3/11/02 10.30 a.m. Hebrews 8
8:1 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. 3 Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. 4 If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already men who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. 5 They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: "See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain." 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. 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. 9 It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord. 10 This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 11 No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, `Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. 12 For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." 13 By calling this covenant "new," he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.
During the summer Chloe, who is nearly two now, was fascinated to discover shadows. With the summer we had this year she didn't have too much times to get acquainted with them!
When you look at a shadow you see an outline of something or someone. It does not have the detail that you would see if you looked at the person or thing. A shadow is temporary, at least in this country, and is often distorted depending on the angle of the sun. At evening with the setting sun behind us we look like giants!
5 They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. We have already seen when we looked at Chapter 1 that the New Testament is superior Old Testament or covenant. In Chapter 8 we can see some of the differences in detail.
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.
Sitting is a position of rest. Being at the right hand of God is a place of honour. This shows that Christ has completed his saving work, he has done everything that is needed to save people from the effects of sin. A priest of the Old Testament would enter into the presence of God once a year having offered a sacrifice for his own sin before offering the sacrifices for God's people. The high priest would also pray for God's people when he could. This contrasts with Jesus, the great and last high priest. 7:24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. 26 Such a high priest meets our need - one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27 Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.
You can imagine the contrast from the position of God the Father. Under the Old Covenant he would deal with an offering of animals once a year for the sins that had been committed by His people since the last year. The people may have committed the same sins again and again without the power to break free of them. They may have offered their sacrifices without true repentance, just expecting to be forgiven. The high priests would die and be replaced, and the quality of them would have been mixed.
Under the New Covenant Jesus, the high priest, is perfect. He has offered himself once and for all as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world. He is with God all of the time, pleading with God the Father again and again for His people.
Long ago an Eastern monarch, plagued by many worries, harassed on every side, called his wise men together. He asked them to invent a motto, a few magic words that would help him in time of trial or distress. It must be brief enough to be engraved on a ring, he said, so that he could have it always before his eyes. It must be appropriate to every situation, as useful in prosperity as in adversity. It must be a motto wise and true and endlessly enduring, words by which a man could be guided all his life, in every circumstance, no matter what happened.
The wise men thought and thought, and finally came to the monarch with their magic words. They were words for every change or chance of fortune, declared the wise men ... words to fit every situation, good or bad ... words to ease the heart and mind in every circumstance. And the words they gave the monarch to engrave on his ring were: this, too, shall pass away.
Jesus said, (Matthew 24:) 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
Although the sanctuary, the true tabernacle, verse 2, cannot be seen and is spiritual rather than material, it will endure forever, unlike the physical. We live in a culture where too much importance is placed on the material at the expense of the spiritual. In areas of the world where people have less materially, for example in parts of Africa, the gospel is making spectacular progress.
In the Memorial Service next Sunday evening I will say, "We do not look to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are temporary but the things that are unseen are eternal." Many of the people at that service will have regrets that they didn't make the most of the time that they could have had with their loved ones. It is a reminder to us that we can get so absorbed in our lives that we get our priorities wrong.
What us our purpose in life?
Westminster Shorter Catechism ( A.D. 1647 ), which involves a question and answer format about the Christian faith: Question 1. What is the chief end of man? Answer. Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
We can only do this by living for God and knowing his word.
Question 2. What rule has God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?
Answer. The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.
Question 3. What do the Scriptures principally teach?
Answer. The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.
However, it is no use reading the Scriptures without the illumination of the Holy Spirit who caused the Scriptures to be written ( 2 Tim. 3:16 ). It is no use reading the Scriptures without the ability and motivation to obey them which is provided by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is a fundamental difference between the Old and New Covenants that is referred to in verses 8-13.
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. 9 It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord.
There was nothing wrong with the Old Covenant in itself. The problem was the lack of trust in God by His people, even though He had chosen to free them from the slavery of Egypt, promised them their own land and led them. There are two parties to any covenant and both have to keep their side. Because of the disobedience of His people God turned away from them. As a result they did not enjoy the covenant blessings that could have been theirs including immediate possession of the promised land, unity, material blessings and safety from attack. Instead they were delayed in reaching the promised land, divided into two kingdoms, conquered, exiled and their capital city and it's temple was reduced to rubble.
A new and superior covenant was needed with a better way of putting people right with God, and a the power that was needed to live for God. Verses 10-12 quote the prophet Jeremiah ( 31:31-34 ) who lived some 600 years before Jesus.
The superior benefits of this new covenant are:
(1) 10 This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. God's laws will become inner principles (v. 10a) that enable his people to delight in doing his will (cf. Eze 36:26-27; Ro 8:2-4);
I learned to drive just before the seat belt law came into force. Soon after passing my test I had an accident and there is no doubt that wearing a seat belt spared me from serious injury or even saved my life. It wasn't the law at the time, but I was so convinced it was a good idea that I wore a seat belt.
The laws of God are there because they are best for everybody. Not because we have a spoilsport God but because God loves us and wants the best for us. For example, the Christian faith teaches that sex is to be enjoyed in heterosexual marriage, and nowhere else. Is this old fashioned conservative nonsense or is it best for the couple and their children?
A recent study called Marriage-Lite: The Rise of Cohabitation and its Consequences ( by Patricia Morgan Available from Civitas. Price £7.20 or download it free at www.civitas.org.uk )
shows that In the mid-1960s, only five per cent of single women lived with a man before getting married. By the 1990s, about 70 per cent did so.1 Some people think that living together will lead automatically to marriage, but that often is not the case. Many cohabitations break up. For many other couples, cohabitation is viewed as an alternative to marriage rather than a preparation for it. However, this alternative is less likely than marriage to lead to a long-term stable commitment. Cohabiting relationships are fragile. They are always more likely to break up than marriages entered into at the same time, regardless of age or income. On average, cohabitations last less than two years before breaking up or converting to marriage. Less than four per cent of cohabitations last for ten years or more.
Cohabiting also influences later marriages. The more often and the longer that men and women cohabit, the more likely they are to divorce later.
Both men and women in cohabiting relationships are more likely to be unfaithful to their partners than married people.
At all socio-economic levels, cohabiting couples accumulate less wealth than married couples. Married men earn 10 to 40 percent more than single or cohabiting men, and they are more successful in their careers, particularly when they become fathers.
Cohabitants have more health problems than married people, probably because cohabitants put up with behaviour in their partners which husbands and wives would discourage, particularly regarding smoking, alcohol and substance abuse. Cohabitants are also much more likely to suffer from depression than married people.
Women in cohabiting relationships are more likely than wives to be abused. In one study, marital status was the strongest predictor of abuse - ahead of race, age, education or housing conditions.
Today, more than 20% of children are born to cohabiting couples. However, only about one third of those children will remain with both their parents throughout their childhood. Children born to cohabiting parents are more likely to experience a series of disruptions in their family life, which can have negative consequences for their emotional and educational development. Children living with cohabiting couples do less well at school and are more likely to suffer from emotional problems than children of married couples.
When married or cohabiting couples with children divorce, or break up, one parent sometimes moves in with a new person. Statistically speaking, these informal cohabiting step-families are the most unsafe environments for children. Children living in cohabiting step-families are at significantly higher risk of child abuse. Live-in and visiting boyfriends are much more likely than biological fathers or married step-fathers to inflict severe physical abuse, sexual abuse and child killing.
Financially, children of cohabitants are less well off than children whose parents are married. Married fathers are more likely than cohabiting fathers to support their children. Even after the break-up of their parents' relationship, children of divorced parents are more likely than children of cohabiting couples who have split up to receive support from their fathers.
Once we get to know God and His love for us we realise that His ways are best for everyone and, therefore, we are more inclined to follow them. He puts His love in our hearts and minds which affects our wills and emotions. Not on tablets of stone.
(2) God and his people will have intimate fellowship (v. 10b); I will be their God, and they will be my people.
God will not only be a lawgiver, but the redeemer, protector, guide, defender, provider, comforter, faithful friend and eternal companion. Being one of God's chosen people is an immense privilege, enjoying these blessings and being associated with fellow believers in our pilgrimage together is also a joy. Linked to this is...
(3) ignorance of God will be removed forever (v. 11); 11 No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.
Over the last year or so I have shown acetate pictures of parts of Israel to illustrate my sermons. But these could only convey so much. It would be so much better if I could have transported the congregation to the Holy Land to see some of the places where Jesus lived and taught. When I went nearly eleven years ago it brought many parts of the Bible to life. That illustrates the difference between a head and a heart knowledge.
I can wag my finger at people and say, 'Know God'. I can teach them facts about Jesus, Church History and the Bible. But this would be useless if they are not accompanied by a personal relationship with God. A relationship that we can have through Jesus. We need no other intermediary.
A captive was once brought before King James II of England. The King admonished the prisoner: "You know that it is in my power to pardon you?" The scared, shaking prisoner replied, "Yes, I know it is in your power to pardon me, but it is not in your nature." The prisoner had keen insight to know that unless a person has it inside them they have no nature to forgive.
The good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is that it is both in the power and the nature of Jesus to forgive and to pardon.
(4) forgiveness of sins will be an everlasting reality (v. 12). 12 For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."
Albert Speer was the Hitler confidante whose technological genius kept Nazi factories working throughout World War II. He was the only one of twenty-four war criminals tried in Nuremburg to admit his guilt, Speer spent twenty years in Spandau prison.
Interviewer David Hartman questioning Speer on ABC's "Good Morning, America." referred to a passage in one of Speer's earlier writings: "You have said the guilt can never be forgiven, or shouldn't be. Do you still feel that way?"
Speer's responded: "I served a sentence of twenty years, and I could say 'I'm a free man, my conscience has been cleared by serving the whole time as punishment.' But I can't do that. I still carry the burden of what happened to millions of people during Hitler's lifetime, and I can't get rid of it. This new book is part of my atoning, of clearing my conscience."
Hartman pressed the point. "You really don't think you'll be able to clear it totally?" Speer shook his head, "I don't think it will be possible." For thirty-five years Speer had accepted complete responsibility for his crime. His writings were filled with contrition and warnings to others to avoid his moral sin. He desperately sought to make amends. All to no avail. The ABC interview was Speer's last public statement; he died shortly after.
How sad, but also how revealing. Speer learned what millions of others have learned through the ages. There is no forgiveness in this world save at the foot of the cross. That is where forgiveness begins. This is the New Covenant that Jesus brought in and, in so doing, he fulfilled and replaced the Old Covenant ( Matthew 5:17 ).
Let us know the forgiveness of sins and a right relationship with God that is our through Jesus, our great high priest. Let us aim to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.