In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
Honor isn’t something that’s taken, it’s given. Those who are honored are given that honor, they don’t take it. When a soldier is awarded the Purple Heart, he doesn’t take that Purple Heart by virtue of being wounded. Theoretically, he could be wounded and not receive the honor of the award. No, it has to be given.
In our lesson tonight, the author of the letter to the Hebrews speaks of another honor. He says, “For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself.” Here he’s comparing Jesus and Moses and saying how Jesus is greater than Moses. And what is the comparison he uses? The difference between a house and its builder. Think about it. I’m sure you’ve seen some amazing houses. I remember when I was young we went to the Benjamin Harrison home in Indianapolis. The house itself had a glory, especially considering that it was built in the 1800’s. But as I say that, I had seen houses that people lived in that were bigger and had fancier and more modern comforts and accommodations. But this house had glory because of whose house it was. It was the house of a president of the United States, after all. So the glory came from the “builder” of the house. And of course, I could think of a similar comparison with Mount Vernon where George Washington lived. That house had a greater glory than Benjamin Harrison’s home, but the greater glory came because of the “builder” of that house as well. That house was preserved because of who George Washington was.
And as we hear this letter, hear this sermon, you could even say, to the Hebrews, we have to consider the honor that Moses was given. Think about Moses in the Old Testament. I think of all the key figures there, Moses presents himself as the one with the most honor. He is the one who had the honor of the most revelation received from God. He is the one who saw God in a way no other prophet or figure did. He has the honor of leading the people to freedom from their slavery. Moses had great honor. So, for the author to say Jesus has more honor is something really significant.
And as I say that, take a second to consider what all we see in Moses. Think about the pictures God gives to us in what Moses did. For example, the leading of the people out of the slavery from Pharaoh like I just mentioned. Which, by the way is why we didn’t do a regular Psalm, but the Song of Moses after the crossing of the Red Sea. You see, there he was, the people were bound under tyranny, and Moses led them into freedom through the Red Sea. Think about the picture there. This is the freedom that we have from our sin. We are under the tyranny of sin, death, and the devil, and we have One who frees us from that through water, the water of baptism. So in Moses, there’s a picture of Jesus, isn’t there? What an honor?
And again we see this work that Moses does giving us a picture of Jesus in his intercession. You might remember that there’s the story of the Golden Calf. The Israelites are in the wilderness, and God has spoken the Ten Commandments to them, the Ten Commandments that include in the First Commandment to have no other gods the explanation of this so as to not create graven images and worship them. But what do the Israelites do? They get tired of Moses being up on the mountain with God, and so they convince Aaron to lead them in a worship service. And what do they do for this service? They gather all the gold and they put it into the Golden Calf. They even call it a feast to the LORD, misusing God’s Name as they had also been told not to in the Second Commandment. In the midst of this, God’s anger is kindled and so He tells Moses that He will destroy the Israelites and make a nation from Moses. To this, Moses intercedes and pleads for God to spare them—not because they’re so good, not because they deserve it, but because of God’s goodness and His Name. In the same way Jesus intercedes for us before God. Not because we deserve it, not because we’re so good, but because of Jesus’ goodness and because He bears the Name that is above every Name.
Finally, then we also see this picture of Jesus, or our life in Jesus with Moses in the wilderness. I mentioned the connection to the water of the Red Sea and our baptism, so also we can see our life being in the wilderness of sin. We’ve been rescued from sin, and are in the camp with the presence of our Lord, but around us is this desert. Just as God fed the Israelites, He feeds us with the Lord’s Supper. And finally when we die, our baptism is completed and we enter into His eternal Promised Land, just as the Israelites entered their Promised Land through the waters of the Jordan.
In all of this, in all of these pictures of Jesus that we see in Moses, we great honor there, don’t we? Isn’t it great honor that Moses would even be given the ability to see God as he did, to be given the revelations he was given, to convey the pictures of Jesus he conveyed? It’s great honor. But it’s not the honor that Jesus has.
In fact, if you know the story of the wilderness well, you can see it there. Think about what happens in the wilderness. Do you recall what happened to the generation that entered the wilderness? Eventually, they weren’t permitted to enter the Promised Lan. They had been given a law. The Law had a promise with it: do this and you will live. They didn’t do it, thus they didn’t live. Even Moses at a point fell short, and so was forbidden from entering the Promised Land. And to drive the point home all the more, what was the name of the successor to Moses who finally led the Israelites into that land? Joshua. Yeshua. In Greek, Jesus. Moses didn’t have the honor to take the people to the Pomised Land. No, that was reserved for Jesus.
Why is this? Because these promises of the Law of Moses fall short. They’re earthly promises that will finally disappoint. They won’t carry us to the heavenly Promised Land. We can try and try and try to do them, but they won’t get us there, just like the Israelite generation that came out of Egypt couldn’t get to their Promised Land. The Promise of the Law is do this and you will live. But finally, it falls short. Not because of itself. No, it’s God’s good Word, but because it’s call for us to do is broken by our sin. We can’t do it.
As I say that I’m often saddened when I look at how many people cling to some of these promises of the Law. They see the upholding of the Law of Moses as the way to get this blessing or that blessing. But those blessings are temporary, they’re temporal. They’re temporal and conditional.
Now, to be clear, is it good to keep God’s Law? Of course it is. They are His good commands, do them! But, don’t lose faith when you do them and you receive only hardship. Don’t lose faith when you try to keep them and still have suffering. In our specific time, we shouldn’t be upset should we even fall prey to Covid 19. This is something that is not promised that we will be spared from. Even as we read something like Psalm 91, which says, “no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.” That doesn’t mean that if we just believe the right way or do just the right thing, we’ll certainly be spared. That Psalm speaks of Christ, and all it’s good is good we have eternally, not temporally, eternally because of Him.
And you see that’s where the comfort of this honor of Christ comes in. Sure, with something like Covid-19, we can take some comfort that 80% of people only have mild to moderate symptoms for the infection. But there’s that 20% that still require some kind of treatment. And that 20%, one in five. That’s not all that comforting.
But in Christ, there’s the real comfort. There’s the real comfort that comes from the honor of the One who did all for us. He did that so that His promises are not conditional and they are not temporal, but eternal. Christians, there’s the greater glory. The fact that Christ did all that He did without any merit or worthiness in you, that’s your comfort. The fact that He went to the cross for your sins before you were born and won that forgiveness before you could ever ask for it, that’s the beauty and comfort that manifests this greater honor. And the fact that this means an eternity of the freedom of body and soul from the sorrows, pains, and death of sin, all in His resurrection, that’s the most comforting of all. It’s the comfort that helps us endure temporary suffering in view of eternal joy.
In fact, the author to the Hebrews says it this way: “Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son.” Just as a servant, especially a well-respected one, has many rights and maybe even good authority, the son has even greater. The Son has the full right of inheritance. This is the difference between Moses and the Law and Jesus and His Gospel. Under the honor of the Law, under the arrangement where your relationship with God is based upon what you do, you are enslaved. But under the greater honor, the Gospel, your relationship with God is based upon what He has done and what He still does for you in Christ.
This honor is the greatest. This is the honor that gives you the full inheritance of the Son, because we are His house. Not His building constructed out of stones and wood, not but His dwelling and eternal household line constructed by His Work given to us in His Word, in Baptism, and in His Supper. And just like all honor, that’s not taken, it’s given. It’s a gift to you in His love for you.
In our uncertain times, then, remember the honor He speaks to you in His Word, that He has adopted you in Christ, and made you His Sons, heirs with Him in the glory of the eternal. As shaky as the promises of keeping laws and commands are, and as shaky as all things in this life are, the honor of Jesus is certain, firm, and promised to you eternally. Amen.
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.