BEFORE BEGINNING OUR NEXT SECTION IN CHAPTER 9 BEGINNING WITH V. 11 OF HEBREWS, I WANT TO INSERT A SHORT SUMMARY OF VV. 7-10, THIS TIME BY HOMER KENT. AGAIN, THE MAIN REASON FOR THIS REPETITION IS CLARITY. I HOPE YOU AGREE THIS ADDITION WAS WORTHWHILE. KENT’S WORDS FOLLOW…
AFTER THE TABERNACLE WAS CONSTRUCTED AND PROPERLY FURNISHED, THE PRIESTLY FUNCTIONS COULD BE PERFORMED WITHIN IT. THE FIRST TABERNACLE REFERS TO THE OUTER COMPARTMENT, THE HOLY PLACE (AS IN V. 2). The common priests entered it daily to observe the ritual prescribed in the law. Incense was offered morning and evening upon the golden altar at the same time that the candelabrum was tended (Exod.30:7,8). The showbread was changed weekly (Lev. 24:5-8). In later years the order of the priests became so numerous that they had to be divided into twenty-four groups (1 Chron. 24:1-9), the selection of the priest who would burn the incense was settled daily by casting the lot (Luke 1:9), and was regarded as a high privilege. Zacharias was engaged in this honorable task when the angel announced to him the coming birth of John the Baptist.
… but into the second (tabernacle) the high priest (went) alone once a year, not without blood, which he offers on behalf of himself and the ignorances of the people… (9:7).
THE MINISTRY IN THE SECOND CHAMBER WAS EXCEEDINGLY MORE RESTRICTED. FIRST, IT WAS OFF LIMITS TO EVERYONE EXCEPT THE HIGH PRIEST. ALL ORDINARY PRIESTS WERE EXCLUDED. By this means God pictured vividly the barrier that sin has posed between His holy presence and sinful men. Access to God must be on God’s terms, and depends upon expiation of sin. Second, even the high priest could enter the holy of holies only once a year. The reference, of course, is to the annual Day of Atonement on the tenth day of the seventh month. This does not deny the fact that on that occasion the high priest actually entered the holy of holies several times—at least twice, and perhaps three or four. He entered with the blood of a bullock as the sin offering for himself and his household, and again with the loo of a goat as the sin offering for the people. Furthermore, the taking of the censor of burning coals and the incense into the holy of holies may have required an additional entrance (Lev. 15:12. 13) and perhaps its removal necessitated yet a fourth entry. By “once a year” the author means the one annual celebration, without pausing to separate the various steps of the ritual.
THE THIRD RESTRICTION WAS THE MANDATORY OFFERING OF BLOOD, WITHOUT WHICH EVEN THE HIGH PRIEST COULD NOT ENTER THE HOLY OF HOLIES. This was required for his personal sins, as well as those of the people he represented. “IGNORANCES” TAKES INTO ACCOUNT THE MOSAIC DISTINCTIONS BETWEEN THE SINS OF IGNORANCE AND SINS OF PRESUMPTION (NUM 15:27-31). In the case of the former, atonement was available. For the latter, the sin was that of deliberate rebellion against God, and so sacrifice was provided.
…the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the holy of holies was not yet manifested while the first tabernacle was still having a position… (9:8)
THE OLD TESTAMENT TABERNACLE WAS THE VISIBLE DEMONSTRATION BY THE HOLY SPIRIT (VIEWED HER AS THE FATHER’S AGENT IN REVEALING THESE TRUTHS TO MEN) THAT PERFECT ACCESS TO GOD BY ALL PEOPLE DID NOT YET EXIST. The reference to the first tabernacle in verse 8 has been understood in two ways. Some interpret it as the entire earthly structure in contrast to the heavenly reality. The Greek term ton is understood as the sanctuary in heaven. It appears more natural, however, to treat the first tabernacle the same way it has been used throughout this paragraph (vv.2, 6) to denote the outer chamber (holy place), and the holy of holies would then most likely refer to the earthly inner compartment. AS LONG AS THE TABERNACLE EXISTED WITH TWO CHAMBERS, THE POSITION OF CHAMBER ONE BARRED THE WAY TO CHAMBER TWO.
…which (first tabernacle) is a parable for the reason (then) present according to which both gifts and sacrifices are being offered (which are) unable to bring to completion in conscience the one who worships, (these sacrifices being) only, as regards foods and drinks and various washings, regulations of flesh, being imposed until a time of a new order, (9:9, 10).
THESE TWO VERSES SET FORTH THE TYPICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THE EARTHLY TABERNACLE. NOT ONLY WAS THE TABERNACLE IN GENERAL AN OBJECT LESSON FOR GOD’S PEOPLE, BUT IN PARTICULAR THE PRESENCE OF THE “FIRST TABERNACLE” OR FORECHAMBER SERVED AS A PARABLE ON TEACHING FIGURE OF THE PRINCIPAL LESSON GOD WANTED TO CONVEY. As long as God was pleased to demonstrate His presence in a tabernacle with two chambers, He was showing men that real freedom of access to His presence was not available. The holy place had a curtain at the front to prevent the common people from entering, and the second veil kept the ordinary priests from the holy of holies.
THE SEASON (THEN) PRESENT (TON KAIRON TON ENESTAKOTA) SHOULD BE UNDERSTOOD OF THE OLD TESTAMENT PERIOD. As long as the tabernacle stood with its first chamber intact (and one may enlarge the concept to include the temples which succeeded it if he does not suppose the author to regard the current sacrifices as still valid), it offered testimony to its adherents of the continued presence of a barrier to God.
THE GIFTS AND SACRIFICES WERE THE VOLUNTARY GIFTS BROUGHT T GOD BY THE WORSHIPPING ISRAELITE, AS WELL AS THE BLOODY OFFERINGS REQUIRED FOR SIN. The present tense are being offered (Greek plural) may be a historical present, or may be an indication that the same sort of offerings were continuing in the temple at Jerusalem.
NOW THESE JEWISH SACRIFICES HAD DISTINCT LIMITATIONS. THEY WERE UNABLE TO BRING TO COMPLETION IN CONSCIENCE THE ADHERENTS OF THIS SYSTEM. The Levitical offerings never enabled the worshiper to have the inner consciousness that he was completely and permanently cleansed (otherwise they would not have needed repetition, 10:2). This does not imply that no Old Testament believer ever achieved a cleansed conscience, but that animal sacrifices per se could not grant this inner consciousness of God’s favor. Such as the result of the Spirit of God acting in response to the faith of the believing Israelite (e.g., Ps. 51). In fact, it was only when sacrifices were offered in obedience out of a heartfelt contrition and faith that they were acceptable to God (Ps. 51:16-19).
OLD TESTAMENT RITUAL FOR PURIFICATION INVOLVED PHYSICAL THINGS, SUCH AS FOODS AND DRINKS AND CEREMONIAL ABLUTIONS. ONLY CERTAIN SPECIFIED KINDS OF ANIMALS WERE AVAILABLE FOR SACRIFICES. Some foods could not be eaten. Strong drink was not allowed to those taking a Nazarite vow (Num. 6:3). Priests had to bath themselves ritualistically before the Day of Atonement celebration (Lev. 16:4). Yet these matters were all regulations regarding the flesh, and actually had no connection with the heart(except as expressions of heartfelt obedience o God’s instructions). Thus it is always possible for persons to satisfy themselves that they have fulfilled their obligations to God merely by observing traditional ceremonies. Many in Israel did just that, and although their faithful conformity to Mosaic law maintained them in their civil and religious privileges, their hearts were far from God and they knew little or nothing of God’s forgiveness. Was this part of the problem of the abnormally slow (5:12), they could well have placed undue confidence in the ritual of Judaism, and found its attractions almost irresistible. This would explain the author’s repeated emphasis upon the inadequacy of Levitical sacrifices (7:11, 18, 19; 9:9, 10, 13, 14, 23; 10:1-4, 11).
THE OLD TESTAMENT TABERNACLE AND ITS MINISTRY WAS INTENDED ONLY AS A TYPE. IT WAS TEMPORARY, AN EXTERNAL FIGURE DEALING WITH MATERIAL MATTERS TO REPRESENT BASIC, SPIRITUAL TRUTHS. The value lasted only until the time of a new order. That new order had its inauguration when Christ offered Himself as the perfect and final sacrifice for sin. He fulfilled the previous types and shadows, and in this new order the Spirit brings about an inward change, far more basic than ceremonial cleansing. This new order has as its basis the new covenant discussed in chapter 8. Now that Christ has died, there is no cause for anyone to be occupied with the ceremonial cleansing embodied in Judaism.
NEXT WEEK, LORD WILLING, WE’LL MOVE AHEAD WITH VERSES 11 AND 12…
PROFESSOR THOMAS A. ROHM