Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being.
Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already priests who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.
For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. But God found fault with the people and said:
“The days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
and with the people of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they did not remain faithful to my covenant,
and I turned away from them,
declares the Lord.
This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel
after that time, declares the Lord.
I will put my laws in their minds
and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”
By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.
- Hebrews 8:1-13
Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments
Hebrews 8:1-5 ‘summary and the place of worship’: “A summary recital of what had been said before concerning the excellency of Christ’s priesthood, v. 1, 2. What we have in Christ; we have a high priest, and such a high priest as no other people ever had; all others were but types and shadows of this high priest. … The apostle sets before the Hebrews what it was that belonged to that office, v. 3, 4. It necessarily belongs to the priesthood of Christ that he should have somewhat to offer; and he had himself to offer, as the great atoning sacrifice. Christ must now execute his priesthood in heaven; having finished the work of his righteousness and to make intercession there.”
- Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary (Scripture quotations are not in bold/italics)
Hebrews 8:10 ‘put my laws in their minds’: “This is more than knowing the law – infinitely more. The Holy Spirit makes men love the will of God, makes them delight in all that God delights in and abhor that which the Lord abhors. It is well said in the text that God will do this, for certainly it is not what a man can do for himself. The law is fully written in the heart when a man, approving the law and appropriating it to himself, delights to obey it.” ‘they will be my people’: “People have their treasures – their pearls, jewels, rubies, and diamonds. These are their precious stones. But all people in the covenant of grace are the precious stones of God. He values them above everything else, keeps the world spinning for them, and is always tender toward them.”
- Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes
Hebrews 8:12 ‘forgiving and forgetting’: “I was thinking the Father today for his mercy. I began listing the sins he’d forgiven. One by one I thanked God for forgiving my stumbles and tumbles. My motives were pure and my heart was thankful, but my understanding of God was wrong. It was when I used the word remember that it hit me.
“Remember the time I … ‘I was about to thank God for another act of mercy. But I stopped. Something was wrong. The word remember seemed displaced … ‘Does he remember?’
“Then I remembered. I remembered his words, ‘And I will remember their sins no more.’
“Wow! Now, that is a remarkable promise.
“God doesn’t just forgive, he forgets … For all the things he does do, this is one thing he refuses to do. He refuses to keep a list of my wrongs.”
- Max Lucado, God Came Near (emphasis the author’s)
Hebrews 8:12 ‘will remember their sins no more’: “This is a wonder of wonders, that God should say he will do what in some sense he cannot do. God’s pardon of sin is so complete that he himself describes it as not remembering our iniquity. The Lord cannot in strict accuracy of speech forget anything. But he wishes us to know that his pardon is so true and deep that it amounts to an absolute oblivion, a total forgetting of all the wrongdoing of the pardoned ones.”
- Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes
Again, the Old Testament is quoted: Exodus 25:40 and Jeremiah 31:31-34.
The author starts by establishing what the priests do. It is clearly stated in Hebrews 8:5 that the temple and the tabernacle are designed after the same “space” that is in heaven. Since heaven is outside time and space, they take up space, or at least we can assume so. Both worship structures were designed by God and dictated to the builder. God would wish for these structures to mimic a space that He feels comfortable in, so to speak. Compare that then to the new Jerusalem that will not have a temple, because God will live there along with His people – no need of a place where we can communicate.
Much of this chapter is a quotation from Jeremiah 31, establishing a new covenant, the real meat of Hebrews 8.
And what is the significant change to require a new covenant? Christ died for all, shedding His blood to atone for our sins – once, not annually or continually. I wrote a post quite some time ago discussing two words that many think to be interchangeable, expiation and propitiation. Expiation is what was done in the Old Testament. Once each year, the priests made sacrifices for the people to place a cover, from the blood, over their sin. It was as if the blood became weather worn. Once each year, the people had to return to the priests with a new sacrifice. But, propitiation is a washing of the sins. The sins are washed away, not covered. Thus, a translation that uses expiation to explain what Jesus’ sacrifice did for us is in error. And propitiation is the significant change with the new covenant; indeed, what makes the new covenant necessary.
In the quotation from Jeremiah 31, the entire concept of this new covenant is revealed to be different. Now that Jesus, fully human, fully God, has become the ransom for many, we will have His law imprinted on our hearts and minds. We will not be bound by the yearly sacrifice. Indeed, God will have a daily relationship with each of those who are true believers.
What had been done was that those who tried to follow God’s law looked toward the Ten Commandments, the big ones. They might use the rest of Exodus and Leviticus as a guide. And they felt bound to make the pilgrimage to the tabernacle or temple to make the annual sacrifices. But that was it. God was this unattainable, unreachable being that only Moses and a few others had the pleasure of close contact.
Yet, the veil has been removed from the Holy of Holies. We all have access to God.
Both facets of the new covenant seem to be in the favor of those who believe in Him. They get a personal relationship with God, and God remembers their sin no more. Although I cringe due to the overuse of the phrase, it is a “win-win.”
And it costs us nothing to enter into that covenant. Matthew Henry, in commentary that will be in next week’s study, “gets his geek on.” Having been trained as a lawyer, he explains the significance of this being a covenant, a legal transaction. We cannot clean our own sins. Thus, we come to God empty handed. He offers us a relationship with Him and forgiveness, along with forgetting, our sin, for free. But as a pastor once said answering the question, “but it will cost you everything.” Truly accepting Jesus means, as Jesus stated Himself, to follow Him we must take up our cross. Our lives will be changed, and things will have to be jettisoned. Yet, so many Biblical scholars have said that when we look back, the things that we gave up amount to precisely nothing of value. For without Christ, nothing has lasting value.
Some Serendipitous Reflections
“1. Which aspect of the new covenant brings great joy to you now, and why: (a) Having God’s law on your heart? (b) Being one of God’s People? (c) Knowing God? (d) Having your sins forgiven?
”2. Which aspect of the covenant do you wish to experience more? Why?
“3. Has your experience of these promises been sudden and dramatic, a gradual awareness or both?
“4. The old covenant ended up focusing on the people’s ability (or inability) to measure up to God’s demands. How do you still try to come to God on that basis? What happens? What does it mean to you that the new covenant is based on God’s actions in Christ, and not on your efforts?”
- Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups
If you like these Thursday morning Bible studies, but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Thursday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.