Hebrews With A Hebrew – Part 18

Written by Neil Silverberg

September 5, 2023

Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest,
one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven,
a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man.
For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is
necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. Now if he were on
earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts
according to the law. They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things.
For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying:
“See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on
the mountain.” But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more
excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted
on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would
have been no occasion to look for a second.

Hebrews 8:1-7

The author of Hebrews now sums it up by making this declaration: “Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man” (8:1-2.). He has gone to great lengths to demonstrate that Messiah is a priest of a different order than Levi, that of Melchizedek. The priests on earth were appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; thus, it was necessary that this priest have something to offer as well. But the truth is, his priesthood was not on earth since there are already priests according to the Levitical order on earth. He served as priest of the true tent that the Lord set up, not man (8:2).

After the order of Melchizedek, Jesus, the high priest exercises his priesthood not on earth, but in the true tent in heaven. It was for this reason that God told Moses to make sure he built the Tabernacle exactly as he was shown the pattern on the mount (Exodus 25:9). That’s because he was shown a scale model of the throne of God and was told to build it according to the pattern he was shown on the Mount. When it stood on earth, the Tabernacle (and eventually the temple) was a shadow of the heavenly throne.

The remainder of the chapter (8:6-13) demonstrates how the new covenant is a better covenant in every way since it is based on better promises (8:6). What does the writer mean when he says the new covenant is a better covenant? Beginning in verse 8, he quotes Jeremiah 31:31-34, the great prophecy that God would make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. Messiah has obtained a “ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better since it is enacted on better promises” (8:6). He has already stated that in the previous chapter: “This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant” (7:22).  The fact that Jesus was to be a priest of a new order has far-reaching implications. The Levitical system of worship was inadequate and due to be replaced (7:17). Perfection, as far as conscience was concerned, was never attained under the Old Covenant. The fact that another priest was to arise of a different order implied that the former system was weak. This could mean only one thing: that the law and covenant under which the Levitical system was set up would also be replaced. The Old Testament always promised a day when God would introduce a new covenant.

The reason is the former covenant was weak and unable to perfect the worshippers. Now, the writer will show that Jesus is the surety of a better covenant. The Law was the covenant God made with the children of Israel upon leaving Egypt. A covenant is not an arrangement between two parties but an undertaking made by one party in which other parties may benefit. It is really more of a will or testament (called such in chap. 9). Certain blessings and privileges are promised by God, conditioned on certain moral requirements being fulfilled. Israel heard the audible voice of God speaking the ten words. Later, God promised them certain things upon their obedience. These things were written in a book and sprinkled with blood. He sprinkled the people with blood and the book, and the people were bound upon death to keep the covenant.

The basis was simple: “This do, and you shall live.” The flip side is “this fail to do, and you shall die.” At the end of Deuteronomy is a long list describing the curses that would come on them if they failed. Ultimately, the wrath of God came on them for their disobedience.

This is the covenant to which most people relate. They consider their relationship with God an exterior code of ethics they must keep. If you do good and there is a heaven, you will go there. Also, is it the covenant most Christians gravitate to? They think that to obtain God’s blessing, they must be obedient, spend more time in prayer, fast, give their money, etc. What if we fail to do these things? We feel like failures and rejected by God and must try harder next time.

What is lacking? There is nothing wrong with the old covenant; it is the perfect standard, God’s standard for man. The problem is I am fleshly, and no matter how I try, I can’t live that way. It is simply not native to man to live like this.

What happens is that the child of God tries to live under a covenant that cannot give life and under which he is doomed to fail. The writer introduces us to the fact that the old covenant was made obsolete by the introduction of a new covenant.

In the next blog, we will unpack the components of the new covenant as we examine Hebrews 8:7-12.

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