Shawn was a promising young student who had demonstrated his drive for excellence and his meticulous attention to following through with the details. Nobody in Shawn’s family had ever been to college, but that wouldn’t stop Shawn from pursuing his goal of getting on campus and making the most of his opportunity. Shawn had checked with his counselor on a regular basis to make sure he was taking all of the classes that he needed to impress those who would consider his application for admission when the time came.
Graduation day arrived for the students at George Washington Carver High School and Shawn’s family was preparing for the big night. The crowd gathered in the stands to watch their kids make the walk of honor and receive their diplomas for a job well done. Shawn, as the Valedictorian of his class, was given the honor of addressing the graduates and his family swelled with pride. It was the biggest night they had ever experienced since the day Shawn was born and they were reveling in the moment.
After graduation, Shawn began his daily routine of checking the mailbox to see if he had been accepted to any of the colleges that he had made application. Day after day he waited. Day after day he found only junk mail. Day after day his anxiety rose like a thermometer as Spring rolled into Summer. The day came when Shawn went to the mailbox and found the long awaited letter from his number 1 choice. He could hardly open the letter as his palms sweated and his heart raced. He ran inside and yelled, “It’s here! I got the letter!” Shawn’s mother came from the kitchen and told him to open the letter with a big smile on her face. Shawn tore open the envelope and read silently, but his mother saw the answer etched on his face. She walked over and wrapped her big arms around her little boy and said, “It’s okay baby. When the Lord closes a door, He always opens another one. You don’t give up your dream.”
Disappointment doesn’t even begin to describe the emotions that racked Shawn’s heart when he realized that all of his work had proven to not be enough. He had done everything he was supposed to do and yet he still wouldn’t be welcome on campus. The more Shawn thought about his rejection letter the more bitter he became. He had taken all of the tests. He had made his grades. He had been told that he was a shoe-in for acceptance, but now he was dealing with failure. Was it his own or the failure of those who had made promises?
Tawana was a classmate of Shawn’s, but she wasn’t worried about which college she would be attending in the Fall. Three weeks before graduation her mom and dad had gathered their three kids in the living room after supper and broke the news to them. They said, that after having serious talks together, they had decided that they would split up. They had tried to keep their marriage together for the kids, but it just wasn’t working. They knew it would be difficult on everyone to make the adjustment, but they wanted the kids to know that they would do everything they could to make the transition as smooth and painless as possible. They assured the kids that they both loved them dearly. They told them that their decision to divorce had nothing to do with anything the kids had done; they simply did not love each other any more.
For three weeks Tawana had not been able to escape the night that she sat with her brother and sister and heard that they weren’t going to be a family any more. Things that her mother and father had said to her in the past raced through her mind while she sat in class, when she went to baseball games, as she lay in bed at night and tried to sleep. Her parents had always told her that marriage was for life. They had said, “No matter how bad your problems are, you can always work them out.” Marriage was for life. Nothing is more important than our family. Marriage is for life… it’s for life. Tawana had believed them. She had tried to comfort her friends who had been through the divorce of their mom and dad, but she never dreamed that she would need comfort some day. The little voice in Tawana’s mind kept asking her, “If you can’t trust your mom and dad, then who can you trust?”
First Church was family. It was a small church, but the people who called it home were so close that the church was like one big family. The children smiled and sang their songs of faith. The women of the church helped each other like sisters. The men talked football and faith with equal passion when they got together at each other’s houses for prayer and Bible study. The Pastor had faithfully served the congregation for almost twenty years and everyone loved him. He didn’t preach great sermons, but he was everywhere. When someone was sick – he was at the hospital. When someone’s family member was dying – he was present to pray and cry with the family as if his own loved one was leaving this world. When a child was struggling – he was quick to offer a word of encouragement and hope. The Pastor never gave up on anyone. He always held out the promise of God’s grace to those who were about to give up.
On a Sunday night the church Board gathered for their monthly meeting. The meetings were so uneventful that they regularly started and ended on time. This night would be different. The meeting started as usual as the Bible was read, devotion was offered, and prayers were prayed for those in need. When it came time for the Minister to speak the tone of the meeting took on a different tenor. The Pastor was offering his resignation. He gave no explanation; just that he would be leaving the church in two weeks and that he would appreciate the people’s prayers. The Board was stunned. Nobody saw it coming. None of the Elders knew anything about the resignation. The staff had no idea, but the Minister was leaving.
When the letter of resignation was issued in the church newsletter the next week the entire church was shocked. Why was he leaving? Did he get a better job? Was he unhappy? There were no answers to be found anywhere.
The day came when the Minister said his final good byes, loaded up his family’s belongings, and headed into the sunset. In the weeks after his leaving, word began to travel through the church about the Minister and a lady who had left the church some months back. Rumors began to spread about some counseling sessions the Minister had shared with the lady and about possible charges that could be filed against him. Before long the church was in an uproar. Some believed the evidence was too much to deny. Others could not imagine that their Pastor could ever do such a thing. Division began to spring up in the church. Bitter words began to fly. Trust in one another began to erode away. In the back of folks minds the question loomed large: “Can you trust anyone?”
Who can you trust? Is there anyone who is worthy of our trust or are we doomed to disappointment, even with those whom we are closest to and love the most in life? Those are great questions. Questions that even if they are not asked out loud, stick in the back of our minds every time we are let down by someone we trust, someone we love, someone we think is beyond the constraints of human sinfulness, human deception, and human moral vulnerability.
Today, as we continue our study of God’s Word to the Hebrews, we are going to learn that there is One who we can place our absolute, undivided, unwavering trust in as He has proven Himself absolutely worthy of our trust. Let’s take a look at our Scripture for today found in Hebrews 3:1-6.
1Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. 2He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house. 3Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. 4For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. 5Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house, testifying to what would be said in the future. 6But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast. (Hebrews 3:1-6 NIV)
Each week, as I turn to the next section of Hebrews to begin studying for the next Sunday’s sermon, I continue to be amazed at the power and relevance of this letter. When you consider the audience to whom it was written, Jewish Christians and Jews considering Jesus, it is amazing how God has so perfectly spoken to them exactly where they live. The audience was firmly familiar with Judaism. They knew the Temple inside and out. They could quote chapter and verse of the Law. They were familiar with the routine of the High Priest as he made offerings for their sins. They held Moses in the highest esteem as the one who brought the Law from Almighty God to give to the people. They knew the faith of their fathers. In their minds, it had served them well. With all of this in mind, God used what was most familiar to the Jews to serve as a springboard to an even greater reality – the reality of His Son. In the letter to the Hebrews, God addressed their affections, allegiances, and anxieties and points them to Jesus.
In our study for today we see another angle of God’s challenge to the readers to consider Jesus. Take a look at the first verse of chapter three and we will begin.
1Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.
The third chapter of Hebrews begins by saying, “Therefore.” “Therefore” points us back to what we have learned so far. We learned in the first two chapters about Jesus’ deity and His humanity. In chapter 1 we learned that Jesus is God in the flesh. He is fully God — not god-like, not a Greek mythological figure who is larger than life, but God in the flesh. Hebrews 1:3 tells us,
3The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. (Hebrews 1:3 NIV)
Jesus is the mirror image of God’s being! He is the perfect radiance of God’s glory! Jesus Himself said, “If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father.” (John 14:9) We’ve learned that Jesus is not only God, but He was fully one of us while He lived and walked on the earth. He was fully man with flesh and bones. He cried real tears. His blood pressure really went up when He got angry with the money changers in the Temple. His heart danced when He looked at the crowd of kids who had come with their parents and He said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14 NIV) Real blood dripped from His wounds as He was being punished for my sins and for yours. It matted His hair as the thorns were pressed down into His brow. It stained the cross as His bloody back rubbed up against the rough wood. He bled real blood. He was one of us and God wanted us to know that when He authored Hebrews 2:14. Read it with me.
14Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death-that is, the devil-15and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. (Hebrews 2:14-15 NIV)
He shared our flesh and blood and because He went through such sorrow and suffering Jesus sympathizes with our suffering and the struggles we face when we are tempted. Hebrews 2:18 confirms that for us. Read along with me.
18Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2:18 NIV)
For such a little word, “Therefore” holds so much meaning for us when we consider everything that has gone before it. Now that we know what we are dealing with we can continue on in our study. We are told in verse 1,
1Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.
Even though Hebrews is written to a variety of groups — those who are Jewish Christians, Jewish sympathizers with the cause of Christ, but not converts, and those who are skeptical of Jesus — there is a specific group who is being called out in verse 1. “Holy brothers,” refers to those who have bowed their knee before the Cross of Jesus and have surrendered their hopes, hearts, and sins to the glorious Son of God. Those who are committed to the cause of Jesus, those who share in the heavenly calling of God to be a set-apart people, we are challenged by God to “fix our thoughts on Jesus.”
I can’t tell you how important it is for us to fully understand and to practice this word of encouragement from God to you and me. The Greek word for “fix” is a laser sharp word that is precise and exact. The word is “katanoe,w” (katanoeo), and the word means, “to perceive, observe, understand, to consider attentively, fix one’s eyes or mind upon, of intensive sensory perception, to study or examine, consider, reflect on, or discern, think about carefully.” The word means to give our undivided attention to whatever it is that we are being called to consider. Jesus used the word as He was speaking to a crowd one day. He said,
24Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! (Luke 12:24 NIV)
27″Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. (Luke 12:27 NIV)
James, the brother of Jesus, used the word to show his readers how merely glancing at the Word of God is like a man who looks into the mirror and walks away not considering what he had just seen. James says,
23Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it-he will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:23-25 NIV)
Why would God call the Jewish Christians to set aside everything else and to focus solely upon Jesus? For the very reason that He calls you and me to set aside everything else – all of our preconceived ideas, all of our desires, all that we are familiar with and that which brings us so much comfort and security. God wants us to know the truth so that we might avoid settling for less than His very best for each of us. God’s best for you and for me is Jesus, nothing more and nothing less than Jesus.
We are told to fix our attention on Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest whom we confess. The word, “Apostle” means “One sent by God.” Jesus was sent by God. He is our High Priest. We talked in a past study about the role of the High Priest in making offerings for the people to God. Jesus is our perfect High Priest who offered Himself on our behalf to God as payment for our sins.
In verses 2-3 we see how God seeks to teach the Jewish believers beginning with what they are most familiar with in all of life, their hero Moses. Take a look at our Scripture.
2He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house. 3Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. 4For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.
The Jewish Christians, even though they had converted to the Christian faith, were most familiar with Moses, the great deliverer and giver of the Law to God’s people. The writer of Hebrews compares Moses to Jesus to show that Jesus is superior to Moses, the most prized leader of the Jews. He tells us that Jesus was faithful to God, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house. The Jews knew of Moses faithfulness. They knew that Moses was a man of God par excellence. They knew that Moses was the preeminent prophet of God. They knew that Moses shared a relationship with God like no other. They were reminded of Moses, their hero, every time they read the Pentateuch, every time they considered the Law. They had read of Moses’ faithfulness in Numbers 12, when Moses’ own family members questioned his authority. Take a look with me at Numbers 12.
4At once the LORD said to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, “Come out to the Tent of Meeting, all three of you.” So the three of them came out. 5Then the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the Tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When both of them stepped forward, 6he said, “Listen to my words: “When a prophet of the LORD is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams. 7 But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. 8 With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” (Numbers 12:4-8 NIV)
God said that He revealed Himself to other prophets in dreams and visions, but with Moses He spoke face to face in the clearest way possible. The Jewish Christians knew all of this, but what they didn’t know was that Jesus was worthy of more glory and honor than Moses.
If you compare the life of Moses to the life of Jesus then it becomes apparent that Jesus is far superior even to Moses. Just from the verses listed in Hebrews 3:1-6 we can see Jesus’ preeminence. We see that Moses was worthy of glory, but Jesus was worthy of more glory. Moses was part of God’s house, but Jesus was the Builder of the house. Moses was a servant, but Jesus was the Son of God. Moses was the servant in the house, but Jesus was the Son over the whole house of God. Moses was a foreshadowing of the future Deliverer, but Jesus is the fulfillment of the shadowy figure presented by Moses.
Moses was a picture, incomplete no doubt, but a picture of the fulfillment of the promise of God that would be revealed to the entire world in Jesus!
Hebrews shares with us an interesting tidbit that we can so easily overlook if we are not paying attention. In verses 5-6, we read,
5Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house, testifying to what would be said in the future. 6But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.
Moses was faithful in all that God entrusted to him as a servant. The word used for “servant” is not the usual word found in God’s Word. The word usually used means, “a slave, someone who serves another.” The word used here in verse 5 is a word full of dignity and freedom and not servitude. This is the only place in the entire New Testament where the word is used. It show us that even though Moses was the most precious and prized of all God’s servants, he was still a servant. On the other hand, Jesus is the Son of God and not His servant. Moses was the house-servant, but Jesus is the Son who is over the entire house of God.
What is the “house of God?” Is it Britton Christian Church or some other church around town or around the world? Absolutely not! God’s house is not a building; it is His people – you and me. The writer of Hebrews tells us, “We are His house, if we hold on to the courage and the hope of which we boast.”
I want to clear up a widespread misconception that holds many people in captivity today. The last verse of our study is not meant to lead us to believe that we can somehow earn our salvation if we hold on. Our salvation is not to be earned and neither is it to be lost. Our salvation has been won on our behalf by Jesus and what He has done alone! John MacArthur writes in his commentary on Hebrews,
We can neither save ourselves nor keep ourselves saved. The meaning is simply that continuance is the proof of reality. We can tell if we are really the house of God because we stay there. The one who falls away never belonged in the first place (1 John 2:19).
Holding on to the courage and the hope of Jesus is evidence that we are God’s house, not the source of our salvation.
The key for us today is to fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author of our salvation, the Source of our strength, and the Sustainer of our faith. He alone is worthy of our absolute trust and He is trustworthy. He will never let us down. He will never fail us. He will never forsake us. He will never abandon us. He will never disown us. He will never discredit us. He is greater than Moses in that He not only led us out of the slavery of Pharaoh’s Egypt, but He has led us out of the bondage of sin into His glorious righteousness. Hold on to Jesus this morning! Study and examine His faithfulness! Fix your eyes, your heart, your affections, and your mind on the One who has come from God to set us free!