Hebrews 9:1-10

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, November 15, 2021 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

“Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand and the table with its consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover. But we cannot discuss these things in detail now.
When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still functioning. This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings —external regulations applying until the time of the new order.”
-Hebrews 9:1-10

In the previous passage, the author of Hebrews explained the differences between the old covenant and the new covenant. Before that, he had spent quite a while talking about the office of the high priest and how Jesus is our great high priest – better than any regular human priest. Here, he ties these concepts together into the place of worship.

The first interesting thing to note is that when the nation of Israel was first becoming a nation and wandering in the wilderness, they had a tabernacle where they would worship and where God’s presence would dwell. This was a more temporary, portable place of worship until they were settled and the first permanent temple was built in Jerusalem. Here, the author of Hebrews refers to the tabernacle rather than the temple. This may seem odd considering the temple was much more recent for the nation of Israel. But, only the people who lived in Jerusalem and the immediate area had experienced the temple. Just as we have local congregations, the Jews had synagogues where they would have priests and hear the reading of the Scriptures. The entire nation would have knowledge of the tabernacle through the Scriptures and the stories of their ancestors.

In addition, the original covenant was established with the people in Exodus 24. In the next few chapters, we read about the details of the tabernacle, its fixtures, the priests, their garments, etc. So the author of Hebrews discussing the covenant followed by the tabernacle would have been a logical flow of thought for the Israelites, as they would have been familiar with this flow in Exodus.

But, in case his readers were not familiar with all of those details of the tabernacle, the author gives the highlights in Hebrews 9:1-5. The layout of the tabernacle and the items in it were clearly significant to the author, as they would have been to all devout Jews. It appears that he would have been able to write on them at length, but that’s not the point of this passage. He gives enough information to set up the tabernacle and show its importance to his readers, then he must move on from describing the physical space to the rituals performed in it.

In verses 6-7, the author explains the tradition of the Day of Atonement. This had already been referred to previously when explaining the role of the high priest, but because it involves the worship space, it’s appropriate for the author to include it again here. This description specifically points to how this was observed in the tabernacle rather than the temple. The high priest was the only person to enter the inner room (the Most Holy Place), and that only happened once a year because of its level of danger. Any earthly high priest was also a sinner, so to come into the presence of God, who is completely holy, was dangerous as God cannot tolerate sin in His presence. The high priest first had to atone for his own sins before he could atone for the sins of others.

In verse 8, the author gives us the connection between the old way of the tabernacle and the way of the new covenant: the Holy Spirit. In the old method, ordinary people had no direct access to God, but now, all people have access to God because of the completed work of Jesus Christ – His sacrificial death and resurrection that completed atonement for all sins for all time.

Verses 9-10 show us another key difference between the old and new ways. The sacrificial offerings and adornments of the tabernacle and temple were all external. Everything to do with the old covenant was about external actions. The new covenant brought about through Jesus, however, is primarily internal. Today, the external actions are less significant; the emphasis is placed on our faith in Jesus and our relationship with Him. The new covenant of Jesus Christ has replaced all of those old rituals; they’re no longer necessary.

Now, don’t hear what I’m not saying here; the things we do are still significant, but they are not what saves us from our sins. Jesus accomplished that on the cross once and for all. But because of what Jesus did for us and how He took on the penalty of our sins, we should desire to give Him all honor and glory! We don’t need to do certain actions or perform certain rituals in certain places to be saved, but we do still gather together in various ways to join together to give God glory and praise His name.

Our worship celebrations often look very different, and that’s ok! We no longer have a prescribed way to worship God as the Israelites of old did. We have the freedom to worship God in different styles of buildings, with different styles of music, with different aspects in our worship times, etc. All of those are preferences, not mandates from God. The most important thing is the attitude of our hearts in worshipping God! We are there to give Him all glory and honor, not to take any of that glory for ourselves or to glorify another person.

No matter what your worship looks like, make sure you are keeping the main thing the main thing – Jesus and the work He has completed so that we are saved from our sins and that we may have the freedom to worship Him in a way we prefer.

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