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Bible Commentaries

Sermon Bible Commentary

Hebrews 3

Verse 1

Hebrews 3:1 , etc

I. The High Priest was one taken out of the people, and bound to the people by ties of the closest and most intimate kind. It might have been otherwise. This important official might have been a stranger introduced into the nation from an alien source; or he might, although being a Jew, have occupied a position of such complete independence and isolation as should have placed him almost in antagonism to the rest of the community. Such was the case of the priestly caste in other countries. But with the Jews the Divine method of constructing the ecclesiastical system, secured the most perfect identification of the man who was at the head of it with the feelings and sympathies of the rest of the people. We observe, also, as another result of the Divine arrangement, that all the Israelites, drawn as they were towards a single person, were reckoned before God as being in the High Priest. The man who stands there in the sanctuary, arrayed in his gorgeous robes, is not to be regarded as a mere individual, is not to be looked upon as merely one out of many, though one above the many, and distinguished from the many, by superior dignity and higher privileges; but he is the head, in whom the whole nation is included, and involved, and gathered, and summed up before God. It was, for instance, as including in himself the entire mass of the nation, that the High Priest on the day of atonement had to enter into the most holy place with the blood of sprinkling, and afterwards to confess the sins and iniquity of the people over the head of a living goat.

II. Now in all this we have a lively and striking portraiture of the position which the Lord Jesus Christ, the great antitype of the Jewish official, occupies with respect to the blessed company of faithful people. The Lord Jesus is the ideal man. If you turn to the Jewish high priest you find that he was what every Jew was intended to be. The Lord Jesus alone possesses complete perfection of human character. But He is very much more to us than the pattern man. He does much more than exhibit to us in His own person what a king and a priest unto God ought to be. He is also, if I may so express myself, the inclusive man; He is the great Head, in whom His people are gathered, and summed up, and presented before God. If St. Paul teaches us anything by his writings, he teaches us this, that the entire spiritual community, the whole body of the faithful in Christ Jesus, are reckoned by God as being gathered and summed up, involved, included, represented in Christ before the throne of God. And this, in its Christian form, is precisely what, in its Jewish form, the Israelite was taught by the existence of such a personage in the state of the Jewish high priest. The ordinary Israelite, if he were a spiritual and a thoughtful man, would look with longing desire upon the unbroken communion which the High Priest, by virtue of his office, maintained with God. So the Spirit of Christ maintained an unbroken communion with His Father in heaven. This characteristic of His earthly life is still more characteristic of His resurrection life, in which He is, in a special manner, the High Priest of our profession.

G. Calthrop, Penny Pulpit, new series, No. 495.

References: Hebrews 3:1-19 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 250. Hebrews 3:6-14 . H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. v., p. 378. Hebrews 3:7 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xx., No. 1160; Homilist, 2nd series, vol. iii., p. 46.

Verses 1-6

Hebrews 3:1-6

Christ the Lord, and Moses the Servant.

I. To speak of Moses to the Jews was always a very difficult and delicate matter. It is hardly possible for Gentiles to realise or understand the veneration and affection with which the Jews regard Moses, the servant of God. All their religious life, all their thoughts about God, all their practices and observances, all their hopes of the future, everything connected with God, is to them also connected with Moses. Moses was the great apostle unto them, the man sent unto them of God, the mediator of the Old Covenant; and we cannot wonder at this profound, reverential affection which they feel for Moses.

II. After admitting fully the grandeur and excellence of Moses, the Apostle proceeds to show us the still greater glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. The zeal of Moses was not free from earthborn elements, and had to be purified. But there was nothing in Jesus that was of the earth, earthy; no sinful weakness of the flesh was in Him who condescended to come in the weakness of sinful flesh. His love was always pure, His zeal holy, His aim single. Moses spake face to face with God, and was the mediator between God and Israel. The Lord Jesus is Prophet, Priest, and King, in one Person; but He is perfectly and eternally the true Revealer, Reconciler, Ruler, and the Son of God. Moses was willing to die for the nation; the Lord Jesus actually died, and not for the nation only, but to gather all the children of God into one. Moses brought the law on tables of stone; the Lord Jesus, by His Spirit, even the Holy Ghost, writes the law on our hearts.

A. Saphir, Expository Lectures on the Hebrews, vol. i., p. 167.

Reference: Hebrews 3:1-6 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 456.

Verses 7-19

Hebrews 3:7-19

Unbelief in the Wilderness.

I. The history of the wanderings of the Israelites in the wilderness is most instructive. No Scripture is of private interpretation, but is Catholic and eternal. Israel's history in the wilderness is typical throughout. (1) It is a marvellous history from beginning to end. (2) It was a history of solemn and glorious privileges. Is not this a picture of the Christian's life? (3) It is a sad history, full of fearful judgments. Do you understand the parable?

II. Unbelief prevented Israel's entering into the Promised Land. Then it follows that faith enters into the rest. "Believe with thy heart," is the great lesson of the chapter. Only believe, only worship, only harden not your heart, when in the Scripture, and in the Spirit's teaching, and in God's daily dealings you hear God's voice; and, though wild beasts, hunger and privation, weakness and temptation, beset you, you are safe, you are blessed. God is with you; who can be against you? Angels are around you, and you can give thanks, for you are more than conquerors, through Him that loved you and gave Himself for you.

III. Yesterday is the past of sin and misery. To-day is the present of Divine grace and man's faith. To-morrow is eternity, full of joy and glory. To-day is the turning-point, the crisis, the seedtime. To whom can we go but unto Jesus Christ, with the past of our transgression, with the yesterday of the first Adam, with the today of our weakness and need, with the for ever of our endless destiny? He is Jehovah, the Saviour God, the same yesterday, today, and forever. Cleaving to Him, we rest in mercy, which is from everlasting to everlasting.

A. Saphir, Expository Lectures on the Hebrews, vol. i., p. 188.

References: Hebrews 3:7-19 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 457. Hebrews 3:12 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 281.Hebrews 3:13 . H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiii., p. 249; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xi., No. 620. Hebrews 3:14 . Ibid., vol, xviii., No. 1042; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vii., p. 13.

Verse 16

Hebrews 3:16

The Warnings of Advent.

The true translation of these words is this: "For who were they, who, when they had heard, did provoke? Nay, were they not all who came out of Egypt with Moses?" So far from meaning that some and not all did provoke, He lays a stress on the universality of the evil.

I. There is something striking in the season of the natural year at which we celebrate the beginning of another Christian year. It is a true type of our condition, in which all the changes of our lives steal upon us, that Nature, at this moment, gives no outward signs of beginning; it is a period which does not manifest any striking change in the state of things around us. The Christian spring begins ere we have reached the half of the natural winter. Nature is not bursting into life, but rather preparing itself for a long season of death. And this is the type of a universal truth: that the signs and warnings which we must look to must come from within us, not from without; that neither sky nor earth will arouse us from our deadly slumber unless we are ourselves roused already, and more disposed to make warnings for ourselves than to find them.

II. If this be true of Nature, it is true also of all the efforts of man. As Nature will give no sign, so man cannot. There is no voice in Nature, no voice in man, that can really awaken the sleeping soul. It is the work of a far mightier power, to be sought for with most earnest prayers for ourselves and for each other; that the Holy Spirit of God would speak and would dispose our hearts to hear; that so being wakened from death, and our ears being truly opened, all things outward may now join in language which we can hear; and Nature and men, life and death, things present and things to come, may be but the manifold voices of the Spirit of God, all working for us together for good. Till this be so we speak in vain; our words neither reach our own hearts nor the hearts of our hearers; they are but recorded in God's book of judgment, to be brought forward hereafter for the condemnation of us both.

T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. iv., p. 157.

Verse 18

Hebrews 3:18

The Hardening Influence of Sin.

I. Sin has distinctly this effect, that while it makes repeated sin more easy, it makes repentance more difficult. It makes sin, in a measure, the obvious beaten path where our own footsteps are stamped for a precedent. They lie there before our eyes; we repeat ourselves. We have less scruple in sinning today than we had yesterday; we find it easier to sin again than it was to sin once; we sin now with a relish where we sinned before with a pang. This is what Holy Scripture calls hardening the heart. This is the way in which the deceitfulness of sin works within us. It conveys, as it were, a bribe to the judgment, an opiate to the conscience; we have learned what it were better for us not to have known, viz., that a sinner may be let alone by God's judgment to pursue his way unmolested. It is a fearful thing to be thus initiated into the mystery of ungodliness, ever working grosser deceit within.

II. As was the first step of man from purity to sin, so is, in a lower degree, every first step. True, we have no upright nature to debase, we have no untainted spirit within us to corrupt; yet the grace of God has done much for us, has set us on a pinnacle of vantage. Every time we resist a temptation we make that vantage more easy to keep. Every time we yield we forfeit a position which of itself was a preservative. You are members of Him from whom radiate and to whom rally all the pulses of the spiritual life. The will fixed on Him tends to fix itself yet more intently, to be set and rooted in Him. That was the best security you had. For He worketh in you, both to will and to do, of His good pleasure. All this you may strengthen yet more by the entrenchments of habit. Then there will go on a process gradually building up a result, each day, each hour adding something; like the massive reefs of coral, which are the result of the deposits of a worm.

H. Hayman, Rugby Sermons, p. 199.

References: Hebrews 3:19 . H. Jones, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxv., p. 404; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 281.Hebrews 4:1 . E. D. Solomon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvii., p. 195.Hebrews 4:1 , Hebrews 4:2 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xx., No. 1177. Hebrews 4:1-13 . R. W. Dale, The Jewish Temple and the Christian Church, p. 81.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Hebrews 3". "Sermon Bible Commentary".