Drop Down MenusCSS Drop Down MenuPure CSS Dropdown Menu

10 September 2019

The Word of the Son Surpasses Moses

Jesus Teaches
The epistle to the Hebrews is a “word of exhortation” to a Christian congregation facing pressure from pagan neighbors (Hebrews 2:1510:32-3412:413:22), consequently, some members are considering withdrawal from the assembly. Certain remarks suggest this congregation includes many Jewish Christians. If so, some likely are contemplating a return to the synagogue to escape persecution (2:1610:25).
The focus of Hebrews is pastoral not theological.  Its goal is to prevent members from apostatizing.  It urges them to faithfulness rather than relapse to non-Christian Judaism or other means of escape (Hebrews 2:1-33:612-144:111-136:1-1210:26-3110:35-3912:3-1713:9). Perseverance is the only proper response to persecution (Hebrews 12:22-29). The Author warns repeatedly of the dire consequences of faithlessness to Jesus (Hebrews 2:1-43:12-134:14:116:4-810:26-3012:25).
The Author employs a series of comparisons to demonstrate the superiority of one thing over another.  They highlight the superiority of the Son, his word, ministry, priesthood and sacrifice to their counterparts under the Mosaic legislation.
This includes his superiority to angels (Hebrews 1:5-14), Moses (3:1-6) and Aaron (5:1-10); the supremacy of Christ’s priesthood over the Levitical system (7:1-25), his “better” sacrifice over the repeated animal sacrifices of the Tabernacle (7:279:26), the New Covenant over the Old (8:4-10:18), and the New Zion, “Jerusalem which is above,” over Mount Sinai in the desert (12:18-29). 
The purpose is not to disparage God’s past revelation but to show HOW MUCH MORE the glory of the new one is compared to it. The Author intersperses dire warnings about failure to heed the Son between his several comparisons.
The paragraph recorded in Hebrews 3:1-6 emphasizes how the Divine Word spoken in the Son surpasses that given by Moses.
The opening paragraph presents the Author’s main proposition:  The word of God spoken in His Son is final and complete, surpassing even the revelation given to Israel.  In the past God spoke by means of the prophets “in many parts and in many ways.” The earlier “word” was true but incomplete and preparatory. 
God’s Son, after achieving purification of sins, sat down at His right hand having become superior to angels by inheriting a more excellent name; namely, “Son.” At no time did God ever call an angel “My Son.” The introduction of the Son’s more distinguished name prepares for the first comparison:  the Son to the angels.
The first contrast begins, “for to which of the angels said he at any time, ‘you are My Son, I, this day have begotten you?’ And again, ‘I will become his father and he shall become my Son?’” Angels are mighty and glorious beings in their own right, God’s “ministers of state” (verse 7) who “render divine service” (verse 14). Yet God commanded the angels “to pay homage” to His Son (verse 6).
It is the Son who has been appointed ruler of an everlasting kingdom (verses 8-9), not angels; God declared to the Son, “sit at my right hand until I make your foes your footstool” (verses 13. cpPsalm 110:1). Throughout the paragraph the implied answer to the rhetorical question, “to which of the angels said he at any time you are my Son,” is clearly none.
The demonstration of the Son’s superiority leads directly into the letter’s first warning (Hebrews 2:1-4). Two key themes are presented: the need to “heed” the Word spoken in the Son and the dire consequences of failure to do so.  Both themes are reiterated throughout the epistle (Hebrews 4:1-116:4-810:26-3112:25-26).
The paragraph begins, “for this cause.” This connects it to the preceding discussion about the superiority of the Son to angels.  Because of the surpassing excellence of the Son’s word believers must hold fast to it lest they drift away.
The word spoken through angels.” The reason the letter’s first comparison is to angels stems from the Jewish tradition that the Law or Torah was given to Moses by angels (Deuteronomy 33:2Acts 7:53Galatians 3:19).  This does not disparage angels, Moses or the Law. Angels also are glorious ministers of God and Moses was His honored servant.
The Law or Torah given at Sinai through angels was also the word of God.  Regardless of the use of angelic intermediaries, the word “spoken through angels became firm and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense.”  Since terrible retribution fell on all who failed to heed the partial but word through angels, how shall Christians escape far greater punishment if they abandon the vastly superior Word spoken in the Son?
With the onset of the “last days” (1:2 – “upon these last days”) and the arrival of God’s final revelatory Word, returning even to the earlier but partial Word is not an option.
The next section begins with a proposition:  God has not subjected the coming habitable world to angels but to man.  Though the Son is now highly exalted, the Author presents him as one who is fully human and previously participated in all the frailties of man’s mortality. 
This Son endured unjust suffering, just as the recipients of the epistle now face; though God’s consummated Kingdom lies in the future, suffering Christians in the interim see Jesus, who “was made some little less than angels, by reason of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God he might taste death in behalf of every one.”
Jesus now rules from God’s side, but his exaltation was the result of his enduring suffering and humiliation.  Abasement was the necessary prelude to glory and by it Jesus demonstrated his solidarity with humanity. In order to “bring many sons to glory,” Jesus was “made complete through sufferings.”  This points to his death as necessary so that “he might paralyze the one who held the dominion of death, the Devil, and thereby release as many as by fear of death were all their lifetime liable to bondage.” 
In achieving salvation for humanity, Jesus did not “lay hold of angels” but of human beings (verse 16). To fulfill his mission, it was necessary for Jesus “to be made like the brethren in every way.” Because the Son fully embraced the plight of mankind, he is now able “to give succor to those who are being tested.” In this context, “tested” has in view not temptation to commit sin but undergoing suffering and persecution.
The Author lays out two more themes worked out in subsequent sections:  first, Jesus our “pioneer” who blazed our trail (Hebrews 2:1012:2) and, second, Christ our “faithful high priest” who evermore intercedes for us (e.g., Hebrews 2:173:1, 4:15-16).  The motif of Jesus as “high priest” becomes dominant in chapters 5-7.
(Hebrews 3:1-6) - “Wherefore, holy brethren, partners in a heavenly calling, attentively consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Jesus, as one faithful to him who made him: as Moses also in all his house. For of more glory than Moses has this one been counted worthy, by as much as more honor than the house has he that prepared it. For every house is prepared by someone, yet God prepared all things. Even Moses, indeed, was faithful in all his house as an attendant, for testimony of the things which would be spoken; but Christ as a Son over his house, whose house are we if the confidence and boast of the hope we hold fast throughout firm.”
The Author now compares Jesus to Moses, demonstrating the superiority of the former to the latter. Implicit is the Son’s superiority to the Mosaic legislation.
The comparison to Moses is appropriate.  In the opening paragraph the Author compared the Word spoken in the Son to the earlier revelation through the prophets. Although Moses was the chief representative of the prophets, he was also more honored than the others; God spoke to him face to face, not through visions and riddles (Numbers 12:8). The greater rank of Moses serves to emphasize just how vastly superior the Son is to all that went before him.
As our “apostle,” Jesus is the one sent from God to deliver His final revelatory Word.  As our “high Priest” Christ represents us to His Father and makes intercession on our behalf.
The description of Jesus as “one faithful” with the reference to Moses as “also in all his house” is an allusion to Numbers 12:7 from the ancient Greek version of the Old Testament, the Septuagint (“My servant Moses is not so; he is faithful in all my house”).
Moses was the only one in Israel to whom Yahweh spoke “mouth to mouth,” not via intermediaries.  Hence, initially Jesus is set on a par with Moses, arguably the most pivotal and honored figure in Israel’s history. God also spoke face to face to the Son.
In Jewish tradition, Numbers 12:7 demonstrated that Moses received greater honor and rank than angels.  Since Hebrews 1:6-14 presents the Son as superior to the angels, and since 2:1-4 warns that disobedience to the Word spoken by the Son requires a far greater degree of punishment, it is natural to prove next the superiority of the Son over Moses, the great Lawgiver.
The key words “faithful,” “priest” and “house” allude to a prophecy from 1 Samuel 2:35 where God promised to one day “raise me up a faithful priest; according to that which is in my heart and in my soul will he do. Therefore, will I build for him an assured house.” Jesus is now presented as that promised “faithful priest” set over God’s “house” (cp. Hebrews 10:1-14).
But there is a difference.  Jesus has been found worthy of far more honor than Moses just as the one who prepares a house is worthy of more honor than the house.  Jesus is closely associated with the builder or God. Christ has been set over God’s house, whereas Moses was a servant in it.
The Greek verb kataskeuazō in verse 3 more correctly reads “prepared” rather than “builder” (translated “builder” in the King JamesNew American and New International versions). This term was used for supplying vessels and furnishings to prepare a household for habitation. The description is not of Jesus as the builder and architect, but the one who prepares and completes God’s household.
In verse 5, Moses is said to have been an “attendant” in God’s house “for testimony” of the word that “would be spoken.”  The Greek clause uses a future tense participle in the passive voice that is difficult to translate word-for-word into English, but the intended sense is clear.  As God’s faithful attendant Moses served as witness or testimony to the word that would come later.  Put another way, this is another picture of the preparatory function of the Old Covenant revelation, including the Law issued at Sinai.  It was penultimate not ultimate.
In this paragraph “house” refers not to God’s Tabernacle or Temple but, metaphorically, to the living community of God’s people, the church.  Jesus is “over His house whose house are we” (verse 6). Believers “are” (present tense) his household as long as they hold fast their “confidence and boast of hope.”  Repeated is a key warning of the book (2:1-4):  the necessity to hold firmly to our confession and persevere to the end.
Nowhere in this paragraph does the Author denigrate Moses. He takes a view based on Salvation History, the historical progress of God’s Redemptive plan. As great as he was, Moses was part of an era now in the past and eclipsed by Jesus.
The paragraph in Hebrews 1:6-14 prepares for the section that follows (Hebrews 3:7-4:13), the example of the Wilderness generation that received God’s Word through Moses but failed “to hold fast to their confidence and hope.”
In the first chapter of the letter, the Author declared that God’s ultimate and final revelation has been spoken in His Son.  God’s previous revelation made in the prophets was excellent and divine in origin, but preparatory and incomplete.  He then demonstrated how the Son was and is superior to angels, as magnificent as they are. This comparison led into the letter’s first warning (2:1-4); the danger of ignoring the most excellent Word spoken in the Son.
If the revelation of God given through angels at Sinai required severe punishment for every disobedience, how much more severe will punishment be for those who ignore the vastly superior Word revealed in His Son?
The letter’s next comparison is found in Hebrews 3:1-6, a comparison of the Son to Moses.  None of what the Author says disparages Moses; if anything, Moses is put forward as a servant who deserved the highest rank and honor.  Nevertheless, the Son is even more excellent than Moses and, by implication, so is the revelation given in him.
This paragraph concludes with a reiteration of the warning given in Hebrews 2:3. Believers are God’s living household but will only remain so if they “hold fast their confidence.”
While not intended to disparage Moses or the Torah, implicit in the Author’s logic is that abandoning the full revelation in the Son for the older one is to exchange the superior for what is incomplete, therefore inferior.

No comments:

Post a Comment