I. Lesson today can basically be segmented into 2 major themes:
A. House Church, i.e, House of God (Ch. 3:1-6)
B. Learning to Rest Today (Ch. 3:7 - Ch. 4:13)
II. House Church or House of God
A. Opening verse refers to brothers and sisters who are dedicated to God and sharers in heaven's calling. Long speaks at length about this opening verse and it reference to three crucial aspects of the church's identity.
1. Church is a family of brothers and sisters who share a common bond..."they belong to Jesus Christ." (Long, p.46). "Church is a community of people who have been summoned to a task, called to a ministry, thrown together in mission." (Long, p.47).
"When people take God seriously, they immediately realize that his word is not only something to be studied, not only something to be read, not only something to be written about; it is something to be done." (Barclay, p. 47)
2. Church is holy. Long points out the church isn't holy because of its members purity but rather is made holy by Jesus. "The church is holy like the bread at the Lord's Table is holy; though quite ordinary, it is nonetheless set apartfor holy use and becomes the instrument of the extraordinary purposes of God." (Long, p. 47)
3. Church is apostolic. Church must pattern itself after Jesus. Jesus was sent by God to become the word in flesh. So, too must we take the word out into the world. Church must be careful not to succumb to secular definitions of success (i.e., growth rate, new buildings, etc.). Rather, must remain faithful and focused on the will of God.
B. Jesus superiority over Moses
1. In previous chapters "the Preacher" has proven Jesus' superiority over prophets and angels
2. Now he focuses on Jesus' superiority over Moses
3. In Jews eyes this would have been significant because...
a. Moses greater than all the other prophets because he had spoken directly with God, not through visions.
b. Moses brought the law from God (i.e., Ten Commandments). Thus, Moses became synonomous with 'The Law'.
4. "the Preacher" uses house in a couple different ways as metaphorical example of how Jesus is superior to Moses
a. Moses was significant part of the house (eg. main joist or roof beam)
b. Jesus was the principal architect
c. Moses was faithful in the house as a servant
d. Jesus was in charge of the house as the heir
5. "the Preacher" tells his congregation to fix their attention on Jesus. Uses greek word, katanoein.
a. "The word means to fix the attention on seomthing in such a way that its inner meaning, the lesson that it is designed to teach, may be learned." (Barclay, p.35). Doing so reveals two things:
i. Jesus was an apostle - sent by God and having God's authority
ii. Jesus is the great high priest. Can intercede for us. Perfect high priest because he was perfectly human and perfectly God.
III. Learning to Rest Today
A. Recall church group to whom the letter was written was disheartened, weary, and ready to give up and go back to their previous life and beliefs.
B. "the Preacher" presents a small 'sermon within a sermon' about the subject of rest using portion of Psalm 95. Expands thoughts on rest into 3 significant themes.
1. Beginning of time. God created heavens and earth and on 7th day he rested.
2. End of time. Points to finished work of redemption, death is defeated and Christ is revealed as Lord. We will come into our eternal rest.
3. Current time. "Third, 'rest' describes a possibility for the faithful in the midde of time, of those Sabbath Days in the life of God's people when the finished work of God is both remembered with thanksigving and anticipated with hope." (Long, p. 55).
C. "the Preacher" then returns to main sermon and focuses his attention on three areas
1. Uses Israelites past failures to persuade his congregants to not have an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.
2. Reminds congregation that it is not too late, God's promise of 'rest' remains open to them. Cautions them to not fail to reach this goal.
3. Helps them see the forest instead of just the trees. Congregation is mired in problems of today (i.e., the trees). "the Preacher" helps them to step back and see the bigger picture (i.e., the forest) of what is coming in the victorious finale. Must continue to have faith in God's greater plan and not focus/dwell on inconsequential problems of today.
D. "the Preacher" closes sermon in last two verses by reminding congregation of coming judgement. God knows you from the inside out. Nothing can be hidden from him. All will be called to account for their lives on day of judgement.
Barclay, William. The New Daily Study Bible – The Letter to the Hebrews. London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002
Harrison, Everett F. Interpretation Bible Studies. Louisville: John Knox Press, 2008
Long, Thomas G. Hebrews, Interpretation – A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. Louisville: John Knox Press, 1997