Hebrews Bible Class: A High Priest of a Better Ministry
Read Hebrews 8:1-13
If someone talks for long enough, do you sometimes lose track of the point of the conversation? The Hebrew writer is now about 2,000 words in and wants to ensure after laying the groundwork, the readers are not going to miss the point surrounding the ministry of their outstanding High Priest.
V1-5 – Minister of the True Sanctuary
V1-3 – A Heavenly Priest
If the following two items are missed, what is behind the letter to the Hebrews will be missed. The first is here in chapter 8 – Christ’s priesthood is a better covenant than the old Levitical method. The second we will address in chapter 13 – Christ draws the believers to leave the camp of Judaism.
Christ’s ministry is superior due to location of His ministry. Verse 2 notes that He is a ministry of the sanctuary. This sanctuary is “the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.” This sanctuary stands in contrast with ch9:1’s “worldly sanctuary”: the tangible sanctuary in the tabernacle for a people of the earth which was filled with sights, smells and sounds.
Christ’s ministry is also superior due to the type of gifts and sacrifices. The work of Christ is a spiritual work and a heavenly work. The chapter will expound more fully on His present and future work from v8-12.
V4-5 – Earthly Priests
Christ’s ministry does not take place on earth. In this He stands in contrast to priests who served the tabernacle. He is not an earthly priest because He is not a priest according to the law. Previous chapters have all led up to this point.
Thus, v5 focuses on the third reason Christ’s priesthood ministry is superior: earthly priests would “serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things.” Christ, on the other hand, serves as the reality and substance of heavenly things. The tabernacle and its ceremonies were modeled after what God instructed Moses on Mt. Sinai. Our Lord serves as High Priest not in the replica, but in the reality of heaven.
V6-13 – Mediator of a Better Covenant
V6 – More Excellent Ministry - Mediating a Better Covenant
Similitudes and shadows aside, v6 opens “but now.” The tabernacle and the temple system was for “then,” but this is “now.” The first topic of the chapter ended, the writer begins to focus on Christ as the mediator.
Moses mediated the Old Covenant by going up the mount to commune with God. He was used to bring the nation into the Covenant relationship that they signed up for (Ex 24:7). Now there is a mediator of a better Covenant, our Lord Jesus Christ. He went to be seated “on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (v1) and brings this covenant to men.
The perfect tense used here demonstrates that the “better covenant… has been established.” Therefore, the establishment of the covenant preceded the writing of the letter of the Hebrews. The “New Covenant,” as v8 calls it, was made with Israel and Judah, which has yet to be fulfilled. Yet we are able to enjoy the blessings of this better and New Covenant. Notice that ch10:15-18 gives a much more selective list of blessings, which are presently witnessed by the Spirit than is given in v10-12. Our High Priest ministers to us through the Spirit of God in things toward our minds, hearts and the forgiveness of sins having established a New Covenant.
V7 – The Reality of Needing the Second Covenant
There was a fault with the first covenant: it was dependant on the people with which it was made. It was impossible for men of a fallen nature to keep it, regardless of how hard they might try. The law made its demands, yet gave no power or ability to keep it. We can be thankful for the Spirit of God as our source of strength and that there is no need to enter into such a covenant with God. God, knowing our weakness, provided a better covenant.
V8-12 – Better Promises of the Better Covenant
The New Covenant has been established on better promises, because they are dependent upon God, and not upon men. Each of the actions involved in the covenant are things that God would do, not men in the covenant.
V8-9 shows that this New Covenant would not be in the same character as the old. The children of Israel wouldn’t continue in God’s Covenant with them, so He “regarded them not.” The New couldn’t be the same type as the Old.
V10-12 show the fullness of the blessings entitled to those that God would make His covenant with of the House of Israel and the House of Judah. Firstly regeneration. A changed mind and a changed heart. This would bring them into relationship as God desires. “I will be to them a God, and they shall be to Me a people.” Next, there would be a reality. The relationship would cause the reality of each person knowing the Lord. Lastly, this New Covenant brings remission of sins. The Lord will be merciful to them, and in the spirit of what Micah wrote, their sins and iniquities will be cast into the sea of forgetfulness. God yet will make good on these promises which He made to Judah and Israel.
V13 – The First is Old, about to Disappear
Out of the entire previous quotation, the one word “new” is selected from v8. This word for “new” is selected since the writer has shown that the Covenant is new in character and nature, summarizing the character of the promises therein. The old is tattered and aged and “ready to vanish away.” It wouldn’t be long before the Temple and its ceremony would be removed from the city of Jerusalem, continuing to the present day. As we close thinking of this decaying Covenant which was about to vanish, we can ever be thankful for our unchanging Lord of which chapter 1 says, “Thou remainest… Thou art the same, and Thy years fail not.”
- Verses 8-12 is the longest consecutive quotation from by OT by the NT. Why would the writer go to such lengths to quote such a great amount of Jeremiah?
- What does it mean that God will, “put My laws into their mind and write them upon their heart?” Why does God say “mind” and “heart,” and not “minds” and hearts”?