Important Words and Relationships from Hebrews 3:1 – 4:13

Key Words from Hebrews 3:1 – 4:13

Words (incl. verse #) Type Ask Questions Answer Questions Apply Answers
…apostle and high priest (3:1) significant How is Jesus an apostle and high priest? An apostle is a messenger of God who is sent “on a mission with full authority” (Fri). He carries a message with him, communicating between God and his people/creation. In Judaism, a high priest is the principal or chief/most important among priests as in the head or president of the Sanhedrin (BDAG). The job of the priest was to atone for the sins of the people, offering sacrifices on their behalf so that they would receive forgiveness from God. Moses performed both roles, as the messenger of God who gave the people the law, therefore an apostle, and performed sacrifices for their sins, therefore was the chief priest. Jesus however, comes with a better message, for the old covenant was a shadow of the new covenant that he ushers in. His sacrifice is better than the blood of goats, sheep and bulls that Moses offered since they only covered over sin. Jesus however, shed his own blood which actually washed away sin completely and secured forgiveness for all who believe in him. The Hebrews are called to seriously consider Jesus’ words/gospel and work/sacrifice. Since he was better than Moses in both respects. Therefore, the blessing, for faith, and the curse, for rebellion, is much greater and more dire than with Moses. We also can be far more confident that he is actually able to do as he promises since Moses could only present a shadow that lacked the efficacy to do what it promised.
Moses (3:2) significant In what ways is Jesus comparable to Moses? Jesus also came with a message, and therefore is an apostle and also atoned for the sins of men and therefore is a priest. The difference however, is that Jesus is a Son and Moses was only a servant. Jesus’ gospel was better than Moses law in that the gospel is the fulfillment of the law. And finally, Jesus’ sacrifice actually secured the forgiveness for sin while Moses could only cover them and point to the one who was to come, namely, Jesus. To believe in anyone or anything else for the a harmonious relationship with God than Jesus is to fail since all else is just an imperfect shadow of the reality that he is. There is no other person through whom one can be saved except through Jesus.
glory (3:3) difficult, repeated, significant What is glory? The word glory literally means “brightness” or “radiance” (Ging, Fri). It is the same word used to describe the appearance of God in Ex 16 when the Israelites complained for food instead of trusting that God was sufficient for all their needs and would satisfy their wants. It these people whom God killed off. Jesus, in the same way, is the presence of God appearing to us. But his glory and honor is much greater than that of Moses, because even though Moses was called by God to build a house for him in the people of Israel, it was a flawed, imperfect house of which Moses himself was a part. And he also was among those who did not enter the land because of unbelief, dying on the outskirts of the land of promise when he refused to obey God’s word (Deut 33, 34) and was buried in the land of Moab. Jesus however, is building a far better house, one which God dwells in and one which endures into eternity (Ephesians 2:19). His house is perfect, not because of its members but because of the builder himself, who makes it holy and will present it to the Father perfect. Jesus represents the fullness of the presence of God. At all other times, God only revealed himself in part, and his presence before an unholy people induced fear, not love. But now, Jesus brings the presence of God in its fullness and instead of fear, he calls all God’s children to come in full confidence that they are forgiven and can enter the presence of God with boldness and confidence knowing that they will find mercy and grace to help them in their time of need (Ephesians 4:14)
faithful (3:6) significant, repeated How did Moses show himself to be faithful? Greek pistos (it’s not in verse 6 but is tran slated from vs. 5 by way of parallelism). It means “trusting…full of faith” (Fri). Moses proved trustworthy with the message he received – he passed it on to the Israelites and was faithful to God in his duties. And yet, he himself was also a sinner, needing to sacrifice for his own failings and shortcomings and therefore was not perfect in his faithfulness. He was a servant and therefore could not claim ownership of the sheep. He grew angry and frustrated by the people God had called him to shepherd, even to the point that he ended up disobeying God (Numbers 20:10). In this sense, he was like a hired hand unlike Jesus, who is the good shepherd and does not flee from his sheep (John 10:13). Rather, even when they became unbearable, he suffered for them and died for their sake because they were HIS sheep, given to him by the father and he had vowed that he would never lose any of them. Jesus will never leave nor forsake you, even when you stray from him. You are his precious inheritance and cares for you even to the point of laying down his life for your sake. Therefore, you must believe and trust in him wholly.
hold fast (3:6) significant How does one “hold fast” to hope? To “kataskowmen” in the sense of Hebrews 3:6 is to “adhere firmly to traditions or beliefs”, “retain[ing] faithfully” the convictions that we have. The Hebrews were in danger of losing the truth they had received and in which they had once fully and unswervingly believed. Now circumstances had risen that were tempting them away from the gospel and faith in Christ. Therefore, they are being urged not to let go of this gospel and its promises. There will come times in your life when you will be tempted to turn from God, often thinking that he has abandoned you. In fact, we are faced with this temptation daily. But remember that he will never forsake you and that he is faithful to you in all circumstances and in all ways. Therefore do not let go of the truth that you have received and so go the way of Esau who abandoned his inheritence. Shore up your conviction and belief in his word and the power of his promises.
harden (3:8) Repeated, significant How do you harden your heart? This is a reference to Psalm 94:8 which recounts the very incident that caused Moses to lose his place in Canaan and so die outside the promised land as a result of the disobedience of the Israelites when they grumbled for water at Meribah. It means to “refuse to change one’s attitude” (Fri) or be “unyielding in resisting information” (BDAG). It is an active, full conscious action, not a once of mistake but a continuous pattern of resistance to God, as with Pharaoh in Exodus. This same hardening of heart that he exhibited was later adopted by the very people whom God rescued from his tyranny, and so they too suffered his fate. The hardening of the heart is a process that takes place over time, through repeated and consistent rejection of God’s word. Therefore there is comfort in that its not a once off action that condemns you to damnation but a consistent pattern or lifestyle. This also means you can counter the “hardening of your heart” by constantly massaging it with acts of faith and a continuous, albeit imperfect, pattern of belief.
…the promise of entering his rest (4:1) significant What is the “rest” that is promised? To enter is to “eiserkomai” meaning to “take possession of” something, going into to it in order to enjoy it (Fri). The rest which is promised is a place where one ceases from activity and “lives peacefully” (Fri, BDAG). It is the same sense in which God rested after creation on the 7th day, a rest that was broken by sin and therefore remains to be entered. Moses led the Israelites to the symbolic shadow of that rest, Canaan, a land that was supposed to “flow with milk and honey” but instead, Moses himself could not enter it because of sin, and the Israelites found only strife and suffering and toil because of the same. Therefore, a second rest is promised, one that is to be ushered in by Jesus and which we will take a hold of if we follow him, for he is a better shepherd than either Moses or Joshua. The rest which we are promised and which we look forward to will not come passively but needs to be “taken a hold of” and “possessed” We are therefore active participants in entering this rest, which resonates with Paul’s call to the Philippians to “work out your own salvation” (Philippians 2:12).
Today (4:7) repeated When is “Today”? Not necessarily referring to the 24 hour calendar day in this context but a sense of immediacy that faith has to be a continuous, present act that is exhibited today as opposed to the past or future period (Fri). This perhaps is somewhat confusing since “today” is a day ordained in the future and yet, faith is an act we are called to now. Faith is a continuous action that we are called to exercise in the now, at this very moment. Therefore, do not delay your obedience until tomorrow for the future is attained in the present.
…living and active (4:12) significant In what ways is God’s word “living and active”? This means that the word of God is “effective” and powerful, able to “penetrate deeply” (BDAG, Ging). This the same word that created the heavens and the earth (John 1:1 ff) bringing to life everything that is. So it has a creative power (and also a destructive one, since it is able to judge). To one it is a sweet fragrance, to another it is the stench of death (2 Corinthians 2:16). It stirs the conscience and moves the heart; it has power to raise what is dead and give it life as with Lazarus (John 11:1 ff.) and when Jesus spoke it, it was with power and conviction, unlike the dead utterings of the scribes (Matthew 7:9). God’s word demands a response because it is alive in and of itself. The life that God wants you to live is possible because his word is powerful and able to make you live it. Disobedience to it brings death while obedience will result in the fullness of life. Do not ignore it when it stirs up your thoughts and emotions, do not neglect it when it awakens guilt and shame; rather listen to the Spirit through whom it speaks.
Let us (4:11) Significant The first of several exhortations to respond. This is not a mere suggestion but a forceful command. This is a repeated refrain in Hebrews. It means to “do one’s best” as in 2 Timothy 2:15, to be diligent as in 2 Peter 1:10, to be “eager and greatly desirous” as in 1 Thessalonians 2:17. Rather than be a negative command, it is a positive, joyful, upward looking exhortation to strive for something better which in this case, is a choice between rest and death. God is calling you to joyfully embrace the work of entering his rest. Even though it is hard work, the great reward it brings is one that must fill you with eagerness, knowing that his word is also at work in you to do his calling.

Key Relationships from Hebrews 3:1 – 4:13

Relationship (incl. verse #) Type Meaning
Therefore (3:1) Logical Seeing that Jesus was willing to endure, suffer and overcome temptation on their behalf, the Hebrew Christians are to think deeply about the work and worth of Jesus Christ and how he is superior even to Moses, the greatest prophet in Jewish religion (Deut 34:10).
Moses (3:2) Contextual The writer of Hebrews picks out (arguably) the greatest prophet of the Old Testament, Moses, and compares him with Jesus, whom he posits as the fulfillment of the old covenant and usher of the new covenant. By comparing the two, he shows that Jesus is clearly superior for Moses was only a servant in God’s house while Jesus was a son.
Today (3:7) Chronological While it has an immediate, temporal meaning, there is a future application of the promise given in Psalm 95:7-11. It only had a partial fulfillment at the time it was given but it is yet to be fully realized.
Egypt (3:16) Geographical, Chronological This reference to Egypt is meant to harken the minds of the Hebrews back to Moses and how faithlessness cost the Israelites their attainment of God’s promises so that many died before entering the land of promise. In the same way, faithlessness will also cost them their place in God’s coming rest.

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