April 23, 2017
Two months before Denise and I left our home state of Maryland to move to Mississippi for Seminary, American faced one of the most significant terror attacks that it has ever faced. Today we know that as September 11th or 9-11 and the reality is that this event changed many of the ways we go about life in the United States.
I imagine that if I asked you, at least those of you who are old enough to remember the event, there would be numerous stories about where you were or about what you were doing when you heard the news of the attack.
But I want to share not my story, but a story that I heard from one of my classmates shortly after I arrived at seminary. At Reformed Seminary, like many places, the world had practically stopped. Students were glued to the televisions, many had commitments at their churches, but there was at least one exception. One of the Professors, Dennis Ireland, gathered his students back into the classroom and said to them: “In these uncertain times, I can think of nothing more valuable to discuss than Jesus.”
Thankfully, we have not just experienced another terror attack, but we still live in no less uncertain days. ISIS, Terror Attacks in Europe and in the US, Russian Bombers over Alaska and Russian Troops in the Ukraine, North Korea threatening preemptive nuclear strikes internationally and locally violence and drugs throughout our community.
So, I say, with my former professor, but also with the writer of Hebrews…as we enter into Hebrews chapter 3, that we live in uncertain times, but I can think of nothing more valuable to do than for us to contemplate the Apostle and High Priest of our confession: Jesus. There is nothing more valuable for us to do.
That won’t change the reality that in this world there is lawlessness and chaos. But when we understand the world in the light of Jesus, we recognize that the chaos and lawlessness are not the end. Jesus is the end and in the end of all things there will be order — order that is both by and in Christ Jesus.
So, let us contemplate our Savior.
Since it has been a few weeks since we have looked at this book, I want to remind you of the purpose of the book of Hebrews is to teach us how to understand our Old Testament in the light of Christ.
We’ve seen the book discuss the creation and the Angels and that all of this exists because of Jesus, but now the author changes gear and points us to Moses. The principle is still the same: Moses, like the angels, exists to serve Christ and Moses more specifically is meant as one who foreshadows Christ himself.
Verse one we are introduced to the idea. In verse 2, the author begins this way: “Being faithful to his calling as was Moses in all of his house.” Do you see the comparison that is being made as we contemplate Jesus? Just as Moses was faithful; Jesus was faithful — but Jesus did better.
“For this one (that is Jesus) is deserving of greater glory than Moses.”
How much greater?
As much more glory as the builder of a house than of the house itself. Let’s explore that idea a bit because that is the cardinal error of the non-Christian.
The atheist looks at the design in the world around him and praises nature…or he praises his own intellect for recognizing and being able to describe the design. The Christian praises God who created it.
The Buddhist looks at the world and its beauty and says that it is little more than an illusion and praises himself and his good karma for suffering enough to be able to observe it. The Christian praises Jesus, who is the Word made flesh, by whom and for whom all things are made.
The Muslim looks at the world and gives credit to the demon, Allah, for its beauty. The Christian praises God the Holy Spirit for revealing the Truth of Creation and its purpose in the Scriptures.
Where there is a think of beauty, it is right to honor the maker more than the thing itself…and not to do so is a mark of insolence, hatred, and contempt. Imagine for a minute, going to the fair and noting the remarkable beauty of a craft that is on exhibit, but when the maker of the craft comes up to you, you ignore the maker. At best, that would be rude. Now, how much more infinitely great is God than a human craftsman? How much infinitely more rude when one does not give him honor for who he is and what he has done. Same principle…much different scale.
And this is the idea that the Author of Hebrews is trying to help us understand. Moses is important; Jesus is more important. And when a person honors Moses more greatly than Jesus, whether one is a Jew or a Judaizing Christian who embraces the legalism of the Law over Grace, one shows the same degree of contempt toward Christ as the one who honors the house greatly but does not show greater honor to the builder of the house.
That leads us to verse 4, where the comparison is further developed:
“Every house is built by someone…” All of your homes had a builder…even if you happen to be the builder. But don’t think just about homes. This applies to organizations and institutions, etc…
“Every house is built by someone, but the builder of all is God.”
So, again, we see different stages of honor being given.
To the House — honor
To the builder of the house — more honor
But to God, who is the builder of all things in the universe — infinitely more honor than the builder of the house — both in quantity and in degree of complexity… To help illustrate that, let me use an analogy based on things to which we can relate.
The parsonage is a pretty good sized home, so let’s imagine that it represents the planet earth. That means, if the earth was the parsonage, the moon would be the size of a small farm tractor, orbiting at about 1/4 mile distance from the parsonage. That’s not too bad, but puts into perspective the distances some.
On the same scale, the sun, then would be about 3 times the size of Heinz Stadium, but it would not be in Pittsburgh, it would be just over the boarder in West Virginia, about 80 miles away. Now, that’s a lot further, it would be a pretty good drive or we could walk there in the better part of the week. Do you now begin to see proportions and sizes of things…and that is just within our solar system.
For those of you who are astronomers, the closest star (actually a binary star) is Alpha Centauri, at a distance of 4.37 light years away. One of the stars is about 25% larger than our sun and the other is about 15% smaller. So, imagine again, stars about 3 times the size of the Heinz Stadium, but at this point the distance is from here to Mars…and the analogy breaks down because the numbers are too great. But are you getting a sense for the big-ness of God’s creation? The house that God built…
But that’s just a matter of size, how about complexity?
It is said that an average automobile has about 30,000 parts if you count every screw, gasket, spring, and circuit. In contrast, an airplane (not a little one but a big one that you might get onto to fly to Europe), according to Google, has about 5,000,000 parts. That’s 166 times greater than an automobile.
In contrast, the Human Genome (part of our DNA) contains 3 Billion base pairs…all of which must be formed completely for a cell (one cell) to work properly. We are indeed “fearfully and wonderfully made.”
Now, 3 Billion is also a number that is hard to wrap our heads around. So, let’s put it this way…
3 Billion seconds adds up to about 95 years.
3 Billion inches is 47,348 miles.
And, according to “Wonderopolis”, if you lived 71 years, your heart would beat about 3 Billion times across your lifetime.
So, the house is honored.
The human builder is honored more greatly.
But God who makes all things, is honored infinitely more.
And Jesus is God. He is infinitely more worthy of praise.
“Now Moses was faithful in the whole house while an attendant.”
The ESV translates this as “servant” which isn’t a bad translation but the Greek word used here is therapon, which shares the same root word as the word “therapy” or “therapeutic” in English today. A therapon serves in the house but his role is to care for, to comfort, and to sustain the house, much as a therapist would care for you and work with you to get whole after an injury.
How does Moses “attend” to the house?
He “testifies to things that would be spoken.”
This is what Jesus is speaking about in John 5:46 when he said, ‘If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.”
This is also the heart of Luke 24:44 when Jesus states that everything in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the psalms is about Him.
This also gets to what Peter was saying when he wrote (1 Peter 1:10-11)…
“Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired, inquiring carefully what the person or time of the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.”
You have heard me say this many times; let me reinforce it once again. All of the Old Testament anticipates the coming of Jesus and all of the New Testament is a direct result of the finished work of Jesus. It is all about Him. So, As Paul writes in Galatians 4:24, The Law (represented by Moses) was our guardian — our pedagogue — until Christ comes. So, Moses faithfully served as an attendant in and of the house, testifying to them that which would be spoken — the Gospel of Christ.
But as faithful as Moses was, he was still a servant — an attendant in the house. Christ comes as a Son. Verse 6
And what of this house?
The author writes: “of his house — which is what we are, if indeed we should also hold fast to the boldness of the hope we boast in.”
I want to make two points here…
First, this language of the house of God speaks of believers. It is what Peter is speaking of when he refers to us as living stones being built up as a spiritual house (1 Peter 2:5). This is temple language. In the same way, Paul tells us that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19) and that we as a body of believers are individual members of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27) with Christ as its Head (Ephesians 4:15-16). It is also a reminder of the idea of Christ being the greater Temple (John 2:21 fulfilling the prophesy of Haggai 2:9) and of the promise that the Messiah would be the greater Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15-19).
So, we as Christians are corporately a spiritual house that is being built up. That, by the way, is why we put so much emphasis on corporate worship. We still worship individually, but that is to prepare us to gather on Sundays to worship as the Gathered body of Christ.
Second, this is a conditional clause: “If”. If what? “If you hold fast to the boldness of the hope we boast in. The hope in which we boast is the hope of salvation, of atonement with God, of becoming members of the house, of being Sons of Abraham as was mentioned in the last chapter. Of being a True Christian. That is the hope we have and that is the hope that Peter tells us that we must always be ready to make a reasoned defense for (1 Peter 3:15).
In theological terms, by the way, we call this the “Perseverance of the Saints.” Simply, that a true believer will persevere in faith, in “the boldness of the hope”, until his dying days and then forever in Christ’s presence.
But, if we don’t hold fast to that bold hope, we cannot call ourselves Christian — and if we have any aspirations of heaven or paradise or glory after death, they are but a fantasy. So, if that is you this morning, I call you to repent and believe on the name of Jesus.
If you are trusting, holding on to that hope this morning, Cherish Christ. Contemplate his greatness and allow that contemplation to lead you into worship.