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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

June 13, 2012

Hebrews 9:1-15

  1. Verse 1. The Hebrew writer describes the earthly tabernacle where Aaron's descendants served, in order to compare it to the greater and perfect tabernacle where Christ serves as High Priest; this is a continuation of his teaching which begun in Heb 8:1-6a. It should be noted that the author uses the tabernacle and not the Temple in his argument; this is because it was the model of the tabernacle that was shown to Moses on the mountain. Moses then had the earthly tabernacle constructed on the basis of its heavenly counterpart, where, according to the author, Christ serves as heavenly High Priest (see Heb 8:5). In Heb 9:1, the author says that "the first" (covenant) had its regulations for worship and a sanctuary. The author qualifies the sanctuary as "worldly or earthly," meaning man-made sanctuary as opposed to the heavenly sanctuary. The temple being man-made intends to show how inferior it is to the original one that is made by God in the heavens. If the earthly tabernacle had regulations, then it stands to reason that the spiritual tabernacle has regulations as well.

  2. Verses 2-10. The writer now wants to describe the set-up of the tabernacle to make one main point. The set-up that is described concerns the two inner most rooms. The Holy Place (outer room) and the Most Holy Place ( inner room/ Holies of Holy). The writer details the items that were inside each room. The Hebrew reader of this letter would have been very familiar with this description so it wasn’t necessary to deal much with the contents of each room. The main point is that the rooms were separate and restricted. Priest could enter the Holy Place, but only the High Priest, once a year, could enter the Most Holy Place. The point of this restricted access was to show that the way to the presence of the Lord had not been revealed yet. Access to the presence of God was restricted and not available to all under the law, because the law was only a shadow of what was needed and not the real thing. The Law showed you a High Priest and sacrifices were needed to access the presence of God, but it stopped short there. Under the Law only the High Priest could enter and even he had to enter bringing gifts and sacrifices for his sins and the sins of the people. As a matter of fact a High Priest had to enter every year and bring more gifts and more sacrifices because the previous gifts could not atone for the sins of the people completely. The offerings and sacrifices were never able to atone for the sins of the people. Those rituals were simply a foreshadowing of the work of Christ. In the tabernacle symbolism, God was near but not accessible. The symbolism hinted that there was a way to approach God, but that way was not yet revealed. Despite the sacrifices, the people were unable to go to God's throne, unable to enter his presence. The rituals could not complete the work that they symbolized. Rituals are external actions, and they cannot change the heart. They do not cleanse the conscience. They were valid only because they pointed to the better ministry of Christ.

  3. Verses 11-14. Now, in contrast to the ritual works of the old covenant, we are told about the superior ministry of Christ. The better blessings have already begun, the author reminds us. We already have forgiveness and direct access to God, because Christ went through the heavenly holy place. By dying for us, the Son of God was able to redeem us once for all. It was a perfect, sinless sacrifice, presented in the heavenly holy place, fully effective, never needing to be done again. This was a sharp contrast with the Levitical rituals, which were repeated continually yet never bringing the people any closer to God. The old sacrifices of bulls and goats and the sprinkling of cow’s ashes were powerless. They could give the appearance of being clean because they could be seen from the outside, but none of those rituals sank down into the soul to cleanse the believer from the inside which is where sin lives. Of course, Christ is much better than those rituals, and we should expect that his sacrifice achieves a much better kind of cleansing. Whereas the law was a Band-Aid the sacrifice of Christ was spiritual surgery. He offered a perfect sacrifice, willingly, and through faith in him, this cleanses us on the inside and enables us to worship God. We can do what the high priest could only symbolize: we can approach God with total confidence. We have been washed and purified by the blood of Christ — all sins are removed. If a burned-up heifer could ritually cleanse an Israelite on the outside for a moment, we can be sure that the sacrifice of Jesus can cleanse us throughout from the inside for eternity. Not only could the sacrifice of Christ forgive, but it cleanse our hearts and teaches us not to sin anymore. The law could never do that. The sacrifice of Christ begins to change our hearts.

  4. Verse 15. The law only showed us what we needed and how bad we needed, but Christ gives us what we need and opens the door to really experience God. Since Christ brings us complete forgiveness, he "is the mediator of a new covenant" (9:15). He gives us a relationship with God on a completely new basis — not the old covenant, but the new. Because Christ sacrifice will last for eternity, the forgiveness it brought is eternal, and thus our relationship with God is now on a totally different level. Our sins are no longer in the way, but have been covered by the blood of Christ for all eternity never to be held against us again (2 Corinthians 5:16-19). Jesus is able to offer a new covenant because he satisfied the righteous requirements of the old covenant, by being a ransom (or payment) for sin committed under the old. The debt that was incurred by breaking the law was satisfied through the sacrifice of Christ once and for all. Because the law held everyone captive by its penalty, Christ sets us free by paying the debt that each sinner incurred under the old covenant.

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