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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 10.30am service, 2003-09-21

Text: Hebrews 3:1-12; 4:1-12

In human history, there have been many human deliverers who have made their mark in this world, because of their remarkable discoveries or achievements have made an important impact on human life. In the field of medicine, we think of Edward Jenner (1749-1823) who discovered vaccination and laid the groundwork for immunology. We think of Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) who discovered that diseases were caused by microbial organisms, and this initiated the study of bacteria and viruses. Doctors and scientists today would hail these men as great deliverers, for without their work they would have no way of identifying and combating many deadly diseases like SARS.

For those who are blind, the man who has made the greatest impact is Louis Braille (1809-1852). He delivered the blind from being deprived of learning, by enabling them to read using the Braille system of printing which he invented. Through this achievement the blind can get as much learning as anyone else. In the field of human rights, we have names such as William Wilberforce (1759-1833). He strenuously campaigned for the abolition of slavery in the 19th century. The deliverance of slaves was not an easy task, and the Emancipation Bill abolishing slavery in England became law only one month after Wilberforce died! This was followed in America 30 years later, with Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation (1863). We can only imagine what it must have been like for all who were slaves at that time to be freed from their bondage, and the high esteem and appreciation that they must have had for their deliverers - Wilberforce and Lincoln!

In biblical history we have the record of a similar great deliverance of slaves from bondage: the deliverance of the nation of Israel from the slavery that they had in Egypt, and being settled safely in the land that God had given to them - the land of promise which is Israel. And the ones that God used to bring this deliverance were Moses and Joshua. Moses brought Israel out of Egypt despite facing oppression from the Egyptians. Joshua brought Israel into Canaan despite facing opposition from the Canaanites. They were the first deliverers of the nation of Israel. Both of these are mentioned in our scripture text not to exalt them as deliverers, but with the specific purpose of bring out in clearer contrast how much greater Christ is as our Deliverer! 

A. Christ, a Greater Deliverer Than Moses

1. The Life of Moses

Moses is mentioned by name in vv.3,5. Let us learn more about this remarkable deliverer. Moses was born to a Levite family in Egypt at a time of great distress when the Pharaoh of Egypt was seeking to massacre all the male Israelite babies (1526 BC). Moses was saved from death by being floated down the Nile River in a basket. An Egyptian princess found him and raised him up as her own son. And so Moses grew up as an Egyptian prince. However at the age of 40 Moses decided to help his own people, but failed utterly because he did it in his own strength. He killed an Egyptian taskmaster for tormenting an Israelite. He then escaped from Egypt and spent the next 40 years as a shepherd in Midian. 

Then God called him out of a Burning Bush and commissioned him to deliver the people of Israel from Egypt. Through Moses, God wrought ten powerful plagues against the Egyptians, but when the Israelites were finally released, Pharaoh sent his armies to destroy them at the Red Sea. An amazing miracle took place by Moses' hand - the Red Sea parted to let the Israelits flee from the Egyptians. The armies of Egypt perished when the waters returned. Moses continued to lead the Israelites until they came to the eastern border of Canaan, where he died. Most Jews till today still revere him not only as the first great deliverer of Israel, but also as the great Lawgiver of Israel, through whom God gave the first five books of the Bible. Moses often stood between the Israelites and God, bringing His Word to them, or interceding for them before God when they sinned. It is no wonder that for all these things, Moses is still held in very high esteem by all Jews. The story of his deliverance has also become well known in the world today through recent productions like 'The Prince of Egypt'. But as great as Moses was, Christ is even greater!

2. The Comparison of Moses With Christ

Hebrews 3:1-6 compares Christ with Moses: 'Wherefore, holy brethren, 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. (Here is the first point of comparison between them - they were both faithful) 3 For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house. For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God (Here we find the second point of comparison - Moses does not have the distinction of being the builder of the house, but Christ does). And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; But Christ as a son over his own house (Note the difference mentioned here between a servant and a son, as well as the change of preposition from 'in the house' to 'over the house').' The points of comparison in these verses can be summarised in this chart:

MOSES JESUS
Faithful Faithful (v.2)
Servant Builder (v.3), Son (v.5)
In House Over House (v.6)
Testimony Fulfilment (v.5)

The first point is faithfulness, mentioned in v.2. 'Moses was faithful in all his house' (the 'house' here refers to the nation of Israel). If Moses had not been faithful to carry out every task that God sent him to do in Egypt, he could never have delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage. In like manner, Christ was faithful to carry out the work that God sent Him to do in the world, and through His faithfulness, His house (referring to the church) has been delivered from the bondage of sin.

Now we come to the differences between Moses and Jesus. Although Moses was a great leader, he was still nothing more than just a servant in the house. A servant does not own anything, and has no authority of his own. He simply carries out whatever orders he receives. But Jesus is more than a servant. He is the Son, which means that He is the rightful heir of the whole house. Moreover, He is also the one who actually built the house. This means that He has every right to claim ownership and authority over the house. 

Besides all that, it is mentioned in v.5 that Moses was given by God to be a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after. This means that His ministry as a deliverer was meant to be a preview of a greater deliverer than Him. And this was finally fulfilled in Christ. Moses himself foretold the coming of Christ in Deuteronomy 18:15 'The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto Him ye shall hearken' 

Through these 4 pairs of comparison, one can plainly see that Christ is definitely worthy of more honour and glory than Moses. And the bottom line for us is this: If we ascribe honour and glory to Moses for the great ministry of deliverance he accomplished, we should all the more give glory and honour to our Lord Jesus Christ who is so much greater than Moses!

3. The Disobedience of Israel in the Time of Moses

This brings us to another point of comparison that the writer of Hebrews uses in the rest of the chapter - a comparison of the obedience we should be giving to Christ, and the disobedience of Israel in the time of Moses. The Israelites rebelled against God several times during their journey to the Promised Land. The worst rebellion took place at the southern border of Canaan, after the Israelites had sent twelve spies to survey the military strength of the Canaanites. But ten of the spies brought back a very discouraging report - they claimed that the Canaanites are too strong to fight against. Only two spies - Joshua and Caleb - encouraged Israel to face the challenge of conquering Canaan with God's help. Unfortunately, the Israelites chose to listen to the ten spies and a huge rebellion broke out. They decided to go back to Egypt. But God intervened and sentenced them to 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. By the end of these 40 years all who had rebelled against God would have died, and their children would be old enough to enter the Land of Canaan.

This forms the background of the words in vv.7-11 'Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye 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 Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known My ways. 11 So I sware in My wrath, They shall not enter into My rest.)'

How awful it must have been for those who came under this terrible judgment 'They shall not enter into My rest'. After all the time and effort that they had spent journeying all the way from Egypt to Canaan, they were not allowed to enter into God's rest (referrring to the Promised Land). They had to stay out of the Promised Land, just waiting to die and be buried in the wilderness - and all this, because of their sin of unbelief. 

This becomes a powerful warning to the Jewish Christians who first read the Epistle to the Hebrews - especially those who were thinking of going back to their old ways of Judaism because of the severe persecution they were facing. If they did that, they would be just like their rebellious forefathers who were barred from entering into God's rest! So v.12 now speaks directly to them: 'Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.'

4. Our Need For Genuine Faith in Christ

The lesson that we must learn from this is that while Christ is our Great Deliverer, we on our part must keep on trusting in Him for deliverance. If we were to waver and deny Him when difficulties arise, or when persecution comes, we would be guilty of the sin of unbelief. Then we will also not be able to enter into God's rest. Now as I had mentioned in an earlier message, this warning, like several other warnings found in the book of Hebrews, is not meant to teach that Christians can lose their salvation. But in any church or large group of Christians, there are bound to be those who are merely professing Christians and not genuine Christians. Sometimes it is difficult to tell them apart, because appearances can be very deceiving. 

I've known some 'Christians' who for some time appear to be very devoted to the Lord Jesus Christ, and even serving Him actively in a fellowship group or ministry in a church. The sad thing is that they no longer believe in Christ today. They have turned their backs on Him and have chosen to follow the world and their own personal desires. And when you look at them now and recall what they were like before, you may even wonder if you may end up like them one day! It is a scary thought indeed! But the bottom line is that what has happened to them shows that they were not saved at the beginning. And since they were not saved, no salvation was lost when they turned away from Christ. 

What happened to them must now make us all the more diligent to make sure that we are truly born-again Christians, and not merely professing Christians. How do we tell if we are truly born again? The answer is found in Heb 4:2 'For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.' Faith makes the difference. Do you have faith in the Gospel? Have you truly trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for salvation? Faith is not a mere mental agreement to certain truths about God. James 2:19 tells us, 'Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.'

Faith means committing yourself completely to Christ to save you from sin and eternal death. Faith rests its entire weight and expectation of mercy upon Christ. Dearly beloved, let us examine ourselves to see if we have genuinely believed in Christ with our hearts (2 Corinthians 13:5). Ask the Lord to use His Word to search and examine you. He sees all things, even the deepest recesses of your heart. Hebrews 4:12,13 'For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged 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 unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.' And if this two-edged sword pierces you now with the conviction that your faith is not genuine, please don't delay to ask God to save you now. It would be terrible to go on living in self-deception. 

For those of you who are genuinely saved, such self-examination will only serve to strengthen their assurance of salvation. The Holy Spirit who indwells you will bear witness to you that you are truly God's children (Romans 8:16). So please, do not be afraid to examine yourself.

B. Christ, The Giver of a Better Rest Than Joshua

And if you are a truly regenerated Christian, you can then have the firm assurance that you will have the privilege of entering into God's wonderful rest, not in the sense of living in the Land of Canaan, as we had seen earlier, but in a different sense - the one that is now mentioned in Heb 4:3,4 '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. For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works.'

You will notice that here, the writer of Hebrews links the rest that was promised to the Israelites, to the rest that God enjoyed on the seventh day of the creation week after He had completed all His work of creation in six days. You may be wondering why the writer does this. The explanation is that he is now directing our attention away from physical rest, to a spiritual rest, a rest that is far better than the one the Israelites enjoyed from their bondage of slavery when they lived in Canaan. This rest is available to all of us today as mentioned in vv.7-9 'Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye 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 remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.' 

Here is an interesting observation made by the writer. The words of warning that the writer had quoted earlier to describe God's anger with the rebellious Israelites were actually taken from Psalm 95:7,11 'To day if ye will hear His voice, Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness; Unto whom I sware in My wrath that they should not enter into My rest.'

This psalm was written in the time of King David (about 1000 BC) which would be about 400 years after the rebellion took place. By David's time however, the Israelites had already entered into the Land of Canaan and were enjoying their 'rest'. This had taken place in 1406 BC when Joshua (referred to by the Greek version of his name 'Jesus' in Heb 7:8) led the Israelites of his time to conquer Canaan. Thus Joshua already gave the people 'rest' (in Canaan). But God now spoke through this psalm to those who were already living in Canaan 400 years later. And He was telling them not to harden their hearts and rebel against God, or else they too may also not enter into God's rest. Since they were already in Canaan, this rest cannot mean entering into Canaan anymore, so it must be a different rest - One that is still available to God's people. And so the writer of Hebrews concludes that, 'There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.' (v.9)

What then is this rest? Since it is not the land of Canaan, it must be a spiritual rest. Jesus referred to this rest when He said in Matthew 11:28 'Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.' In this, Christ is much better than Joshua. As great as Joshua was to lead Israel into Canaan, Christ is greater since He leads us into God's Rest! Dearly beloved, this is the rest that God wants all of us to enjoy. It is like the rest that God Himself enjoyed at the end of His work of creating the Universe in six days, where He was satisfied with all that He had made. It is the rest of enjoying close, intimate fellowship with God. It is a rest that is not distracted by work (since God did no work on this day) and that is not marred or tarnished at all by sin (because sin did not exist yet when God rested on this day). It is the rest of waiting upon the Lord, of being still and knowing that He is God (Psalm 46:10). King David enjoyed this rest, and he described it in Psalm 16:11 'in Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.' And only those who have true faith in Jesus Christ can enjoy this blessed rest!

The question for us is 'Are you enjoying this rest?' Are you labouring to enter into that rest (Heb 4:11)? Are you keeping up with your daily personal time of devotion with God, and enjoying your quiet time with Him? Or has your fellowship with God degenerated into a meaningless mechanical routine - the same thing everyday? God desires so much for you to enjoy this rest of intimate fellowship with Him, that He has specially set aside a Day of rest for us - the Lord's Day. The day when we all cease from our earthly labours just to spend time in close communion with Him. The word for 'rest' in Hebrew is 'shabat' from which we get the word 'sabbath.' And so the term 'sabbath day' actually means 'rest day' or 'day of rest'. 

This rest is not the same type of rest as what you have on a public holiday, or a Saturday off from work. We can enjoy our holidays and vacations because they help us to catch our breath. But our rest on Sunday is different: It is a rest for the sake of delighting in the Lord. Let us look at Isaiah 58:13-14 'If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on My holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour Him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.' The key phrase here is the beginning of v.14 - 'Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD.'

This phrase brings out the real purpose behind the Lord's Day - it is a day to delight yourself in the Lord; a day that is dedicated to experiencing and enjoying your relationship with the Lord. God has designed this special time to spend with those He loves, for the purpose of companionship and fellowship with Him. He has done this because He loves us dearly and longs to spent time together with us without the distraction of earthly employments and pursuits. Therefore, let us labour to enter into His rest each Lord's Day. Look forward to the Lord's Day, and prepare yourself for it. Avoid doing any secular work on it (which you should complete by Saturday) so that you can have time to in public worship here in church, and in private worship at home (family devotion), personal time with God, and also serving God in some area of Christian service (e.g. evangelism, tracting, visitation). 

To summarise what we have seen in Hebrews 3 and 4 this morning, we see that Jesus is our Greatest Deliverer, greater than even Moses and Joshua. Jesus surpasses Moses in having the authority of a Son over the house, while Moses was but a servant. Jesus surpasses Joshua in giving us the blessed spiritual rest, while Joshua was only able to give Israel the physical rest in the land of Canaan. But while we have Christ as a great deliverer, let us be careful to do our part - we should examine ourselves with the two-edged sword of God's Word to ensure that we really have true faith in Christ. We should also labour to enter into God's rest which is available to us - by maintaining our fellowship with Him each day and especially every Lord's Day.

 

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25