Summary: Our subject is the priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ who is a priest after the order of Melchizedek. Presented to us are two ministries which are in sharp contrast. The Levitical service, the ministry of the Aaronic priesthood, was carried out in an earthly Tabernacle down here.
Lesson IE3a: The Imperfection of the Earthly Sanctuary (Heb. 9:1-10)
Scripture: Hebrews 9:1-10 (NIV)
1Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. 2A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand and the table with its consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. 3Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, 4which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. 5Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover. But we cannot discuss these things in detail now.
6When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. 7But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. 8The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still functioning. 9This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. 10They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order.
Our subject is the priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ who is a priest after the order of Melchizedek. Presented to us are two ministries which are in sharp contrast. The Levitical service, the ministry of the Aaronic priesthood, was carried out in an earthly Tabernacle down here. That sanctuary on earth was merely a type of the one which is in heaven, the sanctuary in which the Lord Jesus is serving today. This sanctuary in heaven provides for better worship. A great many people consider the Law from the standpoint of the Ten Commandments, but the Epistle to the Hebrews approaches the Law from the viewpoint of its place of worship and its priesthood. That approach puts the emphasis on the settling of sins, and as the writer will point out, the law never really settled the sin question. “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Heb. 10:4).
We have never seen the heavenly sanctuary. Yet we believe what the Bible tells us about it. We realize that God is not worshipped today in temples made with hands (Acts 7:46-50). There is no special place on earth where God dwells (see Isa 57:15; 66:1-2; John 4:19-24). We may call a local church building a “House of God,” but we know God does not live there. The building is dedicated to God and His service, but it is not His dwelling place.
Hebrews 9 presents a contrast between the Old Covenant Sanctuary (the tabernacle) and the New Covenant heavenly sanctuary where Jesus Christ now ministers. This contrast makes it clear that the New Covenant sanctuary is superior. The New Covenant tells us that vital worship is standing in the presence of God with all our defenses down in order to experience communion with God. Worship is an experience of amazement and unworthiness, and, at times, it is an attempt to probe a mystery and to understand what God did for us in Christ.
Hebrews reminds readers that the regulations and practices in the tabernacle were ordained by God. If there was any inferiority in the tabernacle service, it was not because God had not established the ritual. While the Old Covenant was in force, the ministry of the priests was ordained of God and perfectly proper.
What was it, then, that made the tabernacle inferior? There are five answers to that question (see verses. 1, 2-5, 6-7, 8, 9-10).
1Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary.
An “earthly sanctuary” does not mean earthly as we usually think of it, but it means a sanctuary of this earth; that is; it was made by man (Heb. 9:11) of materials obtained from this earth (Heb. 8:2). It was made so long, so wide, and so high, and there was a ritual the people went through in the sanctuary down here. In that since it was of the earth (our world). The writer is going to further contrast it with the sanctuary that is in heaven.
The Jewish people generously brought their gifts to Moses, and from these materials the tabernacle was constructed. Then God gave spiritual wisdom and skill to Bezalel and Oboliab to do the intricate work of making several parts of the tabernacle and its furnishings (see Ex. 35-36). After the construction was completed, the sanctuary was put in place and dedicated to God (Ex. 40). Even though the glory of God moved into the sanctuary, it was still an earthly building, constructed by humans out of earthly materials.