The Book of Hebrews

THE SPECIFIC CONSIDERATION: JESUS AND MOSES (vs. 3-6 continued)

Yes, Moses is indeed glorious as a servant. We have the expressed testimony of Scripture that God spake with Moses face to face. Thus did God speak upon more than one occasion during the forty years of wandering of Israel in the desert, particularly at Horeb, when God places the lively oracles in Moses’ hands. Here Moses is so near to God that God spake with him as with a friend. And, to exhibit this great­ness of Moses to all the people, God came and talked with Moses in the door of the tabernacle when Israel had sinned by contriving a golden calf. Thus we read “And it came to pass, as Moses entered into the taber­nacle, the cloudy pillar descended, and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the Lord talked with Moses. And all the people saw the cloudy pillar stand at the taber­nacle door: and all the people rose up and worshipped, every man in his tent door. And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as man speaketh unto his friend….” (Exodus 33:9-11) It was only with Moses that the Lord communed from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims, which are upon the ark of the testimony. And as representative of the LORD of the mercy seat Moses could give commandment unto the children of Israel. (Exodus 25:21-22)

Such glory had been accorded to none other among the children of men. However, the very place of Moses was such that the oracles of God which he brought to the people were connected with the mercy seat, and with the blood of sprinkling. Moses was still a servant. The glory upon Moses’ face was indeed great. It was, however, reflected glory. It was the glory of Jehovah God, which would be revealed in the reality of grace and truth in Jesus Christ. This is perfectly clear from II Corinthians 3:7-18. Moses’ face shines with the same glory of grace of Christ, by which (glory) we are changed by the Spirit of the Lord from glory unto glory, made after the image of God. Moses’ glory is therefore inferior! And this is one point which the Hebrew Christians must clearly see and consider! Then they will also see Moses in the true light, since Moses has meaning only in relationship to Jesus, who alone will save His people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21)

It is exactly in that Jesus saves his people from their sins as the Apostle and High Priest of our pro­fession, that He excels in glory over Moses. Moses was merely the law giver. However, he did not give a Law which could make alive. It could therefore, as law, only work death; it could only be the power of sin. (Galatians 3:21; Romans 7:7-11; I Corinthians 15:56b) Such a servant, a Therapoon, was Moses in God’s house. But not so Jesus! He is a builder of the house! The builder has greater honor than the house which he builds. The house is his workmanship. Thus also is Christ the builder of Moses! For Christ has greater honor than Moses, as a builder has than the building. This we get: Moses-building and Jesus-builder! For Moses is indeed part of the building which Christ builds! Indeed, Jesus is greater in glory in the temple than is Moses. God spake face to face with Moses in the temple before all the people, but God speaks in Jesus Himself, in such a way that this Jesus is Jehovah, God Himself, speaking to Israel. He spake as one having authority, the very Son of God.

Yes, both Moses and Jesus were faithful. But they are really standing on two different levels of honor. Moses could only speak of the things which were to come. Writes the text here “for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later.” Moses could only be faithful in the types and shadows. The reality would come later. Then they would be spoken clearly and it would be heralded: the kingdom of heaven is come! In the divine arrangement of salvation Moses stands on the level of servant, while Jesus stands on the higher level of being a Son! Thus Jesus stands on the level with God as builder and architect. For the writer tells us that every house is built of someone. But God is the builder of all. And such is Christ: builder of all. (Hebrews 1:3) He is indeed equal with God. (John 5:17-31)

Well may we then take heed to this apostle and high priest of our profession. As we enter into the temple of God we see Jesus standing in all His greatness and overshadowing glory. He is the Son who outshines the servant, Moses. Yea, He alone gives meaning to Moses!

THE TRUE HOUSE OF GOD: WE THE BELIEVERS. (vs. 6)

And, pray, what is this house of God? It is very interesting and profitable to notice the teaching of the Bible concerning the concept “house of God.” It is really the place where God makes his abode; where he has come to dwell; where He has realized His covenant mercies. Of course, these mercies are the benefits of the Mercy seat in the holiest of all. Jacob speaks of the “house of God” at Bethel. Writes Moses of Jacob in Genesis 28:16 “And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not. And he was afraid and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven…. And he called the name of that place Bethel.”

According to all the Old Testament Scriptures the house of God is ever associated with the tabernacle of the congregation. Moreover, the tabernacle needed two parts, two inhabitants. They are God and His people. Really it was: God dwelling with His people. It meant that the tabernacle symbolized exactly that truth: God with us! This is expressed especially in the name Immanuel. Now Moses could never be this Immanuel. He could only point toward this Immanuel. But Jesus is this Immanuel, born from a virgin. (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23) This means that the house of God was really never the tabernacle itself. Bethel is before Sinai’s awful glory. Bethel, too, was dreadful in the dream of Jacob. It was the gateway of heaven! It was that which we have in the new and living way through the blood of sprinkling in Jesus.

The writer to the Hebrews therefore teaches ac­cording to the O.T. Scriptures when he writes “and this house are we!” We the believers, the sons of whom the Son is not ashamed are this house of God. God dwelling with His people. The tabernacle of God with man! (Revelation 21:3) This is what John sees in the vision on the isle of Patmos, when he says “Be­hold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”

Here is the fulfillment of Jacob’s dream!

Centrally this was fulfilled in Christ’s ascension and in His outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Now Paul can write the heart-searching question: Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? And we also see the full implication of this word: If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple are ye! (I Corinthians 3:16, 17)

For the Lord does not dwell in temples made with hands. Does he not say: Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool? Where is the house that ye shall build me? And where is the place of my rest? Not in temples made with hands! But the answer is: but to this man will I look, even he that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word. (Isaiah 66:1, 2)

Let us then give heed to this word, and taste the infallible fruit of elective grace in our hearts, to wit, that we are the house of God.

THE INFALLIBLE EARMARK OF BEING GOD’S HOUSE (vs. 6b)

Yes, that too is a very important point to consider. The writer to the Hebrews touches upon this matter too in our text under consideration. It is a question which is really one of the certainty of faith. The ques­tion is: how do I know that my faith is real and genuine!

The answer given here in the text might sound rather Arminian. For the writer says “if we hold fast the confidence and rejoicing of hope firm to the end.” The Arminian says here “….and that Jesus Christ assists them through his Spirit in all temptations, extends to them his hand, and if only they are ready for the conflict, and desire his help, and are not in­active, keeps them from falling, so that they, by no craft of power of Satan, can be misled or plucked out of Christ’s hands….” The being house of God is contingent upon the holding fast to the confidence! However, that is not the teaching here. The condi­tional sentence here expresses: objective possibility. There is implied here a threat and admonition against falling away from the faith. However, here is not teaching concerning salvation being dependent upon our perseverance. Rather our perseverance is proof and guarantee that our faith is real, and that we are engrafted into Christ, and that our life is, indeed, hid with Christ in God. Our holding fast and rejoicing in hope is evidence of the unrepentant grace and mercy of God to us, and is a sure earmark that we are sons of God, the house of God.

Meanwhile more must be said. Often he who says too little says too much. We must not forget the truth that God works grace through admonitions. It is, indeed, understood that God works in us both to will and to do according to His good pleasure. But what is often not underscored is the manner in which God does this. The Medas Gratia which He employs are often not pointed out. That is in itself not so serious. However, what is serious is that these admonitions would not be preached in the church in their proper place and context. That is tempting God in the church by separ­ating what He in his wisdom has most intimately joined together, viz., means and the saving fruit wrought thereby. Thus we read literally in the Canons of Dort “Wherefore as the apostles, and teachers who succeeded them, piously instructed the people concern­ing the grace of God, to his glory, and the abasement of all pride, and in the meantime, however, neglected not to keep them by the sacred precepts of the gospel in the exercise of the Word, Sacraments and discip­line, so even to this day be it far from either instruc­tors or instructed to presume to tempt God in the church by separating what he of his good pleasure hath most intimately joined together. For grace is conferred by means of admonitions; and the more readily we perform our duty, the more eminent usually is this blessing of God working in us, and the more directly is his work advanced; to whom alone all the glory both of the means, and the saving efficacy is forever due.” Canons of Dort, III, IV, 17

When we keep this in mind we will also be able to see that only those who continue in the faith are the house of God, without jeopardizing the need of the admonitions, that we continue to walk in the faith. For should we do this we will make it impossible for ourselves to interpret the many admonitions, warnings and threatenings with which the letter to the Hebrews is interspersed.

Hence: earmark and warning in one conditional sentence which expresses objective possibility, that is, from the viewpoint of the writer to the Hebrews!