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Summary: The priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God, but Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle.

Hebrews 9:1-12

December 2, 2012

Chapter eight showed us that Jesus is the mediator of a better covenant based on better promises (8:6). Since there’s a new covenant, the old one is passing away (8:13). Chapter nine will show us that since the old covenant is gone, then so are its ordinances. Since Jesus is the mediator of a better covenant, we have better promises, and we have a better hope in redemption. We don’t trust in the blood of bulls and goats—we trust in the blood of Christ so that we’re actually made clean so we can serve the living God!

Chapter nine can be broken down into two main sections. Verses 1-10 make up the first part which summarizes the “ordinances of divine service” and the “worldly sanctuary” of the first covenant. Verses 11-28 show how Christ is a High Priest of better things and a more perfect tabernacle.

We can get a quick snapshot of this by comparing verse six with verse eleven:

6Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God.

11But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle

Let’s start in verse one:

Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service,

Ordinances are laws. All of our cities have them: no shooting fireworks in town, dogs have to wear tags, and no loitering in the park after sunset are all city ordinances. The Israelites had ordinances of divine service. They had a law from God that told them how to interact with Him, and it governed every aspect of their lives: what they ate, how they dressed, when they worked, where they worshiped, what they believed and taught, when and where they moved, how they were governed, and everything else was affected by this law.

and a worldly sanctuary.

Living as late in history as we do, “sanctuary” has a different meaning. The Greek word doesn’t mean a safe place; it means a holy place. It’s a place to be revered. And the Israelites had the only place on earth where the ordinances of divine service were to be observed. This is why it’s such a big deal when Jesus tells Nicodemus that God loved the world (3:16) and why the Jerusalem council was so surprised that God was granting repentance even to the Gentiles (Acts 11:18).

Just imagine how hard it would have been to understand that God’s been working with this one group of people since Adam, and now these old things are gone and the new covenant opens the veil for men of every language to stand for himself inside the holy place to worship and commune with God!

But that wasn’t the case under the first covenant:

2For there was a tabernacle made;

Here’s a picture of it: http://orion.it.luc.edu/~avande1/jerusalem/views/tabernacleLayout.gif

the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary. 3And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; 4Which had the golden censer [SEE NOTE AT END], and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; 5And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly.

The point of his writing isn’t to discuss the symbolic meaning of the furniture, so he says, “We can’t speak about these particularly right now.” The point that he’s driving home is that these are all worldly articles used by the priests in accomplishing the divine service, but Jesus fulfills these in His own body! He’s replaced it all so it’s no longer needed. That’s why he says,

6Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God.

The means of approaching God was limited to this worldly sanctuary, so you can see how this is imperfect, but you can also see how this shadows the One who would come and say “no man comes to the Father but by Me” (Jn. 14:6).

“Accomplishing the service of God” is the daily ministry of the priests. There were five different kinds of offerings: there was the burnt offering (Lev. 1) which was when an animal was completely burned up on the altar (except for his skin). This was a voluntary offering to make atonement for an individual’s sin. Then there was the meat offering (Lev. 2); this was just bread that was offered to God, and it was also voluntary. The idea behind it seems to be gratitude and love towards God since He’s the one who gives us all things. So in this sense, the meat offering is a sign of communion and relationship with God. Then there’s the peace offering (Lev. 3). This was an animal which was partly burned to God and partly eaten by man. You can just imagine: we’re at peace with God, and so we “partake” of the same sacrifice. Next is the sin offering (Lev. 4); this was mandatory, and they burned an animal because someone sinned in ignorance. This makes a way for God to forgive people who don’t know what they’re doing. Finally, there’s the trespass offering (Lev. 5-7). Again, an animal was sacrificed for someone who broke God’s law (intentionally or not), and it was mandatory.

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