Hebrews 9:1-5 (3)
As part of my initial blogs on chapter 9, I began a brief study of “worship” when we first started looking at the first verse in chapter 9 and the prominent mention of the word…
NAS Hebrews 9:1 Now even the first covenant had regulations of divine worship and the earthly sanctuary.
Coincidentally – in my view, there are really no coincidences for Christians – I received an advertisement in the mail this week from Grace to You, John MacArthur’s ministry, announcing his newest book entitled Worship. I couldn’t have agreed with MacArthur’s opening remarks more, particularly his first declarative sentence…
“Worship is one of the most misunderstood concepts in the church today, to the point that we’ve nearly lost hold of the biblical meaning.”
It has been my regrettable observation over my 40 years of being a believer – almost half of that time spent as a pastor and seminary professor – that an alarming amount of the most familiar and oft-used biblically-based words – words like “worship” – are regularly misused by lay people, which could be seen as understandable, but also by pastors and teachers, which could not, in a manner that can only be charitably defined as ambiguous. I’m sure myself that no matter how hard I tried, I have not been entirely clear and informative I’ve been when teaching and preaching on this most important word. MacArthur continues…
“Many Christians seem to think of worship merely as what happens once a week when the gather with their local congregation. For others, worship is some kind of inexpressible, intangible feeling or emotional high – an experience that happens to them. Music is often seen as a tool for propelling people into this state of euphoria. As a result, the endless debates and church splits over music styles are widely regarded as differences of opinion about worship.
“If you think of worship as a state of emotional ecstasy that happens to you rather than an expression of praise that involves both mind and heart, if your understanding of worship goes no deeper than your opinion on traditional vs. contemporary church music – you haven’t scratched the surface of what it truly means to worship the Lord.
“Biblical worship – worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24) – is a constant, intentional, pervasive attitude. It’s a persistent inclination of your heart and mind toward the majesty and glory of the Lord. It’s not a momentary event, but a full-time, nonstop activity borne out in faithful praise, prayer, service, and study of God’s truth.
“Furthermore, WORSHIP IS NOT AN OPTIONAL BY-PRODUCT OF BEING A CHRSTIAN – IT IS THE PRIMARY PURPOSE FOR WHICH THE LORD CREATED AND SAVED US. We’re called to praise God and reflect His perfect, righteous character. With all the turmoil the pandemic has created, the need is critical for genuine, profound worship. Worship that transcends the ups and downs of the news cycle, and the highs and lows of our emotions.” – MacArthur
9:1. This verse summarizes the glories of the old tabernacle, showing its orderliness. The components of the earthly tabernacle showed that it was temporary. The intent of this verse is not to ridicule the past but to prepare the readers to appreciate the superior glories of Christ’s new work.
The first covenant provided both regulations for worship and a place for worship. The place for worship was an earthly sanctuary. Earthly did not suggest any feature displeasing to God. It pointed out that the tabernacle was material, imperfect, and temporary. The earthly tabernacle belonged to this world, but Jesus ministered in heaven (v. 24).
9:2. The old tabernacle had two parts. First indicated the room closer to the entrance from the outer courtyard—the Holy Place. It was approximately thirty feet long, fifteen feet wide, and fifteen feet high. This room contained a lampstand, a table, and the bread of the presence (Exod. 35:10–29). The lampstand illuminated the first tent. The glorious presence of God illuminated the second tent. The table contained the bread placed there every Sabbath. Only priests ate the bread (Exod. 25:23–30; Lev. 24:5–9).
9:3. A curtain separated the Holy Place from the second part of the old tabernacle—the Most Holy Place (see 6:19). Second distinguished this curtain from the curtain between the outer court and the Holy Place (Exod. 26:36–37). Once a year on the Day of Atonement the high priest passed through this curtain into God’s presence. This veil symbolized the barrier between a holy God and sinful people. At the death of Christ this veil was torn “from top to bottom” (Matt. 27:51).
9:4. The golden altar of incense was located in front of the curtain (Exod. 30:1–6) so that it actually stood in the Holy Place. This incense altar was vital for the burning of incense on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:13), so it is associated it with the Holy of Holies.
The gold-covered ark of the covenant was a box or chest about four feet long and two and one-half feet high and broad (Exod. 25:10–22), covered with gold on every side. The ark contained three treasures. “The gold jar of manna” (Exod. 16:32–34) was a reminder of God’s faithful provision during the wilderness wanderings. Aaron’s staff that had budded (Num. 17:1–11) reminded readers of God’s powerful warning against complaint and faultfinding. The stone tablets of the covenant (Exod. 25:21–22) reminded them of God’s expectations, and pointed, as we will soon see, to the ministry of Christ.
9:5. The cherubim (Exod. 25:18–22) situated above the ark symbolized the presence of God. They were probably winged creatures. They overshadowed the atonement cover, also called the mercy seat. The high priest sprinkled this part of the ark with blood on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:14). – Lea
AN INTERESTING NOTE: “THROUGHOUT THIS DESCRIPTION OF THE SANCTUARY, GOD IS NEVER MENTIONED. It will be the same in the description of the rites (Heb 9:6-7). A meaningful omission! Enlightened by the paschal mystery of Christ, the author relativizes the worth of the former sanctuary and its rites. He recognizes, however, that they have a certain value as prefigurations that help to express the mystery of Christ.” – Vanhoye
Professor Thomas A. Rohm