Hebrews 3

Overview

  • The author says:
  • So, my family members – brothers and sisters – we who are heaven-bound, keep 100% focused on Jesus who is God’s #1 ambassador and the best spiritual leader ever, for all time.
  • Jesus is committed to doing God’s will among his family – his tribe, just like Moses was committed to doing God’s will with all the tribes of Israel back in the day.
  •  In fact Jesus is greater than Moses, because as the founder of God’s house (i.e. his people) he is greater than any one of its members (i.e. Moses).
  • God is the one who builds everything, right? So he’s in charge.
  • You should remember that one time when Moses’ leadership was questioned by his own family (Aaron and Miriam – Moses’ brother and sister) and God responded by saying, “My (God’s) family is Israel and I put Moses in charge because he is a faithful servant. “
  • Well, Jesus is even more faithful and he’s in charge over Moses because he’s the Son of God, not just a servant. Jesus is directly related to God, not just working for him.
  • So we should take courage and display confidence and faith because we are part of God’s family through Jesus. We can have hope because we’re in the right place under the right leader.
  • Remember what the Holy Spirit says: “If you can hear God’s voice today, don’t ignore it, like your ancestors did during their rebellious years in the dessert after the exodus.
  • “That generation literally took up residence in a place called “Testing” and “Trying” because even after 40 years of helping them, saving them, caring for them, all they did was complain and doubt.
  • “That’s why God was so angry with them he said, ‘They don’t get it. They love their complaining more than me. I swear I won’t let them get to the end of the journey and enter the Promise Land. No restful reward for you!'”
  • So, my family, my brothers and sisters, don’t be like your forefathers (and mothers). Make sure your heart is always pointed towards God–the one who gives life–not away from him.
  • Encourage each other everyday, because everyday is the “today” the Holy Spirit spoke of.
  • Don’t be deceived into thinking God isn’t caring for you.
  • We’re a part of Jesus’ family, and all the awesome things that entails, so long as we can keep believing along this rough journey.
  • Remember what I just quoted: “If you can hear God’s voice today, don’t ignore it, like your ancestors did during their rebellious years in the dessert after the exodus.”
  • Who rebelled? All the people who were miraculously rescued from Egypt via Moses.
  • And who was God angry with? Those same people who doubted God every step of their journey in the wilderness and ended up dying there.
  • And who didn’t get to go into the Promise Land? Yep. Them. They didn’t make it for one reason: unbelief.

Historical Context

Moses

To the Jews, there was no man greater than Moses. He set his people free from slavery, he delivered the Law, he built the tabernacle, and he lead God’s people to the promise land. To say  the man Jesus was greater than Moses was a substantial claim.

Rabbis said that “the soul of Moses was equivalent to the souls of all Israel.” The Cabbalistic process called Gematria (the numerical value of the letters) has the value of the words “Moses our Rabbi” is the same value of the letters of “Lord God of Israel.” They said that “the face of Moses. was like the Sun;” that he alone “saw through a clear glass” not as other prophets “through a dim glass,” and that there were fifty gates of understanding in the world, and “all but one were opened to Moses.”5

Israelites in the Wilderness

Throughout the wilderness journey of 40 years the Israelites both praised and despised God.

Starting after the Israelites had passed through the Red Sea on dry ground, they sang songs of deliverance, praising God for their miraculous deliverance and anticipating their possession of the Promised Land by the defeat of their enemies (Exodus 15:1-18). But soon after this, the people come to Marah, where the water is too bitter to drink. The people grumble at Moses, demanding to know what they are going to drink. God instructs Moses to throw a tree into the waters to sweeten them, and thus the Israelites are able to drink the water (15:22-26).3

When the Israelites arrive at the wilderness of Sin (virtually a month after the exodus), the people begin to grumble because they are concerned about what they are going to eat. Already they have forgotten the horrors of Egypt, and they now speak of it longingly, especially in terms of the food it seemed to offer them. They accuse Moses and Aaron of bringing them into the wilderness to kill them. God provides them with manna and quail.3

Soon after they camp at Rephidim, where there is no water. The people once again quarrel with Moses and accuse him of bringing them to this place to kill them. In obedience to God’s instruction, Moses strikes the rock with his staff, and water pours forth. And thus God again provides for His grumbling people. Appropriately, the place was renamed “Massah”(“test”) and “Meribah” (“quarrel”).3

Soon they come to Kadesh, the gateway to the Promised Land. Twelve spies are sent to assess the suitability of the land and the military strength of the Canaanites. When the spies returned, they all agreed as to the fruitfulness and desirability of the land. They also agreed on the magnitude of the task of taking possession of the land. There were giants in the land, and the place was well fortified. The spies differed in their faith in God’s promises and in His ability to remove the Canaanites. Caleb and Joshua were confident that God would give them the victory; the other ten did not deem it possible. The people initially wept, but this quickly turned to grumbling and rebellion. They were ready to be rid of Moses and to appoint another leader who would take them back to Egypt.3

Soon there is the rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, which ended in the rebels being swallowed up by the ground, followed by fire from the Lord which consumed those offering the incense (Numbers 16:1-35). As a result the people grumbled again against Moses and Aaron, blaming them for the deaths of those who were disobedient and died at the hand of God.3

Later, as on other occasions, the people run out of water, and the whole congregation begins to complain against Moses and Aaron. Somehow, Moses and Aaron were blamed for making the Israelites leave Egypt (as though it were against the will of the people). The people said that they wished they had died in the wilderness earlier, along with their (rebellious) brethren (20:2-5). So the Lord commanded Moses to speak to (not to strike) the rock in the sight of the people so that it would bring forth water for them to drink. Moses struck the rock, in disobedience to God’s instructions. Nevertheless, the rock brought forth water, and the people drank.3

As a result of this pattern of complaints, doubts and disobedience over the course of forty years in the wilderness, God declared he would not let anyone from that generation enter the Holy Land.

Numbers 12:7

When Moses’ sister, Miriam, and brother, Aaron, expressed their jealously of Moses’ leadership and direct interactions with God, the Lord appeared in a “column of cloud” and told them that while he speaks to prophets in visions and dreams, to Moses he speaks face to face because he is “faithful in all my house.” They were thus chastised for having doubted Moses’ leadership.

House of God

The people of God being the house of God is an oft repeated biblical metaphor (“household,” Gal. 6:10; I Tim. 3:15; “spiritual house,” I Pet. 2:5; “household of God,” 4:17). “House” is used six times in this chapter, sometimes with the connotation of a building and sometimes of a family.4

Apostle

An apostle (Greek: apóstolos) means literally, “one who is sent away” as in a messenger or ambassador. The purpose of such “sending away” is to convey messages, and thus “messenger” is a common alternative translation. The same Greek word translated in Latin is missio, from which we get the word “missionary.”2

Moses was a kind of apostle as well. Moses was clearly “sent” by God to Egypt, where he would speak to men for God. Jesus was also an apostle in the sense that he was sent to earth by the Father to lead men from captivity to freedom. As Moses was the one through whom the Law was given, Jesus was the one through whom God finally and fully spoke.3

Psalms 95

Note the attribution of this Psalm of the Holy Spirit.1

The message of the entire Psalm is that people should worship God, but that mere worship, unaccompanied by obedience, will not avail.1

The failure referred to by the psalmist was the failure of an entire generation, punctuated by sins that persisted for forty years. This was not the failure of a few, nor was it a momentary lapse of piety. It was the persistent, life-long, rebellion of an entire nation.3

Meribah and Massah

In Hebrews 3:9 the Hebrew proper names of two locations in the Exodus are translated as common nouns, The proper names, Meribah and Massah, are rendered “tested and tried.”1

In Exodus 17, we are told that the Israelites camped at Rephidim where there was no water to drink. The people complained to Moses, and Moses turned in desperation to God for help. God had Moses strike a rock and water came forth. The Israelites complaining lead Moses to rename the location Meribah and Massah.

Observations

  • The whole typical structure of Israel corresponds to many facts and events in Christianity. 1) The death of Christ is called “an exodus” (Luke 9:31); 2) Christ is the true Passover sacrifice for his people (1 Corinthians 5:7); 3) he is the lamb without blemish and without spot (1 Peter 1:19); 4) Christians during their probation are said to be, like Israel of old, “the church in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38); 5) baptism is the antitype of Israel’s passage through the Red Sea (1 Corinthians 10:1); 6) Christ, the living Rock, is their guide through the wilderness (1 Corinthians 10:4); 7) the heavenly rest that lies before them is the counterpart to the earthly Canaan which was the goal of the Israelites.1
  • Why did the Israelite generation fail in the wilderness? 1) They feared death by starvation. 2) They saw themselves as weak, such as when observing the inhabitants of the land of Canaan, they said, “We were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight” (Numbers 13:33). 3) They didn’t maintain belief that God was on their side, which ultimately lead to a state of rebellion against God.1
  • The grand and terrible lesson of Israel’s history is that it is possible to begin well and end poorly. In fact, this tragic human tendency dominates much human spiritual experience.7
  • Unbelief is not a lack of faith or trust. It is the refusal to believe God. It leads inevitably to a turning away from God in a deliberate act of rejection.7
  • “Confidence” contains the same thought as “glory.” Ancient Greek writers used this term for firmness under torture; and generally for courageous firmness of character.”1
  • “Confidence” is a translation of the Greek word hypostasis. Elsewhere it is rendered “substance,” to which it etymologically corresponds, and implies a solid reality. The substance of a material object is the material from which the object is made.
  • “Apostle and High Priest” are two titles that signal Jesus’ superiority over Moses as official messenger and Aaron as the Levitical high pries.4
  • Hebrews is the only book of the Bible to call Jesus high priest. It takes an extensive rabbinical argumentation to convince first century Jews that Jesus, from the tribe of Judah, really was a priest. The Dead Sea Scrolls community expected two Messiahs, one royal (tribe of Judah) and one priestly (tribe of Levi, cf. Psalm 110; Zechariah 3-4).4
  • The phrase “the living God” is a play on God’s covenant name YHWH, which is from the Hebrew verb “to be” (Exod.3:14).4
  • The author reminds his audience that the spiritual health and well being of every member of the church is the responsibility of every member of the church, and not just one of its staff who is paid to do so.3
  • “Encourage one another” is a present active imperative. Believers are to emulate the Spirit and the Son in encouraging faith and faithfulness. This is the same root as the Greek word paraclete, which means “one called alongside to help” and is used of the Spirit (cf. John 14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7) and of Jesus (cf. I John 2:1).4

Discussion

  • The author of Hebrews encourages the hearing of God’s voice. How do we hear it? Have you heard it?
  • Can you lose your salvation? Are you only as saved as your last sinless moment?
  • How do we rationalize our decisions?

References

  1. Coffman’s commentary
  2. Apostle – Wikipedia
  3. Deffinbaugh’s commentary
  4. Utley’s commentary
  5. Cambridge commentary
  6. Barnes’ commentary
  7. Constable’s commentary
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Jonah 4

Overview

  • Jonah observed the Ninevites repentance and was P.O.’d.
  • Joey prayed to God, “What the heck, man? Didn’t I say this would happen, back in my hometown when you first told me to come here? This is why I fled to the other end of the world. You’re a nice, and good, and kind, and forgving God, and… well now my enemies are prospering!”
  • Jonah was so mad he told God, “Take my life. Better to be dead than alive to see this!”
  • God’s all, “Jonah, I can see you’re angry. So, how’s that working for you? You feel like you’re on the right side of the debate on this?”
  • Jo-Jo stomped out of the city and sat on the east side of town where he could watch the Assyrian’s repentance fall apart and see God destroy them yet. Jones even set up a little tent of sticks, because he knew it would take some time.
  • God had a plant grow up and give Jonah shade. The prophet was stoked. Then God had a worm come and attack the plant. Jonah was bummed.
  • Then a scorching wind blew, and the sun beat down on Jonah and he was all sweaty and angry and said, “I want to die. I liked the plant. It was nice to have shade, but now I want to die so badly I want my very soul extinguished!”
  • Then God said, “Now you’re mad about the plant? Really?”
  • Jonah’s all, “Yep. 100% unhappy. I want to die.”
  • “The plant?” God says. “It sprang up without you doing anything to help it grow, and it died in a day’s time. That temporary shrub is what you want me to show mercy on? The plant is the thing I should spare. The plant?!!”
  • God goes on, “It’s a plant, Jonah! Look over there, at Ninevah, a giant city that’s been around for a thousand years, filled with thousands of innocent children, not to mention thousands of innocent animals. You would rather me spare the plant than all those people?”

Historical Context

13 Attributes of God’s Mercy

Jonah alludes to the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy taken from the Book of Exodus (Exodus 34:6-7) and, according to Judaism, how God governs the world.  These attributes are considered the method of God’s activity by which the divine governance appears to the human observer.9

  1. Compassion before a person sins
  2. Compassion after a person has sinned
  3. Mighty in compassion to give all creatures according to their need
  4. Merciful, that humankind may not be distressed
  5. Gracious if humankind is already in distress
  6. Slow to anger
  7. Plenteous in kindness
  8. Plenteous in truth
  9. Keeping kindness unto thousands
  10. Forgiving iniquity
  11. Forgiving transgression
  12. Forgiving sin
  13. Pardoning

The Names of God

In Jonah 4:4-9  there are several variations on the name of God used by the author.3

In Jonah 4:4 God is called “Jehovah” as he questions Jonah’s anger.

In Jonah 4:6, the creation of the miraculous tree to give shade to Jonah is ascribed to “Jehovah-Elohim.” This composite name occurs very rarely ( only elsewhere in Genesis 2 and 3), is chosen here to help the transition from the use of the name Jehovah to Elohim.3

In Jonah 4:7,8, “Elohim” is used to describe God as the divine creative power. He prepares the worm and brings the east wind. This is the designation of a deity ruling over nature.3

Observations

  • Before Jonah arrived in Nineveh, two plagues had erupted there (in 765 and 759 B.C.) and a total eclipse of the sun occurred on June 15, 763. These were considered signs of divine anger and may help explain why the Ninevites responded so readily to Jonah’s message.7
  • Jonah’s departure from the city and settlement to the east of it is him awaiting God’s final decision as to its fate. He is mistrustful of their repentance. He hopes that God sees that it is shallow and proceeds with his plan of destruction of the Jews’ enemies.3
  • Israel’s prosperity and salvation was the prominent aim of Jonah, as a prophet of God’s elect people. He would’ve regarded the destruction of Nineveh as a fitting example of God’s judgment against the Jews’ national enemies.4
  • All of Jonah’s hope of bringing his own nation to do the will of God perished, in the event of Nineveh’s conversion, which as it seemed to Jonah, would eclipse the honor of God, destroy the credit of his ministry, and harden the hearts of his countrymen.8
  • Much to Jonah’s displeasure, repenting Nineveh had proved herself more worthy of God’s favor than apostate Israel. The children of the covenant have not only fallen below the level of a heathen people.4
  • The prayer, “Take my life from me,” calls to mind the similar prayer of Elijah in 1 Kings 19:4; but the motive assigned is a different one.Whilst Elijah adds, “for I am not better than my fathers,” Jonah adds, “for death is better to me than life.”3
  • “It greatly displeased Jonah,” in the original Hebrew reads, “it was evil” to Jonah. The repentance of Nineveh was not only offensive, but contrary to what was right and just.6
  • “He was angry,” is literally translated “it burnt” to him.6
  • Jonah holds God’s mercy against God as a fault. Though he would’ve known the 13 attributes of God (see above), he did not believe them.8
  • The book of Psalms praises God for his lovingkindness, his grace, and his mercy (cf. Ps. 86:5, 15), but for Jonah this is grounds for protest rather than praise.7
  • The conversion of Nineveh was the doom of Jonah himself.8
  • “Do you have a good reason to be angry?” could also be rendered, “is doing good you any good to be displeased by this?” God asks Jonah a very practical question in the midst of the prophet’s theoretical hatred.1
  • The east side of the city was the opposite side to that by which he had entered, and where the high ground enabled him to overlook the town, without necessarily sharing in its destruction.4
  • Jonah prepared a structure to sit in, evidently expecting to stay a considerable time. He hoped for the eventual overthrow of Nineveh. Although Jonah had already decided that God would spare the city, he was not yet certain of it; and as long as there was hope of its destruction, he would wait.8
  • A booth, or a shelter, was a structure constructed of branches interlaced.4
  • Jonah still expected that some calamity would befall the Ninevites, perhaps with the idea that their repentance would prove so imperfect and temporary that God would punish them after all.4
  • The gourd, in Hebrew, is called “kikaion” after the Egyptian “kiki,” or the “ricinus,” a castor-oil plant, commonly called “palm-christ” (palma-christi). It grows from eight to ten feet high. Only one leaf grows on a branch, but that leaf being often more than a foot large, the collective leaves give good shelter from the heat. It grows rapidly, and fades as suddenly when injured.4
  • Jonah must have looked upon the plant’s sudden growth as a sign of God’s goodness toward him. Perhaps he saw this as an indication that God would grant his wish for the Assyrians to meet their doom.2
  • Jonah literally asked for his soul to die.5
  • Having prayed in chapter two that he might live, Jonah prays now that he might die.7
  • Children are the ones who cannot distinguish between right and left, or good from evil, and therefore are not yet accountable for the actions of their countrymen. A hundred and twenty thousand children under seven years of age would give a population of six hundred thousand, since it is commonly accepted that children account for one-fifth the whole population.3
  • Jonah in many ways is like the worm–one who finds fulfillment in the destruction of God’s creation.7
  • The prophetic record in Jonah comes to a dramatic, sudden, and startling conclusion with the issue still undecided, as to whether or not, Jonah will accept God’s will. The history concludes with Jonah still protesting that he would rather die than see the will of God accomplished for the Gentiles.8

Discussion

  • What do you think Jonah was hoping to see as he sat outside Nineveh? Do you think he failed to believed their repentance was genuine? The Assyrians had oppressed the Jews for a long time, why do you think such a quick repentance for such a long list of sins, was acceptable to God? Why was it unacceptable to Jonah? Why do we believe punitive justice is better than grace?
  • What are you angry at God about? What injustice do you think has been done to you? What grace do you think was unfairly given to another? Is life fair or unfair in your opinion? Should life be fair? Will God ultimately bring fairness or mercy to the world? Can he bring both to the world? Does Jesus represent fairness/justice or mercy to you?
  • When God asks Jonah if he’s justified in his anger, he’s saying, “If I’m not angry, then do you have any right to be?” By implication, God is really asking Jonah to get in alignment with him. He wants the prophet to care about what he cares about, to love what he loves, to be angry when he is angry. How in alignment with God are you? Are you angry justly? Do you love whom he loves? Are you merciful to those he shows mercy to?
  • Jonah sat outside the city and pouted, and as a result was depressed, hot and irritated. All of this was his own doing. What instances have we made ourselves miserable because we were mad? Why do you think we punish ourselves like this? What do we hope to accomplish?
  • A lot of Jonah’s anger is based on a scarcity mindset–that is, not believing there are enough resources to go around. If God loves them, perhaps the Israelites will not be so special. If the Assyrian prosper, then that means attitude be if you saw only God’s abundance?

References

  1. Gil’s commentary
  2. Barnes’ commentary
  3. Kiel’s commentary
  4. Jamieson’s commentary
  5. Pulpit commentary
  6. Ellicott’s commentary
  7. Deffinbaugh’s commentary
  8. Coffman’s commentary
  9. Thirteen attributes of God