Friday, March 24, 2017

HEBREWS 8:13-9:10

Okay, let's take a big bite
out of this chapter...

"When He said, 'A new covenant,'
He made the first obsolete.
But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old
is ready to disappear.
Now even the first covenant had regulations of divine worship
and the earthly sanctuary.
For there was a tabernacle (sacred tent) prepared,
the outer one in which were the lampstand the table and the sacred bread;
this is called the holy place.
Behind the second veil there was a tabernacle
which is called the Holy of Holies,
having a golden altar of incense
and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold,
in which was a golden jar holding the manna,
and Aaron's rod which budded,
and the tables of the covenant
(the Ten Commandments)";
and above it were the cherubim of glory
overshadowing the mercy seat;
but of these things we cannot now speak in detail.
Now when these things have been so prepared,
the priests are continually entering the outer tabernacle
performing divine worship,
but into the second,
only the high priest enters once a year,
not without taking blood,
which he offers for himself
and for the sins of the people
committed in ignorance.
The Holy Spirit is signifying this,
that the way into the holy place
has not yet been disclosed
while the outer tabernacle is still standing,
which is a symbol for the present time.
Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered
which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience,
since they relate only to food and drink and various washings,
regulations for the body imposed
until a time of reformation."

Alrighty then.  Chapter 8 ends with the explanation that growing old is obsolete, ready to disappear.  Now don't take this personally.  Yes, sometimes I might feel a little this way, but the writer is referring to the new as opposed to the old covenant.  Remember, Jesus prophesied that the temple would be destroyed. What? Not again. This was written to the Jewish converts between the time of Jesus here on earth and the seventy years later when the prophecy was fulfilled.   This is history repeating itself because lessons were not learned.  One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different outcome.  But at this coming destruction, many things that were of the greatest importance were destroyed: the ark of the covenant with the golden cherubim, the jar of manna, the budding branch of Aaron's, and even the Ten Commandment tablets themselves.

I imagine the new Jewish converts to Christianity might feel a bit of loss, like a phantom limb after an amputation.  They no longer needed to visit the temple for the ineffectual rituals since Christ came and once and for all made His sacrifice for sin.  Their whole culture and life had been centered around the temple since God instructed Moses to make the sacred tent  and Solomon to build the "permanent" one.  I mean, just think about what was inside the holy place and the Holy of Holies! Even today, Jews hover at the wailing wall since the Muslims took over the Temple. 

I understand this loss in a very small way because of when we left our denomination after a lifetime exposure to its culture, and after many tears for what it had become; then we found a new home for our hearts in the Wesleyan Church.  But we will forever it seems still be newbies as we were inserted into a new church culture.

Inside the holy place were the lampstands and the twelve loaves of bread representing the twelve tribes.  Priests entered daily there to light the lampstands and once a week replacing the loaves for fresh ones.   However, the priest went only once a year into the Holy of Holies where the ark of the Covenant was holding the greatest Jewish treasures.  But as Andrew Murray points out, the veil was the symbol of separation between a holy God and sinful man; they cannot dwell together."

He goes on to say, "Many believers never in experience enter into this life of the inner sanctuary, the more complete and abiding nearness to God.  They have, in the outer court, seen the altar, and received the pardon of sin;...they seek to do His will, but the joy of His presence as their abiding portion they know not.  And very often they do not know that there is a better life, that there is an entering within the veil, a real dwelling in the secret of God's presence."

Adam Clarke points out that the early writer S. Cyril says, "Although Christ be but one, yet He is understood by us under a variety of form  He is the Tabernacle, on account of the human body in which He dwelt.  He is also the Table, because He is our Bread of life.  He is the Ark which has the law of God enclosed within, because He is the Word of the Father.  He is the Candlestick, because He is our spiritual light.  He is the Altar of incense, because He is the sweet-smelling odour of sanctification.  He is the Altar of burnt-offerings, because He is the victim, by death on the cross, for the sins of the whole world."

Thus, everything in the practice of the Jewish worship was turned on its head by Christ Jesus. 

This is referred to in the last words of this passage, "until the time of reformation."  Adam Clarke says this "signifies the Gospel dispensation, under which every thing is set straight...and the spiritual nature of God's worship taught, and grace promised to purify the heart: so that, through the power of the eternal Spirit, all that was wrong in the soul is rectified; the affections and passions, and appetites purified; the understanding enlightened; the judgment corrected; the will refined; in a word, all things made new." 

There are two rituals which Christ instituted for the Church: baptism, the outward symbol of inward grace for the forgiveness of sin; and communion, taking the cup and the bread in remembrance of Him.  In a sense, this too symbolizes the two experiences in a Christian life, forgiveness of sin, and entering into the most holy heart of God by taking the blood and broken body of our Savior.  He is the mercy seat.  We can't keep Him in a box, like the Ark of the Covenant.  He broke out.  Who needs candlesticks and manna and the law of the Ten Commandment when He offers so much more, grace and full abiding fellowship with Him.  You might find Him wandering around by way of the Holy Ghost still seeking the wandering lost ones, wooing them into a relationship with Him.

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