This chapter begins with a recap of the previous one, starting with the establishment of Jesus in His rightful role…
Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not for man. (verses 1,2)
He is seated on the right hand of the throne, ministering in the heavenly sanctuary and the true tabernacle. This is interested to note because the earthy sanctuary contained many beautiful furnishings but offered nothing on which to sit. This was because the work of the priests was never done. In contrast, the work Jesus came to do has been finished and all heaven waits for this battle between good and evil to culminate.
For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer. For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law: Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses as admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount. (verses 3-5)
The sanctuary on earth was a type and shadow, or more simply put an example, of the sanctuary in heaven. It offered insight into the sacrifice yet to come. The priests were ordained to present sacrifices and offerings for the sins of the people as a foreshadowing of the greater High Priest who would come to offer the ultimate sacrifice of Himself.
But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. (verse 6)
Are these verses saying God had made a mistake in the establishment of the earthly sanctuary? Or that the old covenant was poorly constructed? Not at all. But they were incomplete by the sheer nature of the need for the true Lamb to yet come. And when He did, He brought with Him the fulfillment of the covenant and the end of the need for foreshadowing. He, Himself, became the promise.
For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. (verses 7-12)
If the first covenant has been complete and nature and lacking nothing, there would have been no need for the second. But here we find Scripture quoting Scripture as the writer of Hebrews points us back to the promise found in Jeremiah 31:31-34. We are reintroduced to the covenant that began with Israel but that wasn’t meant to end with Israel and we are again shown that this one was vastly different. This covenant would not be outward in nature but would be one that would change the man from the inside.
He would put the law in our minds and write it on our hearts.
No longer would man be regulated by external law but would now be governed through the fulfillment of the law. Obedience to it would become the wellspring through which would flow gratitude for the gift of this more intimate connection with the Creator.
I will be to them a God, and they shall be my people.
Imagine what joy the very thought of this must bring to His heart! He has watched for thousands of years as His people serve another master. Under this new covenant, the stronghold of the adversary is broken and He can finally gather His people to Himself. He will cleanse them, once and for always.
In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away. (verse 23)
This verse is significant in so many ways. It is the nature of man to cling to the old ways, even while yearning for change. It is our tendency to stay rooted in what feels comfortable even when it no longer fits. And so it has been with the old covenant and the Mosaic Law. They were beautiful and vital in their own right, in their time. But the time for them had passed. Jesus arrived on the scene and extinguished the need for a system that pointed to that which was to come; the time had come for man to look back at the cross, at the fullness of a hope realized, and to walk forth in the freedom brought through that hope.
His grace was now sufficient for us to walk in the law written on our hearts.
Disclaimer: I feel like it’s important to point out, I am a Bible student and not a Bible scholar. These studies are a reflection of my own personal journey each morning through one chapter of Scripture. I open the Word only after praying for discernment but I also fully understand the Lord brings increasing light over time, as it is sought. Therefore, I recognize there is much I have not yet come to understand. I welcome Christlike discussion on any of my posts.