Moses and Jesus
C. Gahan, Ilminster
In the above verses we have a striking contrast between the greatest person in the Old Testament: Moses, and the greatest Person in the New Testament. (We are following the Revised Version throughout this article in constantly using the name Jesus rather than the title Christ Jesus.) The reasons for introducing this subject here are clear and plain: while this Epistle is for all who are "partakers of the heavenly calling", first and foremost it was written to believing Jews. Now, like their unconverted brethren, these converted Hebrews were proud of their past history, and it was difficult to convince them that anything in that wonderful past could be, or should be, superseded. They were constantly asking, "Why should not the law of Moses be as necessary now as it was before?"; and in this Epistle we have the answer to such questionings. The great object in the verses before us is to show that the Mosaic economy, precious as it was, was at best not final but partial, and that Jesus was greater than Moses because He came not to destroy the law but to fulfil it. This was the first great lesson that these Jewish converts had to learn; Moses was the type of which Jesus was the antitype; the Mosaic economy was but the shadow of which Christianity would be the substance. It is not in Moses but in Jesus that we reach finality; Christianity is the final and absolute revelation. It represents the new and better covenant between God and man, and now only the members of that covenant constitute the true house of God. Such was the purpose in the introduction so early in this Epistle of the striking contrast between Moses and Jesus. Here there is a contrast -
In their Faithfulness. In the words of verses 2 and 3: "Jesus; who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house". Under the old dispensation few equalled, and none ever excelled Moses in faithfulness. From the day that Moses forsook the land of Egypt and the house of Pharaoh he seldom wavered in his fidelity. No less than fifty times it is said of Moses, "As the Lord commanded Moses, so did he". But faithful as Moses was, Jesus was more faithful. Moses failed at least once; at the waters of Meribah God said to him: "Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land I have given to them", Num. 20. 12. Moses' unbelief on this occasion was a very grievous sin for it involved the integrity of God's promise. In marked contrast to this was the spotless perfection and unswerving devotion of the One who did His Father's will; He could say: "And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him", John 8. 29. Ever and always He did His Father's will and not His own will. Elsewhere John says of Him: "Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness", Rev. 1. 5. He was pre-eminent in His faithfulness hence the definite article "the". He was "the faithful witness" in contrast to all the witnesses who had gone before; they had their spots and blemishes, but He was "without blemish and without spot", 1 Pet. 1. 19. Again, in these verses there is a contrast -
In their Worthiness. In verse 3 of this chapter, it is written of Jesus, "For this man was counted worthy of more glory (i.e., honour) than Moses". To be worthy of honour we must make great sacrifices and endure hardships and suffering for the sake of others. This is what Moses did. He was a prince in Egypt and a member of the royal household, but from the luxury of Pharaoh's court he looked down upon his own people. He saw their sufferings, he appreciated their toils and hardships, and finally he cast his lot with them. He left his princely house that he might help his enslaved Jewish brethren. In the words of Scripture, he "refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season", Heb. 11. 24,25. Was not Moses worthy of glory? and can we wonder that the Jews gave him so high and exalted a place! But if this is true of Moses, much more it is true of Jesus. He was not a prince in Egypt, He was God over all, wearing the crown of the Eternal King. But that crown He laid aside; He condescended to our humanity, and lived a life and died a death the like of which had never been seen before, and never will be seen again. Moses sacrificed and suffered much, but Jesus suffered so much more; the sufferings of Moses were intermittent, but in His life the sufferings of Jesus were constant; again, Moses suffered for a nation, but Jesus suffered for the world. Well might it be said:
"This man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses".
For me those pangs He suffered,
For me that death was borne. My sins gave sharpness to the nail,
And pointed every thorn.
Again, it is everywhere conceded that one who delivers his fellows from bondage is worthy of glory. When Moses discovered the awful condition of his Jewish brethren, he went to the king of Egypt and said: in the name of Jehovah let my people go. At first Pharaoh refused, but at last he had to let them go, and we see Moses leading them out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, thus to secure for himself and the Jewish people a glory that could never fade. But turning again from Moses to Jesus, what do we see? We discover not merely the Jewish nation but the entire human race in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity. Men and women everywhere had been taken captive by Satan at his will, and when there was no other eye to pity and no other arm stretched out to save, Jesus came.
With pitying eye the Son of God,
Beheld their helpless grief; He saw: and Oh, amazing love,
He flew to their relief.
He became the Saviour and Deliverer, not of a nation, but of the world. One other thing here: looking at Moses and Jesus in these verses, we not only have a contrast in their faithfulness and worthiness, but we see a contrast
In their Greatness. And this is strikingly set before us here. That Moses was a great man is self-evident; with the exception of a few misguided critics men everywhere acknowledge Moses to be one of the few kings of men, one of the few remarkable men who have made lasting contributions to the well-being of the human race. The very laws which govern human life today, and upon which the vast fabric of civilization rests, have their basis in the statutes of God delivered to, and set in order by, Moses. But Moses was not only a great administrator and a wise counsellor, he was a born leader of men; in this few have equalled him and none have excelled him. But great as Moses was, Jesus is greater than Moses; this is the great burden of these verses and it is brought out in a remarkable way. Two houses are mentioned here, the house of Moses and the house over which Christ is Son. The house of Moses comprised the children of Israel, this being a familiar title by which they were known; God ruled over the nations of the earth but His dwelling place was with Israel. Having been redeemed from Egyptian bondage they became the acknowledged household of God. They were entrusted with a unique mission in the world; they were set apart to make God known to the nations of the earth. The house over which Christ is Son is God's house, the Church; Israel failed and the divine testimony committed to them has been taken from them and given to the Church. The Church is now the house of God: "Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God", Eph. 2.19. What was Moses to his house? In the house of Israel he was a stone and without doubt a very distinguished stone, nevertheless he was but a stone in the building. What is Jesus to His house? He is the builder of the house, having brought these stones together and constituted them a spiritual house, and built them together "for an habitation of God through the Spirit", Eph. 2. 22. It follows, therefore, that Jesus is greater than Moses just as the builder is greater than the house that has been built. In the words of Hebrews 3.3: "For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house". Again, what was Moses in his house? He was a servant, and servants, even the highest, are but a part of the household economy. What was Christ in relation to His house? He was Son, and there is a vast difference in a household between a servant and a son. In the words of verses 5 and 6: "And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after"; but Christ is Son over His own house.
What is the conclusion of the whole matter? Just this: if Jesus is greater than Moses, it necessarily follows that the house is greater than the house of Moses. The house of Moses, practising its ritual and ceremonial, was typical, but the house that God builds is real; the one was temporal, the other is eternal; the one is earthly, the other heavenly; the one is old, the other new. The Church is the substance and reality of which the Mosaic economy was but the figure; with the coming of Jesus a new dispensation was made possible, a dispensation of the Church, the house of God.