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THE SON SUPERIOR TO MOSES. Here begins the second section of the argument of the first four chapters (see summary given under Hebrews 1:5). But though a new branch of the argument begins, it is linked, after the artistic manner of the Epistle, to what has gone before in a continuous chain of thought. This sequence is denoted by the initiatory.
Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Jesus (Χριστὸν before Ἰησοῦν is ill supported, and to be rejected from the text). Reference to what has gone before is perceptible throughout this verse. The persons addressed are "holy," as being among the "sanctified" (Hebrews 2:11); "brethren," as being, with the writer, in this relation to Christ (Hebrews 2:11, Hebrews 2:12, Hebrews 2:13, Hebrews 2:17); their calling is a heavenly one, being from heaven (Hebrews 1:1) and to heaven (Hebrews 2:10). Jesus is their" Apostle," as having been sent into the world, as above set forth, from God; their "High Priest," as implied, though not distinctly expressed, at the end of Hebrews 2:1-18., which led up to the idea. "Jesus" is added at the end in apposition, so as to fix attention on him, as the bearer of these titles, who was known by that name in the flesh. On the title "Apostle," we may observe that, though it is nowhere else in the New Testament applied to Christ, yet its idea with respect to him is frequent both in flits Epistle and elsewhere (cf. Luke 4:43; Luke 9:48; Luke 10:16; John 17:3, John 17:18, etc). The word ὁμολογία (translated "confession;" in the A.V., "profession") is generally used for the Christian's avowal of his faith before men (cf. Hebrews 4:14; Hebrews 10:23; 2 Corinthians 9:13; 1 Timothy 6:12). The genitive here depends on both the preceding substantives, its force probably being that Jesus, as Apostle and High Priest, is the object of our confession of faith. On Jesus, then, being such, the readers are called to fix earnestly their mental gaze, and in doing so take further note of his superiority to Moses, which is the subject of what follows.
Who was faithful (or, as being faithful) to him that appointed (literally, made) him, as also Moses was in all his house. The reference is to what was said of Moses (Numbers 12:7), "My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house," and serves aptly to introduce the intended comparison of Christ with him. In respect of faithfulness to him who constituted him in his office, Christ resembles Moses; in respect to his office itself, it is to be shown that he is far above him. Observe
(1) that "his house" means God's house, as' is plain from the text cited, i.e. the house of him who appointed him;
(2) that "in all his house" has reference to Moses only, not to Christ; for the main point of what follows is that Christ is over God's house, not in it, as Moses was. As to the verb ποιήσαντα (translated in A.V. "appointed "), it may have been suggested by 1 Samuel 12:6, where the LXX. reads Κύριος ὁ ποίησας τὸν Μωυσῆν καὶ τὸν Ἀαρὼν, the Hebrew verb being השׂעַ, which seems to mean in this case "constitute," not "create" (so Gesenius). The preceding words, ἀπόστολον καὶ ἀρχιερέα, though it is not necessary to supply them as understood, may be taken here to rule the meaning of ποιήσαντι. Certainly not to his eternal generation (as Bleek and Lunemann); such reference is foreign to the idea of the passage; nor could the word ποιεῖν with any propriety be so used.
For of more glory than Moses hath this man (so A.V., for οὕτος, supplying "man," though it is to be observed that the humanity of the person spoken of is not expressed in the original) been counted worthy (ἠξίωται: cf. Luke 7:7; 1 Timothy 5:17; Hebrews 10:24; 2 Thessalonians 1:11), by so much as more honor than the house hath he that built (or, established) it. Here the account of Christ's superiority to Moses begins. On the several expressions used we remark:
(1) The initiatory γὰρ connects the sentence logically with κατανοήσατε in Hebrews 3:1, and thus retains its usual sense of "for."
(2) The form of comparison in the Greek, πλείονος παρὰ, is the same as in Hebrews 1:4, where the account of Christ's superiority to angels began (on which see supra).
(3) The "glory" (δόξα) here assigned to Christ is the" glory and honor" spoken of above as attained by him in consequence of his human obedience (of. Hebrews 2:9, "because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor"). This, rather than "the glory he had with the Father before the world was" (John 17:5), is suggested by the word ἠξίωται, as well as by the drift of the preceding chapters. We may suppose also a reference, in contrast, to the transitory "glory" on the countenance of Moses (ἡ καταργουμένη), which is contrasted (2 Corinthians 3:1-18) with the ὑπερβαλλούση δόξα in Christ. We observe, further, that in the latter part of the verse τιμή is substituted for δόξα, as more suitable to the mundane comparison of a house and its builder.
(4) Κατασκευάζειν may include the idea of fitting up and furnishing a house as well as building it. But what is the drift of the intended argument? It is usual, with the Fathers generally, to suppose that Christ (οὕτος) is intended to be denoted as the Builder or Establisher of the house in which Hoses was a servant, and that the argument is that he, as such, is necessarily greater than the servant, who was but a part of the house, or household, thus established. Οἶκος, it is to be observed, may include in its meaning the familia, as well as the house itself, as κατασκευάζειν may include the idea of constituting the whole establishment (cf. infra, "whose house we are"). Among moderns, Hofmann and Delitzsch deny this identification of ὁ κατασκευάσας with οὕτος: against which there are the following reasons:
(1) The SON has not been represented so far in the Epistle as the originator of the economy of redemption. Notwithstanding distinct intimations of his eternal proexistent Deity (as in Hebrews 1:1, Hebrews 1:2, Hebrews 1:10), it has been as the Messiah, the Apostle and High Priest, manifested in time, and passing through humanity to glory, that he has been regarded in the preceding argument. Nor is there any proof here adduced of his being the Builder of the "house," so as to justify the conclusion on this ground of his glory being greater than that of Moses.
(2) The word ἠξίωται ("has been counted worthy of") suggests (as has been already remarked) refer once to the glory won by him, "on account of the suffering of death," rather than to his pristine glory as the Divine Builder.
(3) Elsewhere in the New Testament, when the Church is referred to under the figure of a house, it is spoken of as God's building (of. Hebrews 10:21; 1Ti 3:15; 1 Corinthians 3:9, 1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:22; 1 Peter 4:17; 1 Peter 2:5). It is never spoken of as Christ's. £
(4) The wording of Hebrews 1:3 does not necessitate the identification of ὁ κατασκευάσας with οὕτος. Καθ ὅσον means "so far as;" it implies only that the glory of Christ is greater than that of Moses, in proportion as the honor of the builder is greater than that of the house.
(5) The identification increases the difficulty of understanding the relevance to the argument of Hebrews 1:4, of which more will be said presently. Taking, then, ὁ κατασκευάσας to denote God the Father, we may state the argument thus: God is the Builder, or Founder, of his own house. Christ has been already shown to be his SON, associated with him in dignity and power, and, as such, Lord over his Father's house. Moses, on the other hand, as appears from Numbers 12:7, was but a servant in God's house. As, then, the Founder is to the house, so is the Son and Lord to a servant in it; the Son partaking of the glory of the Founder; the servant only of that of the house in which he serves. According to this view of the argument, the premises have been established, and the conclusion follows; the relation of Christ to the Builder of the house has been set forth in the preceding chapter, and may be now assumed; that of Moses is sufficiently shown by the quotation from the Pentateuch. Thus also Numbers 12:5 and Numbers 12:6 are found to carry out naturally the idea here introduced, instead of unexpectedly starting a different one.
For every house is builded (or, established) by some one; but he that built (or, established) all things is God. Of the second clause of this verse "God" is rightly taken by modern commentators as the subject, not the predicate, though the Fathers generally take it otherwise. Thus Theodoret, regarding as a ὁ πάντα κατασκευάσας designation of Christ, views this clause as an assertion of his Deity on the ground of his being the Founder of all things. But this view introduces an idea out of keeping with the argument, and especially with the preceding expression, "faithful to him who appointed him," in which Christ, in his office as the Christ, is distinguished from the Creator of all who appointed him to that office. The verse seems to be interposed in elucidation of the preceding ὁ κατασκευάσας αὕτον, to make it clear that the Founder of the house spoken of is God himself, and thus to give full effect to the proportionate glory of Christ in comparison with that of Moses. Thus: the glory of Christ is greater than that of Moses by so much as the honor of the founder of a house is greater than that of the house;—of the founder, we say; for every house has some founder: but God is the original Founder of all things, and therefore of necessity the Founder of this house of his own in which Moses was a servant. The verse, thus interpreted, seems (as intimated there) to fall in with the train of thought mere naturally than it can be shown to do if Christ is 'regarded as the Builder. Possibly "all things" may be purposely used to denote the house itself over which Christ, as Son, is Lord. For, though the expression seems too wide for the limited house in which Moses was a servant, it is net so for the expanded and consummated house over which Christ in glory reigns; of. Hebrews 1:2, "Whom he appointed Heir of all things;" and Hebrews 2:8, "Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet;" the last being said in especial connection with the "glory and honor" wherewith Christ "has been counted worthy" to be crowned. It is not necessary to confine the meaning of "God's house" to the Mosaic dispensation, or to assign to it (as some have done) two separate meanings in the eases of Moses and of Christ. It may be regarded as a comprehensive term, including in its general meaning the Law, the gospel, and the final consummation the whole dispensation of redemption, beginning with the Law, and completed at the second advent. Moses held office in its early stage, and there only as a servant; in its ultimate development it comprises "all things," and over "all things," thus comprised, Christ, as SON, has been shown to be by inheritance absolute Lord.
Hebrews 3:5, Hebrews 3:6
And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were afterwards to be spoken; but Christ, as Son over his house. We have already anticipated the explanation of this passage, which, according to the view taken above, is a setting forth of the distinction between Christ and Moses intended from the first; that of one being "Son over," the other but "servant in," the house of God. The rendering of the A.V., "his own house," in Hebrews 3:6, where Christ is spoken of, is not justifiable. It is true that we have no means of knowing whether αὐτοῦ or αὑτοῦ was intended, and that even αὐτοῦ might, according to the usage of Hellenistic Greek, refer to Christ; but if the writer bad so intended it, he might easily have avoided ambiguity by writing ἑαυτοῦ, etc. He has not done so; and, therefore, it is most natural to take "his house" in the same sense throughout the passage; viz. As "God's house," referred to in Numbers 12:7, whence the expression is taken. We observe further that "the things that were afterwards to be spoken (τῶν λαληθησομένων)" must be taken as denoting the future "speaking" of God to man "in his SON" (of. Hebrews 1:1); not, as some interpret, the speaking through Moses himself in the Law. Moses was inferior to Christ, not only in respect to his personal position as a servant, but also in respect to his work as such; which was only to testify beforehand, typically and prophetically, to a fuller revelation to come. Whose house we are. Here begins the transition to the warning intended when the "holy brethren" were first called on to "consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession," who has now been seen to be so much greater than Moses. We Christians constitute this completed "house of God," over which Christ reigns as Son; if only warned by the example of the Israelites under Moses, we forfeit not our higher calling. This condition is expressed by If we hold fast the confidence (or, our confidence) and the rejoicing (rather, boast) of the (i.e. our) hope firm unto the end. Παῤῥησιά (often rendered "boldness;" see below, Hebrews 4:16; Hebrews 10:19, Hebrews 10:35) is the confidence felt by assured believers; καύχημα is the boast thereupon ensuing. This word (as also καυχᾶσθαι) is often used by St. Paul (cf. Romans 4:2; Rom 5:2; 1 Corinthians 5:6 : 1 Corinthians 9:15; 2Co 1:14; 2 Corinthians 5:12; 2 Corinthians 9:3; Galatians 6:4; Philippians 1:26; Philippians 2:16). Its proper meaning is not (as is by many supposed) the materies gloriandi, but the uttered boast itself (see note on 1 Corinthians 5:6, in the 'Speaker's Commentary'). The con- eluding words, μέχρι τέλους βεβαίαν, are omitted in the Codex Vatican, and, notwithstanding the preponderance of authority in their favor, may have been interpolated (as is supposed by Mill, Tischendorf, Alford, and Delitzsch) from Numbers 12:14, especially as the reading is not βεβαίον, so as to agree with the substantive immediately preceding, but βεβαίαν, as in Numbers 12:14.
Wherefore, as the Holy Ghost saith, Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. The warning, thus led up to, is now introduced by a long quotation from Psalms 95:1-11., which is cited at length, because the writer is about to dwell on its whole significance in the remainder of this and also in the succeeding chapter. The warning is connected by διὸ with the conclusion of Psalms 95:6. Since our continuing to be God's house is on the condition of our steadfastness, therefore beware of failing, as the Israelites referred to by the psalmist did. With regard to the construction of the passage, there is some difficulty in discovering the apodosis to the initiatory καθὼς ("as saith the Holy Ghost"). It seems best to suppose one understood, being suggested by "harden not your hearts," which occurs m the midst of the quotation. Sentences thus grammatically incomplete are in the style of St. Paul. Otherwise the apodosis must be found in βλέπετε (verse 12), the long intervening passage being parenthetical. It is, after all, only a question of grammatical construction; in any case the general meaning is clear. As to the successive clauses of the quotation from Psalms 95:1-11. (Psalms 95:7-11), it is to be observed that
(1) "If ye will hear his voice" may probably mean in the Hebrew, "Oh that ye would hear his voice!" But the Greek of the LXX., cited in the Epistle, is capable of the same meaning. Here, again, the meaning of the particular phrase does not affect the drift of the passage.
(2) "Harden not your hearts" expresses the abjuration which ensues from resistance of grace. Elsewhere such judicial hardening is attributed to God; as when he is said to have hardened Pharaoh's heart (cf. Isaiah 6:9, etc; Matthew 13:13). The two modes of expression involve no difference of doctrine. It is God's doing as being judicial; man's as being due to his own perversity. As in the provocation, in the day of the temptation in the wilderness. Here κατὰ τὴν ἡμέραν, which is from the LXX., may mean "at the time of" (cf. Acts 16:25, κατὰ τὸ μεσονύκτιον), or "according to," i.e. "after the manner of." The former agrees best with the Hebrew psalm, which has "As at Meribah, as on the day of Massah in the wilderness," referring to the two places called by these names from what occurred there, when the people murmured for want of water. The first occurrence was at Rephidim, in the wilderness of Sin, at the commencement of the wandering (Exodus 17:1-8); the second was in the wilderness of Zin, near Kadesh, towards the end of the forty years (Numbers 20:1-14). Both names are assigned to the former place in Exodus 17:7; but elsewhere they are distinguished (see Deuteronomy 33:8). In the text, following the LXX., equivalents of the Hebrew names are given, Massah being rendered literally by πειρασμός: Meribah (equivalent to "strife ") by the unusual word παραπικρασμός, which occurs only here and in the psalm, though the verb παραπικραίνω is common in the LXX. The root of the word being πικρὸς ("bitter"), it may possibly have been suggested by the occurrence at Marah (equivalent to "bitterness"), where there was also a murmuring about water (Exodus 15:23), πικρία being the LXX. equivalent of Marah.
(3) When (οὗ in the sense of ὅπου, as is common in the LXX. and New Testament) your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. In place of the reading of the Textus Receptus, ἐδοκιμασάν με ("proved me"), which agrees with the LXX., the authority of manuscripts is in favor of ἐν δοκιμασίᾳ. This again, like the ether variations of reading, is of no importance with regard to the meaning. But further, in the original Hebrew, and apparently in the LXX., "forty years" is connected with the clause that follows: "forty years long was I grieved," etc; whereas, in the text, the interposition of διὸ at the beginning of Exodus 17:10, necessitates its connection with "saw my works." It is possible that the writer of the Epistle intended a reference to the corresponding forty years from the manifestation of Christ to the destruction of Jerusalem, which were drawing to their close at the time of writing, and during which the Israelites of his day were trying God by their rejection of the gospel, or, in the case of some of the believers addressed, by their wavering allegiance to it. The supposition that this idea was in the writer's mind is supported by the fact that Jewish writers refer to the psalm as assigning forty years for the days of the Messiah (see reference in Bleek, Delitzsch, Alford, etc). That the writer had an intention in his variation from the original is the more likely from his following it correctly afterwards in verse 17.
(4) As I sware in my wrath, If they shall enter into my rest. The reference here is to Numbers 14:21, etc., beginning with the Divine oath, "As truly as I live," which is again repeated in Numbers 14:28. The occasion was not the murmuring either at Massah or at Meribah, but the general rebellion of the whole congregation after the return of the spies, betokening a universal spirit of ἀπιστία (cf. Numbers 14:19). "If they shall enter (εἰ εἰσελεύσονται) "is an elliptical form of oath, expressing strong negation.
Take heed (literally, see), brethren, lest haply there should be (literally, shall be) in any one of you an evil heart of unbelief, in falling away from the living God. Here begins definitely the hortatory application of the warning of the ninety-fifth psalm. Its drift, to the end of the chapter, is: You, being called under the SON to a far higher position than your fathers under Moses were, but the retention of your position being, as theirs was, conditional on your faithfulness, see that you do not forfeit it, as some of you may be in danger of doing. That you may, if you are not careful, is shown by the very warning of the psalm, and by the example of your fathers, referred to in the psalm, all of whom, though called, failed of attainment through unbelief. It is implied all along that the "today" of the psalm includes the present day of grace, and points to a truer rest than that of Canaan, still offered to the faithful. But the full bringing out of this thought is reserved for the next chapter. On the language of Hebrews 3:12 we observe:
(1) The same form of warning, βλέπετε μὴ, occurs infra Hebrews 12:25, but then, suitably to the context, followed by a subjunctive. Here the future indicative which follows, μήποτε ἔσται, denotes a fact in the future, distinctly apprehended as possible (cf. Colossians 2:8). It had not ensued as yet, nor does the writer anticipate the probability of its being the ease with all his readers; but in the state of feeling with regard to the gospel among the Hebrew Christians which the whole Epistle was intended to counteract, he sees ground for fearing it in the ease of some. Their present wavering might result in apostasy.
(2) It is not necessary to analyze the expression," an evil heart of unbelief," so as to settle whether the evil heart is regarded as the result of unbelief, or unbelief of the evil heart; the main point to be observed is that unbelief is connected with moral culpability, as is implied further in Hebrews 12:13. The unbelief so condemned in Holy Scripture is not mere intellectual incapacity; it is condemned only so far as man is responsible for it on account of his own willful perversity or carelessness.
(3) The outcome of such "evil heart of unbelief," if allowed to become fixed and permanent, will be apostasy (ἀπόστηναι: cf. Luke 8:13; 1 Timothy 4:1) from "the living God," from him who is Eternal Life and the Source of all life and salvation. The thought of the momentous consequence of the falling away of Christians after light enjoyed is prominent in the Epistle (see especially Hebrews 6:4, etc; Hebrews 10:26, etc). The expression," the living God," further directs attention to the revelation of God in the Old Testament, in which he is continually so designated, and to the thought that it is the same God who has revealed himself finally in the SON. Addressing Hebrew Christians, the writer may mean to say," In apostatizing from Christ you would be cutting yourselves off from the God of your whole ancestral faith." There may be an intended allusion, too, to the oath, already referred to, of Numbers 14:21, Numbers 14:28, the form of which in the original is," As I live" (ζῶ ἐγὼ λέγει Κύριος, LXX).
But exhort one another (literally, yourselves, as in Colossians 3:16, the idea being that of the responsibility of the believers themselves in keeping their own faith alive; the Church must keep itself from apostasy by the mutual admonitions of its members), day by day, so long as it is called Today (i.e. while the "Today," τὸ σήμερον, of the psalm is still called so, καλεῖται: while you are still living day by day within the limit of its meaning); lest any one of you be hardened (still referring to the warning of the psalm) by the deceitfulness of sin. Here again, as in Hebrews 3:12, the possible result of obdurate unbelief is distinctly traced to moral culpability. Sin is a deceiver (cf. Romans 7:11; Ephesians 4:22); it distorts the spiritual vision, causes us to take false views of things, and to lose our clear view of truth; and continued dalliance with sin may hare its result in final obduracy, which, as above remarked, is our own doing as it comes of our sin, God's doing as it comes of his judgment. The sin contemplated in the ease of the Hebrew Christians as not unlikely to have its result in obduracy was, not only imperfect appreciation of the true character of the gospel revelation, and consequent remissness in mutual admonition and attendance at Christian worship (Hebrews 10:25), but also, as a further consequence of such remissness, failure in the moral purity of life, the active charity, the disentanglement from the world, and the endurance of persecution, required of Christians. This appears from the earnest exhortations that follow afterwards against all such shortcomings (see especially Hebrews 10:19-26, Hebrews 10:32-39; Hebrews 12:1-18; Hebrews 13:1-20). It was especially by conscientious perseverance in the religious life that they might hope to keep their religious faith steadfast and unclouded to the end; in accordance with Christ's own saying, "If any man will do (θέλη ποιεῖν) his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God."
For we are become partakers (or, partners) of Christ, if only we hold fast the beginning of our confidence firm unto the end. This is a repetition in another form of the assertion of our position as Christians, with the appended condition, in Hebrews 3:6. It is a question whether μέτοχοι Χριστοῦ means that we partake of Christ as being in communion with him, or that we are partakers with him of the glory he has won for us (cf. συγκληρονόμοι Χριστοῦ, Romans 8:17). The first is undoubtedly the ordinary sense of μέτοχος with a genitive in classical Greek, and generally in the New Testament (cf. e.g. infra, Hebrews 6:4, Μετόχους Πνεύματος ἁγίου), and is on this ground maintained by Bleek, Alford, and others; but in the LXX. μέτοχος, followed by a genitive, is as undoubtedly used for" partner" or "companion;" of. Psalms 119:63, Μέτοχος ἐγὼ εἰμι πάντων τῶν φοβουμένων σε: Hosea 4:17, Μέτοχος εἰδώλων: and especially Psalms 45:7, Μέτοχους σου, which has been already cited (Hebrews 1:9), and justifies, as it may prove suggested, the expression in this sense here. Cf. also in the New Testament, Luke 5:7, where μετόχος, though without an expressed genitive following, occurs in the sense of "partner." Further, the second sense accords better than the first with the view of our relation to Christ so far set forth in the Epistle.
(2) On the word ὑπόστασις (translated "confidence"), see what was said under Hebrews 1:3. All the ancient interpreters understood it here in the same general sense as in the former passage—that of substance or subsistence, either as denoting our subsistence as members of Christ, or our faith regarded as the substance of our Christian life, or with other modifications of the general meaning. Modern commentators agree in understanding merely the sense in which the word is found to be commonly used by the Alexandrian writers—that of confidence, derived from the physical conception of a firm foundation. It thus corresponds with the παῤῥησίαν of Hebrews 1:6.
(3) "The beginning" (τὴν ἀρχὴν) of this confidence refers to the earlier stage of the experiences of the Hebrew Christians, before their faith had shown any signs of wavering. There is no sufficient ground for Ebrard's inference from this expression, that the Epistle was not addressed to the Hebrew Church at large, which was the oldest of all Churches, but to "a circle of catechumens and neophytes." The phrase does not imply that the "beginning" was recent. All it need mean is, "Go on as you began." Further, we find, in Hebrews 5:12, a distinct intimation that the Church addressed is one of old standing.
(4) "Unto the end "may have an individual reference to the end of life, or (the Church being addressed as a community expecting the second advent) a general one to the close of the period of grace during which "it is called Today."
While it is said, Today, etc. Commentators have found unnecessary difficulty in determining the connection of ἐν τῷ λέγεσθαι. Many, taking the words as the beginning of a new sentence, have been at pains to discover the apodosis to them. Cbrysostom, Grotius, Rosenmuller, and others find it in φοβηθῶμεν οὖν, Hebrews 4:1; notwithstanding the οὖν, which seems evidently to introduce a new sentence, and the long parenthesis which, on this supposition, intervenes. Others find it in μὴ σκληρύνητε ("harden not your hearts"), in the middle of the citation of Hebrews 4:16, as if the writer of the Epistle adopted these words as his own. Delitzsch finds it in Hebrews 4:16, taken as an interrogation (τίνες, not τινὲς: see below); thus: "When it is said, Today … harden not your hearts as in the provocation,… who did provoke? Nay, did not all?" The γὰρ after τίνες he accounts for by its idiomatic use found in such passages as Acts 8:31; Acts 19:35, conveying the sense of the English, "Why, who did provoke?" But this use of γὰρ, obvious in the texts adduced as parallel, would be forced here; the structure of the sentence does not easily lend itself to it. Still, this is the view taken by Tholuck, Bleek, De Wette, Lunemann, and others, as well as Delitzsch. But, notwithstanding such weighty support, difficulties are surely best avoided by taking ἐν τῷ λέγεσθαι, not as commencing a new sentence, but in connection with Acts 19:14 preceding, as it seems most natural to take it in the absence of any connecting particle to mark a new proposition. In this case the translation of the A.V. gives a fully satisfactory sense: "If we hold fast the beginning of our confidence firm unto the end, while it is still being said, Today," etc; i.e. (as in Acts 19:13) "so long as it is called Today." Ebrard, Alford, and others, taking the same view of the connection of the words, prefer the translation, "In that it is said." But the other seems more in accordance with the thought pervading the passage.
For who, when they heard, provoked? Nay, did net all those who came out of Egypt by Moses. That both these clauses are interrogative, and not as taken in the A.V., is now the prevalent view. The reasons for thus understanding them are
(1) the analogy of the two following verses, both of which are interrogative, and in the first of which a question is similarly answered by putting another; and
(2) the sense required. If the clauses were assertions, they could only be meant to express that the provocation was not universal, inasmuch as Joshua and Caleb (and it might be some few others) remained faithful. But to say this is unnecessary and irrelevant to the argument, the drift of which is to warn by "the example of unbelief;" and could τινὲς ("some") possibly be used to denote the whole congregation with the exception of so few? It is to be observed, too, that the ἀλλ ου) at the beginning of the second clause is a proper Greek expression (equivalent to "nay") in the case of one question being answered by another (of. Luke 17:7, Luke 17:8). This verse, then (γὰρ retaining its usual sense of "for"), begins a proof, put in the form of a series of questions, of the preceding implied proposition, viz. that the retention of Christian privilege is dependent on perseverance, and that the privilege may be forfeited. In order to show this fully, the history of Numbers 14:1-45., referred to in the warning of the psalm, is examined in connection with the successive expressions of the warning; and it thus appears that all who came out of Egypt by Moses (the small exception of the faithful spies being disregarded) provoked God, and so forfeited their privilege, and that the cause of their failure was sin, disobedience, and, at the root of all, unbelief. The conclusion is obvious that, as their example is held out in the psalm as a warning to us, we may, all or any of us, similarly forfeit our higher calling. That the psalm is a warning to us, the rest it points to being the rest won for us by Christ, is more fully shown in the following chapter. We observe how the leading words in Psalms 95:1-11. are taken in succession in the three successive verses—παραπικρασμός in verse 16, προσώχθισα in verse 17, ὤμοσα in verse 18—and how answers to the three questions suggested by these words are found in Numbers 14:1-45.—to the first, in Numbers 14:2, Numbers 14:10, etc., "all the children of Israel," "all the congregation;" to the second, in Numbers 14:29-34, with citation of the words used; to the third, in Numbers 14:21-24. It is to be observed, further, that it is not simply ἀπιστία, but its exhibition in actual sin and disobedience (τοῖς ἀμαρτήσασι τοῖς ἀπειθήσασι), that is spoken of as calling forth the Divine wrath and the Divine oath. The second of the above words implies more titan "believed not" (as in the A.V); ἀπειθεῖν differs from ἀπιστεῖν in implying disobedience or contumacy. And this view of the case of the Israelites agrees entirely with the historical record, where an actual rebellion is spoken of a refusal to go on with the work they had been called to. It suits also the application to the case of the Hebrew Christians, among whom (as has been said) it was not only wavering of faith, but, as its consequence, remissness in moral duty and in the facing of trial, of which the writer of the Epistle had perceived symptoms, and on the ground of which he warns them to take heed lest growing indifference should be hardened into apostasy. But in both instances, as faith is the root of all virtue, so want of it was the cause, and again the growing result, of moral decadence. And so the argument is summed up in the concluding verse, And we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.
The exhortation of this verse marks the transition from the first section of the treatise to those which follow. Its reference is both retrospective and prospective. Indeed, the whole Epistle says in effect, "Consider what is written herein concerning Jesus; for he is greater than the prophets, greater than the angels, greater than Moses and Joshua, greater than Aaron, and pre-eminent among the heroes of faith."
I. A DESCRIPTION OF CHRIST.
1. The "Apostle" of the gospel Jesus, the Son of God (and no longer prophets or angels), is now the Divine Ambassador to men. God has sent him to us, as he sent Moses (Exodus 3:1-22) to the ancient Israelites (Hebrews 3:1-19; Hebrews 4:1-13). It is singularly appropriate that Christ, the Sent of God, should be called God's "Apostle."
2. The "High Priest" of the Church. As our Mediator, Jesus draws near to God for us. He expiates, propitiates, reconciles, and intercedes (Hebrews 4:14; Hebrews 10:18). Through Christ, as Apostle, God holds intercourse with us; and through Christ, as High Priest, we hold intercourse with God.
II. A DESCRIPTION OF CHRIST'S PEOPLE.
1. "Holy brethren." This phrase evidently looks back to Hebrews 2:11 and following verses. Believers are so styled on account of their common oneness with Christ, their Sanctifier and eider Brother.
2. "Partakers of a heavenly calling." This refers to the sovereign gift of regeneration, and of the blessings flowing from it, which all believers have received. The "calling" is "heavenly," because it has come from heaven; it creates heaven within us; and it conducts to heaven.
3. Confessors of Christ. Jesus expects his people to make an open and proud avowal of attachment to him as their Teacher and Priest. Believers confess him by connecting themselves with his Church, by sitting at his table of communion, by defending his honor, by spreading his truth, and especially by reflecting his likeness in their lives.
III. A DUTY OF CHRIST'S PEOPLE TOWARDS HIM. Christianity centers in Christ; in fact, Christ himself is Christianity. Personal religion does not consist in any merely intellectual acceptance of gospel truth; it is a life of loving devotion to the living Savior. How necessary, then, that we "consider Jesus," earnestly, intensely, habitually, and make the study of him the main interest and business of life! We must" consider" him:
1. To know him. We are saved through faith in Christ; but knowledge is necessary in order to faith. If we would know the Redeemer in his Person, natures, offices, and work, we must "consider" him.
2. To love him. A Christian is one who loves Christ; but this love will fill his heart only in so far as he gazes admiringly upon the God-Man, who loved him and gave himself for him.
3. To serve him. If we truly love Christ as our Savior, this love will control and dominate our life. But, in order to know his will, our "eyes" must always "look unto the hand of our Master."
4. To become like him. Sanctification can be effected only by always "looking unto Jesus" for mercy and grace and aid, until we finally attain the prize of the heavenly calling.
CONCLUSION. This subject suggests a test of character. Do I belong to the holy brotherhood? Have I accepted the heavenly calling? Do I confess Christ with my lip and in my life? Is the contemplation of Jesus my most cherished desire?
Christ greater than Moses
It was a delicate thing to utter such a thought even to many of the Jews who had embraced Christianity, for the whole Hebrew nation guarded with intense jealousy the name and fame of Moses. But the writer acknowledges to the full the lofty dignity and splendid services of the ancient lawgiver, and then proceeds to show that Jesus Christ has been counted worthy of still greater honor.
I. CHRIST'S SIMILARITY TO MOSES. (Hebrews 3:2) The very fact of a comparison being instituted between Jesus and Moses reminds us of Moses' greatness. Moses had a romantic personal history; his character was adorned with the grandest gifts of grace and genius; and he accomplished an illustrious life-work. He was a type of Christ both in character and career. The Jews venerated him almost to idolatry as their deliverer, leader, lawgiver, prophet, and advocate with God. Now, Christ was "a Prophet like unto Moses" (Deuteronomy 18:15). He is the Moses of the New Testament. Hebrews 3:2 suggests points of resemblance between the two.
1. Each introduced a new dispensation. "The Law was given by Moses; grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." The Jews were "baptized unto Moses;" Christians are "baptized into Christ." The writings of Moses are to the Old Testament Scriptures what the granite formation is to the other strata of the earth's crust; so the written life of Christ is the foundation of New Testament Scripture.
2. Each was divinely commissioned and supported in his work. Moses, with his marvelous gifts, was raised up and trained and called by Providence to his life-task; and so was Jesus. Moses enjoyed peculiarly intimate intercourse with God, for "the Lord knew him face to face;" and so did Jesus.
3. Each was divinely recognized as "faithful." Fidelity to duty is the crown and flower of character. "My servant Moses is faithful in all mine house" (Numbers 12:7). "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him" (Matthew 17:5).
II. CHRIST'S SUPERIORITY TO MOSES. (Hebrews 3:3-6) It was right that the memory of the lawgiver should be cherished with profound veneration; but, behold, a greater than Moses is here. Jesus has merited still larger honor.
1. Christ is the "Builder" of the Church; Moses was only one of the stones in it. (Hebrews 3:3, Hebrews 3:4) The Son of God, "through whom also he made the ages" (Hebrews 1:2), is the real Founder of every dispensation of religion. He redeemed the Old Testament Church, not less than the New, with his blood, and caused it to grow by his Spirit. Moses only introduced the Hebrew economy; it was God in Christ who founded it. Moses was a constituent member of the Jewish Church, i.e. a ransomed sinner, saved by grace like other men; a "living stone" built into the spiritual house by Christ the Master Builder.
2. Christ is a "Son" set "over God's house;" Moses was only a "servant" within it. (Hebrews 3:5, Hebrews 3:6) Moses ministered in the Church as a confidential house-steward, or honored upper-servant; but Christ entered it as its Master, to preside over it by virtue of his Divine sonship. The author has already expatiated on this theme in Hebrews 1:1-14; and surely Jesus, the Apostle of Christianity, is more renowned than Moses, seeing that he is the very Image of God, and. the Lord of all the angels.
3. Christ is the incarnate "Word of God;" Moses was only his forerunner. (Hebrews 1:5) Moses bore "testimony" to "those things which were afterward to be spoken"—to the new and final revelation to be made at last, when God should speak "in his Son" (Hebrews 1:2). "Moses was the harbinger, Christ the illustrious Prince himself; the revelations of Moses were the faint twilight of the morning, those of Christ the full splendor of noonday; the institutions of Moses were the scaffolding, those of Christ the finished fabric of religious truth" (Lindsay).
CLOSING PRACTICAL REFLECTION. (Hebrews 1:6) If we remain perseveringly steadfast in our gospel faith, and joyful in our spiritual hope, we have therein the evidence that we ourselves belong to God's house, the Church.
Beware of unbelief.
Eminent and honored though Moses had been, the generation of Hebrews whom he led out of Egypt became unbelieving and disobedient, and were in consequence overtaken by a dreadful doom. So the writer of this Epistle, realizing the strong temptations to relapse into Judaism which beset the Hebrew Christians, warns them against the still more dreadful consequences of apostasy from discipleship to Jesus Christ.
I. A BESETTING SPIRITUAL DANGER. It is that of losing our participation m God's house; or, more particularly, of—
1. Present unbelief. (Verse 12) Unbelief is distrust of God, want of faith in the Divine promise and providence, and especially refusal personally to confide in the Lord Jesus as "the Apostle and High Priest of our confession." Unbelief may either presume upon God's mercy, or despair of it, or neglect it.
2. Growing hardness of heart. (Verse 8) "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness;" and the heart also is the fountain of sin. Acts of refusal to listen to God's voice petrify into habits, so that the heart becomes the longer the more careless impenitent, and disobedient.
3. Final apostasy. (Verse 12) As acts produce habits, so habits form character. A human heart indurated by unbelief, and confirmed in moral insensibility, will lapse either into atheism, or immorality, or settled worldliness; and, unless Divine grace interpose, will for over "fall away from the living God." This danger easily besets us all—much more easily than many professing Christians suspect. "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."
II. A STRIKING HISTORICAL WARNING. (Verses 7-11) This the apostle introduces in words borrowed from Psalms 95:1-11, which describe the career of the Israelites of Moses' day, in the wilderness. They had, as a people, been:
1. Highly privileged. (Psalms 95:9) As the result of the ten plagues of Egypt, and by means of their magnificent march through the Red Sea, they had been emancipated from slavery. They "saw God's works forty years," in the falling manna, in the water from the rock that followed them, in their raiment which did not wear out, and in the cloudy pillar which accompanied them on their journeys. Yet they were:
2. Habitually faithless. (Psalms 95:8, Psalms 95:9, 16) They despised these abiding miracles, and demanded other signs as a condition of believing. They doubted and grumbled; they longed to return again to Egypt; they refused at God's command to go up to take possession of Canaan; and at last they fell into the idolatries of the heathen around. Zin, Rephidim, Taberah, Kadesh-barnea, and Shittim are names which remind us how the ransomed Jews did "always err in their heart." They were obstinate and unanimous in their apostasy (verses 16, 17). So they were:
3. Hopelessly doomed. (Psalms 95:11, 17-19) The words of the psalm, "I sware in my wrath," reflect the intensity and depth of the Divine displeasure; and the language borrowed from the history, "whose carcasses fell in the wilderness" (Numbers 14:29, Numbers 14:32), suggests the deep misery of the retribution which fell upon that entire generation. But a ruin still more fearful shall be the portion of all who refuse or despise the gospel spoken by our Lord Jesus, the "Apostle" greater than Moses.
III. AN EARNEST PRACTICAL COUNSEL "Take heed, brethren" (verse 12). This exhortation is, in fact, the key-note of the whole Epistle; it is the chord which rules the strain. While the grace of God does not allow any real Christian to backslide irretrievably, he preserves his people from apostasy by the use of means suited to their rational and moral nature. So, here, the Holy Spirit exhorts every individual believer (verse 12) to "take heed." If we would not "fall away from the living God," we must:
1. "Hear his voice." (Psalms 95:7, 15) That voice speaks to us now in the sweet and glorious gospel, and tells us of far grander "works" than those which were wrought for ancient Israel. "God hath spoken unto us in his Son" (Hebrews 1:2). To obey his voice will at once soften and strengthen our hearts. It will make us large-hearted as well as tenderhearted.
2. "Exhort one another." (Verse 13) Christians are associated in Church fellowship that they may promote one another's welfare. The Church is a spiritual mutual benefit society. Friendly counsel and admonition are a valuable safeguard against apostasy. Two considerations which should stimulate to this duty are mentioned:
(1) the shortness of life;
(2) the insidiousness of sin.
3. Continue "firm unto the end." (Verse 14) It is dangerous for a believer to rest satisfied with the consciousness of his original conversion; he ought to be constantly turning from sin to Christ. It is unwise for him to lay stress on past frames and feelings; he must cherish through life an always-fresh and. living "confidence" in the Savior—a faith which more and. more certifies itself by the ripening "fruit of the Spirit." He must remain ever on his guard against unbelief. Only by persevering steadfastness will any one who has accepted the "heavenly calling" finally enter into the heavenly "rest."
HOMILIES BY W. JONES
The sublimest contemplation.
"Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling," etc.
I. THE CHARACTERIZATION OF CHRISTIANS.
1. They are fraternal in relation. "Brethren." These Hebrew Christians were brethren in a twofold sense to the writer of the Epistle—first, as being his kindred according to the flesh; and next, as being of the same religious faith. Every Christian is a member of a glorious brotherhood. We are brothers inasmuch as we have all one Father and one elder Brother; we are animated by one Spirit; we are tending to one home, our "Father's house." Let us endeavor to realize this relationship, and to practically express its spirit. "Love the brotherhood."
2. They are consecrated in character. "Holy brethren." By applying to them the term "holy," the writer does not affirm that all those whom he was addressing were in a state of sinless purity. The adjective conveys two ideas—consecration and transformation. Christians are holy because they have consecrated themselves to the Lord, and are being transformed into moral resemblance to him. £
3. They are exalted in privilege. "Partakers of a heavenly calling." This calling "is the invitation given on the part of God and Christ to men, to come and partake of the blessings proffered" in the gospel. In two senses it is "a heavenly calling."
(1) It is heavenly in its origin; a calling from heaven. The holy voices and gracious invitations are from above. All saving influences and impulses are from God.
(2) It is heavenward in its end; a calling to heaven. Spiritual, sublime, eternal, heavenly, are the blessings to which we are called. It is "the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." The "partakers" of this calling are not those who have merely heard the call to gospel blessings, but those who have both heard and accepted that call.
II. THE CHARACTERIZATION OF THE LORD AND SAVIOR.
1. He is "the Apostle of our confession." There is here a comparison of Jesus with Moses. Moses was "sent" of God to be the emancipator, chieftain, and ruler of the Israelites (see Exodus 3:10,Exodus 3:12, Exodus 3:14, Exodus 3:15). In this sense he was an apostle of God. Jesus Christ was the Sent of God (see John 3:34; John 5:36, John 5:37; John 6:29; John 10:36; John 17:18). He was sent on a still grander mission of redemption (see Isaiah 61:1-3). Moreover, the Jews designated the minister of the synagogue, who had the charge of its affairs and presided over them, an apostle. And in the verse following our text the writer goes on to speak of Jesus and Moses as each presiding over the affairs of a house. In this sense also our Lord is "the Apostle of our confession." He is sent, not only to emancipate, but also to rule over his Church; to be both "a Prince and a Savior."
2. He is "the High Priest of our confession." Here the comparison is with Aaron. As Aaron was high priest of the Jews, and, as such, made expiation for the sins of the people, so our Savior has made atonement for the sins of the world by the offering of himself in sacrifice. Through him we approach unto God. He maketh intercession for us. He pleads with us and in us and for us. Through him we shall rise to heaven. As the Apostle, he is the Representative of God to men; as the High Priest, he is the Representative of men with God.
3. He is Jesus. There is perhaps a reference here to Joshua, the great general of the Israelites, who led them into the promised land. "Thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins." How great, then, is our Lord and Savior!
III. THE ATTITUDE WHICH CHRISTIANS SHOULD MAINTAIN TOWARDS THEIR LORD AND SAVIOUR. "Wherefore, holy brethren … consider the Apostle and High Priest," etc.
1. The argument. "Wherefore," i.e. because we have in Jesus such "a merciful and faithful High Priest," such a mighty and gracious Helper, we should attentively consider him. And such consideration would be likely to strengthen the Christian faith of any who were in danger of falling back into Judaism; for they would find him a greater Apostle than Moses, a greater High Priest than Aaron, a greater "Captain of salvation" than Joshua. The great principle is this, that the greatest safeguard against weariness, discouragement, and apostasy is an earnest consideration of Jesus; a believing, steadfast, looking unto him.
2. The exercise. "Consider the Apostle," etc. Contemplate him as "the Apostle of our confession." How much greater is he than Moses! Moses did not lead the people into the Promised Land, or even enter therein himself; but Jesus has entered heaven as our Forerunner, has led multitudes into its blessedness, will lead all his people there. Contemplate him as "the High Priest of our confession." How much greater is he than Aaron! Aaron's priesthood was imperfect, typical, preparatory; but our Lord's is gloriously perfect. By his sacrifice he has made full atonement; his intercession is divinely efficacious. Contemplate him as our Savior, "Jesus." He is "mighty to save;" "able to save to the uttermost," etc. Here is the sublimest contemplation. In weakness and weariness consider him, and you will be strengthened and animated. In darkness consider him, and the night will shine even as the day. In sin consider him, and you will seek and obtain forgiveness. In sorrow consider him, and the troubled heart will grow calm and restful. In death consider him, and his rod and staff will comfort you, and he himself will lead you through its dark portals into the joys and glories of heaven. Let this be our constant attitude—"looking unto Jesus."—W.J.
The Church, God's temple.
"But Christ as a Son over his house; whose house are we," etc. Observe—
I. THE CHURCH IS THE TEMPLE OF GOD. It is here designated "his house." And St. Paul speaks of "the house of God, which is the Church of the living God." Individual Christians are spoken of as temples of God (1 Corinthians 3:16). And the whole company of Christians are spoken of as "a holy temple" (Ephesians 2:20-22), and "a spiritual house" (1 Peter 2:5). The figure suggests several ideas; e.g.:
1. Design for its construction. The tabernacle was built and furnished by Moses in accordance with minute directions from God. "Look that thou make them after their pattern, which was showed thee in the mount" (Exodus 25:1-40). Solomon erected and furnished the temple from plans which he received from his father David, and for the making of which David was divinely instructed. "All this, said David, the Lord made me understand in writing by his hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern" (1 Chronicles 28:11-19). And of the sublime spiritual temple God himself is the great Architect. This spiritual house, from its foundation to its topstone, is being built after the Divine plan. Hence, we may infer, it will be strong and stable, sublime and beautiful, ere
2. Cohesion of its several portions. This glorious edifice is "fitly framed together." There is unity of design, unity of construction, etc. The Church of Christ is one in a unity more true and deep than that of any outward forms, or symbols, or organizations. It is one in its filial relation to the great Father, in its faith in the redeeming Son, as being inhabited by the Holy Spirit, and as consecrated to the glorious cause of Christ. In these respects all true Christians are one.
3. Inhabitation by God. God dwelt in symbol in the tabernacle of Moses and in the temple of Solomon. The sacred Shechinah was there in the holy of holies. By his Spirit he dwells in every Christian. "Ye are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwelleth in you." He dwells also in the Church as a whole. In Christ Jesus "ye are builded together for a habitation of God in the Spirit."
II. CHRIST IS THE BUILDER OF THIS TEMPLE. In Hebrews 3:3 he is spoken of as "he that built the house." "On this rock," said he, "I will build my Church." Christians "are his workmanship;" they "are God's building." "The Lord aided to the Church daily those that were being saved." All other laborers on the glorious edifice work under him. He allots them their respective duties, appoints them their sphere of operation, sustains them in their work, and crowns their work with success. Passing to another figure, Paul "planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase."
III. CHRIST IS THE LORD OF THIS TEMPLE. Our text teaches that Christ as a Son is over this house of God. He is "Head over all things to the Church" (Ephesians 1:22). "The Church is subject to Christ" (Ephesians 5:23, Ephesians 5:24). "He is the Head of the body, the Church … that in all things he might have the pre-eminence." "One is your Master, even the Christ." His authority is supreme in the Church, higher than that of conferences or councils, synods or convocations, archbishops or lopes; and it should be recognized as such and loyally obeyed. He ordained the laws of the Church; he instituted its sacraments, etc.
IV. PERSONAL INCORPORATION IN THIS TEMPLE IS CONDITIONAL. "Whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence," etc. Here are two conditions:
1. The maintenance of assured Christian confidence. This confidence, or boldness, as Ebrard says, "is nothing else than the πίστις itself in its most direct and most practical expression, manifesting itself as the inward power of the peace which dwells in the heart, in circumstances of outward difficulty It denotes that joyful boldness which flows from within and is victorious over unfavorable circumstances; it is joyfulness felt in situations in which others would despair; hence it is the immediate fruit of the objective peace obtained with God through the atonement."
2. The maintenance of their exultant hope. "If we hold fast the … glorifying of our hope." Here also Ebrard's note is excellent. "The Jews boasted of their descent from Abraham (John 8:1-59), of their temple and priesthood, of their being the chosen people of God—all palpable and manifest advantages. The poor Christians had nothing of the kind in which they could glory. Regarded by the Gentiles as a Jewish sect, by the Jews as apostates from the people of Israel, forming no state, no people, without rulers, without a head except One who was crucified, the refuse and off scouring of the people, they had nothing of which to boast but the glory which they hoped to receive." But how splendid a hope was theirs!—the hope of perfect holiness and of perfect blessedness. And such a hope is ours. Let us, then, "hold fast our confidence and the glorying of our hope firm unto the end."—W.J.
Hebrews 3:7, Hebrews 3:8
On hearing God's voice.
"The Holy Ghost saith, Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts." Introduction. The witness of the New Testament to the Divine inspiration of the Old. "The Holy Ghost saith" (Psalms 95:7-11). We have in the text—
I. A GREAT FACT IMPLIED. That God speaks to man. The "if" does not indicate uncertainty as to the Divine voice, but as to man's attention to this voice. There is no question as to whether God will speak to man or not, but whether man will heed his communications. Notice:
1. The object for which God speaks to man. This object is that man may be saved. The Divine voice proclaims and proffers a "great salvation," and publishes redemptive truth to man.
2. The organs by which he speaks to man.
(1) By the sacred Scriptures, and especially in the life and teachings of his Son, Jesus Christ, as recorded therein. "God … hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in his Son."
(2) By Christian ministries, especially the preaching of his gospel. "We are ambassadors on behalf of Christ, as though God were entreating by us," etc. (2 Corinthians 5:20).
(3) By the voice of our conscience. In its approbation of the right and its condemnation of the wrong, God speaks to us.
(4) By the events of his providence.
(5) By the influences of his holy Spirit. He speaks within the soul of man. He imparts emphasis and energy to the other voices by which God addresses us.
3. The frequency with which he speaks to man. Our text implies that he speaks to us daily. And surely by some one or more of these voices, every day he addresses to us some prohibition or persuasion, some caution or encouragement, some precept or promise, some invitation or warning. Were our susceptibility to Divine influences greater, we should ever hear the utterances of the Divine voice.
II. A MOMENTOUS DUTY EXPRESSED. Our duty is to hear God's voice. Consider:
1. The signification of hearing God's voice. It is not mere hearing that is meant here, but earnest attention to God's voice, hearty belief in his communications, and willing obedience to his commands.
2. The season for hearing God's voice. "Today; i.e. now.
(1) Because life is uncertain. "Ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life?" etc. (James 4:14).
(2) Because procrastination is perilous. The postponement of our duty today facilitates a further postponement of it tomorrow.
(3) Because it is a present duty, and to defer the performance of it is, therefore, sinful. We ought to attend to God's voice now. The urgency of this duty is suggested in the text. In the psalm from which it is quoted, our text "is virtually the expression of a wish, 'Today if ye will but hearken to his voice! '" or, "Oh that ye might this day hearken to his voice!" The pathos and earnestness which the Holy Ghost puts into this wish suggests the deep importance of the duty; cf. Psalms 81:13, "Oh that my people had hearkened unto me!" etc.
III. A SOLEMN CAUTION GIVEN. "Harden not your hearts." The sapling is pliant; it may be bent and trained as to the direction and form of its growth. The full-grown tree is fixed in form, firm in texture, and unbending in its resistance; it is hardened. Men harden' their hearts by disregarding the voice of God, by not recognizing the authority of their consciences, by postponing the performance of religious duties, by neglecting the great salvation, and by practically despising or resisting the Holy Spirit of God. St. Paul speaks of men who were "alienated from the life of God, because of the hardening of their heart," and "who being past feeling" had abandoned themselves to persistent and active wickedness. For such moral insensibility what hope remains? "Oh that ye might this day hearken to his voice!"—W.J.
"Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you," etc. Our text leads us to consider—
I. APOSTASY IN ITS NATURE. "Departing from the living God."
1. This departure is not local. In this respect separation from the Divine presence is impossible "Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?" etc. (Psalms 139:7-12).
2. This departure is not theological The corruption of a man's creed will almost certainly be followed by deterioration of his character and conduct; yet a man may retain his hold of a true creed, and at the same time be falling away from the living God.
3. This departure is not ecclesiastical. Membership and activity in the visible Church of Christ may be fully maintained even while one is departing from God. Apostasy may exist in the heart long before it is manifested in action.
4. This departure is spiritual. It is a falling away from the living God in sympathy and in service. "They do always err in their heart" (Hebrews 3:10). It is the decline of love and loyalty to God.
II. APOSTASY IN ITS ROOT. "An evil heart of unbelief." Confidence in God is essential to union with him or love to him. Let any one doubt God's existence or character, that he is wise and righteous and good, and that man's sympathy with God will speedily perish. His apostasy has already begun. Doubt of our friends will be the death of our friendship. And unbelief towards God must lead to spiritual alienation from him, and that alienation persisted in must issue in spiritual death. It is of the utmost importance that we firmly grasp the truth that this unbelief is not intellectual, but moral; it is not the doubt of the inquiring mind, but of the wandering heart. It is the faith of the heart that unites man with God. "If thou shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shelf be saved; for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness," etc. It is the unbelief of the heart that separates man from God. "An evil heart of unbelief."
III. APOSTASY IN ITS PERIL. There is the danger of:
1. Drifting further away from God. It is impossible for us to remain stationary in our relation to him. We are ever either drawing nearer to him or departing further from him. In this "failing away from the living God" the soul falls lower and lower.
2. Deprivation of spiritual blessings. Unbelief excludes the soul from the rest of God. The peace of the forgiveness of sins, the rest and joy of affections centered in God, the comfort of Christian hope, and the blessedness of true progress, are forfeited by the unbeliever.
3. The death of the soul. The soul lives only as it is united with God, and its union with him is impossible apart from faith in him. "Departing from the living God," its death is inevitable. What a death is that! A man in whom truth and trust, purity and love, righteousness and reverence, moral effort and aspiration, are extinct. What a death!
IV. APOSTASY IN ITS PREVENTION. "Take heed, brethren," etc.
1. Guard against the insidious advances of unbelief. "Watch and pray," etc.
2. Seek the increase of your faith in God and of your love to him. A nearer approach to God is the surest preventive of apostasy from him.
CONCLUSION. Is "thy heart right in the sight of God"? "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life."—W.J.
An awful peril and an inspired preventive.
"But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today," etc. We discover in these words—
I. AN AWFUL PERIL. "Lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." The danger is that of growing into a condition of moral obduracy, of becoming "past feeling." The greatness of this peril largely arises from two facts.
1. That this condition is generally reached gradually. Men do not become hardened in sin by one act of wickedness. Moral insensibility is the result of a process. The progress may sometimes be distinctly traced.
(1) The hardening of the will against certain Divine commands, as in the case of Pharaoh (Exodus 5:2). The refusal to do a manifest duty.
(2) The hardening of the entire moral disposition in sin. In this stage the struggle against temptation to sin is renounced, and the effort to be and to do what is true and right is given up (cf. Ephesians 4:18, Ephesians 4:19).
(3) The hardening of the heart against the influences of Divine grace. In this stage the offers of the gospel are rejected; unbelief becomes positive and active £ (cf. Acts 7:51). How inexpressibly terrible is such a condition of soul!
2. That this condition is generally reached insidiously. "Hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." Sin never approaches the soul in its true aspect. It assumes attractive disguises; it propounds plausible reasons; it exhibits fascinating yet fictitious prospects. For example, to those who are "not far from the kingdom of God," and who are almost entirely decided to serve him heartily and wholly, the deceitful and dangerous suggestion is presented that tomorrow will be more favorable in circumstances than today for beginning a decided Christian life, that a more "convenient season" for genuine personal religion will speedily arrive. And. so the holy decision and. consecration are deferred; procrastination becomes habitual; the heart hardens in procrastination. Again, to the Christian the temptation to unbelief is never presented in its real character, or it would be rejected immediately and decisively. It approaches the heart in fair forms, and with a show of reasonableness and righteousness. Thus, if a man be not on his guard, the hardening process will have begun ere he is aware of it. Hence the awful peril.
II. AN INSPIRED PREVENTIVE. "Exhort one another daily, while it is called Today."
1. The nature of this preventive. "Exhort one another." The word translated "exhort" indicates two exercises.
(1) Admonition of each other. Stuart translates, "Admonish one another." Let Christians warn each other when they detect impending dangers.
(2) Encouragement of each other. Let Christians endeavor to inspire their disheartened brethren with new hopes, to comfort their troubled brethren with Christian consolations. "Wherefore, lift up the hands that hang down," etc. (Hebrews 12:12, Hebrews 12:13). Christians, being children of one Father, disciples of one Master, members of one great community, exposed to similar perils, sustained by similar influences, and inspired by common hopes, ought thus to "exhort one another." Moreover, there is a preventive mentioned in the preceding verse against, this dread peril which each one must exercise for himself. "Take heed." Be watchful, etc.
2. The season for the exercise of this preventive. "Exhort one another daily," or, "day by day." Mutual oversight and help should be continuous. Watchfulness and prayer and Christian effort must not be irregular or intermittent, but steady and constant; not occasional exercises, but abiding dispositions.
3. The limit to the exercise of this preventive. "While it is called Today." This may mean while our present form of life shall last; as in our Lord's words, "I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day," etc. Or it may mean while the day of grace continues. Adopting either interpretation, the season for this mutual exhortation is limited and uncertain. "We have but an uncertain season for the due performance of most certain duties; how long it will be called Today, we know not; the day of life is uncertain, and- so is the day of the gospel; a summer's day for clearness, a winter's day for shortness; our working day is a wasting day." Let the solemn gravity of the peril lead each of us to a diligent use of the Heaven-inspired preventive.—W. J.
The dread disability.
"So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief." Our text—
I. REFUTES SEVERAL ASSIGNED REASONS FOR MAN'S FAILURE TO ATTAIN SALVATION.
If any one does not enter the spiritual rest which God has graciously provided for man, it is:
1. Not by reason of anything in the purposes or predestinations of God. His purposes are the purposes of a Being of perfect righteousness, and of infinite wisdom and love. He could not ordain an evil thing, or have any intentions which are inimical to the well-being of his creatures; for he is God—the Supremely Good (cf. Ezekiel 33:11; 1 Timothy 2:4-6).
2. Not by reason of any deficiency in God's redemptive provisions. These are abundant, inexhaustible, and entirely free. The atonement of Jesus Christ, which is perfectly adapted to reconcile man to God, is as efficacious for a million hearts as it is for one (cf. Isaiah 55:1, Isaiah 55:2, Isaiah 55:6, Isaiah 55:7; Matthew 22:1-10; Luke 14:16-23; John 3:14-17; Revelation 22:17).
3. Not by reason of any inability to accept God's redemptive provisions. The condition upon which salvation is appropriated by man is sincere and hearty faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Every sane man can comply with this condition if he will.
4. Not by reason of any deficiency of evidence for the essential truths of Christianity. The Christian religion is founded upon facts, which are as well attested as any facts of history.
II. AFFIRMS THE TRUE REASON FOR MAN'S FAILURE TO ATTAIN SALVATION. "They were not able to enter in because of unbelief." This unbelief is not intellectual or theoretical, but practical, and resulting in disobedience. The unbelief of the Israelites here spoken of totally unfitted them for entering the promised land (see Numbers 14:1-4, Numbers 14:22-25). Their unbelief had stripped them of hope and of courage, and reduced them to humiliating despondency and cowardice. No one can enter upon any worthy inheritance without the exercise of faith. For the discovery of new countries, for the exploration of unknown lands, for the carrying out of great reformations or ameliorations, for the perfecting of beneficent inventions, for the accomplishment of every worthy and noble enterprise, the possession and exercise of faith is indispensable. The attainment of salvation is impossible apart from faith. Unbelief it is which excludes men from the true rest of the soul. They are "not able to enter in because of unbelief." This is the dread disability, the unwillingness to heartily and practically believe in Jesus Christ. "Ye will not come to me, that ye may have life." If any man is not saved, he alone is to blame. He is diseased, yet he turns aside from the remedy. He is condemned, yet he refuses to accept the offered pardon. He is self-destroyed.—W.J.
HOMILIES BY C. NEW
The superiority of Christ to Moses the reason why they should cleave to Christ.
The writer has met the objection to Christianity raised by the supposed want of dignity in its Founder, as opposed to the greatness of the angels through whom the old dispensation was said to be "ordained." He proceeds to deal with another objection. "The Law was ordained through angels by the hand of a mediator;" but, he says, however great this mediator was, Christ is greater still. Subject—The superiority of Christ to Moses the reason why they should cleave to Christ.
I. ALL THAT MOSES WAS TO GOD'S PEOPLE, CHRIST IS. A very delicate subject. To exhibit Moses in a subordinate position was to touch a point on which the Hebrews were very sensitive. The writer, therefore, begins by simply speaking of Christ as, at least, on a level with Moses.
1. Moses and Christ were successively the divinely appointed heads of Israel. "House" equivalent to "household." Both Moses and Christ successively presided over, administered the affairs of, the household of God on earth. The New Testament often draws a parallel in some kind between Moses and Christ: "As Moses lifted," etc; "The Law was given by," etc; "They sing the song of Moses," etc. This parallel is more sharply drawn in the affirmation that Moses and Christ occupied this position in the twofold capacity of "Apostle and High Priest." The two aspects of the mediatorial position: an apostle is one sent of God to represent him to the people, and the high priest is one appointed to represent the people before God. Moses fulfilled this dual position with regard to Israel; but the Hebrews had lost nothing in advancing from him to Christ, for they had all this in Jesus.
2. Moses and Christ were both faithful in their fulfillment of the Divine appointment. Not, "Each was personally faithful," but "Each perfectly fulfilled the part allotted to him;" so that if Moses did less than Jesus, he did all that was incumbent on him as administrator of the old economy. The writer is careful not to sink Moses that he may exalt Jesus. (We need not undervalue any of God's gifts in order to extol Christ)
II. WHILST CHRIST IS ALL THAT MOSES WAS, HE IS ALSO MORE. From the resemblance he proceeds carefully to the superiority.
1. Moses was but a part of the household; Christ is the Founder of it. Moses was born into the family which existed before him, and had to share its privileges, duties, responsibilities, etc. But God was the Founder of the family, and Jesus has before been shown to be God. He must, therefore, be greater than Moses. (All the beauty in anything we love must be more fully in Christ, because it originates in him)
2. Moses was but a servant to the house; Christ is Lord of it. Moses only did what he was bidden: "The Lord said unto Moses." What he did for the nation was not due to him, but was the carrying out of the will of another, and therefore the reverence and thankfulness given to him were really due to the Master whose instrument he was. And that Master was Christ. By so much is Christ better than Moses. (Do we think of that when anything ministers to our well being, that it is only a servant—all things come of God?)
3. Moses was but a symbolic witness in the house; Christ was the realized Life of it. "Moses was for a testimony of those things which were afterwards to be spoken." He and his work were symbolic of things to come—a dead symbol. The contrast is drawn in Hebrews 3:6 : "Christ, whose house are we, if we hold fast our boldness and the glorying," etc; that is, the Church is a living organism, whose life is Christ; Christ's family are such by a living faith which binds each member of it to him. Christ is the quickening Spirit to which Moses, as a symbol, pointed. (Everything we value on earth is only a symbol of something better in Christ. Happy we if, ere the evanescent symbol fades, we have grasped the reality; if, when Moses passes out of sight, Jesus is left!)
III. THE CONSIDERATION OF THE SUPERIORITY OF CHRIST IS THE POWER TO CONFIRM THE WAVERERS IN THEIR ALLEGIANCE TO HIM. Christ is better than Moses; therefore, ye wavering Hebrews, cleave to Christ;—that is the idea. The practical lesson is, that:
1. Moses, in the case of Israel, corresponds with anything which in our case competes with Christ. What Moses was to them many an object is to us, and we stand hesitating between it and our Lord.
2. Then, remember that all that is to be found in this object is to be found in Christ, and much more. Whatever good it promises us is but the shadow of a greater good in him.
3. Then, when we are tempted to leave Christ for anything, our safety is in considering him. If we leave him it is because we do not know him, and that is because we do not reflect upon him. As you "consider him," and he turns on you a sad look, asking, "Will ye also go away?" you will answer decidedly, joyously, "Lord, to whom shall," etc.?—C. N.
The comparison of Christ and Moses suggests the possibility of apostasy from Christ.
As Christ and Moses occupied similar positions as leaders of the household of God, and Israel was faithless under the leadership of Moses, and came to ruin as the result, so it is possible that, under the leadership of Christ, there may be the same infidelity and the same bitter end.
I. THE FEAR OF APOSTASY FROM CHRIST. This solemn exhortation is written to professing Christians; and such professors (see Hebrews 10:32-34)! Their piety was of such a nature that onlookers could not doubt it; yet, says the apostle, even these may apostatize. Members of the Church, this speaks to you. "Take heed." This possibility is enforced:
1. By Scripture warnings against the repetition of the wilderness-sin. For what means the quotation here from Psalms 95:1-11., and the four-times repeated "today"? Not that the day of grace is short and may speedily terminate, but rather that it was possible for the men of the writer's time to repeat the sin of their fathers in the wilderness. That sin was not confined to those who came out of Egypt; for, five hundred years afterwards, David said to Israel, "Today it may be true of you." So the writer here says, "Learn from your Scriptures that the guilt of your forefathers, the awful effects of which you know so well, may be repeated by other generations. Beware, therefore, lest it be repeated in you." We have the same reason for godly fear. What mean the parables of wheat and tares, and wise and foolish virgins; the declaration, "Many will say unto me in that day," etc; the assurance that at the judgment many will be surprised to find themselves on the left hand of the Judge; and such passages as in this Epistle (Hebrews 6:14), but that the wilderness-sin may be true of today's Church?
2. By the subtlety of the sin of unbelief. "Take heed lest," etc; "Lest any of you be hardened by the," etc; as though this sin could grow upon the soul that is unaware of it. It is easy to mistake the nature of faith and the fruits of faith, and to have a spirit of unbelief, the one deadly sin, without knowing it.
3. By the fact that continuance is the test of true faith. "We are partakers of Christ if we hold our begun confidence," etc. Where vital faith exists it endures, the continued mediation of Christ for his people being the ground of this. But it is not uncommon for professors to think themselves to be Christians because of what they were. As long as there are members of the Church whose hope is of this character, the Church will have those in it who apostatize from the living God. "Lord, is it I?"
II. THE EVIL OF APOSTASY FROM CHRIST.
1. To apostatize from Christ is to depart from the living God. (Verse 12) We cannot leave Jesus without losing God. "No man cometh unto the Father but by me." To relinquish Christ is to be rejected of God. "He that believeth not the Son, the wrath of God abideth on him."
2. To apostatize from Christ reveals an extraordinary degree of inward evil. "An evil heart of unbelief." Is unbelief, then, so very evil? It is the relinquishing the Son of God; it is the making God a liar; it is (in the case of an apostate) the breaking away from Christ, not held fast even by the glory of the fuller vision.
3. To apostatize from Christ is to fail of the rest to which he leads. "For to whom sware he," etc. Rejection from Christ is the one deadly sin. "This is the condemnation;" "He that believeth not is," etc; "And this is the condemnation, that light," etc. How much more so in the case of the apostate! "I saw," said Bunyan, "that from the very gate of heaven there was a path down to hell."
III. THE PREVENTION OF APOSTASY FROM CHRIST. There is only one means—cleave to Christ. Apostasy springs from unbelief; its antidote is faith. How can a persistent faith be maintained?
1. Faith depends greatly on the condition of the heart. "They do err in their heart;" the passage is full of that. Men do not, for the most part, leave Christ because of conscious hostility to him, or a desire to depart; it is rather because the lust of other things entering in blinds them to his beauty, and insensibly draws them from his service.
2. Faith must be shielded from outside influences which tend to weaken it. "Take heed." There are enemies to faith outside as well as in—pleasures, companionships, literature.
3. Faith must be supplied with its natural food. "Exhort one another," etc. That is, present the truth. The food of faith is truth, and in order to produce or maintain faith we must present truth to the mind. Let Scripture be unstudied, and faith will die.—C.N.
HOMILIES BY J.S. BRIGHT
The superiority of Christ.
I. HERE WE HAVE THE PRE-EMINENCE OF CHRIST OVER THE JEWISH LAWGIVER ASSERTED. Having proved that our Lord was by nature and by his work infinitely above the angels, and that his assuming our flesh qualified him to be the great High Priest, it was desirable to show that he was immeasurably greater than Moses, who was the human mediator in establishment of the covenant and Law. The apostle knew the luster with which the name and ministry of Moses were always surrounded in the minds of the people of Israel, and therefore with admirable wisdom he proceeds to claim for Jesus Christ his rightful ascendancy and special glory. Jewish believers are addressed as "holy brethren" and partakers of the heavenly calling, which differed from the calling which invited the tribes to march and take possession of Canaan. It is heavenly because it comes to them from heaven and calls them to heaven, and is heard continually by the spiritual ear of those who are advancing to the "rest which remaineth for the people of God." Moses had a glory which was that of fidelity to the thoughts and ideas of Jehovah, who said to him, "See that thou make all things according to the pattern showed to thee in the mount." When the tabernacle was finished God looked upon the work and blessed it, because it faithfully realized his design. He was faithful in receiving communications from God and delivering them to the people, and in publishing the laws respecting sacrifices, ceremonies, and social life. He uttered predictions respecting the future course of Israel and the character and ministry of the Lord Jesus, and could say, as Paul said, "That which I have received of the Lord have I delivered unto you." He was faithful to the interests of the people, and in a time of danger from the righteous anger of Jehovah was willing to die for them (Exodus 32:32). He was a servant in the house, and ministered under him who was its Architect and Builder. Our Lord rises infinitely above Moses, because he is a Son, and by his dignity and nature is far above all angels, all patriarchs, and prophets, and even Moses himself, who spake to God "face to face." This is confirmed by the events of the Transfiguration, for when Moses and Elijah were with him in glory the voice was heard, "This is my beloved Son; hear him." The apostle invites us to consider the sublime edifice of the Church, which is the work of God, who created all things, in which Jesus Christ has a special and glorious ministry as the Son of the Father. He is faithful as Moses was in the range of his Divine communications, and said, "Whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said to me, so I speak" (John 12:50). He came to do the Father's will in his mighty and sacrificial sorrows, and drank the bitter Cup that we might drink the cup of blessing. He promised to see his disciples again, and to pour out the Spirit upon them. St. Peter stood with joy on the day of Pentecost, and affirmed, "He hath shed forth that which ye now see and hear." The existence of his Church proves his faithfulness; for the gates of hell have not prevailed against it; and "blessed are all they that trust in him."
II. THE NEED AND ADVANTAGE OF REVERENT CONSIDERATION OF HIS GLORY. To "consider" signifies to withdraw from the excitement and turbulence of human life to look steadily at the Son of God, and resemble, in some degree, the astronomer who enters into his observatory to gaze in silence on the glory of the heavens above. It was needful for Jewish Christians to look to the glory of Christ, as the best way to counteract the discouragements which arose from the opposition of the synagogue and of those to whom the cross of Christ was a stumbling-block and an offence. The truth of his priesthood was to be acknowledged, and the glory of his apostleship was to be confessed; for he was sent by the Father to reveal his will and claim our faith; and "whosoever will not hear this Prophet shall be destroyed from among the people." If the steady contemplation of Jesus Christ was necessary for Jewish believers, it is equally so for ourselves. It is by beholding him we are changed into the same image of constancy, and hold fast the cheerful confidence with which we began the career, and cherish the exaltation of our hope to the end of our earthly life. Then those who die in the Lord gain the precious recompense of the congratulation and welcome of the Redeemer, who will greet them with those sacred words, "Well done, good and faithful servant: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." Believers are besought by the endearing appeal to their brotherhood to be faithful to him who was faithful as a Son, to whom they are predestinated to be conformed; and as he is not ashamed to call us brethren, we should strive to please him who encourages us to be faithful unto death, and he will give us "the crown of life."—B.
There is an example here of the resources and adaptation of Old Testament Scripture to New Testament conditions.
The sacred writer turns to the ninety-fifth psalm to give force to his remonstrances, and cautions against unbelief and disobedience. This part of the Psalter contains an impressive description of the conduct of the ancient tribes of Israel in their passage from Egypt to Canaan. There were two occasions on which the hardness of their hearts was specially and painfully manifest. The first of these was their unbelief at Rephidim (Exo 17:1 -17), when they murmured against God and against his servant Moses, and chode with the man of God respecting their want of water; and the place was called Massah ("temptation") and Meribah ("striving" or "contention"). A similar occurrence took place at Kadesh, when the people murmured again, and when supply of water was miraculously obtained; it was called "water of Meribah" (Numbers 21:13). These acts of unbelief sprang from hardness of heart, which the thought of the Divine deliverances wrought for them and the designs of love revealed to them failed to overcome. The goodness of God did not lead them to repentance, but after their hardness and impenitent heart they "treasured up to themselves wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God." They tempted God, and proved him to find whether he was able to do great things, and whether he was the supreme Ruler of them and all creatures. They found that he was of one mind, and none could turn him. "Harden not your hearts," was the counsel given by the psalmist; and by Isaiah, whose mission, through unbelief in the people of Judah, was a "savor of death unto death." The prophets, and Jesus Christ the great Prophet, repeated and urged the same counsel upon the attention of the Jewish people, and urged it in vain. Jehovah was grieved and vexed with the former generation; and the Image of the invisible God wept over Jerusalem, and said, "If thou hadst known … the things that make for thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes." The punishment of the murmurers in the wilderness was that they should not enter into the rest of Canaan, which was designed for the obedient and those who should become a "kingdom of priests." There is probably a sacred meaning in the choice of the psalm, which specially refers to forty years, which length of time was nearly the period which elapsed from the crucifixion of our Lord to the predicted overthrow of Jerusalem, the destruction of the temple and cessation of sacrifices, and the captivity and dispersion of the people. Holding up the examples and punishment of unbelief before the eyes of Jewish believers, the Holy Spirit taught them to remember the severity of God, and to fear lest their apostasy from Christ should shut them out from the higher and more glorious rest of heaven.—B.
There is here asserted the need of mutual exhortation to avoid unbelief and follow Christ fully.
Apart from the labors of the ministers of the gospel, who were to teach that Christ was" the same yesterday, and today, and for ever," there was to be brotherly love among Christians, who were affectionately to warn each other against the evils of departing from the truths and profession of the gospel. Their counsel was to be directed to the state of the heart, which if unbelieving was an "evil heart," and therefore full of guile, pride, readiness to receive objections against the gospel, and willingness to yield to the blinding influence of Satan. It would lead them to depart from the living God, and. conduct them to ceremonies, and produce works which had no Divine life in them. This work of friendly exhortation was to be done at once, "while it is called Today;" and whatsoever their hand found to do they were to do with all their might; for sin was full of allurement, and promised, as it did in Paradise, large illumination, freedom, and pleasure. It would be bitterness in the end, and. the song of the wren would allure to destruction. The hardening would, if unchecked, go on with imperceptible advance, and would silently desolate the conscience, understanding, and heart. This was to be avoided by perseverance in acts of faith and unlimited confidence in Jesus Christ, who inclined them to begin the course to the upper kingdom of God. As they had "received Christ they were to walk in him," and then they would partake of his Spirit, and share the blessedness which, as a Forerunner, he has gone to prepare. They would share in the joy he has promised to confer upon the brave and immovable in their profession, who shall "sit down with him in his throne, as he has overcome, and sits down with his Father in his throne."—B.
As redemption from Egypt did not protect Israel from punishment, so misbelief in Christians will be visited with the Divine displeasure and final failure.
The sacred writer refers us to the psalm from which he had drawn such affecting exhortations to steadfastness in the spiritual life, and now advances to enforce the lessons of earnestness by a series of weighty inquiries derived from the overthrow of many Israelites in the desert. The ideas resemble those of Paul, who in 1 Corinthians 10:1-5 instructs us that the Hebrews were baptized unto Moses, and ate spiritual meat and drank spiritual drink, and yet many were overthrown in the wilderness. The first question is (in the Revised Version)—Who were they that did provoke at Meribah and awakened the Divine displeasure? This inquiry is answered by another. Did they not all come out of Egypt, anti while the destroying angel was abroad their families were safe; when the sea opposed their march it was dried up to give them passage, and when the enemies pursued them with rage and breathed out threatenings and slaughter, were they not redeemed? These were they who added the baseness of ingratitude to the sin of unbelief. Another inquiry follows, which is—With whom was he displeased, and was it not with those whose carcasses fell in the wilderness? It is the historic realization of a truth penned many centuries afterwards by St. James, who writes," Lust, when it hath conceived, bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." These unbelievers died under the frown of Jehovah, and left their sad experience as a beacon to warn against sins which provoked the Divine anger and laid them low in the dust of death. The inquiry advances once more, and asks—Who were they who were denied the privilege of entering upon the much-desired inheritance of Canaan? There is an awfulness in the oath which Jehovah takes, that the unbelieving Hebrews should not enter the pleasant land, with its fertile soil, its pastures, its vineyards, its brooks and streams, and the margin of the Mediterranean Sea. There is no secret in the cause of their failure, as there is no secret in the cause of Christian success. They could not enter in because of unbelief, which, while it barred their entrance into Canaan, excludes men from the "inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away." If these sad and awful punishments overtook Israel according to the flesh, then the truth which the author designed to teach is that redemption from sin, condemnation, must, to secure all the fruits and issues of the gospel, be associated with humble and persevering fidelity to our profession of faith in Jesus Christ our Lord.—B.
HOMILIES BY D. YOUNG
There are four heavenly things spoken of in this Epistle which it may be well here to connect together.
I. THE HEAVENLY CALLING. Elsewhere the upward calling. A voice out of the pure, the abiding, the unchangeable. A voice of love, pity, invitation, authority, such as could not sound from anywhere in this distracted, defiled world.
II. THE HEAVENLY GIFT. The δώρεα—the free donation of God; the gift bestowed for men to taste and live by; the bread of eternal life. Remember what James says, that "every perfect gift is from above" (Heb 1:1-14 :17).
III. THE HEAVENLY COUNTRY. The fatherland; the πατρίς of the Christian. The voice from heaven calls us there. The heavenly gift is for our provision by the way; the manna of our desert life (Hebrews 11:16).
IV. THE HEAVENLY JERUSALEM Where all the glory of the heavenly fatherland is concentrated. The treasures of a land are represented in its capital city. Jerusalem gave a site for the temple, a palace for the king (Hebrews 12:22).—Y.
What Christ is to us.
I. CONSIDER THE PEOPLE HERE ADDRESSED, AND THE SPEAKER IN RELATION TO THEM. Amid the endless, fruitless discussion as to the authorship of this Epistle, so much at least it is not unreasonable to conclude, that the author was a Hebrew Christian, not a Gentile one. The Hebrews were now divided into what might be called Christian Hebrews and non-Christian Hebrews—Hebrews of the gospel and Hebrews of the Law—and in addressing the Christian Hebrews the writer implies certain profound distinctions. He calls them:
1. Brethren. This not a mere word of courtesy. It acknowledged the relation between writer and readers; it indicated the writer's interest; he had a certain claim to be listened to. And, to put this brotherhood beyond doubt, there is the subsequent "our." Then there is the brotherhood of the readers to one another, and their brotherhood to the Son of God.
2. Holy; or perhaps better taken as a substantive—saints; men with the stamp of consecration on them. The Jewish nation was a holy nation, holy by nature; and now these believers, with the Holy Spirit's work going on in them, were twice holy.
3. Partakers of a heavenly calling.
4. Those who have made an acknowledgment, a profession, with respect to Christ.
II. CONSIDER THE IMPLIED PARALLEL WITH THE EXPERIENCES OF THE HEBREW NATION. All Hebrews were brethren, in this sense, that they had descended from one father, Abraham. They were holy by the consecration of Jehovah's historical dealings with them. God had not dealt so with any other nation. They were partakers of a heavenly calling. It was a voice of God, not some self-dictated impulse, which sent out Abraham and directed and bounded the track of his posterity. And, most important of all, the Hebrew nation made their acknowledgment of apostle and high priest. The apostle was Moses, and of the high priest Aaron may be taken as representative. Though while living Moses had been only too often the object of hatred, jealousy, rebellion, he had now come to be vehemently acknowledged. It could not be too much proclaimed by the Hebrews of the Law that he was the sent of God.
III. CONSIDER THE APOSTLE AND HIGH PRIEST OF OUR PROFESSION. The Hebrews of the gospel had only one Person to consider, where the Hebrews of the Law had two. The matter is one for consideration—close and penetrating application of the mind. Consideration as opposed to negligence, as opposed to superficiality; sufficient examination as opposed to insufficient. To obey the exhortation meant to bend the mind to all the subsequent arguments and illustrations of the Epistle. The writer was going to exhibit the results of his own consideration. And though the interest and responsibility of this consideration is special to Jews, yet it is well for all Gentiles to consider how thoroughly Jesus is a sent Person. Moses was clearly a sent person; there is nothing to show that in himself he was a man of extraordinary gifts. By so much as the nature of Jesus is richer and purer than that of Moses, we need to be on our guard against forgetting that he is a sent Person. We must acknowledge him as such; the supreme Sent One, out of the infinite, the eternal, the unseen.—Y.
What we are to Christ.
To us Christ is related as Apostle and High Priest (Hebrews 3:1). To Christ we are related as the house where he holds the unique position of Son, Heir, Director.
I. WE ARE MORE TO CHRIST THAN EVER HIS BRETHREN COULD BE TO MOSES. Moses had great authority, honorable position, but he was never as a son over his own house. Moses at best was the steward, and even he bad checks which reminded him that he was but the first among servants, not an all-controlling lord. And yet he was a man to be honored. Mark this in the Epistle, that its writer, in exalting Christ, exalted Moses also; whereas the enemies of Christ only exalted Moses, that by the same movement they might correspondingly depreciate Christ. The nation of Israel was as the house where Moses dwelt as appointed responsible director and custodian. A servant certainly, but a servant of a peculiar kind. He is called θεράπων. Nowhere else in the New Testament is a servant called by this name; it is as if there must be a unique description for a unique relation. If simple servitude had been all needing to be signified, δοῦλος would have done; if simple ministry, διάκονος would have done. But Moses has a servant-name to himself; as much as to say, "Among all the servants of God there has been none greater than Moses." The word indicates at one and the same time service and the greatest responsibility that could rest on mere man. Moses was the great steward of God in God's house for the time being, even the people of Israel. Compare him with the man spoken of as Joseph's steward (Genesis 43:19; Genesis 44:4). Consider also the question of Jesus in Luke 12:42 : "Who then is that faithful and wise steward οἰκονόμος), whom his lord shall make ruler over his household (θεραπεία)?" "It is required in a steward that he shall be found faithful." Thus the nation of Israel was a great deal to Moses, but not so much as we are to Christ. We are for the use of Christ, at his disposal, under his control, in a way far transcending the control which Moses had over Israel. Moses died and Joshua succeeded. Joshua died and others succeeded. But as a Son over his house, over the successive generations of Christians, Jesus is, emphatically, "the same yesterday, and today, and forever."
II. THE CONDITIONS WHICH MAKE US ABIDINGLY THE HOUSE OF CHRIST. We are the house of Christ who is the Son of God. It is a great destiny to feel that we are of use and service to him. Bat the use and service depend on our perseverance. Christ asks great, arduous, necessarily painful things from his household. Not that he rejoices in pain—everything but that; but to hold a place under him requires faithfulness in extremities. His household may have to resist unto blood, striving against sin. As to the members of Christ's household, Christ has infused into their hearts an expectation of serving him amid surroundings and conditions far different to those of the present service. And this expectation is one which at times makes them confident and also free of speech in their approaches to their Master. It is an expectation in which they can glory as the world looks curiously on them, because of present things they give up for the sake of the expectation. But here is the peril lest the confidence and the expectation sink so low in the heart as to lose power over the life. Moses was faithful in his house, but the house was not faithful. The privations and delays of the wilderness well-nigh killed the joy of liberty from Egyptian bondage, and the noble aspirations towards the land promised by Jehovah. Jesus will be faithful in the household of God; and some in that household will always be faithful to Jesus, through whatever dubious and protracted experiences. The point is one for the individual. Will he, through impatience and want of the single eye, the straightforward gaze, lose his place and promotion in the household of God?—Y.
The evil heart of unbelief.
I. THE NEED OF WARNING. The state of things indicated is repudiated by many in whom it obtains. Those in whom unbelief is most deeply seated think themselves real believers in whatever is reasonable and true. Therefore warning is needed—affectionate warning, it will be observed. The readers are again addressed as "brethren." Also individual examination is suggested. Men have fallen from what seemed the strongest faith into the most shameful apostasies. A brother, sent of God, warns us to be on our guard.
II. THE DEEP-SEATED MISCHIEF. There may be outward discipleship and service, but a heart not trusting in the living God. There may be abundant manifestations of the Divine love and power, but the heart may be so subdued to worldly considerations that nothing shown by God can produce its proper impression. We believe too much in living men, in their power to help or to hinder; we trim everything to catch their favor or keep in their good graces. And meantime the living God is as if he were not. If at any moment we have been in real connection with his infinite grace and power, there is something in our hearts which tends to draw us gradually away. Nothing is more absurd than unbelief in God, and yet nothing is harder than practical faith. And to get rid of unbelief we need to have the heart renewed and inspired. We readily see the need of heart-renewal if it he some other sin that is in question—if it be malicious, or selfish, or sensual feeling that we want to get rid of. And so our prayer should be, "Make us feel that unbelief is sin, moral malady, a something that needs to be cured by the turning of the heart to God." There is manifestation of truth enough, evidence enough; the lack lies in our disposition.—Y.
The deceitfulness of sin.
It matters little whether we take the reference here as to the sin of unbelief specially, or to sin in general. All sin is deceiving in its beginnings. The seed hides much which the sower cannot understand until he is compelled to reap the fruit. And his only safety is to trust a timely warning, and have nothing to do with the seed. And though to each of us individually some forms of sin appear not at all deceitful, yet we are deceived by others. Some form of sin is deceitful to every one of us. The great enemy of man considers us according to our individuality. There are temptations for the appetite, temptations for the senses, temptations for the intellect.
I. WE SHOULD REST IN THE CONVICTION THAT SIN IS A DECEITFUL THING. We cannot be too cautious, too observant, in pursuing our path through this complicated world. Agencies are always at work to make the worse appear the better reason. Things visible, whether things attractive or repulsive, press upon our eyes; and concerning the attractive we find ourselves saying, "This is worth making ours even at a great price;' concerning the repulsive," This is to be avoided at whatever cost." The world around us speaks with a voice that discountenances things invisible and Divine. If we begin to act as hearing a voice from heaven, others say they have heard no voice; whereupon we are easily persuaded that no voice really spoke. Sometimes sin dresses itself up in the guise of liberality and charity, and again it is found beneath the appearance of zeal for God and goodness. If there is no danger that we should be tempted into any kind of vicious living, then most of all is the deceitfulness of sin be feared. Before the readers of this Epistle a great historical example was put, drawn from the conduct of their own ancestors. The behavior of the children of Israel in the wilderness is an illustration, on a great scale, of the deceitfulness of sin; especially of the proneness of the heart to kill into unbelief with respect to spiritual things. It might have seemed safe to predict that, after all the great Divine deliverance of which they had been objects, they would have steadily gone on in the way of obedience; whereas only a very short time elapses before they are found believing the wishes of their own hearts rather than the word of God through Moses. "Let him that standeth take heed lest he fall." Those who are fallen today were standing yesterday, and some standing today will be fallen to-morrow. And if we are not among the fallen, it will be because we are giving daily practical heed to this truth concerning the deceitfulness of sin.
II. HOW ARE WE TO GUARD AGAINST THIS DECEITFULNESS? All that the writer says just in this part of the Epistle is negative—at least, it seems negative. But that simply means the iteration and reiteration of the danger of unbelief. No one knows better than the writer that we cannot guard against unbelief in a negative way. The only way of getting better of the deceitfulness of sin is to rise above it, and be so intent on our Savior's business as to have no time, no inclination, to attend to what sin may have to say.—Y.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Hebrews 3". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26