Hebrews 3:1-14 A Prophet Greater than Moses (Rev. Erik Veerman)

Dec 10, 2023    Erik Veerman

A Prophet Greater than Moses

Hebrews 3:1-14

Last Sunday we began a brief advent series in Hebrews. Hebrews is probably not the first book of the Bible that comes to mind when you think of Advent or Christmas. However, the whole book is about Jesus. It speaks clearly about his coming, his nature, his glory, and as we considered last week, his offices. As a reminder, that word office is the official capacity of his ministry – who this child that we celebrate at Advent is… who he is…  and what he has come to do. His offices are Prophet, Priest, and King.

The first few verses of Hebrews chapter 1 introduce Jesus as the Son of God in those redemptive roles. This week, we’ll be focusing on Jesus’ prophetic office. A prophet is one sent by God, to speak the word of God, on behalf of God. Our text is Hebrews chapter 3 verses 1-14. You can find that on page 1188 in the pew Bibles.

As you are turning there, let me note that if we had time, we would read all of chapter 3 and chapter 4. Those two chapters are really one message. Our text this morning in chapter 3 is a good summary of the larger section. The opening 6 verses compare Jesus to Moses. Then in verses 7-14 the author of Hebrews quotes Psalm 95:8-11 and gives a brief explanation and application. They call us to hear and believe in Christ, holding fast to our faith in him.

Let’s now come to his Word.

Reading of Hebrew 3


As you know, the Old Testament is full of history. Of events, of people, places, festivals, wars, promise, families. But out of all of them, one event stands out as the most significant in the life of God’s people. The Exodus. It was ultimate demonstration of deliverance in the Old Testament.

It’s amazing what God did and how he did it. It’s hard for us to even wrap our minds around some of it. God sent Moses to the king of Egypt, Pharoah, multiple times calling him to free God’s people. Each time, Pharoah rejected the call. And after each rejection, God sent plages on Egypt. Terrible plagues. The worst was the tenth. The angel of death came and all the firstborn in Egypt died. Yet, the Lord passed over the homes of the Israelites, if the blood of the lamb was on the their doorposts.

It was that moment that Moses led God’s people out of Egypt. God went before them with a pillar of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night. The people rejoiced, thinking they were set free but then the Egyptians began pursuing them, and they ended up at a dead end - the Red Sea. It appeared that all was lost. They couldn’t cross. But yet again, God displayed his power and salvation. First, the pillars of smoke and fire held off the Egyptian army. But even more amazing was what happened next. Moses raised his staff, struck the water and the Red Sea parted. Another miracle. Moses led them across on dry land. And as soon as the last Israelite crossed, the waters came crashing down on the Egyptian army… destroying them all.

Imagine all that had transpired. Imagine being a father or mother or child and seeing and experiencing all of it. And that wasn’t the last of it. Even the small miracles displayed the provision of God. The soles of their shoes didn’t wear out. God gave them manna from heaven - daily provision of food. They were there when Moses went up on the mountain and returned with the commandments. They were there to see the pillar of smoke and fire above the tabernacle revealing the Lord’s presence.

They witnessed so many things. And at the center of it all, besides, of course, God himself, was Moses. He had been the one to boldly speak to Pharoah. He had been the one to lead them out. God parted the Red Sea through Moses. God had revealed himself to Moses in the burning bush and on the mountain. He was used to bring the tablets of stone, the ten commandments.

Moses was the man. And besides all that God had done through Moses in the Exodus, God also revealed to Moses his laws. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit Moses wrote down the creation account, their history including the patriarchs, the ceremonial and civil laws. Moses was and is the central figure in Judaism…  perhaps only paralleled by Abraham.

Moses was their guy.

So, when the author of Hebrews brings up Moses, you better believe it that his readers would be paying very special attention. Verse 3 would have been a particular eye opener to them – It says, “Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses.” For some of the Jewish reader, this would have been shocking. More glory than Moses? Moses had to veil himself (cover his face) when he descended from Mount Saini because he reflected the glory of God.

But Jesus was counted as more glorious than Moses.

Now, to be clear about the audience, Hebrews was written to Jewish people who believed in Jesus as the Messiah. We read that right there in verse 1. The author calls them “brothers” and, as it says, they “share” in the same “calling” and “confession.”

But they still would have been startled by the emphasis of Jesus over Moses. We know from other New Testament books that Jewish background believers often struggled by overemphasizing Moses and the law. Sometimes the law was elevated above grace (the book of Galatians deals with that), and other times the law was put on the same par as faith. Like grace plus circumcision, or we’re saved by grace plus the law (the book of Romans deals with some of that).

So, what the author of Hebrews is doing here is making really clear that Jesus is greater than Moses. But note: the author is not diminishing Moses, no, rather Moses, as great as he was, is being put in his proper place compared with Jesus.

Jesus is the greater prophet.

Now, I said that, but some of you probably noticed, the word “prophet” is not found in our text this morning. In fact, the word “prophet” is not found anywhere in chapters 3 or in 4. So, first, let me explain why the underlying emphasis is Jesus as the greatest prophet – greater than Moses.

·       Number 1 - we often don’t think of Moses as a prophet, do we? But he was the most preeminent prophet in the Old Testament. In Deuteronomy 18, which we read earlier, Moses calls himself a prophet. And that makes sense. God sent Moses to speak and through Moses God gave his Word and law to the people. And related to that, the prophets often performed signs and miracles as a testimony to their prophetic role. And that was certainly true for Moses. He was a prophet.

·       The second reason - in the same Deuteronomy passage, Moses writes that God will raise up a prophet like him from their brothers. Moses says, “it is him you shall listen.” Well, there are two places in the New Testament that quote that Old Testament verse. Both pronounce that Jesus is the prophesied prophet. We read one of them earlier in the service - Acts 3 – Peters sermon. Stephen also says the same thing in Acts 7. Jesus is the prophesied, capital “P” Prophet.

·       Third, in Hebrews 3 verse 1, Jesus is called THE apostle. He’s “the apostle and high priest of our confession.” That word apostle in the Greek means “sent one.” It’s a different word than prophet, but both have been explicitly sent by God and they share the divine authority to speak his word. So even though these verses don’t use the word prophet, yet they still convey the role of prophet.

·       And last, these two chapters, 3 and 4, are about God speaking and our listening. In fact, the beginning of verse 7 reminds us that God is the one speaking through his Word. Look at what it says: “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says” and it quotes Psalm 95. The thing is, King David is the one who wrote Psalm 95, but he was carried along by the Holy Spirit. Many of the Old Testament quotes in Hebrews are attributed directly to God. To be sure, it doesn’t diminish the human author’s intent or context, but it’s a good reminder that God has given and directs his Word. OK, now flip forward to chapter 4 and jump down to verse 12. Basically, the end of chapter 3 and the beginning of chapter 4 are an exposition of Psalm 95. The author has made the case to listen to the Word of God and to believe it. And then he writes these well-known words. Starting in verse 12 of chapter 4: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Again, he’s talking about the word of God. Now listen carefully to verse 13. “And no creature is hidden from his sight…” Did you hear that? It doesn’t say “its sight” but “his sight.” The author of Hebrews is speaking of Jesus as the Word of God. And the second half of verse 13 makes that abundantly clear: “but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” Jesus is the one to whom we will be accountable on the last day. He is God’s Word.

Let me boil it down this way. Earlier, I gave you a definition of a prophet. A prophet is sent by God to speak the word of God on behalf of God. Moses certainly fits that definition. But Jesus fulfills that definition. He is sent by God as THE apostle – God the Son sent into the world. He speaks the word of God because he is the word of God. And he’s come on behalf of God because he is God.

Jesus is considered worthy of greater honor than Moses for all those reasons.

Let me pause here. Why does this matter? You may be thinking, “Isn’t this just an intellectual discussion? Can’t we just get to application?” Well, look at verse 1. What’s the imperative in verse 1? Do you see it there? It’s the word “consider.” “Consider Jesus, the apostle and High Priest of our confession.” Beloved, there’s nothing and no one greater to consider. He IS the application. Now, we’re going to get to our response in a few minutes, but I wanted to point that out.

And just to be sure, these verses don’t minimize Moses. Verse 2 makes that clear. Moses was faithful. He was a faithful leader. God called him to faithfully speak to Pharoah. He faithfully obeyed God. The people saw Moses’ faithfulness to God – they knew Moses had a special role in God’s kingdom. Look at the phrase at the end of verse 2: “Moses… was faithful in all God’s house.” That term "house” describes God’s people – as in the family of God. Moses faithfully served the family of God.

Jesus was also faithful. Faithful to speak the truth and grace of God. Faithful to God the Father in fulfilling his task on earth - salvation. Faithful in perfect obedience to God’s law.

You see, both were faithful. But faithful in different ways. And what these first 6 verses highlight is that Jesus is categorically more faithful than Moses. Jesus is worthy of greater glory than Moses. Why? Well, he writes, “the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself.” Verse 5 explains: “Moses was faithful in all God's house as a servant…” and in verse 6 “but Christ is faithful over God's house as a son.”

So, on the one hand, you have Moses. He’s a servant in the house. And on the other hand, you have Jesus, as the builder of the house, as over the house.

This last summer, we vacationed in Washington DC. And one of the things we did was go on a White House tour. The most famous house in the world. It was very interesting. We didn’t see the west wing or the oval office, but we entered the east wing and were able to walk through the lower level and then the rooms on the main floor. And there were pictures everywhere (and painting, too). Almost every picture included one of the presidents… but he was with a foreign dignitary, or a famous musician or movie star, or the queen, or the first lady, or the family dog. Pictures of president after another president after another president. It was a good reminder that each president merely serves in the house. He didn’t create the office of President or build the house and he doesn’t own the house. No, the president serves the country. It’s the constitution which established the office 250 years ago. The President, though important, is merely a servant in the house… appointed by the people.

It’s not a perfect analogy, but you get the point. Moses served in the house. He’s described as a servant. And what did Moses do? End of verse 5: he was there “to testify to the things that were to be spoken later.” There it is again, by the way… prophet. Moses was a prophet pointing to a greater prophet. That’s Moses… faithful in the house.

Jesus, on the other hand, is described as “the builder” – verse 3… and “the son” – verse 5. He has more honor because he is over the house. It’s his house. He established the house. Again, we’re talking about the household of God – the people of God. The reason that Jesus is over the house is that he is God. Verse 4 notes. “For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.” So after being described as the builder, Jesus is equated with God. Moses is a servant in the house. But Jesus, as God the son, owns the house.

We’re to consider him: Jesus is not another faithful prophet like Moses, rather he’s THE prophet, the Word of God. He’s the one whom Moses prophesied would come. He’s over Moses and over the whole house of God, the church. Greater and more glorious as the builder of the house.


And that brings us now to our response. We’ve considered Jesus, but what does that mean for us? Well, look at the middle of 6. “And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and hope.” Verse 14 is very similar to verse 6. Look down at 14. “we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.” “Hold our original confidence.” And earlier, “Hold fast our confidence.” Those two verses are saying the same thing. We’re to hold onto Christ. We’re to see and hear and have a believing heart.

The Psalm 95 quote illustrates the opposite - an unbelieving heart. In fact, verses 7-11 take us back to the Exodus and the wilderness. The sad reality is that even though they witnessed the 10 plagues…. Even though their firstborn had been passed over by the angel of death…  even though they were there when God protected them from the Egyptian army… even though they crossed the red sea… even though they experienced God’s provision in the wilderness… yet they did not believe. They witnessed and experienced it all, yet constantly displayed unbelieving hearts. Things got to a boiling point at Meribah – the place of the rebellion. They needed water, yet they didn’t trust the Lord to provide, even though he had provided all along the way. So they rose up against Moses. “Why have you brought us into this wilderness to die?” They wanted to go back to Egypt, back to slavery. They hardened their hearts. That’s how Psalm 95 describes their rebellion in verse 8. It’s the same phrase used to describe Pharoh’s heart.

Suppose you had not gone to your doctor for years. You thought you were fine. But then one day, you notice that you get out of breath really easily and your chest feels tight. So, you go see your doctor. After performing some tests and scans, he or she sits you down and says, Tell me about your diet? Well, I don’t eat green things. Usually, it’s ice cream for breakfast. For lunch sometimes grilled cheese sandwiches or a burrito. For dinner, my all-time favorite is BBQ, but pizza or fried foods will also do.

You then learn that your arteries are 80% blocked. Your terrible diet is causing your heart to slowly harden and die. You have congestive heart failure and the risk of a massive heart attack is high. The doctor says, Your diet needs a radical change or you will die. How do you respond? Do you think, I don’t believe it. I’m fine. Or will you believe and realize your grave condition.

The generation in the wilderness had spiritual heart disease. Because of it, sadly they would not be allowed to enter the promised land. As Psalm 95 puts it they would not enter God’s rest. You see that in Hebrews 3:11. It’s referring to the eternal rest in God’s presence for eternity. And why would they not enter it? It’s because of their unbelief. You can see that down in verse 19. We didn’t read that verse, but it directly answers the question why.

Let me take a brief tangent here. Some have suggested that verse 12 means we can lose our salvation. It says that you should not have “an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.”

However, it’s not saying that we can have true faith in Christ and then later lose that true faith in Christ. Rather these verses are emphasizing that a true testimony of faith is revealed by someone who demonstrates their faith over time. Who indeed, “holds fast our confidence,” as it says. The Israelites in the wilderness demonstrated they never had a believing heart. It wasn’t a matter of believing and then losing that belief, rather it was witnessing the deliverance and provision of God, but never believing.

Now, you may be asking yourself this question: “If that generation had all those reasons to believe, yet they didn’t believe, what hope is there for us and our generation?”

Well, we have even more reasons to believe. Moses was a shadow of the greater prophet who has come. And the Exodus, despite how God miraculously delivered his people and displayed his glory, was also just a shadow. The deliverance that Christ has brought is greater. Deliverance not from bondage in Egypt but bondage from sin and shame, and not through the blood of a lamb, but through the blood of THE lamb of God, Jesus. And we have the prophecy fulfilled because the Word of God has come – Jesus himself. What was veiled in the past, we now see clearly… the faithfulness and mercy of God in Christ.

And speaking of veiled… let’s go back to when Moses had to veil his face. Exodus 34 describes Moses’ face radiating the glory of God after being in his presence on the mountain. So much so, the people were afraid to come near him. So he put a veil over his face. But over time, that reflected glory of God on Moses face faded away.

But not so the glory of God in Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6 says that God has shown the light of his glory in our hearts. What is that glory? It says: “The light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus.” Not a reflected glory, but the glory of God himself in Jesus. As Hebrews 1 says, Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God.

This advent, may we consider Jesus, the one greater than Moses, the great prophet of our confession, and may we believe. May our hearts not be hardened by the deceitfulness of our sin,” as it says, but instead, may we believe and behold the one who delivers us from our sin.