Sunday, June 04, 2023

Servants and Sons

“Now 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.”

Servants and sons operate on different levels, says the writer to the Hebrews. Two differences right there in this single verse. First, Moses the servant was, Christ the Son is; that is to say the Son still being faithful when the servant has long ceased from service. Second, Moses the servant was in the house, Christ the Son is over it. Those are different spheres of responsibility.

Excellence and Execution

The contrast between a servant and a son is not between good and bad. The servant was just fine judged by the standards of human servanthood. Moses was faithful. We should give him credit for his work. He was not a bad servant, and for the most part, he did what fell to him to be done. But Moses would have made a poor son over God’s house. You would not want him running the show. That was a role for which he was never suited and to which he never aspired.

So the comparison the writer to the Hebrews is drawing here is not between good and bad, but rather between glorious and insufficient, both as to office and execution.

As Gentiles, we could go on all day comparing Christ to Moses and never experience the shock that would have accompanied such revelations in the first century Hebrew mind. I won’t try to exhaust the many comparisons that might be made. Here are four ways in which the excellence of Christ as Son may be contrasted with the inadequacy of Moses the servant.

Trust me, Moses will not mind. He would say the same things. Scripture does.

1/ The Servant was Insufficiently Motivated

Moses the servant was drafted. He was conscripted to lead Israel out of Egypt. He came to a burning bush in the wilderness and was told what he would do. It wasn’t his idea to liberate Israel from Egyptian bondage, and it wasn’t his plan that set them free. Even God’s plan to use him was initially too much for him to take in. So Moses said, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?” He knew he was inadequate. Then he said, “Oh my Lord, please send someone else.” If Moses had his way, some other servant would have done the job.

Contrast that with Christ the Son. The Son volunteered. He says in eternity, “Here am I, I have come to do your will, O God.” Later, when the call to judge the world goes out, “Who is worthy?”, even Moses would have to decline. But the Son steps forward. Doing the Father’s will is always on his mind, and he knows full well and without the slightest hint of arrogance that nobody can do the job right except him. There isn’t anyone else qualified.

2/ The Servant was Insufficiently Glorious

Moses the servant reflected God’s glory. He would speak face to face with God as a man speaks to a friend. Afterwards, his face would shine with God’s reflected glory, so much so that it terrified the people of Israel, including his own brother. But that glory didn’t last. It was God’s glory, not Moses’. It faded away over time. Thus, Moses would put a veil over his face so that the people could not see the glory of God fading away. I’m sure it saddened and shamed him to be an inadequate reflection.

In contrast, the Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact imprint of his nature. Christ the Son radiates the glory of God, but that glory is not reflected; rather, it is self-generating. Christ needs no veil. His glory can never fade away because that glory is his own. Moses got his reflected glory in the wilderness. Christ’s glory belonged to him before the world existed.

3/ The Servant was Insufficiently Set Apart

Moses the servant neglected to circumcise his son, and had to be saved by his wife Zipporah at the last minute. He presumed to enter the service of God while passively disobedient to his Master. He forgot the most basic terms of the covenant God had made with Abraham: “Every male among you shall be circumcised.” Moses received his instructions from God with his shoes off standing on holy ground, then promptly forgot that a God who is set apart demands his people be set apart too.

Contrast that with Christ the Son, who says, “My ears you have pierced.” God had marked him as his own. The Son always did the Father’s will. At his baptism, the Holy Spirit testified that he was the Beloved in whom the Father was well pleased. For the Son, no baptism of repentance was required, because the Son was already set apart every moment of his life.

4/ The Servant was Insufficiently Successful

The Law of Moses could never make the Israelites into men and women like Moses. Called to be a nation of priests, they were often a nation of rebels. That’s not the fault of Moses or a defect in the law. Rather, the point of the law was to demonstrate that men are rebels and in need of someone more sufficient than Moses and something better than law to save us from our own fallen nature. Through the law comes knowledge of sin. So Moses the servant could never lead God’s people into their promised land. The law could never get us there.

In contrast, Christ the Son is the “firstborn among many brothers”, that we too might be conformed to the image of God’s Son. Unlike the law, grace transforms sinners into members of the family of God. He says, “Behold, I and the children God has given me.” And where Moses the servant could not enter the promised land, God in Christ leads his people in triumphal procession.

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