"Superior to Moses and Joshua" by Rod Bayley, 20 February 2011, Heb. 3:1-4:13

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Mar 6, 2011, 11:15:26 PM3/6/11
to Sermons from Wollongong Baptist Church
On September 28 last year, the host of the show ‘Australia's Next Top
Model,’ Sarah Murdoch, announced the wrong winner of the reality
show's $25,000 prize. During the live finale at Sydney's Luna Park in
front of 2000 people, Murdoch said the winner was Sydney's Kelsey
Martinovich. But after Martinovich, 19, had soaked up the applause
and even made her acceptance speech, Murdoch's face fell as she
listened to the producer's voice in her ear piece. "Oh my, I don't
know what to say right now," the host said. As Martinovich and runner-
up Amanda Ware looked on, Murdoch said, "I'm feeling a bit sick about
this. No. I'm so sorry about this. I don't know what to say. This was
a complete accident. It's Amanda, I'm so sorry. It was fed to me
wrong. This is what happens when you have live TV, folks. This is
insane." Ware, 18, was then awarded the top prize, which included a
contract with a modelling agency, a $25,000 contract to appear in a
Levi's campaign, a trip to New York to meet the Elite agency, a Ford
Fiesta Zetec, and $20,000 cash.

In a similar incident, organisers of the 2011 Tamworth Country Music
Festival apologised after Lee Kernaghan was wrongly announced as the
winner of the album of the year award at the official ceremony on
January 22. Kernaghan went on stage to accept the gong for Planet
Country as music from Graeme Connors' album Still Walking was played.
Even though Connors' name was engraved on the trophy and his song was
playing, organisers let the event continue and, with radio streaming
live, the error was broadcast across Australia. Country Music
Association of Australia general manager Cheryl Hayes blamed the
episode on human error, confusion and a late night. "We are incredibly
sorry," she said.

Sometimes the wrong person is honoured - all the focus is given to one
person, all the praise, when they are not the worthy recipient. It
leaves a bad taste in our mouth, and when it is an honour of great
importance, unlike the examples I’ve just shared, then it is more than
embarrassing - it is offensive. It can take away glory that cannot be
shared with another. This brings me to point one on your outline:
‘Jesus is greater than Moses.’ Notice again what is written in verses
3 to 6 of chapter three:
“Jesus has been found worthy of greater honour than Moses, just as the
builde of a house has greater honour 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.”

We saw last week that the writer highlighted the superiority of Jesus
over angels to show the superiority of the gospel over the giving of
the Law, which was mediated by angels. He now continues this argument
by showing the superiority of Jesus over Moses, the one who received
the Law. Though both Moses and Jesus were faithful in their roles
given by the Father in verse 2, Jesus is worthy of greater honour in
verse 3. This is because Moses is simply a servant in God’s house,
while Jesus is the Son over God’s house in verses 5 and 6. Further,
the writer uses the metaphor of a building or house to highlight Jesus
as the creator of all things, including God’s people, while Moses was
just one of God’s people. In verse 4 God the Father is the builder of
everything, and in chapter one verse 2 we have already been told that
he created everything throug the Son. Therefore, in verse 3, to
honour Moses more than the Son, is like praising a building more than
the designer and builder.

In 2007 the expert evaluation report to the UNESCO World Heritage
Committee on the Sydney Opera House stated: “It stands by itself as
one of the indisputable masterpieces of human creativity, not only in
the 20th century but in the history of humankind.” It would be hard
to imagine higher praise for a building, but as they noted, it’s the
human creativity that deserves the credit. Jørn Utzon was a
relatively unknown 38 year old Dane until January 29, 1957 when his
entry, scheme number 218, was announced winner of the ‘International
competition for a national opera house at Bennelong Point, Sydney.’
From 1964 the pre-cast rib vaults of the shells began to be erected to
deliver Utzon’s vision. However, Utzon also had spectacular plans for
the interior of the completed shells, but he was unable to realise
this part of his design. In mid 1965 a new government was elected in
the state of NSW. The Minster of Works began questioning Utzon's
designs, schedules and cost estimates and eventually stopped payments
to Utzon who was forced to withdraw as chief architect in February
1966. Despite protests and marches through the streets of Sydney led
by Australian architect Harry Seidler, the NSW government did not
reinstate him. Jørn Utzon left the country at the end of April 1966
with his family, never to return to see his masterpiece again. It
seemed that the building was more important than the designer. We can
easily sense the dishonour to Utzon as the creator or designer is
rejected. Imagine the weight of the offense when we view Christ as
inferior to a member of his house. Nobody, including Moses, is any
more than a servant, but Christ is the Creator and the Son over God’s
house. He is worthy of greater honour.

With that praise of the Son, and the need to heed the final revelation
of the gospel that he brings, the writer goes on in verses 7 to 11 to
offer his second warning of the letter. Notice again what is stated
in verses 7 to 11:
“So, as the Holy Spirit says: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, 8do not
harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of
testing in the desert, 9where your fathers tested and tried me and for
forty years saw what I did. 10This is why I was angry with that
generation, and I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and
they have not known my ways.’ 11So I declared on oath in my anger,
‘They shall never enter my rest.”
Here is an earlier failure to learn from, which is quoted from Psalm
95 (v7-11) - notice that the Holy Spirit not only spoke the words of
Psalm 95 through their human author David to that former generation,
but He speaks them to the readers of Hebrews in the present tense of
‘today.’ Of course, the failure being narrated by David in Psalm 95
refers to much earlier events in the life of Israel. It is about the
unbelief in the desert when twelve spies entered the promised land,
but ten reported back in Numbers 14 that there were giants and walled
cities, and so it was impossible to enter. On the cusp of entering
God’s rest in Canaan, having been rescued from Egypt and having
crossed the Red Sea, in unbelief they refused to take the final steps
in their journey. So God punished them by promising that the whole
generation of those over twenty years of age would die in the desert,
apart from Caleb and Joshua. After forty years of wandering, their
children would enter the promised land, the place of rest.

The warning to the readers of Hebrews was, don’t harden your hearts
and fail to listen to God’s word - don’t act in unbelief and
disobedience like those who died in the desert under Moses. In case
we were in any doubt, he spells it out in verses 12 to 19, and the key
failure of Moses’ generation was their unbelief. Notice again what is
stated in verses 12 and 18-19:
“See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart
that turns away from the living God ... 18to whom did God swear that
they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? 19So
we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.”

The people in the desert had seen God’s works. As the writer
memorably puts it in verse 16: “Who were they who heard and rebelled?
Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt?” It is hard to fathom
- those who had seen the 10 plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, not
to mention the giving of the Law on Mt Sinai, were those who rebelled
and refused to enter. It’s like they could see the finishing tape of
the marathon, and they decided to turn around. They knew God’s works,
but they didn’t know His ways - how they should obey and trust Him

The same warning to listen and not harden our hearts applies to us
today. Our privileges as those who share in Christ do not exempt us
from taking care to believe by taking God at His word. What is at the
heart of rebellion against God? It is unbelief, the refusal to trust
in God despite all the evidence. As the writer sees it, God’s people
in any age have a daily choice. We have heard God’s voice, listened
to His promises, seen what He has done, and received the warning not
to ignore God’s word. We can either continue to respond each day to
His word in repentance and faith, OR, respond with unbelief to His
word, and so cultivate a sinful hardening heart, which disobeys God’s
word and is in danger of turning away. And notice that we have a role
to play for each other here - we are to spur one another on. The
writer says in verse 13: “But encourage one another daily, as long as
it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s
deceitfulness.” So let me ask you, who will you encourage today?
Moreover, who will you encourage tomorrow? We must support each other
daily - we need each other.

This brings us to point two on your outline: ‘Jesus is greater than
Joshua.’ Notice again what the writer states in verses 1 to 3:
“Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let
us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.
2For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but
the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who
heard did not combine it with faith. 3Now we who have believed enter
that rest.”
The theme of entering God’s rest commenced in the previous section,
with the failure of the wilderness generation. This theme is now
developed further, as the writer notes that the opportunity to enter
God’s rest still exists in verse 1. Back in verse 1 of chapter three,
the writer has already referrred to his readers as “holy brothers, who
share in the heavenly calling.” This new covenant rest is twofold -
we enjoy it now, and we will fully enter it later. We share in it now
because this rest firstly involves the salvation rest of Christ’s
redemption - God has removed our burden and we are at peace because of
Jesus’ death and resurrection. In fact, as the apostle Paul says in
Ephesians 2:6, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with
him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” We already have received
the rest of heaven in Christ. However, secondly we will fully enter
into this rest, when we have received our resurrection body and have
entered God’s presence. And so we read in Revelation 14:13, “Then I
heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in
the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘They will rest from
their labour, for their deeds will follow them.”

How we can enter this rest now, and fully receive it later, is
revealed in verses two and three of Hebrews 4. It is by hearing the
message of the gospel, the good news, and believing. We are to place
our faith in God who saves us. However, it probably strikes you as
strange that the writer announces in verse two (& v6) that the gospel
was preached to Moses’ generation, but it was of no value to them as
they didn’t combine it with faith. How can that be? Well, the word
gospel simply means ‘good news’ with the specific content of that good
news depending on what God had revealed. The good news is always
about God’s salvation, which is by grace, as He acts to save us; and
it always requires the response of trust. However, God saved Israel
and made them His chosen possession by rescuing them from Egypt.
Exodus 19:3b-5 states: “This is what you are to say to the house of
Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: 4You yourselves
have seen what I did in Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings
and brought you to myself. 5Now ... out of all nations you will be my
treasured possession.”

Having linked our entry into God’s rest in heaven with the failure of
Moses’ generation to enter the rest of the promised land of Canaan, he
traces the theme of rest back to creation for us. Verse 3b-4 note:
“And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world.
4For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words:
‘And on the seventh day God rested from all his work.” God’s rest
existed before the entry into the promised land - it has existed from
creation, and humans have been able to enter His rest by faith in His
promises ever since. That is the main reason that the end of the
seventh day is not marked in Genesis 2. The first six days are each
concluded by the phrase, ‘and there was evening, and there was
morning,’ but the seventh day was left open-ended. It continues as an
indication of the ongoing opportunity for over six thousand years for
His people to enter His rest.

Jesus brings a greater, an eternal rest, which Joshua’s entry into the
promised land cannot compare to. As the writer says in verse 8: “For
if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about
another day.” Canaan, the promised land of rest, was only a shadow of
the rest offered through the gospel. It was only ever a limited,
earthly rest, which could only disappoint as Israel would discover.
It was designed to make them long for a day when God’s people would
truly rest under God’s rule, in a place where sin could not enter.

And so the application of this section for us is the same as the
writer gives to the letter’s first readers in verse 11: “Let us,
therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will
fall by following their example of disobedience.” As we reflect on
entering God’s rest today, we find a tension between being assured of
sharing in God’s eternal rest if we enter it by faith in Christ; while
at the same time being called to make “every effort to enter that
rest”? But this healthy tension is not unique to this writer. The
apostle Paul states in Philippians 2:12-13: “... continue to work out
your salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in
you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” We need to
live out our faith, strive to grow by heeding God’s voice in His word,
while realising that it is God who is at work in us by His Spirit,
enabling us to live out what we have already received by faith.

This brings us to the third and brief final point: ‘The Word and the
judgement to come.’ Notice again what is stated in verses 12 and 13:
“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-
edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints
and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
13Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is
uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give
account.” These final two verses can seem like some misplaced
appendix with little link to what has gone before on first reading,
but they are closely connected. In what has been a section punctuated
by warnings, the writer finishes on a striking note of our
accountability. In verse 12, God’s penetrating word judges our
thoughts and hearts, which can’t be known or seen by others, but which
lay open before Him, and can be painfully revealed to ourselves as we
hold them up to such a mirror. No wonder then that nothing is hidden
from God’s sight in verse 13, who will judge us in a clear-sighted,
accurate manner. No sin can be concealed, and everyone must give an
account of their life. No Israelite could escape his judgement in the
desert, so there is certainly no hope of escape from Him. He discerns
whether we are responding with faith or unbelief, even before our
thoughts find expression in our actions.

One application of this conclusion is that it should give us two
motivations for perservering in our faith - one is the help of God’s
word, and the other is the fear of the Lord. With regard to God’s
word, if we read it regularly it will be used by God to put his finger
on the areas we need to address. Here is the encouragement, the
carrot if you like. Though God’s word is confronting and may not seem
like our friend at times, it is a wonderful comfort to realise its
power and potential to reshape our thoughts and attitudes, if we will
respond humbly in obedience. If we ignore it our conscience is not
heightened, and we become insensitive to sin.

The Tax Department received the following letter from a conscience-
stricken taxpayer: ‘Dear Sir, My conscience bothered me. Here is $175
which I owe in back taxes.’ There was a PS at the bottom that read:
‘If my conscience still bothers me, I’ll send in the rest.’ This
response is humorous but also illustrates an important truth that our
conscience can become insensitive.

However, there is also ‘the stick’ if you like of the judgment to come
- the motivation of the ‘fear of the Lord’ is not something that is
beneath us, some base motive that can only exist under the old
covenant. The Christian will also have to give an account (2 Cor.
5:10), and although we may conceal things from others and even deceive
ourselves, nothing escapes God’s scrutiny. And it’s to Him that we
must give a final account, not another person or our own conscience
which we might satisfy. We are His son or daughter, we belong to His
people, and so we should want to represent Him well, knowing that our
actions are being watched.

In the 1968 Olympic Men’s Marathon in Mexico City, the Gold, Silver,
and Bronze Medalists had already been crowned and the race was long
over, or so everyone thought. In fact, other Track and Field Events
were being held in the infield of the Olympic Stadium. During one of
the other events, the reporters on duty noticed the crowd slowly
beginning to cheer. At first, they couldn't figure out why? A lone
marathon runner had entered the stadium, one hour after the medal
winners had finished, to begin his final journey around the Olympic
track to complete the race. The last place-getter was a bloodied and
bandaged Tanzanian named John Akhwari and limped and stumbled around
the track. After what seemed like an eternity, the lone runner finally
crossed the finish line to the roar of the crowd and collapsed from
exhaustion . When asked why he had continued on in such pain, he
said: "My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race. They
sent me 5,000 miles to finish." God didn’t call you into His family
to start your Christian walk, but to finish the race He has set before
you. And you’ll have to give an account of your race - so run the
race with perseverance.
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