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Hebrews 3and4 - The Believer's High Priest

INTRODUCTION: Chapters 3 and 4 encourage the believer to hold fast to the sure hope that is through Christ alone, to have become a member in His everlasting household. They will be residents in the new heavens and the new earth after the death of the physical body; and that is the place of eternal rest with Christ. The letter also warns those who have not made a true profession of faith from the heart, to consider the lesson from the "provocation" in the wilderness.

NOTE: Bible passages are from the American King James Bible.

A - PARTAKERS OF THE HEAVENLY CALLING

Hebrews 3 "1 Why, holy brothers, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; 2 Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house. 3 For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who has built the house has more honor than the house. 4 For every house is built by some man; but he that built all things is God. 5 And Moses truly was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; 6 But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end."

COMMENTS: The readers of this letter are addressed as "holy brothers" who are "partakers of the heavenly calling" and encouraged to think about Christ who is the high priest of all who profess faith in him. Moses was faithful as he was called of God to lead all of the twelve tribes of the "house" of Israel out of bondage in Egypt. But Jesus is worthy of more honor than Moses, being also the "builder and owner of the house" because he is one with the creator God. Christ is a son over his own house; and that house includes all those who hold fast to the confidence and the rejoicing of the sure hope firm to the end.


B - HARDEN NOT YOUR HEARTS AS IN THE PROVOCATION

Hebrews 3 "7 Why (as the Holy Ghost said, To day if you will hear his voice, 8 Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: 9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. 10 Why I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do always err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. 11 So I swore in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.) 12 Take heed, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. 13 But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end; 15 While it is said, To day if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. 16 For some, when they had heard, did provoke: however, not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. 17 But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom swore he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? 19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief."

COMMENTS: The author of the letter made reference to the "provocation" and I have chosen a passage that has some very key elements about the appeal of Moses and the response of the LORD at that time.

Numbers 14 "15 Now if you shall kill all this people as one man, then the nations which have heard the fame of you will speak, saying, 16 Because the LORD was not able to bring this people into the land which he swore to them, therefore he has slain them in the wilderness. 17 And now, I beseech you, let the power of my LORD be great, according as you have spoken, saying, 18 The LORD is long-suffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation. 19 Pardon, I beseech you, the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of your mercy, and as you have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now. 20 And the LORD said, I have pardoned according to your word: 21 But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD. 22 Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not listened to my voice; 23 Surely they shall not see the land which I swore to their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it: 24 But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and has followed me fully, him will I bring into the land into where he went; and his seed shall possess it."

Psalms 8, which reminded the Jews during the period of the kings of Israel, about the danger of a hardened heart toward the LORD, was written hundreds of years after the forty years in the wilderness, that followed the exodus from Egypt. Then, this letter to the Hebrews was written centuries after that Psalm, and now these passages have been available for many, many more centuries. So, we are advised to be on guard for the deceitfulness of sin that can mask an evil heart of unbelief allowing one to be hardened and kept apart from the living God. Those who do believe should encourage one another to hold fast to true confidence in Christ, remembering that the children of Israel who survived, had to endure the forty years in the wilderness before they could enter into the land of promise. The generation prior to those survivors died in the wilderness because of their rebellion in unbelief. I included verses 6 and 7 in the passage below to emphasize the importance of genuine worship from the heart, to fully appreciate the warning that is then given in Scripture through the Holy Spirit.

Psalms 95 "6 O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker. 7 For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if you will hear his voice, 8 Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness: 9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work. 10 Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways: 11 To whom I swore in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest."


C - HEARING THE WORD IS MADE COMPLETE BY HAVING FAITH TO BELIEVE IT

Hebrews 4 "1 Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. 2 For to us was the gospel preached, as well as to them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. 3 For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For he spoke in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. 5 And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. 6 Seeing therefore it remains that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: 7 Again, he limits a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. 8 For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. 9 There remains therefore a rest to the people of God. 10 For he that is entered into his rest, he also has ceased from his own works, as God did from his."

COMMENTS: In every generation, those who hear the gospel will not enter into the promised eternal rest unless by faith, they fully believe in, and receive the Lord Jesus Christ. The "rest" that is offered will be eternal with the God who rested after He completed all of the marvelous works of creation.

Genesis 2 "1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. 3 And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made."

Exodus 31 "16 Why the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. 17 It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed."

Acts 7 "37 This is that Moses, which said to the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up to you of your brothers, like to me; him shall you hear. 38 This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spoke to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give to us: 39 To whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt, 40 Saying to Aaron, Make us gods to go before us: for as for this Moses, which brought us out of the land of Egypt, we know not what is become of him. "

The LORD worked through Moses to lead the people of the tribes of Israel out of bondage in Egypt; but those in the generation that was already matured adults thought more about the material things they had enjoyed in Egypt than about trusting in the LORD who brought them out through miraculous means. And after the resurrection of Christ, Steven told the Jewish leaders before they stoned him to death, that "Jesus" (also in Greek, same as Joshua) did not bring their ancestors out of the wilderness and into the land to a place of true lasting rest.

Acts 7 "44 Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking to Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen. 45 Which also our fathers that came after brought in with Jesus into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drove out before the face of our fathers, to the days of David; 46 Who found favor before God, and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob. 47 But Solomon built him an house. 48 However, the most High dwells not in temples made with hands; as said the prophet, 49 Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will you build me? said the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? 50 Has not my hand made all these things? 51 You stiff necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do you."


D - THE WORD OF GOD IS THE DISCERNER OF THE HEART

Hebrews 4 "11 Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. 12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened to the eyes of him with whom we have to do. 14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. 15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."

COMMENTS: The Word of God has the power of the Spirit of God to expose every thought and intent within us, and every person who accepts the risen Christ as their high priest must allow the Word to impact their heart. He is all knowing of our thoughts and intentions, but also has limitless compassion having been tempted like as we are in this world, yet he was without sin. Therefore, we should not hesitate throughout our lives to come boldly in prayer to the throne of grace to Jesus our high priest; that we may obtain mercy, and find His grace to help us in our time of need. When the time for the end of life in this world has come for each believer, there will be rest from their difficulties and also from the good works they have done for the Lord.

--- REFLECTIONS IN PRAYER ---

Lord, help me to remember that you are my faithful and merciful high priest with an unending supply of grace that is renewed in me by your Spirit as I am guided by Scripture. Your Word should remind me that every thought and intent of my heart is completely open to you at all times, and I must be willing to surrender my will to you to avoid the many temptations that shall be always present until I am called to that final rest. I know Lord, that I can do nothing to earn my place there with you, and your Spirit alone is the effective means to overcome the sin that so easily betrays. Guard my heart from either complacency or pride as you enable me to do good works; and may I encourage other believers to also worship you and go to you as their faithful high priest. Amen, and amen.

Published 18 January 2020