Summary: An encouragement to give Jesus due consideration, and an exhortation to avoid the temptation of drawing back.
CONSIDERING JESUS AND NOT TURNING BACK
The writer to the Hebrews was at pains to ensure that the eyes of his readers remained focused on Jesus. For Hebrew Christians to go back to the law of Moses was not an option. Moses was faithful - but Jesus is counted worthy of more glory than Moses (Hebrews 3:2-3).
First, he reminds them who and what they are: “holy brethren” (Hebrews 3:1a). The “Wherefore” alludes to the preceding context, where Jesus sanctified them as sons of God (cf. John 1:12) through His own sanctification on the Cross, where the ‘captain of their salvation’ was ‘made perfect through sufferings’ and where He received them as ‘brethren’ (Hebrews 2:10-11).
In the Old Testament, God spoke through dreams and visions, through type and prophecy, and through the sacrifices and ceremonies of a complex cultic ritual (cf. Hebrews 1:1). With some, like Abraham and Moses, He spoke almost ‘face to face’ (cf. Numbers 12:6-8) - but the fathers were walking in the shadow of the promise, and not in the fullness that we now enjoy.
When Jesus came, it was not to abolish all that had gone before, but to bring it to fulfilment (cf. Matthew 5:17). Moses was a witness speaking of things which were still in the future. Jesus is the final word (cf. Hebrews 1:2).
Despite his initial reticence, Moses did everything that God commanded him (cf. Exodus 40:16). Moses was like a faithful old retainer in a mighty house: but Jesus is the one who built the house. Moses was a servant of the house: but Jesus is the founder and head over His own house; “whose house are we…” (Hebrews 3:6a). There is an “if” clause here, reminding us to “hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end” (Hebrews 3:6b).
Jesus says, ‘Who hath ears to hear let him hear’ (cf. Matthew 13:9). The writer to the Hebrews quotes a Psalm: “Today, if you will hear His voice, harden not your hearts…” (Hebrews 3:7-8; cf. Psalm 95:7-8).
We are taken back in time to an incident (cf. Exodus 17:1-7), not long after the LORD had led the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt (cf. Exodus 13:3). The Red Sea had miraculously parted, and the first generation of freedmen had walked across dry-shod. Miriam’s song (cf. Exodus 15:21) was still fresh in the memories of the people.
The people put the LORD to the test in the wilderness (Hebrews 3:8-9; cf. Psalm 95:8-9). They chided with Moses, and he accused them of tempting the LORD (cf. Exodus 17:2). After all the miracles of Egypt, the people questioned: ‘Is the LORD among us or not?’ (cf. Exodus 17:7). How soon we forget past mercies!
It was at this point that ‘the Rock’ (cf. Psalm 95:1) was introduced (cf. Exodus 17:6): ‘and that Rock was Christ’ (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:4). There came a breaking point in the relationship between the LORD and His people, and a whole generation were doomed to wander in the wilderness for forty years and failed to enter the promised land (Hebrews 3:10-11; cf. Psalm 95:10-11). These things are written for our admonition, we are told: ‘therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall’ (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:11-12).
Psalm 95:8-11 looks back to the days of Moses, but it is part of what the Spirit is saying to the churches, even today (cf. Revelation 2:29). Its application is to the present. It belongs to Today, whenever Today may be.
The writer to the Hebrews warns us to “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:12). It was the sin of “unbelief” which hindered the majority from entering into the promised land (Hebrews 3:19). So, “Exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13).