2 He was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all his (God’s) house. 3 Yet Jesus has been counted worthy of as much more glory than Moses as the builder of a house has more honor than the house. 4 (For every house is built by some one, but the builder of all things is God.) 5 Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, 6 but Christ was faithful over God’s house as a son, whose house we are, if we hold fast the confidence and the boasting in our hope until completion.
Our author is writing to Christians, most likely Jewish Christians, who, in the midst of their struggles and circumstances, are drifting away from Jesus and turning to other things to count on for their identity, security, or maybe in hopes of becoming more spiritually advanced. Because of the great interest in angels in both the Hebrew and Greek societies, these Christians were tempted to add--to their faith in Christ--the worship of angels. Perhaps he was a mysterious angelic being who existed between God and human creatures?
But, because of their Jewish heritage, some were also tempted, among other things, to add Jesus onto their traditional reverence for Moses. The author of this book wants to address the question: How does Jesus fit in with all that occurred between God and His people? Is Jesus just another great prophet, or even another Moses?
So, having already considered Jesus’ superiority to the angels, the author now turns to a consideration of how Jesus compares to Moses. To understand this passage better, we first need to look briefly at Moses and his relationship to “God’s house.” Moses was considered the greatest prophet of the Jews, in fact one of the greatest people in history. He was the one whom God chose to lead the Hebrew people out of slavery in Egypt. He led the people for the 40 years that they wandered in the wilderness and brought them to the boundary of the promised land. At the end of the book of Deuteronomy, the author writes, “Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, who did all those signs and wonders, the Lord sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.”
It was Moses who received the law from God. At Mt. Sinai, he was the only one allowed to ascend to the top of the mountain to speak with God. The elders could come half-way up the mountain, but no further, and the people had to remain at the bottom. When the people made a golden calf to worship while Moses was away, God told Moses He would destroy them, but Moses intervened on their behalf. He mediated for the people before God more than once. Because of his role as mediator, it was believed by many Pharisees and teachers that it was Moses who would stand before God on their behalf in the final judgment.
What is this “house” that Moses was faithful in as God’s servant? It could refer both to the actual people of Israel and to the tabernacle. Moses was the one who received all the detailed instructions from God on the building of the Tabernacle, the place where God Himself would dwell with His people. He was faithful to build the tabernacle according to the instructions he was given, and God came and dwelt in it, among His people. And Moses was faithful as God’s servant to lead the rebellious people of God through their 40 years in the wilderness.
There was an assumption among the Hebrews that what or who came chronologically after was lesser than what came before. So, just what is Jesus’ relationship to Moses? Where does He fit in the hierarchy of apostles and prophets that God has sent to Israel over their history? The first point that our author makes is to focus on the similarity between Jesus and Moses: “He was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in God’s house.” Both of them were appointed by God, and both were faithful to the God who appointed them. The author has no desire to denigrate Moses to his readers. They can continue to hold Moses in high esteem as God’s faithful servant.
From here, however, the author wishes to help his readers understand the absolute superiority of Jesus. Jesus is not another one of the kind of servant Moses is. To compare them is to realize that there really is no comparison. The glory of Jesus is the glory of the builder of a house compared to the glory of the house that was built. We aren’t then comparing 2 houses, but a creation with its creator!
“Now Moses faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ faithful over God’s house as a son." The preceeding sentence is correct! In the Greek, there are no “being” verbs here, making this read more like a phrase then a sentence. In fact, the verb comes in the next section, which is treated as a separate sentence our English translation. The author combines his first 2 points of comparison. Moses was unarguably faithful, as a servant. Notice the author uses the same word earlier to describe the angels. Moses was God’s servant, and, the author’s next point, he serves in God’s house by pointing ahead, pointing beyond himself to what would take place in the future. The faithfulness of Moses is seen in his not pointing to himself, but being a sign, a pointer to what was to come. So Moses was great, but part of his greatness is pointing to one even greater.
In contrast, Jesus is the son, not merely a servant. And He is faithful over God’s house. Although He is now made human, and so for a while a little lower than the angels, He is also the Creator—the builder and therefore, over the house. Here is a more literal translation of the Greek for this sentence: “But Christ (faithful) as a son over his own house whose house are we if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.” We are the house that Jesus creates and that He is faithful over. We belong to Him. And he is not just the creator. He is the Son in relation to God. He has an absolutely unique relationship with God as his Son. A servant is not related to the head of the family as is the Son. The Son inherits all that belongs to the Father. The Son is of the being of the Father, flesh and blood. The servant neither inherits what is the Father's nor has the same blood relationship to the Father. So, by being a member of this household under the son, we ourselves are not just servants, not born or belonging to the household. Rather, we can trust that He will be the faithful Son that He is, acting according to who he is, so much more than a slave. We can trust that He will be our true pioneer—giving us salvation by making us the children He is bringing to glory, making us members with him of his family. He makes us his brothers and sisters in one and the same household he creates, oversees and indeed inherits!
We are his house “if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.” I know that some of you might feel tripped up by the word “if.” Is the author saying that it is up to us to be Jesus’ house? Does Jesus merely give us a potential that we, by our efforts, must fulfill? Well, the word does express some uncertainty. So, the author is encouraging some sort of action from his readers. But what action exactly? He tells them they are to hold on “to the confidence” and rejoice, or glory/boast in the “hope.” What is he saying here?
The first point we need to realize is that he is not telling them to just be hopeful or confident. If he was he would be throwing them back on themselves, merely encouraging them to be hyping themselves up, or thinking positive thoughts. These words are not referring to a state of mind at all. These words are used in the Old Testament in relation to God and His faithful work. Confidence and hope are defined by the object they are directed towards. So, the author here is encouraging his readers to continue to live on and in the true and wonderful reality that God has seized a hold of us in our fallen, broken condition, become one with us at the point of our deepest need and mess, and has truly healed us and made us His children. This is the truth, the reality, not some possibility, not wishful thinking that we are to trust in.
In other words, we are Jesus’ house as we continue to count on Him to be our great high priest, as we celebrate the fact that we are held by a sure and certain hope. We are not called to count on ourselves, but rather to count on him who is the Son of the Father, but who has also become one with us in our humanity to take us to the Father as brothers and sisters of His!