Five Minute Devotions: Hebrews 9
Hebrews 9 is a continuation of the author’s explanation of the better sacrificial system within the New Covenant. The first half of the chapter is an outline of the Old Covenant system (Hebrews 9:1-10); the second half deals with the New Covenant reality (Hebrews 9:11-28). The author’s intention is to prove to the most ardent of Jews that the priestly system that had been following was only a means to an end—and that end was Christ.
Old Covenant Limitations
This first part of Hebrews 9 is a virtual tour of the Tabernacle. It is a clear explanation and exposition of the precise layout and form of the primary location for sacrifice and worship. The tension builds as the author moves from the outer court to the holy place. In the outer court, the priests would offer sacrifices. People would come into the outer court to offer these sacrifices and worship.
The Holy Place stood in the middle of this—enshrouded in curtains. It was a place restricted only to priests, the place where they were nearest to God’s presence. And in the back of this was another veiled off chamber. The Holy of Holies. In this room dwelt the very presence of Yahweh.
The author details the Day of Atonement, the one day that the high priest could enter the veil and go before Yahweh in the Holy of Holies. And the author then supposes something that would have been quite revolutionary: what if all this was just meant to be symbolic? What if these rituals were but visual parables for what would be fulfilled in Christ?
New Covenant Realities
Hebrews 7 and Hebrews 8 have presented Jesus as the Great High Priest. What sacrifice will he bring into this Most Holy Place? And in a verse of beautiful contrasts, we hear:
He entered the most holy place once for all time, not by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. – Hebrews 9:12
Once for all time.
No longer will the priest need to return year after year. No more will the people be in waiting and wondering if Yahweh will accept the sacrifice. In the Old Testament, on this day, the people would gather outside and wait in anticipation to see if God would call this sacrifice worthy. But no more. Jesus has presented the Father with the ultimate sacrifice—one that cleanses sin eternally, not annually. There is no more need to fret. There is no more need to fear. We can have assurance and security in our salvation. Christ completed it. It is finished. The atonement for sin is completed.
Not by the Blood of Goats and Calves
Think of all the sacrifices that had piled up over the years. They were insufficient and ineffective—the author will tell us more about that in Hebrews 10. And that’s because they were never the reality; they were only the shadow. In this great reversal, the great high priest does not offer up a sacrifice. He becomes the sacrifice. It is through his own blood that he enters the presence of God and makes atonement.
And just as the sacrifice is eternal, so is its effect. Redemption is not just for a year. Or for a decade. Or even for a millennium. There shall be no New New Covenant because the ramifications of this one will be everlasting. The end result of Christ’s sacrifice is an eternal, everlasting redemption that shatters the sacrificial system. It is no longer necessary. The reality has overtaken the symbolism.
The end result of this is that having been thus saved and sanctified, we are now sent. The end of verse 14 says that God did this so that “we can serve the living God.” We are not saved to be set aside. Our holiness and set-apartness are not so we can be put on display like fancy plates or tchotchkes. We are set apart for a reason, for a purpose. We were saved to serve.
Jesus, thank you for your mediating work as our Great High Priest and the eternal atonement and redemption you bring through your blood. In return, we offer ourselves to you as living sacrifices, set apart for your service and your will.
One of the most interesting things about this chapter is that it insinuates that the Tabernacle is a literal representation of the heavenly reality. What does that look like to you? Is the Tabernacle all symbolic or is it an earthly version of a heavenly thing?
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