The writer to the Hebrews really wants to impress on us that Jesus is better in every way than anything that came before. In this section, he continues to show that the Covenant mediated by Jesus is far superior to the Old Covenant, which it renders obsolete as a means by which we may draw near to God!
LOOKING BACK (Hebrews 7:26-8:13)
We marveled at the astonishing claim Jesus made at the Last Supper to be introducing a New Covenant, and to be sealing it in His own blood, shed on the cross! The writer to the Hebrews begins to show his readers in this passage the glory and surpassing greatness of this covenant, and how it has rendered the Old Covenant obsolete (especially when considered as a means for drawing near to God). We saw that
Jesus is the High Priest We Need…Morally superior in every way, offering a superior sacrifice in every way, having superior qualifications in every way, ministering in a superior sanctuary and exercising a superior priesthood built on superior promises. He is the reality, fulfilling in Himself all the types and shadows of the Old Covenant and therefore fully able –
…To Establish A New and Better Covenant. Quoting from Jeremiah, the author outlines the terms and provisions of the better covenant that Jesus has introduced. We looked in particular at three elements:
- The Inner Law of God will Transform. The law associated with the New Covenant is written on the hearts and minds of God’s people – the center of their thoughts and affections. This is better than the law written on tablets of stone and placed in the Ark of the Old Covenant.
- The Personal Presence of God will Assure. God will draw near in relationship with the members of the New Covenant – they will all know Him intimately – He as their God and they as His redeemed people.
- The Merciful Forgiveness of God will Free. God will not remember the sins of His people – they will never be brought up and used to accuse them, since Jesus has fully discharged their debt.
This is what Jesus was inaugurating on the cross, and anticipating in the repurposed signs of the Last Supper!
We are therefore all encouraged to make sure we are members of this New Covenant, to revel in its glory and to seek to introduce others to Jesus so they also may know its blessings and privileges!
LOOKING AHEAD (Hebrews 9:1-14)
The writer compares Old and New Covenants again, and once again his burden is to deal with the access to God offered under the Old Covenant compared with that under the New. He has just said that all members of the New Covenant, from least to greatest, will know God intimately. Now he reminds the readers that under the Old Covenant only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies once a year (on the Day of Atonement) and never without sacrificial blood. As long as this ritual persisted, the members of the Old Covenant were supposed to understand that the way to God was not yet opened to them. It was underlined to them that all the blood of all the sacrifices offered on the altar had not dealt with the problem of their hearts and their consciences. They were made outwardly clean so that God could dwell in the Tabernacle and not break out in wrath against them. The whole system shouted out that a reformation was needed and (as we have seen) Melchizedek showed that it was coming.
And so Christ appeared as high priest in the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 9:11). He performed His ministry in the heavenly tabernacle of which the one on earth was a mere copy. He made atonement there not with the blood of bulls and goats but with His own blood. His perfect work does indeed cleanse the conscience of those who come to Him in trust, so they may themselves draw near to serve the living God. As a sign that this is what Jesus actually accomplished on the cross, the curtain in the temple that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place was torn in two at the very moment Jesus died. The way to God is now open to all who approach in faith through the blood of Jesus.
We all need to be made right with God and many of us try all sorts of arduous and fanciful methods to achieve that goal. But look at the majesty of the plan that God put in place and announced even on the day Adam rebelled against Him! Look at how He revealed it patiently and increasingly over the years in signs, in shadows. in prophecies and in types. Look at how perfectly Jesus fulfills all of these so that we may be very certain He is the Savior. Look at Him on the cross, purchasing people for God and introducing a new and better covenant in His blood. See Him in heaven now, always living to pray on behalf of His people and absolutely certain to secure the full salvation of each and every soul that the Father gave to Him. How does your way to deal with your sin and draw near to God stack up in comparison? There is no other way, no other sacrifice, no other Savior than Jesus – so get rid of your useless efforts and come to Him now!