Chapter 7 showed us extensively the difference between the different priesthoods that have been instituted and approved by God. We learned that Jesus follows after the same pattern of Melchizedek in the way that He is not of the line of Levi, but never the less, God swore on oath that Jesus was indeed a priest. The author now continues with his point and pushes it home.
Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. 3 For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. 4 Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. 5 They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.”
Jesus is our high priest in heaven eternally – not just once a year. He continuously sits at the right hand of God, doing exactly what the priests of old did: interceding on our behalf to God. Imagine the throne-room of Heaven and Jesus sitting in the chair next to God. Each time you as a Christian sealed with the Holy Spirit sin, Jesus turns to God and says, “Don’t pour out your wrath upon her because of her sin, instead remember my sacrifice that was perfect and sufficient for all of her sins now and forevermore. Remember her sin no more.” This is His job as high priest and mediator. This is the true tent, not the one made by human hands as a replica of what was in Heaven.
6 But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.
We are reminded that Christ’s ministry, the eradicating of the need for daily sacrifice by way of His ‘once for all’ sacrifice, was founded on better promises. We know this because if the first (called first because Christ came later) covenant had been perfect, there would have been no need for Christ to come and sacrifice himself. So what exactly were the different promises/covenants?
The ‘better’ was to Abraham in Genesis 12:2-3 when God said to him, “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” On the surface this promise seems to speak only of Abraham’s physical descendants, but based on the inadequacy of the Law to obtain salvation, and on the passages found in Romans 9 we understand that the real Israel are those whom God has chosen since before the foundation of the world to be His heirs.. both Jews and gentiles. In Genesis 15 we see the ratification of that covenant by the slaughter of animals and God’s walking between the pieces for both Himself and Abraham, signifying that He, Himself would one day be killed because Abraham’s descendants would not be able to uphold their end and enter the land (Heaven) on their own merit.
The ‘lesser’ was to the people of Israel through Moses found in Exodus 19:3-6 that Moses received on the mountain, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”
8 For he finds fault with them when he says:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah,
9 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers
on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
For they did not continue in my covenant,
and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor
and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
for they shall all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
and I will remember their sins no more.”
13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
Verses 8-12 above are taken from Jeremiah 31:31-34 and are a prophecy spoken by Jeremiah in the days just prior to Israel’s capture and dispersement throughout the known world. Though this passage may also speak of a future time specific to the physical descendants of Jacob, clearly we can see here that God is speaking to all those who would be pardoned for sin through Christ.
For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. – Romans 8:6-9
Finally, we come to verse 13, which is very interesting. When the author says ‘ready to vanish away’ he could be speaking in the perspective of what Jeremiah was prophesying about.. that Israel was about to be broken apart. Or, given that this letter was written prior to the fall of the temple in 70 A.D., he could be referring to the fact that it wouldn’t be long before the sacrifices stopped permanently because they had become obsolete and no longer required due to their fulfillment.
Have you ever taken the time to stop and think about what your relationship with God looks like? Is it all about what YOU can do for God to maintain your salvation, or is it all about what HE has done for you to maintain your salvation? Yes He wants us to do good works for His glory, but what is the real motivation behind those works? We have clearly seen that in our fallen state we will never be able to satisfy the payment required for our sin and His forgiveness, but there is one who has done this on our behalf. The next time you help out at church or do something in ‘God’s name’, make sure that your heart is right before going into it. We work out of a thankful heart, not one that desires recognition.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. – Colossians 3:12-17