subject: Jesus, who will save his people from their sins. (John 5:45-47)
For the law was given by Moses but grace and truth are (became a reality) through Jesus Christ! (John 1:17) And this Jesus is the Only Begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, and he it is that has declared (exegeted) God to us in the fulness of grace and truth! (John 1:18)
This Jesus is “the Apostle and High Priest of our profession.” The writer places himself on the same solid and hallowed ground with the readers. Both he and the readers have an avowed participation in this Jesus; both have this in a common profession. For the term “profession” here does not merely refer to the content and substance of our confession. It is more than a mere formulation of faith in the back of some church Psalter, upon which the dust of dead orthodoxy can gather, yea, often does! The KJV “profession” refers to the actual profession, the actual confession of Jesus as Lord. No one can say: Lord, JESUS, except through the Holy Ghost. As partakers of the heavenly calling, that is exactly what we confess: Jesus, my Lord! (I Corinthians 12:3) And this is the point of departure of the writer. If this be not true then are they reprobate. (II Corinthians 13:5)
The writer conceives of the “Apostle” and “High Priest” as being one and the same Jesus, as is evident from the use of the one article “the.” There is a difference between these two. That the writer speaks of Jesus here as “the Apostle” is to indicate that Jesus is the one sent from the Father into the world. (John 3:17, John 3:34; John 5:38; John 6:29 etc) He did not take this honor to himself. He is the Servant of Jehovah. It must be borne in mind that Jesus was sent emphatically of the Father to be the High Priest, to be the Builder of the church and to found her upon Himself as the Chief Corner-stone! Here he came into this world, he came into the very theatre where Moses had stood, so that they have become comparable. Their relative greatness can be compared.
It is from this vantage-point that the writer proceeds to make this comparison for those who are partakers of the heavenly calling, which reveals itself in their profession concerning this Jesus. We must take a good look at Jesus, we must consider this Jesus very carefully. No, we must not stare at Moses till we are blind for Christ’s presence and greatness. On the contrary, we must look at this Jesus as he stands in the house and temple of God, in the church in the midst of the brethren. Both Jesus and Moses are placed here, but each in their own order. Here we have a comparison made between the greatest among the Old Testament saints and servants of God and the very Son of God called Jesus! No, this is not a comparison between Aaron and Christ, between two orders of the priesthood, but between the Mediator, Jesus, and the Law-giver, Moses!
THE SPECIFIC CONSIDERATION: JESUS AND MOSES (vs. 3-6)
In the first place it ought to be observed that they are compared as to their faithfulness in their respective offices. Moses was faithful in all “his house.” We have here a reference in the text to Numbers 12:7 where we read “My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house.” That the writer to the Hebrews speaks of “his house” does not essentially alter the sense of the passage. The same house is meant. It is the church in the wilderness, gathered about the tent of meeting. The viewpoint is different. In Numbers 12:7 the Lord Himself is speaking of Moses to Miriam and Aaron, while here the writer is speaking of the Lord and changes the first person into the third person. In either case it refers to God!
It ought to be noticed that we have here a passage in which Moses is designated by the LORD Himself as being superior to Aaron. Now the priesthood would not come from Moses, but from Aaron. However, only Moses might enter upon the Mount of God to speak with God face to face. The Lord counts Paul worthy and faithful to preach to the Gentiles, and the Lord counts Moses faithful in all his house by virtue of having appointed him as the Law-giver. It was Moses who saw the pattern of the things heavenly and who descended the mount, all on fire, with the fiery and holy oracles. He might see the similitude of God, be it then from the cleft of the rock. (Exodus 24:15-18; Exodus 33:20-23;Exodus 34:29-35) And the glory of Moses’ face was even too much for Aaron to behold. It was indeed glorious but really had no glory because of the glory which excelleth in Jesus. (II Corinthians 3:8-18)
To such a glorious Moses, who is counted faithful by God, in all his house, is the Christ compared. Now let us notice this Moses in all his glory as a servant. He was no mere servant in the common sense of the term. He is no mere doulos, a slave, but he is a Therapoon, a helper, an attendant.(1) The emphasis does not fall upon his permanent social status, but rather upon his voluntary and free service. His work is emphasized and not his lowly station. And great was this work. However, even in this greatness it was limited to one who can be of service in a house that is already built, or which would be permanently and gloriously built by another according to the pattern shown on the mount. (Hebrews 8:5; Exodus 25:40; Exodus 26:30)
(1) “Here only in the N.T.: Hoos Therapoon. Thus in Septuagint in Deut. 12:7, Josh. 1:2; Josh 8:31, Joshua 8:33. The same person may be described by both doluos and therapoon under different aspects”. Compare Westcott “The Epistle To The Hebrews” page 77.