Hebrews 8:1-2 (NIV)
1 The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven,
2 and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man.
On verses 1-5: Here the writer of Hebrews notes that the location where Jesus now serves as our high priest is in heaven (v1-2), while priests who are appointed by the law of Moses serve on earth (v4). The sanctuary and tabernacle where these earthly priests would serve are an imperfect “copy and shadow of what is in heaven”, while the heavenly sanctuary where Jesus serves is “the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not man” (v2). It’s a reminder for me that as much as we try to help create our excellent worship experiences each weekend for people at Thrive, they are just a shadow and an imperfect copy of what worshiping Jesus will be like when we get to heaven. The best really is yet to come!
Hebrews 8:6-7 (NIV)
6 But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises.
7 For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another.
On verses 6-7: Just as the heavenly sanctuary where Jesus serves is superior to the earthly sanctuary where the priests appointed by the law serve, the covenant pursuant to which Jesus serves and ministers is different from and superior to the covenant pursuant to which these other priests serve. By the way, what is a covenant? A covenant is a legal agreement between two sides where one or both agree to fulfill certain promises and do certain things for the other.
Here the writer of Hebrews is building his case that the new covenant ushered in by the grace of Jesus is greater than the old covenant established by the law of Moses. His main point is that the reason why God introduced a new covenant was because there was something wrong with the old covenant. In the verses that follow we will learn what was wrong with the old covenant and why God instituted a new covenant through Jesus.
Hebrews 8:8 (NIV)
8 But God found fault with the people and said: “The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.
On verses 8-13: To show what was wrong with the old covenant established by the law of Moses and why a new covenant needed to be instituted through Jesus, the writer of Hebrews quotes Jeremiah 31:31-34. From this we learn the following important truths:
In the old covenant the people did not live up to their side of the covenant. As verse 8 says, “God found fault with the people” and as a result the relationship between God and the people was broken. As verse 9 says, “they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them”. What can we learn from this? The old covenant was largely dependent on the people’s faithful obedience to God’s commands and their faithful performance of His requirements. When the people could not meet God’s requirements, the covenant relationship between God and the people became broken.
Verses 10 to 12 teach us four aspects of the new covenant that God would establish with His people:
“I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.” (v10) In other words, in the new covenant, God would depend less on the people’s faithful obedience to His commands and their faithful performance of His requirements. Instead of requiring the people to remember and obey God’s commands in their own strength, God would “put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts” (v10). In other words, in the new covenant, God would make His Holy Spirit available to all His people so that we could all have a better sense of what God wanted them to do. Compare this to the old covenant where God’s Spirit was generally only made available to a select few.
“I will be their God and they will be my people” (v10). In the new covenant, our belonging to God and God belonging to us is no longer conditional on our perfect performance. Compare this to the old covenant where relationship depended on flawless performance of God’s laws.
“they will know me” (v11). In the new covenant, there is a close, intimate and personal relationship between God and the people. Compare this to the old covenant where people could only know God from afar.
“for I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more” (v12). In the new covenant, God extends forgiveness to us for our sins so that sin would no longer separate us from God anymore. Compare this to the old covenant, which relied on the shedding of goat and bull blood, which could never cleanse us from our sins.
These four aspects of the new covenant are four reasons to prefer the new covenant over the old. These four aspects would also not be possible without Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for us on the cross. That’s why at the last supper Jesus would say, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20). In other words, it is through the blood of Jesus that God established this new covenant. All the requirements of this new covenant that we would otherwise need to meet were satisfied by Jesus and His blood.
Aren’t you glad that Jesus’ blood has made the old covenant “obsolete” (v13) so that we can enter into a much better new covenant?
Lord Jesus, our great high priest in heaven, thank You that through Your blood You made possible a much better and new covenant, one where I can belong to God unconditionally, where I can experience Your Holy Spirit guiding me, where I can know You up close and personal, and where my sins are completely forgiven. Thank You for making this much better covenant possible so that I would not have to depend on my inevitably imperfect performance. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!