We continue our study of the Epistle to the Hebrews (chapters 8 and 9), and are reminded of the twofold focus of this passage: Christ, the believer’s High Priest; and the New Covenant which He established.
The writer in Hebrews 7 observed how Jesus was “made a surety of a better testament” (7:22). The word “testament,” was a legal term that described a covenant. For example, you might draw up a “Last Will and Testament,” that is effectively a covenant. Such a document is a binding legal agreement between two parties. The purpose of a “Last Will and Testament” is to direct your intentions (plan) for distributing your possessions upon your death. (Unfortunately, greedy relatives and crooked lawyers seemed to have embraced the lawless spirit of our day, and have little respect for wills, testaments, or covenants.)
Fortunately, God is not only the Lawgiver, He is also a just Judge, and forgiving High Priest. We read of Christ, “He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” Christ is more than our intercessor (7:24-25), He is our Savior and Redeemer. While the priests of the Old Covenant offered sacrifices for their sins and the people, Christ “offered up Himself” (7:27), and established a New Covenant (Hebrews 8).
A Superior High Priest, and A New Covenant (8:1-2)
The New Covenant is the subject of chapter 8, and continued the revelation that Christ is our High Priest, and “is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (8:1). Earthly priests were types or symbols of the superior High Priest, Jesus Christ. Because of His sacrificial, substitutionary death, and resurrection from the dead, Jesus is our priest, and ministers in the heavenly, “true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man” (8:2).
An Inferior Tabernacle (8:3-5)
We find a contrast between the earthly tabernacle built by Moses, and the heavenly, eternal sanctuary where Christ is the believer’s High Priest. Because Christ was not of the tribe of Levi, He would not have served as an earthly priest. The priests of Levi offered the blood of sacrifices during Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness. Once a year, only the high priest might enter the “Holy of holies,” and then only with the blood of sacrifice “which he offered for himself” (9:7). Though Moses directed the construction of the tabernacle, according to the patterns God gave him (8:5b), that which was provided was a “type,” an “example and shadow of heavenly things” (8:5).
Israel Broke the Old Covenant (8:6-9)
Notice the adjectives “excellent” and “better” in verse 6. The writer of Hebrews, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, described the ministry of Christ as “a more excellent [surpassing, stronger] ministry.” As our High Priest, Christ “is the mediator of a better [stronger] covenant, which was established upon better [stronger] promises” (8:6). Earthly priests were inferior to Christ, who offered Himself as the perfect, sufficient sacrifice for sins. The weakness or “fault” of the “old covenant” (8:7) was not the covenant, but the sinfulness of men (including the priests).
Lesson – A covenant is only good when both parties keep their vows. For instance, when a man and woman marry, they bind themselves in a “marriage covenant.” God and others present are witnesses of their vows (promises), and the couple exchange rings as a token of their covenant. Tragically, more than 50% of marriage covenants are eventually broken because either the husband or wife fail to keep covenant, not only with their spouse, but with God and those who witnessed their exchange of vows.
The prophet Jeremiah, quoted in Hebrews 8:8-11, observed how the children of Israel had broken covenant with God (Jeremiah 31:31-34). Like a wife who betrays her vows and breaks her marriage covenant, Israel had failed to keep her covenant with God. In Jeremiah’s day, Israel had become not only a divided nation, but her idolatry and failure to keep the Law and Commandments, had robbed the nation of God’s blessings (Deuteronomy 28; Exodus 31).
The Promise of a New Covenant (8:10-13)
If men had kept the first covenant, there would have been no need for a second covenant (8:7b). However, because Israel had not kept her covenant with the LORD, and disregarded His Law, God foresaw the need to establish a “Covenant,” and Christ serve as the everlasting High Priest(8:10).
The first covenant required external obedience, keeping the written law and offering sacrifices. The Lord promised under the “New Covenant,” He would “put [His] laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people” (which will be fulfilled in the Millennial Kingdom, 8:10). In other words, motivated by their love and communion with the Lord, believers should keep covenant with God. The old covenant depended on earthly priests offering sacrifices, and acting as mediators between God and man (8:11a). Under the “New Covenant,” every believer will come before the Lord, “for all shall know [Him], from the least to the greatest” (8:11).
Closing thoughts (8:12-13) – While the old covenant pictured forgiveness through blood sacrifices, the “New Covenant” promised God’s mercy and forgiveness of sins (8:12). Therefore, knowing Christ has established a “Covenant” by His blood, we are confident He is our High Priest and Mediator, and sits “on the right hand of the throne.” Understanding the “New Covenant” has replaced the old (8:13), believers should delight in obeying the principles and precepts of God’s Word, trusting in His grace and promises.
Only as you study and meditate in God’s Word, will His truths rule your heart. What is in your heart?
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