“The victorious Christian life is a series of new beginnings.”
Alexander Whyte (1800s)
Last week, we talked about what to do when we believe we’re not good enough and how God adheres godly labels to our life like: chosen, royal, holy, and special. We were introduced to Melchizedek and learned how he foreshadowed the work of Christ. Now that we understand from Hebrews 7:23 how Christ was necessary to provide a permanent priesthood to save us completely (not just through an ongoing sacrificial system), we can begin to grasp why His work was so powerful. Today, in Hebrews 8, we get to the “main point,” starting in verse 1:
1 Now the main 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 a mere human being.
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 priests 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 in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.
- Attention! Your attention, please! The writer of Hebrews wants to make a staunch point. Below is the pith of what is being said:
o You do have a High Priest. We learned about Him in Hebrews 7. He has no beginning and no end.
o He sat down. This is a pivotal fact because in the Old Testament, the high priest was constantly busy, busy, busy offering sacrifices. Jesus was the once-and-for-all perfect sacrifice; therefore, the old sacrificial system was no longer necessary after His death and resurrection. Because of His work, He sat down (rested) and was the final proof of glory in the heavenly.
o The sanctuary—or tabernacle—was never meant to be the answer, it was only meant to point to something better. The earthly tabernacle was a pale copy of what was real. We no longer need to look at the shadows because we see Christ, the true Light.
o In verse 6, it refers to Jesus as our mediator. Simply stated, Jesus is the umpire, and He calls the shots in favor of you. He stands between us and God by becoming the bridge.
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 days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
and with the people of Judah.
9 It will not be like the covenant
I made with their ancestors
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 establish with the people 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 they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘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 outdated will soon disappear.
- There’s a word being introduced in this section of verses and it’s called covenant. Definitionally, a covenant is dependent on conditions that two or more people mutually agree upon; and, if either breaks those conditions the covenant is void.
- However, the Greek term in the New Testament is diatheke, which doesn’t mean an agreement, but a will. There’s a clear difference in word usage found in the chapter 8 verses and it’s a point that requires expounding. What needs to happen for a will to become active? That’s right, someone must die. That’s why the Old Testament word for covenant was suntheke—an agreement, dependent on conditions which two or more people mutually agreed upon; and, the New Testament word for covenant was diatheke, meaning a will. In a will, one person is responsible, and death must take place for the will to become active. The other party cannot alter the terms but can only accept or refuse the inheritance offered (William Barclay).
- God created a covenant—a will—that we could each inherit. It wasn’t dependent upon our death, but on the death of Christ. That’s why grace has nothing to do with you but has everything to do with God made flesh (Jesus). It was God’s will that the death of Jesus was enacted, and we inherit eternal fellowship with Him. That, my friends, is grace. Totally undeserved, unmerited, love.
- Verse 10 is a critical point because it says, “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.” We’ve established that the New Covenant isn’t based on people, it’s based upon the will God established and now eternally maintains. Furthermore, we are not asked to obey God because we are in terror or feel we’ll be punished if we fail to obey. Instead, He places His law (what’s right) in our minds and He engraves them on our heart so we are willingly compelled to obey them, As it says in 2 Peter 1:3 (MSG), “Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God. The best invitation we ever received! We were also given absolutely terrific promises to pass on to you—your tickets to participation in the life of God after you turned your back on a world corrupted by lust.” Each day He’s reprogramming your mind (your conscience, which we’ll talk about in chapter 9) and inscribing your heart with His desires.
- Finally, in verse 12, the writer emphasizes that which Christ emphatically proclaims: forgiveness. Not only does He forgive, He chooses not to maintain a ledger of record. Oftentimes, it’s more difficult to forgive ourselves than it is for God to forgive us. After all, we’re typically surprised by our sin and God is not—He knows it’s coming. Yet, in all His glory and grace, He chooses to forgive and forget. Like it talks about in the final verse of the chapter—He’s ready for “new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 exclaims us a new creation; the old agreement has gone and the new has come. Being new never felt so good. Amen.