Hebrews Bible Study Week 4: Chapter 3

By | January 20, 2021
This entry is part 4 of 16 in the series Hebrews Bible Study

{Updated to add: This post and many of the following posts were part of an online Bible study over the book of Hebrews that I hosted in the past on my previous blog. I am reposting here to make the resource available to anyone interested.}

I’ve been so encouraged by the truths I’ve been savoring regarding Christ! Have you noticed that as you take your time in studying a chapter over a whole week, you really do savor the truths you’re studying? I notice that the truth sinks more deeply, and I find myself more readily thinking on them throughout the day and week. I guess you could call that meditating. 🙂

Here are my questions for this week. And here is the pdf: Hebrews 3 Questions

1. To what is “therefore” referring in 3:1?

2. How does the author describe the recipients, his “brothers”?

3. Because of {your reason from the first question}, these brothers should do what in 3:1?

4. Describe Jesus, according to 3:1-2.

5. Other types of words to look for when you read are words of comparison, such as as or like. Note the comparison in 3:2.

6. There is another comparison in verse 3, comparing how someone has more glory and honor than someone (or something) else. Note this comparison.

7. Who builds all things?

8. How was Moses faithful? What did he do?

9. Contrast Moses’ faithfulness (note the word but!) with Christ’s faithfulness.

10. Note that there are two names that refer to the Son of God in 3:1-6; what are they?

11. According to 6b what are “we?”

12. What is the requirement for being God’s house?

13. What does ”hope” mean here? How is the word used in Hebrews? (Hope can be used in a “wishful thinking” sort of way as a verb; i.e.,  “I hope it doesn’t rain for our picnic.” Hope here is a noun, one of 2 things that are to be held fast.)

14. Remember that last week we said that the hook phrase at the end of chapter 2, “merciful and faithful high priest,” clues us in on the theme of the next section. Which part of that hook phrase was highlighted in these verses (i.e., what was the key word in verses 1-6?)?

15. Another way to help you understand (and make sure you understand) a section of verses is to paraphrase—or restate in your own words—what the author is saying. To be completely honest, I don’t often like to do this, because I usually like the way the original author states what he says with the words he uses. But with this section (vv 1-6), I do think it would helpful to summarize for yourself what the author is trying to communicate with all his comparisons.

16. In response to consideration of a faithful Jesus (“therefore” in v 7), who speaks? What is the source for this quotation?

17. In 3:7, we have another warning based on the fact that the recipients “hear his voice.” Look back at the warning in 2:1; what was it that they were to pay much closer attention to?

18. What should those who hear his voice not do?

19. To whom are those who harden their hearts compared?

20. What was God’s response to those who previously hardened their hearts to God’s words?

21. What do you think the “rest” was that Israel could not enter?

22. In 3:12 what warning did the author give his recipients?

23. In order to prevent their falling away from God in unbelief, what did he tell them to do?

24. Why should they do this, according to 3:14?

25. One can be described as sharing in Christ if what is true of him?

26. The author again quotes part of the quotation he quoted earlier in the chapter, then asks what questions? What answers does give for his own questions?

27. What conclusion did he come to about these people in 3:19?

28. Here are some more interpretive questions: Why was it so significant that those who left Egypt did not receive what had been promised to them because of their unbelief? In God’s leading Israel out of Egypt, what was he doing for them? What did he promise when he led them out? What were the conditions he gave them? (You may have to skim through Exodus-Numbers 🙂 ).

As you probably know, chapter and verse divisions were not part of the original text. So, although we will study chapter 4 next week, I recommend at least reading through 4:13, as those verses continue the author’s warnings on striving to enter God’s rest.

“Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house” (Hebrews 3:1-2, ESV).

2.11.20 Updated to add: After my study this morning, I found it very helpful to go to the Psalm that was quoted. Reading that in context and then going to the passage that the Psalm references (Exodus 17) is essential I think to understanding the passage. If you really want a feel for what the author is getting at, I think it would be even helpful to read through–or at least skim–the passages that talk about God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt and through the Red Sea. Really look at Ex 15-17.

2.12.20 Updated to add: Here are some more questions and suggestions for deeper study:

1. The author was writing to Jewish Christians who were likely very knowledgeable of their Old Testaments. Pay close attention to cross references to OT texts, as I think you will much better understand what the author is communicating.

2. Note that twice the author says (in 2 different parts of the chapter) that “we” share in something/someone. What/who is it?

3. Note also (again in 2 different parts of the chapter) that “we _______” if “we hold _________.” What are we? We are described such if we do what?

4. In one sentence describe the spiritual status the Israelites that the author describes.

5. I know I asked this earlier, but make sure you understand what the “rest” was that Israel failed to enter (cf. Deut 12:9-10). Rest is going to be a theme in the continuation of the author’s thoughts in the first part of chapter 4.

6. Note the actions of hearing and seeing that are described or encouraged. Note the different responses given or encouraged to what is seen/heard.

2.15. 20 Updated to add: Spoiler Alert! Here are my observations of the text. Please don’t read this until you’ve completed your own study if you want to get the most out of your own study. Again, most of my notes are my own thoughts. I will cite those that I read in a commentary.

In verses 1-6 we see a focus on the faithfulness of Christ.

In verse 1, because Jesus took on humanity to suffer and die (“therefore”), believers—described as those who share in a heavenly calling (and also share in Christ—cf. v 14)—should consider Jesus. Consider has the idea of thinking very carefully about, considering closely with eyes and mind (cf. 2:9—“we see him”)

Jesus is described as an apostle. An apostle is one who is “sent out.” Jesus described himself as “sent by the Father” in Jn 20:21. Jesus is also described as the “high priest of our confession,” with further explanation of this later.

Vv 2-6 Jesus is further explained as faithful, like Moses also was faithful in God’s house. Moses was held in high esteem in Jewish minds for his leadership of the people in bringing them out of Egypt and mediating the Law. Here, the author emphasizes that Jesus is worthy of more glory and honor than Moses, keeping with the overall theme of the book that Jesus is superior.

The author describes Moses in v5 as “faithful in all God’s house,” alluding to a description given in Num 12:7. In the context of that passage, Miriam and Aaron were upset, claiming the Lord had spoken through them too. Because of Moses’ faithfulness, God spoke to him face to face. He said that Miriam and Aaron should have been afraid to speak against Moses, and Miriam was punished with leprosy.

It seems that the author is drawing on the Jews’ OT knowledge here to imply how much greater Jesus is than Moses. He is an apostle—sent by God. V5 describes Moses in the same language that God used to defend Moses before Aaron and Miriam. If Moses spoke to God face to face and was faithful in God’s house, Miriam and Aaron should be afraid to speak against him. Moses was a servant the people believed in, as well as a prophet, but Moses spoke of another prophet coming in Deut 18:15-19. Here, we have Jesus who is sent by God, speaks for him, and is the exact image of God (1:1-4). He is the heir of the house, worthy of honor as the builder. I think there is an implied warning to listen more carefully to him even just in this description/comparison.

In v4, the author says that the builder of all things is God. He compared Jesus having more glory than Moses to a builder having more glory than the house. It seems that the author is here again implying the deity of Jesus if we follow his argument logically. Christ is the heir, having the same privileges and responsibilities of the house, compare to Moses who is a servant in the house.

In v6 believers are described not only as holy brothers sharing in the heavenly calling, but also as “his house” IF we hold fast our confidence and boasting in our hope. I think hope and confidence are parallel ideas here. Our hope is so sure that we can boast in it (cf. 6:11). This description of believers that is conditional on their continuance in holding fast is paralleled in v 14: “We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence to the end.” What lies in between these two parallel statements is an OT quotation that examples what it looks like to NOT hold fast and a warning that we not do what they did.

In 3:7-4:13 the author calls his audience to faithfulness. “The writer is quite passionate in his exposition of the psalm passage because he is clearly worried about certain tendencies in the group he is addressing. So the danger of ‘drifting’ from Christ, briefly mentioned in 2:1–4, is exposed more fully. Nevertheless, despite the seriousness of the warning, the power of Scripture to challenge and change believers is emphasized. God sustains his people through the words that he has spoken to them and through the ministry of encouragement they can have to one another.”[1]

In vv 7-11, the Holy Spirit spoke through Psalm 95:7-11, speaking of events that occurred within the first couple of months of Israel’s miraculous deliverance from Egypt. They were delivered, brought to a fertile area at Elim, provided for with manna and quail, but then complained again when they came to an area with no water, thus the naming of the location Meribah (“in the rebellion”) and Massah (“of testing”). They questioned God’s presence with them. Perhaps the idea of testing God was “if you’re really here for us you’ll give us water,” thus making demands of God. The psalm also points back to Numbers 14:20-23 in which was provoked with their continued sin and swore that they would not enter his rest. In Deut 12:9-10 the “rest” refers to the inheritance the Lord is giving them and the rest they would have from their enemies.

Israel heard God’s voice (cf. 3:7) and they saw God’s works for 40 years (cf. 3:9), yet they did not know his ways, instead going astray in their hearts (cf. 3:10). Their minds and hearts did not truly consider what their eyes and ears had.

“The rest that Christ secured for his people is interpreted in terms of Gn. 2:2. [to be further explained in chapter 4] It is the Sabbath-rest into which God entered after finishing the creation of the world. The land of Canaan, where Joshua established the Israelites in his time, was an anticipation of this ultimate rest for the people of God.”[2]

In vv 12-13 the author makes application in a warning to his audience. They should take care that they—like the Israelites—don’t have an unbelieving & evil heart, aren’t hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, thus leading them to fall away from God.

This falling away “may be provoked by suffering or persecution or by the pressure of temptation, but the root cause is always unbelief. Expressed another way, you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. Sin is an active, aggressive power that must be resisted. If you harden your hearts against the word of God (8), sin will have its way and you may be hardened (13).”[3]

Being hardened by sin’s deceitfulness leading to unbelief and falling away from God can be prevented by personal watchfulness (“take care”) and believers exhorting each other every day. “A commitment to understand and help others in the local church is required. . . . Such encouragement will be on the basis of Scripture, following the writer’s own example (Gk. parakaleite, ‘encourage’, recalls the description of the book of Hebrews as logos parakleµseoµs, ‘word of exhortation’, in 13:22). It may take place in the more formal context of Christian gatherings (cf. 10:24–25) or in the daily informal contacts that Christians have with one another. Either way, a word-based ministry to one another is the key to faithfulness and perseverance. It is not a responsibility of church leaders alone, but a duty of each Christian.”[4]

V 14 Believers share in Christ (parallel to “we are his house” v 6) IF we hold our original confidence firm to the end. Holding our confidence is contrasted then with unbelief. Persevering in our confidence and hope has an implied object of confidence/hope: Christ. 6:13-20 speaks of this confidence in hope we can have in clearer terms.

In vv 15-19 the author repeats part of the quotation he noted earlier, then describes who they were with questions and answers.

Who heard and rebelled? All who left Egypt led by Moses. They were led by a faithful leader and a more faithful God who brought about great salvation for them.

With whom was God provoked for 40 years? Those same people who had experienced God’s physical deliverance who sinned and died in the wilderness.

To whom did God swear that they would not enter his rest? The disobedient—they had experienced such great deliverance and seen mighty works by God on their behalf, yet they persisted in their unbelief and were not brought to salvation, to God’s rest (either physically or spiritually).

Chapter 4 continues the author’s comparisons with unbelieving Israel and his pleas with his audience that they persevere.

I have been really struck with the importance of the local church, the commitment of a body of believers to more than attendance once a week. A body of believers should have such a strong love for and commitment to God that they extend that same love and commitment to each other. They invest in the spiritual lives of their fellow brothers and sisters, exhorting them to strive and to take care and to hope. This is our responsibility and our privilege. Do I have this mindset? Do you?

[1] Peterson, D. G. (1994). Hebrews. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 1329). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid, 1330

[4] Ibid.

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