Hebrews 9:1

Friday, 21 December 2018

Then indeed, even the first covenant had ordinances of divine service and the earthly sanctuary. Hebrews 9:1

For the past several chapters, the author has talked about the superiority of Jesus’ ministry, its eternality, the oath on which it was established in comparison to how the Old Covenant was brought about, the inability of believers to meet the Old Covenant demands, and so on. Now in this verse, and for a few more verses, the layout of the tabernacle as described in the Old Covenant will be seen.

To begin, the author says, “Then indeed.” He will now be stressing the fact that there is a contrast between the Old Covenant and the New by first highlighting important points about the Old. In doing so, he will be able to demonstrate that these differences only pointed to a more perfect covenant with a more perfect system.

The “first covenant” is referring to the Old Covenant which established the Law of Moses. It had “ordinances of divine service” which are clearly detailed in Exodus and Leviticus. The duties were exacting, and regulated what the priests were to do, when they were to do it, and how they were to conduct themselves as priests. This first covenant also had “the earthly sanctuary.”

The definite article points directly to one sanctuary where these things were conducted. It is not as if any sanctuary could be attached to these rites and ordinances. Rather, everything about the sanctuary was specifically described and made ready for this divine service. The two (the sanctuary and its services) form one whole concerning the ministrations on behalf of the people. The fact it is described as an “earthly” sanctuary immediately implies that it is not a part of that which is heavenly. This particular sanctuary was set apart as holy, but it was only a type and a shadow of something else. Being earthly, it was also corruptible. It was simply a fabrication of various materials which would eventually wear out, fall apart, or require constant maintenance.

Despite this, meticulous care was taken in its construction. Like the services which were prescribed to be done there, the very structure and makeup of the tabernacle were also exactingly prescribed. Much of what was mandated is noted in Exodus 26-30, and then it is repeated in Exodus 36-40 in describing the actual construction. This repetition was to show that the workmen painstakingly followed the specifications that were given. Likewise, when the permanent temple was built under Solomon’s reign, it also had specific guidelines to follow –

All this,” said David, “the Lord made me understand in writing, by His hand upon me, all the works of these plans.” 1 Chronicles 28:19

Just as Moses received the plans for the tabernacle, so King David received those for the temple. The worship of God, including where, how, and when, was detailed exactingly to teach the people of His absolute holiness and to indicate that He must be approached in a very specific manner.

Life application: If extreme care was taken under the Old Covenant to adhere to the construction of the sanctuary, and in the conduct of the rites associated with it, and as these things only pointed to Christ and His work, then shouldn’t we treat the Lord Jesus in a more honorable and respectable way than even Israel did concerning their rites? Let us always magnify His person, and never diminish His glory in the eyes of others, as we speak of what He has done.

Heavenly Father, how blessed we are to have the fullness of Christ Jesus and His glorious ministry. Instead of repeated sacrifices for sin, feelings of guilt over past deeds, and a worship which was regulated in detail, we have one sacrifice in Christ, freedom from guilt, and our worship is “in spirit and in truth.” Thank you for the freedom we have in Christ! Amen.

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