Tag Archives: New Covenant

The Gospel According to Hosea

 

 

Hidden in the midst of obscure, difficult, and often times harsh prophecies from Hosea is one of, if not the most, glorious chapters in all of Scripture.  In fact, a chapter so majestic, James Montgomery Boice referred to it as “The Greatest Chapter in the Bible.”  If that’s even close to being true, then it deserves our attention.  Hosea chapter 3 is cited below.  May our hearts be inclined to read God’s Word in such a way that our affections are stirred more for Him with every word that passes under our eyes.

“And the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” 2 So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. 3 And I said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.” 4 For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods. 5 Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days.” Hosea 3:1-5

On a surface reading it may be difficult to see this chapter living up to the hype that Dr. Boice has placed on it.  In fact, it may be difficult to see anything at all beyond some archaic references and analogies to Hosea and his wife Gomer.  Unpacking this passage verse by verse will reveal not only that there is more here than meets the eye, but the glory of the Gospel, indeed the gloriousness of Christ Himself.

The context for Hosea 3 is supplied rather obviously from Chapters 1-2 where the Lord has threatened and prophesied judgment against the Northern Kingdom of Israel.  By way of analogy from His own relationship with Israel, God has commanded His prophet Hosea to take for himself a wife of whoredom and to have children of whoredom with her.  Throughout this prophecy we find an interweaving of this analogy of Hosea/Gomer with Yahweh/Israel, as God declares that He will strip Israel bare of her adulteries (prostituting herself with other nations and developing a syncretistic religion with Baal).  The threatening’s bring to mind the Exodus and Wilderness Generation where God chastened, sustained, and prepared  Israel for entrance into the Promised Land leaving the audience of Hosea in anticipation of a Second Exodus.  The latter half of chapter 2 offers the hope of a New Covenant to reverse the curses that God would levy on the nation, land, and even animals.  It is upon this foundation that chapter 3 begins with an optimistic note of redemption.

And the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.”

On this occasion, the Lord is speaking directly to Hosea which echoes the beginning of the book in Hosea 1:2. His directive for Hosea to “love a woman” generically suggests that Gomer has not warranted either mention of her name or mention of her title as a wife.  In fact, all that she was has been forfeited.  The analogy is carried through to the LORD’s love for the “children of Israel”.  It is curious that up to this point in Hosea a distinction has been made between Israel and her children, though the point need not be pressed home to feel the weight of this passage.

The translation of the ESV causes the meaning of “loved by another man” to be somewhat obscured, especially when combining the phrase, “even as the LORD loves the children of Israel”.  In keeping with the analogy and applying the phrase “even as the LORD loves”, this would imply that the love directed toward the woman was from Hosea himself, not a third party, as will be made clear.  The NASB translation supports this and is preferred, “Then the LORD said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes.”

It’s necessary to note that the love was not reciprocated.  In fact, God’s love was extended to Israel despite her idolatry and worship of other gods.  This is our first point of association with the Gospel.  As we read in 1 John, we love because He loved us first. 1 Jn 4:19 Similarly the driving force beyond God’s sending of His own Son was His love. Jn 3:16  The picture being painted through the brush strokes of Hosea 3:1 is that God has an unconditional love for His people.  The basis for all that comes afterward is the love of God.  The motivation for taking an unfaithful bride to Himself is His own love for her.

So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley.

In verse 2, we see further action on the part of Hosea in completing the command of retrieval given to him by God, specifically through the act of redemption.  While the details are left out, the implication seems to be that Gomer had found her way into slavery and was now on the auction block.  Whether this was due to outstanding debt or whether she was part of temple slavery prostitution we are not told.  The picture, however, remains the same.  She is being purchased by her bridegroom.  Some commentators have posited that when a slave was sold on the auction block, they were stripped naked and left ashamed in front of their bidders.  While we may not know this detail for sure, it would seem to correspond nicely with the threats given in chapter 2, “lest I strip her naked”, “make her as in the day she was born”, “make her like a wilderness”, “make her like a parched land”.

Additionally, the Mosaic amount charged for redemption from slavery was 30 pieces of silver (Ex. 21:32; Lev. 27:4).  Here we see Hosea offering 15 pieces of silver and some low quality food.  The settlement on 15 shekels gives an indication of the low-worth or the perceived value into which she had now descended.  The word “bought” used here indicates a haggling or bargaining on Hosea’s part, or what we might call negotiating the price that he would pay.  As the purchase process goes, the homer and a lethech of barley may have been intended for use to support Gomer.  In other words, already stripped naked of her clothing, jewels, and makeup with which she had once adorned herself to attract her lovers and now stripped of any delicacies in which she indulged from her income, she is now left with nothing but “black bread” and a paltry amount of money to sustain her.  Calvin comments, “the parsimonious gift, a sum of money which was but half the price of a female slave, and a pittance of black barley bread, typified the hard fare which the Israelites were to expect at the hand of God in their state of exile.”  The scene is reminiscent of the aforementioned Wilderness Generation that was led through the desert, stripped bare of the rich foods from Egypt which had become the expectation of their palates, and were left to rely on the providential hand of God for lowly manna and water.

Here we have Gomer on the auction block as it were, stripped naked and bare, ashamed before all those men with whom she had previous relations who now do not want to pay for her, but instead revile her.  She is simply reaping the wages of her sin.  Sins resultant destitution is not limited to Gomer or Israel, but is universal in its spoiling of all mankind. The wages of sin is death; it’s what it requires and what it pays.  It cannot pony up 15 pieces of silver or even worthless bread.  Sin always promises what it is powerless to deliver.  Only one man is left to redeem her, Hosea, her original husband.

Dear Christian if this isn’t a beautiful picture of God’s redeeming love and the price that He paid, much more than 15 pieces of silver, rather the infinite worth of His Son’s shed blood, then there is nothing more that may move our hearts to worship.  The Lord Jesus redeemed His bride with His own precious blood.  There was no merit in her, nor did any of her adulterers show up with a competing bid.  Far from being a trivial amount, it was of infinite worth so that she might realize her own value is not found in herself, but in Him alone to the extent that she might say with all affection of a heart overjoyed with gratitude, My Beloved.

And I said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.”

Sweeping color now across the canvas of our Gospel portrait we arrive at verse 3 and read of Hosea’s stipulations to his humbled bride.  First, we may note the possessive language by which he addresses her and then the time period of “many days” given.  By way of analogy, this applies well to God’s faithless bride Israel.  During this extended period, Hosea instructs her that she will definitively no longer participate in whoredom or have intimate relations with any man, including himself.  This deprivation of her most distorted desires are for her purification.  This is the hedging-in period toward which God had alluded in Hosea 2:6.  She has been publically purchased, will come into possession of Hosea, and will no longer participate in her wanton behaviors.  Not only would their marital bed be undefiled, but their marital bed would remain abandoned for an extended time.

Christ redeemed His bride at the cross through the shedding of His blood in the marital (New) Covenant that He now mediates.  She has been betrothed to Him, yet she is undergoing the time of her purification until He returns for His bride and consummates their relationship with the celebration of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Of the New Covenant promises, one is purification through the “sprinkling of water” (Ezek. 36:25) a picture that recalls the ceremonial cleansing of Levitical law (Lev. 17:15-16; 22:6; Num. 19;19-21).  The symbolic act of Hosea withholding marital relations from Gomer for the purpose of purification would seem to correspond with this anticipated action by God toward His own bride.

For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods.

As this chapter develops even further we find a transition out of the analogy with Hosea and Gomer towards a clearer picture of God’s relationship with Israel.  This verse begins with the second address concerning the “children of Israel” which again appears in contradistinction with “Israel”.  Nevertheless, the promise is that the children will be absent king or prince, sacrifice or pillar, ephod or household gods.  These accoutrements seem to have a national flavor lending itself to the idea that very gifts that God had bestowed to the nation Israel originally, established under the dynasty of David and now abused and drowned in syncretism by the rogue Northern Kingdom, would be entirely stripped from her.  The indication of “household gods” punctuates the negative connotation that this list carries.

The natural, sinful condition of man’s heart always inclines him to distort the good desires and gifts that God has bestowed upon him or her through His grace.  It was no different in Israel’s day through the rampant wickedness that ruled on the throne to the idolatries that the priests led the people into, to the unholy sacrifices offered on the altars.  From the public worship to the private closet, the idolatries of the heart were Israel’s undoing and theirs is a picture not too unfamiliar from our own.  Thanks be to God that He has not only sprinkled His bride with clean water, but that through our purification He has removed all our idols.  The prophet Ezekiel makes this connection through his own unfolding of the gospel covenant, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanness, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.” Ezek. 36:25  Hosea 3:4 is nothing less than this promise by God to remove the idols from the heart of His own bride.  It would not be sufficient to be washed clean if the tub of mud remained within her reach.

Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days.”

Our third mention of the children of Israel in this passage comports well with Hosea’s development of a recurring series of three’s throughout the opening chapters of his prophecy (see VERSES 3:4) and introduces the first indications of positive actions that they will accomplish through the sovereign grace of God.  First we see a return to the Lord.  A return, or turning, involves a change in disposition or what we call repentance.  It is forsaking the path that one was on and essentially turning in the opposite direction.

Secondly, we see the children of Israel will seek the Lord.  Seeking carries with it the idea of acting on one’s desire.  Scripture is replete with verses that indicate God will be found when He is sought with the whole heart.  Like the merchant in search of fine pearls who gives himself over completely for the Pearl of Great Price, so too will the children of Israel seek the Lord their God and David their King.  This necessarily implies a change of heart from one that was seeking idols under every green tree and every public square to one that now seeks the Lord God.  Given the removal of idols and subsequent desires for them, those desires are supplanted with fresh desires to seek after God.  Notice now the reciprocal possession, this time of the bride for the bridegroom, “their God” indicating a complete reversal of Baalism that was rampant in Israel.

Thirdly, they “shall come in fear of the Lord and his goodness”.  This is a striking statement and few commenters offer thoughts on this phrase, so I shall tread lightly.  We may ask, why would they return in fear of the Lord AND His goodness?  It’s possible that what is being conveyed here is the transition from fearing God as Holy Judge towards fearing God has Holy Father, or to keep the metaphor alive, as a Holy Husband.  The difference is significant.  The former fears the wrath of God hovering over them with pending judgment.  The latter stands in awe and reverence of God who with compassion and tenderness has redeemed for Himself a people.  What is described here is nothing short of an increased knowledge of God at an intimate level not previously known or experienced.

In this verse, placed in terms that are easily understood, is the fruit of a regenerate heart that repents, seeks, and fears the Lord God and it is the direct product of the chastisement that they have undergone.  Dear Christians, what a profound and beautiful picture of the Gospel.  That the Lord God should be so inclined through His love and mercy to redeem a people for Himself, giving them hearts to seek after Him.  How can it be that He would condescend to save those who rebelled against Him?  How can it be that He would give His Son for an idolatrous and sinful people?  Surely He would have been just to destroy mankind once and for all. Yet for His own glory He has saved some, as in the day of Noah.

Two phrases remain to be addressed, namely the presence of “David their king” and the time period given, “in the latter days”.  Each phrase has historically carried with it some interpretive difficulties.  The mention of a king here is a reversal of verse 4, “children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince” and brings to completion the chastisement that they were to undergo.  This implies either 1) A resurrection of King David along with the anticipation of a return to former glory or 2) The expectation of a Greater David and the hope of a greater glory.

The fulfillment of this promise seems more likely with the latter option in the person of Jesus Christ who is in Himself the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant.  Simply stated, Hosea 3:5 is a prophecy concerning the Messianic arrival, coronation, and ascension of King Jesus at which time He will draw all His people to Himself.  Held together with the phrase “latter days” we arrive at the prophetic perspective common among Old Testament prophets who so often express the unfolding plan of God as though it were a single event.  Thus the expectation of 1st Century Palestine for a Messianic King that would restore the Kingdom of Israel, not a Suffering Servant dying at the hands of sinful men for the purpose of redeeming a people from every tribe, tongue, and nation.  While the Prophet does not give a clear indication of when these events may occur, the progressive revelation of God inclines one to see the inauguration of this at Christ’s First Advent and the expected consummation at Christ’s Second Advent.  It is this interadvental period that the King-Preist, Jesus Christ, is both ruling and reigning drawing a people to Himself.

Summarizing the Gospel According to Hosea:

  1. The Love of God for His people (vs. 1)
  2. The Redemption by God for His people (vs. 2)
  3. The Purification by God for His people (vs. 3)
  4. The Refinement by God for His people (vs. 4)
  5. The Consummation of God with His people in the person of Jesus Christ, the King-Priest (vs. 5)

Seemingly, Dr. Boice was not far off when he declared this to be the greatest chapter in Scripture and it’s not found in the Gospels, the Epistles, or even the New Testament.  But it’s found in an oft-overlooked, dusty, neglected book of the Old Testament.  Surely, our Lord was right when He declared to His apostles that all things written in the Law, Prophets, and Psalms were testifying of Him (Luke 24).

We were bought with a price.  Worthless, yet purchased with the precious blood of Christ.  We were purified and made ready for our Bridegroom and we now wait with baited breath for His return.

May our hearts be more inclined toward Christ after meditating on this passage and may our biblical reading and understanding be broadened to include not only the New Testament, but the Old as well such that our minds would be opened to see the gloriousness of the Gospel in the latter and the majesty of God in the fulfillment of all that He promised through His Son in the former.

Soli Deo Gloria!

 

 

Christ our Anchor and Forerunner

 

Laboring through some of the more difficult passages of Scripture, namely that of Hebrews 6, proves worthwhile as the chapter concludes with a glorious statement of assurance rooted in the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ.  In Hebrews 6:19-20 we read that Jesus is our steadfast anchor, hope, forerunner, and High Priest stringing together pearls of assurance for the believer.  Note well the passage below:

19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

The return of the authors use of “we” likely indicates that he is including himself in the statement that follows which highlights Christ’s mediatorial and intercessory work on behalf of believers.  In view here, the “this”, is the faithfulness of God to His promises, first as seen in the example of Abraham (Heb. 6:13-18) and secondly, by way of comparison, His promises that are rooted in the finished work of the Son of God.  The believer’s salvation and assurance is founded on nothing less than the very character of God and the effectualness of Christ’s death, resurrection, and now intercession as High Priest.  In short, a true believer in Christ may fall away to their eternal destruction the moment God can be called a liar and Christ ceases to intercede for them.  God is not a liar (Num. 23:19; Titus 1:2) and it necessarily follows that one’s security is eternally sealed in the person of Christ.

This promise is said to be a steadfast anchor of the soul.  Again we see the use of nautical language (see Heb. 2) to provide a lasting and understandable mental picture for the immediate audience.  By way of the anchor analogy, the promise of God is seen to function as an immovable guarantee.  It should not be assumed, as we will see, that the anchor is somehow set weakly or in soft sand that may shift and loosen the anchor.  Quite the contrary, the anchor of God’s promise is not only set by God and secured by God, but the anchor is God’s very own Son who gave Himself up for all who have and will believe.  Therefore, though the sea may toss and turn, the believer may be assured that the soul of his or her vessel will surely be secured and reach port safely by no merit of their own, but by grace through faith in the Savior Jesus Christ.

Moving on, this hope is said to have entered “into the inner place behind the curtain” bringing to mind the Old Covenant tabernacle/temple where only the High Priest could enter annually on the Day of Atonement.  This phrase serves as a notable “hook” to preview and introduce a later developed concept of the superiority of the “tabernacle” in the New Covenant as opposed to the type and shadow of the tabernacle under the Old Covenant.  Nevertheless, it functions to support the staggering statement that through Christ’s sacrificial death and ascension to the Father, we now have access to the Holy of Holies and into the very presence of Almighty God.  Further, the argument from the anchor, now to the hope that enters, indicates that this is not an abstract statement but has as its object a Person that functions as the anchor and the hope that has entered behind the curtain, namely Jesus Christ.  This priestly work of Christ develops the introductory thesis given in Hebrews 1:3 and builds upon the contrast with the Levitical Priesthood in Hebrews 5:1-10 preparing us for the reintroduction of the Melchizedekian Priesthood in the chapter that follows, a type of the superior Priesthood of Christ.

Pressing deeper into the argument we see clearly in the next phrase that it is indeed Jesus Christ who has entered the inner curtain or veil, and has done so as a forerunner or trailblazer on “our behalf”.  As though the glory of this passage could not reach a higher crescendo, it is stated with clarity that this priestly work is done with a purpose and object in mind, namely on “our behalf” or for the sake of believers.  By stating that Christ has blazed this trail it necessarily implies that there will be followers.  As seen in Hebrews 4:16 and upcoming in Hebrews 7:18, 25 the pathway has been opened and cleared for those who draw near to God, not simply one time, but a continual drawing near to God.

Commenting on the use of “forerunner”, yet another nautical reference, Talbot writes,

“The Greek harbors were often cut off from the sea by sandbars, over which the larger ships dared not pass till the full tide came in. Therefore, a lighter vessel, a “forerunner,” took the anchor and dropped it in the harbor. From that moment the ship was safe from the storm, although it had to wait for the tide, before it could enter the harbor…. The entrance of the small
vessel into the harbor, the forerunner carrying the ship’s anchor, was the pledge that the ship would safely enter the harbor when the tide was full. And because Christ, our “forerunner,” has entered heaven itself, having torn asunder everything that separates the redeemed sinner from the very presence of God, He Himself is the Pledge that we, too, shall one day enter the harbor of our souls and the very presence of God, in the New Jerusalem.” [1]

Using this informative statement, perhaps the significance of Christ as our forerunner takes on a greater meaning by seeing through His work of carrying the cross-shaped anchor into the port of God’s Holy Temple He has eternally secured our safe passage into the harbor.  Brothers and sisters there can perhaps be no sweeter truth than to know that we who were once rotten sinners under the wrath of God have now obtained entrance into the Holy of Holies, access to the very presence of God Whom we are told is a consuming fire (Deut. 4:24; Heb. 12:29), through our forerunner Jesus Christ by means of His death, resurrection, and ascension such that we now may come freely to the throne of grace and receive mercy in our time of need.  All this we are told is our assurance and hope, grounded in the High Preistly office of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Let the majesty of God’s steadfast love through what He has done in His Son on our behalf sink in for a moment and allow it to lead you into meditation and worship of the Most High God.

Hallelujah, what a Savior!

 

[1] Louis Talbot – Studies in the
Epistle to the Hebrews (p. 23.) as cited by Phillips, Richard. The Reformed Expository Commentary. New Jersey: P&R Publishing, 2006. 

The Builder of the House

 

In Hebrews chapter 1 we saw the Supremacy of Christ, the Son of God, in His exaltation as King (Son-King), a position superior to angels. In chapter 2 we read of the Humiliation of Christ, the Son of Man, in His suffering as the Last Adam. Now in chapter 3, the tide shifts to a strong exhortation based God’s revelation of who this Jesus is, followed by the entrance into the superiority of Christ over the elements of the Old Covenant, namely its mediator, Moses.

“Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession” Hebrews 3:1

The Author’s exhortation begins appropriately with “therefore” signaling yet again the continuity with what has been expressed earlier and serving to link the previous exposition with the current one. Remember that in the original composition of this letter (or sermon), there were no chapter breaks, so, often the author is actually expressing a continuous thought and simply uses “therefore” to emphasize or reiterate a point to his audience. Though this audience of Hebrews, particularly their identification in the warning passages, has often been debated, here there is clear evidence that the intended audience, the recipients of the warnings, are believers, i.e. “holy brothers”.

This familial language introduced in chapter one between Father and Son and expanded in chapter two to include believers as the family of God and brothers of Christ, is evident yet again as chapter 3 develops. However here, this reference serves a two-fold purpose, first in identifying the recipients of the warning among the family of God, but it also serves to unite the theme of sanctification (holiness) alluded to in 1:3 and expressly stated again in 2:10-11.

Adding to this statement as a further modification of the family of God, or brothers, is that they “share in a heavenly calling.” This calling from heaven is a calling from God and a calling to God. It is an effectual, gracious call that does not extend to everyone and cannot be answered by anyone, apart from the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart. Likewise, this heavenly calling accomplishes all that God intends, namely in bringing many sons to glory. Similar language, for example to share, to partake, or even better to partner in, is used elsewhere, as in 1:9, and related in origin to the word used in 2:14. Likewise, it is the same word used in 3:14 (see also 6:4 and 12:8) and it highlights the various ways in which believers are partakers with Christ or better stated, in union with Him. Believers are literally united by a heavenly calling, the Gospel call, issued forth by the Spirit of God that is received by faith.

The exhortation of this section begins with the admonition to “consider Jesus”, followed by the reason for doing so, namely that He is the “apostle and high priest of our confession.” This is the only time in Scripture that Christ is referred to as an apostle, fitting though because apostle actually means “sent one”. He commissioned His own disciples in their apostleship, similarly He was commissioned for His own apostleship by His Father. When held in conjunction with the office of High Priest, we will see in subsequent verses that Christ in His official capacities were granted them by oath of God the Father.

In the verse that follows, the Author begins a series of comparisons and contrasts, similar to that of chapter 1 between Christ and angels, but here the object of comparison is with Moses, the fundamentally superior character on the pages of Old Testament Scripture. Moses stands head and shoulders above anyone else because he is viewed as the great redeemer and law giver. He is the one who met face to face with God on the mountain and in the tabernacle. He is the one who so often interceded to God on behalf of Israel for food, water, and God’s mercy. So then, when the author sets up the comparison and contrast of Christ with Moses, we must realize the significance of this, particularly from the perspective of Jewish tradition.

The comparison begins with the faithfulness of Christ, “who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house.” This mention of Christ faithfulness picks up on the mention of His “merciful and faithful” high priesthood from 2:17 giving the reader an indication of its importance and the attention it will be given in subsequent chapters. We see that the object of Christ’s faithfulness was toward God the Father, “who appointed him.”

This appointment ties back with the earlier statement of Christ’s apostleship and high priesthood. Christ did not appoint Himself, nor did He come on His own authority, as He so often proclaimed during His earthly ministry, but came at the direction of the Father to do His will. The language of appointment is likely intentional to draw the readers minds back to 1 Samuel 2:35:

“And I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind. And I will build him a sure house, and he shall go in and out before my anointed forever.”

and 1 Chronicles 17:14

“but I will confirm him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever”

Additionally, the reference to appointment serves as a springboard into the citation of Psalm 110 by the Author in chapter 5, which will serve as the introduction to the discourse on the Priesthood of Christ.

The comparison then is the faithfulness of Christ with the faithfulness of Moses, who, as we are told, “was faithful in all God’s house”. This statement will eventually set up the first point of contrast in the following verse, but we should pause to ask, what is this house of God that Moses was faithful in? In Numbers 12:6-8 we find perhaps the foundation upon which this statement is made in Hebrews, “And he said, “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the Lord.”   The house in reference here is sometimes referred to in two ways, the first being the House of Israel and the second being the House of God, i.e. the tabernacle. Both statements are true, but as Schreiner points out, “’house’” in this context refers to the people of God. As a member of God’s people Moses was faithful.”[1] This seems to correspond with the context, as we will see.

Continuing into the contrast, “For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself,” we see that Christ is worthy of more glory than Moses. Why? To answer that, the Author establishes a contrast by way of analogy, “the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself”. The implication here is that Jesus is the Builder of the house and that Moses is the “house”. Not that he is the house alone, but is a member of the house, as will be clarified in verse 6.

In verse 4 we read the following parenthetical statement, “For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.” When held in combination with the previous verse that established Jesus Christ as the Builder of the house, this verse declares the deity of Christ by saying all things are built by God and that Christ is that God. The syllogism reads like this: Christ built the house::All things are built by God::Therefore Christ is God. Perhaps it has Hebrews 1:2 in mind, or perhaps it isn’t a reference to creation in general, but to building the house of God specifically. Nevertheless it is a syllogistic statement setting forth the truth that Jesus is God.

The author of Hebrews then steps back into his contrast by positively stating the role of Moses, “Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later”. Here we get a further statement concerning Moses’ position in the house, i.e. that of servant. In fulfilling his duty, he testifies to the “things that were to be spoken later.” What things are these? The things of Christ, i.e. the coming of the Messiah, i.e. the Gospel. Luke 24:44 says, “Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’”  There is much more that could be said regarding this, such as John 3:14-15; John 6:31-51; 1 Corinthians 10:1-5, 9-10; Moses spoke and testified of Christ and despite some more modern theological systems claiming otherwise, the Gospel was present and preached in the Old Testament. This becomes more explicitly stated in Hebrews 4:1-2.

Continuing in our passage, verse 6 is the culminating verse that states the superiority of Christ, as Son, who in His position over the house is greater than Moses who serves in the house. If any lingering questions remain at this point regarding the substance of this house, whether it be a physical structure or in reference to a spiritual structure, that is cleared up in the remaining portion of this verse, “And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.” As we have seen, the author has included himself in the introduction of this warning statement and again, he aligns himself with his audience, “we are his house if indeed we”.

Believers are the temple of God; the place where God resides and dwells within (2 Corinthians 6:14-18). The Old Testament temple was but a type of the temple of Christ’s body (John 2:19-22). The New Testament uses this imagery to paint a picture of our relationship in union with Christ, the true temple.

The “if” used here is not necessarily a conditional statement, but is a statement of perseverance, “If we persevere, we are His house”. The second clause is not necessarily dependent, as in an if/then statement, but more so is clarified by the first statement. In other words, our inclusion in the house of God is evidenced by our perseverance, which is here referred to as “holding fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope”, all of which point to Christ as its source.

Moses was a member of the house of God and a faithful servant in it. Christ, as Son, built the house giving Him more glory and honor than a servant. We, like our first century brothers and sisters receiving this message, are called to consider this Jesus. Apostle. High Priest. Builder. Son. Merciful and Faithful in all these. Our Confidence and our Hope. Let us therefore persevere as members of the House of God built in Christ.

 

[1] Schreiner, Thomas R., “Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation: Commentary on Hebrews”. Nashville: B&H Publishing, 2015. Pg 115

*Image Credit – Wikipedia