The journey of the children of Israel through the wilderness gives us the background for the lessons of this chapter. God’s power and grace is seen in bringing a people out of Egypt and sustaining them for forty years in the wilderness, a trackless desert waste, a place where nothing grew.
When the children of Israel were in Egypt they suffered under the lash of the taskmaster. Their lives were made bitter with hard bondage. The story of their deliverance is the story of God’s salvation. When they were in Egypt God placed them beyond the reach of judgment by the blood of the Lamb, but their deliverance was not complete until they had crossed the Red Sea and were delivered from the dominion of Pharaoh. Standing on the other side of that sea they could look back to the scene of their former bondage. They were out of Egypt and slaves no longer. The waters of death rolled between them and their former masters. They were not only in a new condition, but also in a new position.
But they were not yet in Canaan, the land flowing with milk and honey. Egypt was behind them. Now a wilderness is not a pleasant place to live in, but it is a wonderful place in which to learn priceless lessons. It was there that Israel discovered what a wonderful God they had—how patient, how loving, and withal how holy. They failed in trusting Him, but He never failed in His grace towards them. He not only guided them, going before them in the cloudy pillar, but He sent them the manna from above, and the water from beneath. He dwelt among them. He gave them two men, Moses and Aaron, to be their shepherds, to lead the flock of God through the great desert, up to the promised rest of Canaan. Moses was their apostle. Aaron was their high priest. Christ Jesus is the Apostle and High Priest of our profession. He combines in His Person these two offices. Now if we are to go on well in this world, we must consider Him; we must have the eye fixed on Him; we must listen to His voice; we must travel the road in company with Him. Only thus shall we continue steadfast unto the end of the journey.
In our study of this chapter we shall gather our thoughts around two words that direct us to His Person. The two words are “consider” and “hear.” The word “consider” implies an awakened interest. It means to observe closely. All the Israelites were to watch for Moses as he served in the house of God. Moses was faithful in that house.
1. We Are to “Consider the Apostle and High Priest of Our Confession Christ Jesus” (v. 1)
Israel, a brotherhood in the flesh, companions in an earthly calling from Egypt to Canaan, had Moses for their apostle and Aaron for their high priest. “Thou leddest Thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron” (Psalm 77:20). Thus they were sustained in the wilderness.
We are “fellows of a heavenly calling,” a brotherhood of saints, and to “consider Jesus” is our whole business down here. He is both “Moses and Aaron” to us, fulfilling in His own Person the two offices. Through Him, God’s revelation reaches us, and by Him we approach unto God. He Who came from the glory to reveal the heart of God to us has gone back into that glory that we might be at home there. Look at Him in His faithfulness up there. If Moses was faithful in the house on earth, Christ is faithful in His heavenly ministry, and as everything depends upon His faithfulness, what a joy it is to behold Him there. Like Ruth, we can “sit still… for the man will not be in rest, until he have finished the thing.” Nor are we to give just a passing glance or receive a mere glimpse of His glory. We are to consider, and with awakened interest, observe closely, as expressed in the hymn we love to sing:
O fix our earnest gaze
So wholly, Lord, on Thee,
That with Thy beauty occupied,
We elsewhere none may see.
God fills our vision with Christ serving there in the highest heaven. Then as we gaze we learn that our Apostle is far greater than Moses.
We have a series of contrasts in the following verses that delight us (vv. 3-6).
Moses’ face was aglow with the glory of God’s presence, but Christ is worthy of greater glory, a glory in the light of which the former grows strangely dim.
Moses served in the earthly house, Christ is the Builder of all that has ever been made to the glory of God.
Moses was only a servant, Christ is the Son.
Moses testified of things to come, Christ brought them in.
The house in which Moses served was but a picture of the heavenly sanctuary in which Christ serves and over which He is Administrator as Son. We are that house over which He presides and our responsibility is to be subject to Him (v. 6). He is our Confidence and our Hope. “Cling to Him day by day until the wilderness journey is over. Then you are part and parcel of that house He claims as His own.” Our safety and strength lies in dependence upon Him. Consider Him. Then we have the second word:
2. “Today If Ye Will Hear His Voice, Harden Not Your Hearts” (vv. 7, 8)
Here is another red signal flash that bids us stop and listen. We are out of Egypt. We are on our way to Canaan. But there are dangers on the way. The Holy Spirit speaks and bids us listen to the Shepherd’s voice. The word is from Psalm 95 where Israel acknowledges Jehovah and says, “He is our God; and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand” (v. 7). And then the Spirit adds, “Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” Israel went astray because they heeded not the voice of their Shepherd. Had they heard they would have enjoyed the green pastures where He ever leads His flock. As it was, they perished in the desert sands.
Their history serves as an object lesson to us. The sprinkled blood is behind us, the cross is our yesterday. The glory shines before us, there will be our glorious tomorrow. But “today” we travel the desert road. With Christ in the heart we journey on. The way may be rugged but it cannot be long. In God’s reckoning it is called “Today”—a day in which we “hear His voice” (v. 7); witness His works (v. 9); prove His love (v. 10) and are “companions of Christ,” for He who called us by His grace walks beside us in the way (v. 14).
In verses 12 and 13 we learn that the foes that confront us are “unbelief and the “deceitfulness of sin,” but the point of attack is one, “the heart.” The Holy Spirit would keep our hearts for the Man who won them, and they are both won and kept by the loving voice of Jesus.
From the noonday darkness His solemn voice
Told of my judgment borne—
And it calls to my soul to sing and rejoice
From the glow of the first day morn.
Unsilenced yet to the ear that hears,
Thou Voice of eternal bliss,
Thou speakest in speech that is deeper than tears,
And sweet as the Father’s kiss.
Since He has spoken, ours is a captured heart and with Peter we say, “Lord, to whom shall we go? THOU hast the words of eternal life.”
We are to “exhort [or encourage] one another daily, while it is called Today” (v. 13). There would be fewer spiritual shipwrecks to lament over were our harps more tuneful. Discouraged and despairing brethren would be revived and rejoiced, and the heart of our Lord would not be grieved by the hardness of our hearts.
This chapter that opens with the glorious sight of “yon lovely Man” in heaven closes with the gruesome sight of “carcasses fallen in the wilderness.” What a tragedy, as we see all along the desert way bones whitening in the blazing, scorching sun and we ask the question, “How is this, and why?” The answer comes, “They could not enter in because of unbelief.” Israel failed because they did not hear the voice of their Shepherd. We have the record of this failure in the Book of Numbers, and other voices are heard. The Shepherd of Israel went before them to search out a resting place for them (Num. 10), but the people complained (11:1), and we have the voice of the flesh. Then the mixed multitude that was among them fell to lusting (Num. 11:4) and their voice is heard, the voice of the world. Then the leaders spoke against Moses (12:1) that was the voice of self-will. In lumbers 13, they despised the pleasant land and the voice of the people is heard. In chapter 14, “All the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness!” And God gave them what they wanted.
An Outline Of The Chapter
1. The Lesson Of The Sanctuary (vv. 1-6).
1. A Blessed Relationship (v. 1). “Holy brethren.” A brotherhood based on sanctification.
2. A Marching People (v. 1). “Heavenly calling.” Called from above.
3. A Wondrous Vision (vv. 1-6). “High Priest.” Serving in the house.
Apostle, speaking for God.
High Priest, bringing to God.
Faithful, in service for God.
2. Lessons Of The Wilderness (Vv. 7-19).
1. An Object Lesson (vv. 7-11). Do not do as Israel did.
2. A Warning (v. 12). Watch your step.
3. An Appeal (v. 13). “Encourage yourselves each day” (N.T.).
4. An Inducement (v. 14). Companionship with Christ. What could be better?
5. A Danger Signal (vv. 15-19). Doubt is disastrous.
In chapter one God speaks to us and He speaks “Sonwise.”
In chapter two the Son speaks and His theme is Salvation.
In chapter three the Spirit speaks and He says, Listen to Christ.
V. 1. Make Jesus a reality before the eyes of your mind and then tell what you have seen. “Profession” here is “confession.”
Vv. 1-6 says, “He is faithful”; vv. 7-19 says, “You be faithful.”
As Apostle, Christ speaks peace to me; as Priest, Christ speaks praise to God.
There is a difference in seeing the moon in the heavens or seeing it in a ruffled pool. Behold Christ where He is, not in our own muddy water.
Satan fills men’s heads with ideas; God fills our vision with Christ.
V. 6. There is a house in the wilderness and a path through the wilderness. The house and the household are one. The house of God is a dwelling place where rest is found: a banqueting hall for feasting and thanksgiving; a temple for the display of glory; an armory for conquest against the gates of hell; a sanctuary for communion and worship (v. 6).
V. 13. Sin is like Jael who, when asked by Sisera for water, brought forth milk—“butter in a lordly dish—but had a hammer and nail hidden behind.