The First Tabernacle

Hebrews 9:1-6

 

Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary.

For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary.

And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all;

Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant;

And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly.

Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God.

I think the book of Leviticus is one of the hardest books to read in the Bible.  Many would say First Chronicles, with the listing of name after name after name, is the most difficult.  Leviticus is blood, blood, blood.  Who wants to read that?  Consider that the first chapter explains the burnt offering; the second brings the meat offering; the third, the peace offering; the fourth, the offerings for sins of ignorance: the fifth and sixth, the trespass offering.  Then the offerings are made to consecrate Aaron and his sons in 6-8.  Blood, blood, blood.  Every day, every hour, blood was offered on the altar.

Before this, in Exodus, Moses is given the instruction on how to build the tabernacle where these sacrifices would be made.  God is very specific with Moses.  He gives him a verbal picture of exactly how this tabernacle must be constructed, all the way down to the type of fabric and wood to be used and the number of holders for the curtains.  God is very specific and tells Moses several times to make sure he builds it according to the pattern he was given – no deviation.  Moses collected all the materials from the people, God gave the skills to certain men to accomplish the task, and the tabernacle was built.  His all happened immediately after the Israelites had crossed the Red Sea, and that tabernacle would serve the people all 40 years in the wilderness and many more years in the Promised Land.  Hey were even given very specific instruction on who would carry the materials from place to place (the Levites), and how to take it down and put it up.

There were three parts to the tabernacle.  There was the general tabernacle, where all the people would bring their sacrifices.  This part of the tabernacle contained the altar and the Laver, where the priests would wash the blood from their hands before administering the next offering.  Hi was more like a slaughterhouse than a place of worship it would seem to us.  The next part was the Holy place, where the able of shewbread, the candlesticks and the alter of incense were placed.  And finally, behind a thick veil, was the ark of the covenant, which represented the very presence of God.  He pattern was clear to Moses, and everything was done according to the pattern.  Once the tabernacle was complete, Moses was given the ordinances in Leviticus.  Blood, blood, blood.

There are some denominations today who say we should just pay attention to the New Testament. After all, this is where Jesus walked the earth, taught, performed miracle, was buried and rose again.  This is where Paul writes so many letters explaining biblical principles we should live by.  His is where Peter, James and John all wrote to us and told us the disciplines that we should practice to become disciples of Jesus.  And also tucked in there is the book we are now studying, Hebrews.  No one needed a deeper understanding of the price Jesus paid than the Jews.  The Gentiles were easy to preach to because they only had false gods they believed in, and none of those false gods could stand up to the power of the Gospel message.  But the Jews served the same God as Paul was preaching.  Hey already knew this God of all Gods and had to be convinced even more that Jesus was truly the Messiah and that their system of sacrifices was no longer necessary.  This was extremely hard for them to accept.

Leviticus is essential to each one of us understanding the price that Christ paid, not just for the Jews, but for all of us. We could take days, weeks, even months explaining the significance of each offering and each part of the tabernacle, and all the feasts and the ordinances that had to be followed.  It is well worth the study to do this, but I am not going to go that deep here in this blog.  I will save that for you to do.  But I highly recommend you do, or you will never know the extent of what Jesus has done for you.  Always remember that there is no remission of sin without the shedding of blood (Leviticus 17:11).  Always remember that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  There is none righteous, no not one (Psalm 14:1-3 and Psalm 53:1-3).  These words are not for just the Jews, but for all of mankind.  We all need a blood sacrifice to atone for our sins, and Paul here is pointing us to that blood sacrifice, Jesus himself.

The priests on a regular basis went into the first part of the tabernacle to make perform the ordinances of all the sacrifices., Day after day, they slaughtered rams, lambs, cattle and doves making atonement for the sins of themselves and the people.  Day after day, smoke rose up from the tabernacle and the aroma wafted through the air.  Like a giant bar-b-que, the smell drifted throughout the camp of Israel, reminding them constantly of their need for atonement.  This was ongoing.  This was continual. This was commanded as part of the covenant between God and the Hebrew people.

It is essential for our understanding of why Jesus had to die to understand these things.  We need a good understanding of the necessity of a blood sacrifice and what it represents.  Without this, we merely can accept Jesus as our Savior, but will never recognize Him as Lord, because we never will recognize fully what he has done for us.  When Jesus said He did not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17), this is exactly what he was talking about.  He was saying that He came to fulfill all the sacrificial requirements of the law, He became our burnt offering, our meat offering, our sin offering, our peace offering and our trespass offering.  Jesus Christ is our Redeemer!

This is the service of the priests on the first part of the tabernacle.  It was done as a service to God and a service for the people. Once the tabernacle was complete it went on every day for every soul in the camp.  Ongoing slaughter, ongoing fire, ongoing smoke, ongoing aroma, ongoing blood.  Not a pretty picture in all actuality, but a horrifying scene for most.  This is why Jesus had to pay a horrifying price.  Oh, the depths and the riches of Christ’s love for us. 

Jesus paid it all. 

All to Him I owe. 

Sin had left a crimson stain. 

He washed it white as snow.

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The New Covenant

 Hebrews 8:10-13

10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:

11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.

12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.

13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.

If the Hebrew people were not riled up about what Paul was saying before this, they certainly would be now.  “What does he mean, the first covenant is old and decayed?  We have had this covenant with God, all of these covenants, forever.  Covenants never die, they never get old.  How can he make such a statement?” It would be almost like someone coming and saying to Americans that our old constitution is decayed and needs replaced by a new one.  We have to remember that the law and the covenants formed the Jewish governmental laws as well not just their religious laws.  Paul was, in effect, saying their government needed to change because a new covenant had replaced the old.

But wait!  The Jewish people knew this would come when Messiah came.  It was a prophecy from Jeremiah.  In fact, Paul quotes directly from Jeremiah 31:33-34.  He doesn’t just pull these words out of thin air.  These words of Jeremiah were known by Hebrew children and adults as a promise that the Messiah, the coming King, would bring to pass.  When Paul wrote these words, all would know what he was saying and implying by them.  He was not making up these words to try and prove hiss point!  He was proving his point by words already written over 600 years earlier.  He had to really have their attention now!

Let’s take a look at what this new covenant consisted of.  First, the law would be written on their hearts and placed in their minds.  The law at this time was only written on scrolls to be read only in the synagogue. The people did not have copies of the law like we have their bibles.  They had to rely on going to the synagogue to hear the word of the Lord.  As children, they learned certain portions of scripture, but there was no way to memorize all the words of the Lord in the Torah the history books, the Psalms, proverbs and the prophets.  One thing they were well trained on were verses that pointed to the coming Messiah.  Most had heard them over and over again.  hey yearned for Messiah to come, thinking he would free them from Roman captivity.  Psalm 22, Isaiah 6, 9, 53 and 61 were all familiar to them as well as many others.

The second part of this prophecy says that every man, woman and child will help each other to understand the word of God.  We will teach our neighbors, and our brothers to know the Lord.  How do we do this?  Some might say it is through the words we speak, and that would be part of it.  But much more important is the life that we live in front of other people.  I used top have a Pastor who always said “What you do speaks so loudly that what you say I cannot hear.”  If your witness does not line up with the gospel, we can use all the words we want and we will not reach a soul.  In fact, we will most likely turn people away from God if our works do not show that Christ rules in our life.  You and I will teach our brothers and our neighbors to know the Lord by our actions in everyday life.  This is the most powerful witness we have.

Third, He will be merciful to the unrighteous.  He will remember our sins no more.  Hallelujah!  What a wonderful promise this is.  The nation of Israel always thought the Messiah would be a leader in battle, like Joshua and David were.  They thought of Him as a deliverer of their flesh, not necessarily of their souls.  Little did they understand the magnitude of this part of the prophecy.  They thought this was their God, and that He would be Messiah to the nation of Israel.  But He came as Messiah to all the nations of the earth, every tribe and every tongue.  All the unrighteous would be shown His mercy, the mercy that was shown on the cross. All their sins would be forgotten and remembered no more.  Paul was extending this prophecy past the nation of Israel to all the unrighteous.  All those teachings of Jesus to love our enemies, do good to those who despitefully use us, go the extra mile, turn the other cheek would now come to back to their memory.  God is a God to all the nations, not just to Israel.

This is the new covenant.  Not just a covenant to Israel, but to every man, woman and child on this earth.  To all races and creeds now and forever more.  The Messiah was brining the fulfillment of this prophecy, and every other prophecy, to everyone throughout time.  Paul was making the case for this in His letter to the Hebrews by showing them that Jesus is a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.  In these days, only a priest could remit sins, and that only through the sacrificial system.

There was no other way for the people to be cleansed from their sins to stand before a holy God.  This all changed when Jesus came.  The prophecy came true, and Messiah had come for all mankind.

A Better Covenant

Hebrews 8:1-9 

Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;

A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.

For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer.

For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law:

Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.

But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.

For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.

For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:

Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.

I think the meaning of the word “covenant” is lost on this generation, and perhaps the one preceding it.  Here are not many promises kept, or legal agreements that have the weight of a covenant.  He strongest covenant we have. and the longest lasting one, is marriage. But for many, marriage is not seen as a necessity anymore, but rather as a hindrance.  Couples live together instead of getting marriage, marriage vows mean little as adultery is rampant, and divorce takes about half of all marriages.  His is not a covenant that we honor.

Another covenant in our own country is the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. These are like covenant in that they are binding agreements between our government and the people.  But these documents have seen an assault in recent years, and have been twisted to meet the demands of those who would see changes to these sacred documents.  The original intent of many of the provisions are lost to modern philosophy.  True covenants do not change over time.  But they can be broken or ignored by the people they are made to, or between.  For this reason, covenants are shied away from in our current society.

Nevertheless, covenants play an important part in our lives, and they are particularly powerful in a biblical sense.  In fact, biblical covenants are not just between God and His people.  Hey are between God and all of mankind.  A biblical covenant is a binding agreement God and man, and God always keeps His promises.  He never lies, and He never fails.  So, His covenants are still in place today and always will be.  In the days before Jesus, there were four such covenants – today there are five.

The covenant between God and Noah is the first such covenant. In Genesis 8:21-22, God says He will never again destroy the whole earth with a flood, and that springtime and harvest, summer and winter, will always be.  Who can argue that this covenant hasn’t been kept?  In Genesis 17, God says he will make a covenant with Abraham, and he will make a great nation of Abraham.  His nation will be blessed, and all who come against it will be cursed.  The result is a physical nation called Israel, but there is also another side to this covenant.  Abraham was justified by faith, and Paul make the case in Galatians 3:7, where he shows that the children of faith are also the children of Abraham and part of the same covenant.  The Mosaic covenant spans Exodus through Deuteronomy, headlined by the Ten Commandments.  These laws that God gave to His people are guidelines even for our society today.  Although they seem archaic to many, they still govern a large part of the worlds’ population and present ways to deal with problems in our society that have lasted through the centuries.  The main statement in the covenant is found in Deuteronomy 27 and 28, where God shows the blessings that will come upon the people if they follow this covenant and the curses that will result if they don’t.  We can see the proof of these chapters today.  The Davidic covenant was one of leadership for the nation of Israel.  The king would always be in the line of David, just as the blessing was to the line of Abraham.   This covenant remains still true today, as our King and Savior is Jesus Christ, of the line of David. He will reign forever on the throne in heaven, so there will be no end to the Davidic Covenant.

All of these covenants were a shadow of what God was going to do when He sent His son to die for us on the cross.  Jesus ushered in a new and better covenant, one that would encompass all of mankind and provide the grace and mercy of God to everyone.  We could spend hours, even days, explaining how all these things done in the Old Testament point to Jesus.  He sacrificial system, the priesthood, the wilderness tabernacle.  All of these were symbols of Jesus and the covenant that He brought with Him.  Moses was told to make sure He followed the pattern God showed Him when building the tabernacle for a reason. Very book in the Bible has the “scarlet thread” showing the blood of Jesus.  All of the Old Testament points to Him.  Here is a saying that goes like this; The Old Testament is Jesus concealed.  The New Testament is Jesus revealed.”  Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith, the Alpha and Omega, beginning and end.  When He shared communion with His disciples, he talked about this new covenant. The covenant he brought was prophesied Jeramiah 31:31-34.  In my next post, we will see what this New Covenant is.  Stay tuned!

Saved to the Uttermost

Hebrews 7:25-28 

25 Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

26 For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;

27 Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.

28 For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.

Here is the heart of the matter.  Saved to the uttermost.  Hat saying fascinates me, so I looked up various translations, and it makes this even more amazing.  Other translations say “save completely”, “forever save”, “once and forever save”, “give life for eternity”, “save to the very end”.  Do you get the picture here.  When Jesus saves us, there I no further need to be saved any more.  He priests in Jesus’ day, and in Paul’s day, needed to make intercession for the people daily.  Every day blood had to be shed to forgive the nation, and the people, forgiveness for their sins, according to the law. In fact, they had to give a sacrifice for their own sins before they could make offerings for the people.  His was a cycle that would go on eternally.  And, if not for Jesus, it would be the only way that even we, the Gentiles, could find any type of forgiveness of sin before God.

But Jesus came.  Jesus lived a sinless, holy life.  He lived to show the love of the Father, in fact top show us the Father Himself, in the signs, wonders and teachings that He brought to this earth.  During His time on earth, He was harmless, He never hurt anyone. He never took up a sword or a spear, but instead relied on the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  He was holy, never sinning while on this earth, and without the seed of sin in His body.  The seed that had been [passed on since the time of Adam.  Because He was not the child of Joseph, bit the child of the Holy Spirit, who came on Mary to bear a Son to a virgin, as spoken of by the prophets.  He had no tins within Him at birth, and He had no sin within Him when He hung on the cross.  He was holy throughout His life.  Undefiled by sin, or by this world, he walked in purity of thought and mind every day.  His separated Him from sinners, because He had no sin.  He was perfect.

His made Him, Jesus Christ, able to offer Himself up as a sacrifice for our sins once and forever.  A perfect lamb, without blemish, was the accepted offering for sin.  It could not have scar, or broken bone, or cleft hoof.  Nothing out of place, nothing of sickness or decay.  A perfect lamb was the only acceptable offering.  We recall the words of John the Baptists, who prophetically spoke “Behold the Lamb of God, who take away the sin of the world.”  Sin, singular, not sins, plural.  All sin was taken by Him.  Sin, all our sin, was wiped clean that day.  All our sin, past, present and future was redeemed by His sacrifice. Here was now not any need for a sacrifice for sin, because the ultimate sacrifice had been made, and it would last forever.

Why?  Because Jesus was not ordained by man.  He was not imperfect when he was called to be the high priest for our sins.  He was perfect at His calling, perfect all the way through His life, and perfect at His death.  His body was marred, scarred, tortured, beaten and bruised, but He committed no sin.  He sins of the world were upon Him, but He had no personal sin of His own.  He was the perfect High Priest of the most-high God.  And He would be set apart, consecrated for ever in the heavens, taking His seat on the right hand of God.

What a Savior we have in Jesus.  What a friend to the lost.  What a miracle it is that God would have such grace on a sinner like me, who could never have found his way to an every-loving God if not for the precious gift of His Son, His only Son.  It is beyond my comprehension that God would do such a thing, but He did.  He sent His only Son, to be a sacrifice for my sin, that I would be with Him forever.  Now I can walk on this earth knowing I am forgiven by God, and knowing that he will help me everyday to walk in His ways, above the ways of the world.  What a treasure!  What a gift!  He forgave me!

His makes me ask myself the question – “So who am I to not forgive others?”  Who am I to stand in judgment of others because of their sin?  Jesus died for all.  For the least a s well as the greatest.  He forgave all, even if all have not accepted that forgiveness.  What gives me any right at all to not forgive?  If I have no right to forgive, I also have no right to condemn or criticize.  Did Jesus criticize me?  No, He saved me.  He forgave me.  Did Jesus come to condemn me?  No, He came to save me (John 3:17).  We are to follow His example. We are here to lead others to the cross that He was led to.  Are purpose is to bring others to the same saving grace He brought us to.  We can’t do that by judging, or condemning, or by not forgiving someone else.  Did you deserve His forgiveness?  I know I did not.  Do your friends, and your enemies deserve His forgiveness?  No, they do not.  But He died and gave the ultimate sacrifice for them as much as He did for you.  So, if Christ can forgive them, why can’t you? He has saved us to the uttermost.  Let us take this eternal salvation to all of those we meet.  On the street, in the grocery store, in our workplace, and anywhere we come in contact with others.  Let us sow this seed of grace wherever we can, and let the world know that their sins have been forgiven.  This is the calling of every believer, especially me!

A Surety of a Better Testament

Hebrews 7:19-24

 

19 For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.

20 And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest:

21 (For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:)

22 By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament.

23 And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death:

24 But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.

He Jews knew nothing of Old and New Testament like we do.  All they knew was what we call the Old Testament, and most of what they knew consisted of the first five books of the Bible and whatever else was read in the synagogue and told around the fire at night.  Hey didn’t have a copy of these things readily available like we do.  They had to remember these things they had heard and pass them on to their children.  One thing they did know, though, was the law.  They knew the necessity of bringing their sacrifices to the temple to make atonement for their sins.  They knew the burnt offering, the trespass offering, the in offering, the peace offering and others.  They knew the dedicated feast times of celebration, like Passover and the Feast of Tabernacle. This is evident as we read the Gospels.  This was their way of life, and this law was strictly enforced by the Scribes and Pharisees.  It had always been this way, from the very beginning of their nation.

Now Paul comes along and tells them the law did not make anyone or anything perfect.  He just tore down over 2,000 years of tradition with one statement.  Surely, he can’t be right!  He must be mistaken on this point.  After all, they relied on the law of Moses to be cleansed from their sin. They relied on the priest to make atonement by offering their sacrifices upon the altar.  In a way, this would be like telling a Catholic that communion makes nothing right with God.  If you know anything about Catholicism, communion means everything to them.!  They would scoff at this idea, just as I am sure the Jews did when they first read this statement of Paul’s.  If the sacrifices of the law make nothing perfect, then there was no way for the people to be right with God!

Paul does not leave them hanging, though.  He next tells them that a better hope has been made available.  A new way has developed that could bring the people closer to God.  No longer did they have to rely on the Old Testament rules and regulations to be close to God.  There is a new way to draw nigh unto God.  And that new way was Jesus Christ.

I can see the common Jews head spin around on top of their neck in disbelief.  What, Jesus?  What a minute.  Isn’t he the one who was crucified and died a painful death?  Wasn’t he the one who did all these miracles we have heard about, and told amazing stories that made the people think?  Wasn’t he the one who brought Lazarus back to life, and who the Pharisees and Scribes thought was a heretic?  Wasn’t he the one who they claimed came back to life?  How could this man possibly bring a better hope?  I can hear them stopping Paul at this point and saying he had to prove this to them, because this was ludicrous.  It made no sense to them at all up to this point.

There is a reason Paul sends this letter to them, though.  He is building a case to show them exactly why Jesus brings a better hope. His method is perfect to do this.  He has talked about the priesthood of Melchizedek to show that there an be a priest outside the family of Levi.  This is a very important point to make for reasons that will continue to unfold as we read through Hebrews. In fact, it is essential that first he convinces the people of Jesus priesthood before they can believe Jesus can do anything to atone for their sins.  A priest had to offer the sacrifice, and had to offer blood for the cleansing of sin. That had not changed.  That was God’s law from the very beginning.  God slew an animal in the Garden to cover the sins of Adam and Eve.  God required an animal sacrifice of blood from Able.  God said there is no remission of sin without the shedding of blood.  So, Paul had to convince them that Jesus could offer the sacrifice, and to do that He had to be a priest,

Here comes Melchizedek again. He was not a Levite, but from another order.  And the Messianic prophecy from the Psalms, which the Israelites knew well, said that Messiah would be “a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”  We know so little about Melchizedek, and yet he plays such an important role here.  The Jewish people certainly knew the story of Abraham bringing tithes to this priest of the most-high God.  They also knew that the tithe belonged to the priest.  The fact that Abraham regarded him as a priest, and that he was also the King of Salem, makes any comparison to him one of great importance.

Jesus was the priest the Psalmist was taking about, and He brings the surety of a better testament because He is still alive! He died, but He rose again, and the priesthood that He offers us is one that will never end.  Their earthly high priest would succumb to death, but this high priest would not.  His testament, His covenant was a better one. It would last forever.  His priesthood would not change with the times.  It would always remain, and no one could take it away.  And His was perfect priesthood, which we will see more clearly as we move through this fascinating book.