You are currently browsing the daily archive for April 11, 2022.

The readings for Monday of Holy Week can be found here.

The exegesis on the Gospel reading is here.

The Epistle is as follows (emphases mine):

Hebrews 9:11-15

9:11 But when Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation),

9:12 he entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.

9:13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified,

9:14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God!

9:15 For this reason he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, because a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

The author of Hebrews explains that Christ is the great High Priest, making the ultimate sacrifice of Himself for our sins.

I wrote about the Book of Hebrews in 2019, which included the first two sets of verses in this chapter:

Hebrews 9:1-5 – the original tabernacle, tent, God, Jesus

The author of Hebrews describes the original tent, or tabernacle, that God instructed Moses to build (Exodus 25). Even then, during the Old Covenant, everything in it pointed to Christ and the eventual New Covenant. The author calls that tabernacle ‘the earthly holy place’, as the true holy place is in heaven, where Jesus reigns as King and Great High Priest.

Hebrews 9:6-10 – rituals of the Jewish priests

The author discusses the rituals of the Jewish priests, which were temporary, albeit divinely ordained, until the Crucifixion, the one and sufficient sacrifice for our sins.

The author wants his Jewish audience to grasp that the tabernacle of the Old Testament prefigures Jesus Christ.

John MacArthur explains the significance of the tabernacle in both the Old and the New Covenants:

Now let’s look at it beginning in verse 2. “There was a tabernacle.” Now we’re talking about the old covenant, the ceremonies and rituals of Israel. There was a tabernacle. Now he’s dealing here with the tabernacle rather than the temple, because he wants to pull out the primary things that God placed initially in that tabernacle, and it was the earthiest of the two between the tabernacle and the temple. It was the most transitory and passing thing because of its mobility and the substance of which it was made, so it illustrates his truth. But he starts out by saying there was a tabernacle made. Now that tent is very important, and I dare say we don’t know nearly as much about it as we ought to. Do you know there are only two chapters in the Bible that talk about creation and there are 50 chapters that talk about the tabernacle? That is important. The tabernacle is important and demands attention from us in our study, because the tabernacle is a giant picture of Jesus Christ. It is a gigantic portrait of Christ in every detail. God laid out all the plans, and you look at it and it’s just Christ everywhere you look.

For example, let’s begin. This was a big tent. It was 150 feet long and it was 75 feet wide. And there was only one gate, and it was on the east. And it was 30 feet wide, seven-and-a-half feet high, and many people could go through it. Now that is a perfect picture of Jesus Christ who said, “I am the way,” who also said, “I am the door.” To the tabernacle or the place of God there was only one door. How many doors are there to God now? One door, Jesus Christ. So the fact of one door pictures Jesus Christ. Christianity is very exclusive, men only come to God through Jesus Christ.

MacArthur describes the tabernacle in detail so that we understand its parallels with Christ:

Now let’s assume that we started at the east and we were going into the 150-by-75-foot tent. The outside was a curtain that was not covered, and we would move then, and he just doesn’t even get into this but let me fill in. We would move into the courtyard, the outer court of the tabernacle. And we would see some furniture there which he doesn’t mention because of their obvious familiarity with it. But as we walk from the east going in, we would first of all come to the brazen altar.

Now the brazen altar it was just that, it was made of acacia wood. It was seven-and-a-half feet square, so it was a large altar. It stood four-and-a-half feet off the ground. The top was covered by a brass grate, and the coals were underneath the grate and the sacrifice was placed on the grate. On four corners of the alter were the horns of the altar to which the animal was bound when it was being sacrificed. The brazen altar is a perfect picture of Jesus Christ, the one who was a sacrifice for sin.

Having moved past that continuing west, we would come to the next piece of furniture that is in the court, and that is the laver, or a wash area. This is made of brass. In it the priest washed their hands and used it also to wash their feet as they went about the bloody services of sacrifice. It again is a picture of Jesus Christ who is the cleanser of his people. And it’s a wonderful picture when you put the two together. Once we have come to the brazen altar and received forgiveness for sins, we are not through. We still need to go to the laver for the daily cleansing that brings about restoration and the pure joy of full fellowship. So both of them picture Jesus. And together they picture the work of Christ on earth, as he provided the forgiveness and the cleansing in the cross.

Then we’re still going west and we come to the tabernacle itself. 45 feet long, 15 feet wide, 15 feet high. The holy place took up two-thirds of it, which meant that the holy of holies was a perfect cube, 15 by 15 by 15, the other 15 by 15 by 30. We would go into the holy place, if we were priests, and in there we would find three pieces of furniture, and here the writer only mentions two. As I say, he’s in a hurry; he doesn’t have time for details, and they know them all as well as the back of their hand anyway. And we would move then into the holy place, and first of all on the left side would appear the golden lampstand. The seven-lit golden lampstand that the pure olive oil that was placed there for the fire. This golden lampstand was beaten out of solid gold. Then we would look to the right and we would see the table of showbread. This was made of acacia wood, again overlaid with gold. It was three feet long, one-and-a-half feet wide and about two-and-a-quarter-feet high off the ground. And on it every Sabbath they laid 12 loaves, one for every tribe in Israel, six in two rows. And at the end of the week the priests ate it, and only the priests were allowed to eat it.

Then continuing to the center, we would see the Altar of Incense. It again was made of acacia wood and it was sheathed in gold. It was one-and-a-half feet square, three feet high. And on this were placed the burning coals from the brazen altar way out in the courtyard where sacrifice was made. Then you say, “Well what are these three things supposed to be all about?” Again, they are pictures of Jesus Christ.

Let me show you what I mean. In the outer courtyard, all the things out there are connected with salvation and the cleansing of sin. Now where did Jesus accomplish salvation and the cleansing of sin? On the earth. And that’s the courtyard, outside God’s presence. The very fact that it was the outer court, accessible to all the people pictures Christ in the world openly manifesting himself before men. But when he goes into the holy place, he is shut off from the men of the world. And so whatever it is that’s going on in the holy place it’ll have to do with that which he does when he gets back to heaven. And what are the three things that Jesus does when he gets back to heaven? Number one, he lights our path. Number two, he feeds us. And number three, he intercedes for us. And so the three pieces of furniture in the holy place are pictures of Jesus Christ. The golden lampstand is Christ, the light of life, not the light of the world. He’s not the light of the world when he’s in there. He said listen to it carefully in the Gospel of John, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” But when he left the world, the world was left in darkness, and he is only for the believer, the light of life. Don’t confuse that. It’s talking about his work in heaven. He is the light of life. He is the light that directs our paths. He is the one who through the Spirit illumines our mind, who understands spiritual truth. He is the one by the indwelling Spirit that guides us through the world of darkness. He is our light.

And then we look to the right and we see the table of showbread and Jesus is our sustenance. He’s the one who feeds us every day, who sustains us, and he sustains us with the Word. In fact, the Word is not only our food, the Word is our light, and the oil is the Spirit of God who lights the Word for us. You might say the light is our food on the other side and the Spirit is our waiter. And then we come to the altar of incense which pictures the sacrificial coals placed there and the incense smoke rising, and this is Jesus interceding for us. The perfect sacrifice became the intercessory. And so all three picture Jesus’ work in heaven for us. But we don’t stop there.

Look at verse 3. We go through a second veil, and we couldn’t do this, could we? Only if we were high priests and only once a year on one day. But in our minds, let’s go. And we go after the second veil into the tabernacle, which is called the holiest of all, the holy of holies. And we get in there and there’s only one piece of furniture, and what was it? It was the Ark of the Covenant, and it contained Aaron’s rod that budded, and it contained manna, and it contained the tables of law. It was simply made of acacia wood. It too was overlaid with gold about 3’9” long, 2’3” wide, and about 2 feet high, just a box. And the lid on top of it was called what? Look at verse. Which had the golden censer, we’ll get to that later, and the Ark of the Covenant overlaid roundabout with gold in which was the golden pot, manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, the tables of the covenant. Verse 5, “And over it the cherubim of glory showing the mercy seat.” On top of this was the mercy seat, as it’s called. And over the mercy seat on two ends were cherubim, that’s angels, whose wings stretched over and almost touched. The mercy seat was made of gold; the angels were solid gold. And it was between the wings of those angels on the mercy seat that God met men.

In Exodus 25:22, God said, “I’ll commune with you from above the mercy seat from between the cherubim.” And if God and man were to have any meeting place, they only met there. But you see isn’t it tragic that under the Old Testament economy there was only one guy who could go in there and he had to hurry in and hurry out, because there wasn’t ever really any access at all. And the people never got any further than the outer court; they never even got into the holy place. But here was the Ark. You say, “What does that represent?” It represents Jesus Christ who is the true mercy seat. When you meet Jesus Christ as Savior, you are ushered into the presence of God.

God no longer communes with men between the wings of the cherubim. He communes with men no longer on the top of a gold mercy seat. He communes with men because they come to him in the name of whom? Jesus Christ. He is the mercy seat. Only on the basis of the blood of a goat would God have fellowship with Israel, and only on the basis of the blood of Christ will God have fellowship with men. Christ is the mercy seat, the meeting place of God and men. So we see the sanctuary. It had divine services, but it was earthly, and it was so temporary and passing and it never provided true access. So the writer speaks of the sanctuary. Let’s look at the services, and this is going to be interesting especially in reference to the Day of Atonement … in Israel’s calendar.

Verse 6, “Now when these things were thus prepared,” – when the furniture was all set up, watch what happened – “the priest went always into the first tabernacle accomplishing the service of God.” The first one was called the Holy Place. They went in there every day; they had to go in every day to trim the oil on the lampstand. They had to go in there every day to put the incense on the altar of incense, and they had to go in every Sabbath day to change the 12 loaves of bread. So they were in and out of there every day. Every day, every day, every day they went into the holy place. This was a never-ceasing work. It’s again a perfect picture of Jesus Christ who does not cease lighting, who does not cease feeding, who does not cease interceding on our behalf. It is perpetual. It is continual. It is unceasing. Aren’t you glad you have a Christ like that who never stops his priestly work? Every day, every day, every day going about doing it on our behalf.

But verse 7, “Into the second, or the holy of all, went the high priest alone once every year, and not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the errors of the people.” Now this is interesting, and I want us to take a minute to see this. What happens in Israel historically is important to us, because so much of it pictures Christ. But nothing pictures Christ more than this event. The statement in verse 7 refers to the Day of Atonement, or Yom KippurNow the Day of Atonement is again a perfect picture of Christ. He doesn’t spend any detail on it because they knew it well, but I’m going to take a moment to spend some detail. We know that God had a relationship with Israel, but every time Israel sinned, what happened to the relationship? It was broken. So every day they’d come and they’d make sacrifices and it would be kind of reconnected. But all through the year sins would pile up that you forgot about that you didn’t know you committed; that’s why they’re called errors rather than sins. The things you didn’t know and you forgot about and you didn’t confess and you didn’t make a sacrifice for would pile up. So the Day of Atonement was kind of a catch-all. All of the ones for which you had not made direct sacrifice would be gathered together, and they would all be covered in the sacrifice of the Day of Atonement for the whole nation. So it was a great day of liberty of the conscience. I mean you knew all through the year that you’d be racking up and you know you remembered some of them but you hadn’t remembered all of them, and so you longed for the Day of Atonement when the sacrifice was made and at least for a few minutes you could be free.

Sin severed the relationship. Only forgiveness through sacrifice could put it together, and so there needed to be a catch-all to pick up the things the people had forgotten. And so that was the Day of Atonement. Now let’s look at the ritual. Very early in the morning the priest arose, not from the dead but from the bed. And he cleansed himself by washing; he washed himself thoroughly. Then he put on some robes that were reserved for this day; they’re the robes of glory and beauty, fancy robes. There was the robe of the ephod, and on the robe of the ephod the shoulders were two large onyx stones, and each of those onyx stones had six of the tribes’ names engraved on them. On the tunic, which was on the breastplate, was also 12 precious stones, each one of them having on it engraved one name of a tribe. So he bore, remember we saw this a few weeks ago, the names of Israel on his shoulders and on his heart. And there he is a perfect picture of Jesus Christ who takes us not only on his heart, which means he cares for us, but on his shoulders, which means he’s not only willing, he’s what? He’s able. That’s power; that’s strength.

And so the high priest then carried the people to God on his heart and on his shoulders, and I’m sure that he wished he could give them access to the holy place. And I’m sure his heart ached to give them access to God. I’m sure he ached to have it himself. He had it on his heart, but he didn’t really have the strength in his shoulders. That was a picture of Jesus who would come and be willing and also be able. And so the high priest got himself all cleaned up and put on his robes. Then he began to do his daily sacrifices. He had to go through the whole routine of all the sacrifice. One writer says, “Very likely he would’ve already slaughtered 22 different animals by the time he reached the event known as Atonement.” Very busy and a very bloody thing that he did every day.

And so he went all through the sacrifices, and when he was done, he finished all of that. He removed his gorgeous robes. He took of the robes of glory and beauty, went and bathed himself again from top to bottom so that he was completely clean, and then he put on – now mark this one, this is interesting. He then put on pure white linen with no decoration at all, and it was a symbol of holiness and it was a symbol of purity. And it is a perfect symbol of Jesus Christ who in the work of atonement stripped of all of his glory and all of his beauty and became the humblest of humble, dressed in the simplest, if you will say so, linen of human flesh. But notice it’s still white. In all of his humility, he never lost his, what? His holiness.

And so when Jesus came to do the work of sacrifice to make the atonement for sin, he took of the glory but he never took off the purity and he never took off the holiness. And so again a perfect picture of Jesus Christ, and it’s interesting to note also that when the high priest was done with the sacrifice of atonement, he put right back on the robes of glory and beauty. Remember Jesus after he’d come to the cross and he was preparing for the cross and his prayer in John 17 he said, “Father, I finished the work you gave me to do, now glorify me with the glory that I had before the world began. Father, give me back my robes. I’ve done the job of atonement.” That’s exactly what the priest pictured, perfect picture.

And so the priest then put on the robes of linen, simple robes. The procedures then were as follows. In the robe of white linen, or the garments of white linen, the priest took coals off the altar. That’s the brazen altar where sacrifice is going to be made. He put them then in a censer with incense, and he carried it clear into the holy of holies. Now you’ll notice that tells that in verse 4, “Which had the golden censer.” That was not a piece of furniture in there, but the high priest on the day of atonement filled it with coals off the altar of sacrifice and took it and put it in the holy of holies, and it’s a beautiful picture of Christ again. He realizes that it is only because of Jesus Christ that he can even enter into there. So before he does any sacrifice at all, he takes that which represents Christ and puts it in there in the presence of God, for no man can come into the presence of God except Christ make the way. And so the picture of incense is always the picture of prayer and intercession. So he makes sure that the picture of Christ interceding before God opens the way for him to come in.

So he puts the censer in there and smoke fills the place from the censer. No man can approach God except Christ be there first

Then there were the sacrifices of two goats. One was the scapegoat, probably carried off into the wild but left alive. The other goat was sacrificed in death, as God required a blood sacrifice:

The first goat satisfies God. The second goat satisfies us. The two are not two offerings but one. Listen to Leviticus 16:5, “And he shall take two kids of a goat for a sin offering.” They’re just two parts of the same thing. So in that offering there was satisfaction to God. There was satisfaction for men. Propitiation, if you will, and pardon. In both cases, it was substitution. Now those are perfect copies of Jesus, aren’t they? Jesus who was the substitution, propitiation, he died on the altar and shed his blood. Jesus who bore away our sins.

The point of the first ten verses of Hebrews 9 is to show that the Old Covenant was temporary because of its limitations. Christ made the New Covenant perfect.

MacArthur says:

Could people get into the holy place? No. Could they get into the holy of holies? Absolutely not. The whole thing was meant to prove that without a redeemer, without a Messiah, without a Savior there’s no access to God, see? The Holy Spirit was saying that. He was teaching through the old system its very limitations.

Therefore, the author of Hebrews says that Christ came as a high priest of things that have come — or, as some translations say, ‘to come’ — through a greater and perfect tent, not of any existing creation, i.e. man’s labour, things of nature (verse 11).

He entered into the holy place, not with the blood of ritual sacrifice, but His own blood, thereby obtaining redemption for mankind and ending the sacrificial system (verse 12).

Matthew Henry points out that Christ’s sacrifice was perfect, unlike that of the Old Testament Jews who had to conduct the Day of Atonement ceremonies every year:

3. Christ, our high priest, has entered into heaven, not as their high priest entered into the holiest, with the blood of bulls and of goats, but by his own blood, typified by theirs, and infinitely more precious. And this,

4. Not for one year only, which showed the imperfection of that priesthood, that it did but typically obtain a year’s reprieve or pardon. But our high priest entered into heaven once for all, and has obtained not a yearly respite, but eternal redemption, and so needs not to make an annual entrance. In each of the types there was something that showed it was a type, and resembled the antitype, and something that showed it was but a type, and fell short of the antitype, and therefore ought by no means to be set up in competition with the antitype.

If the blood of the animal sacrifices purified, if only temporarily, those who had been defiled (verse 14), how much greater then is the sacrifice of our unblemished Christ on our behalf, which cleanses our conscience and draws us to worship the living God (verse 15).

MacArthur says that Christ, through His sacrifice on the Cross, makes us new creatures on the inside, something a priest from the Old Testament could never do:

… it says, “Because he did this, he will purge your conscience.” That means clean it out and free it from guilt, total forgiveness in Jesus Christ. And it says in 10:22, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience.” Boy, what a blessed thing. No longer bugged by our guilt, but free. And it says this, “Purge your conscience from dead works.” That’s inward defilement. He cleans the inside. You see the old priest could cover up on the outside; Jesus cleans the inside. The old system could cleanse externally; the new one can change a man’s nature. It removes inward defilement. What it does is change his nature. The old one covered up, the outside, this one changes the man on the inside. “If any man because in Christ Jesus,” what? Not just cleaned up old creature but what? New creature. In the old economy, it would’ve have to been this: If any man does the sacrifice, he’s a cleaned-up old creature. In Christ, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. Removes inward defilement.

For that reason, Christ is the mediator of the New Covenant; those who are called may receive that promised inheritance for eternity, because His death redeems them from the transgressions of the Old Covenant (verse 15).

Henry offers this analysis:

Here observe, [1.] What it was that gave such efficacy to the blood of Christ. First, It was his offering himself to God, the human nature upon the altar of his divine nature, he being priest, altar, and sacrifice, his divine nature serving for the two former, and his human nature for the last now such a priest, altar, and sacrifice, could not but be propitiatory. Secondly, It was Christ’s offering up himself to God through the eternal Spirit, not only as the divine nature supported the human, but the Holy Ghost, which he had without measure, helping him in all, and in this great act of obedience offering himself. Thirdly, It was Christ’s offering himself to God without spot, without any sinful stain either in his nature or life; this was conformable to the law of sacrifices, which required them to be without blemish. Now further observe, [2.] What the efficacy of Christ’s blood is; it is very great. For, First, It is sufficient to purge the conscience from dead works, it reaches to the very soul and conscience, the defiled soul, defiled with sin, which is a dead work, proceeds from spiritual death, and tends to death eternal. As the touching of a dead body gave a legal uncleanness, so meddling with sin gives a moral and real defilement, fixes it in the very soul; but the blood of Christ has efficacy to purge it out. Secondly, It is sufficient to enable us to serve the living God, not only by purging away that guilt which separates between God and sinners, but by sanctifying and renewing the soul through the gracious influences of the Holy Spirit, purchased by Christ for this purpose, that we might be enabled to serve the living God in a lively manner.

Henry explains the use of ‘testament’ and ‘covenant’:

The gospel is here considered as a testament, the new and last will and testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. It is observable that the solemn transactions that pass between God and man are sometimes called a covenant, here a testament. A covenant is an agreement between two or more parties about things that are in their own power, or may be so, and this either with or without a mediator; this agreement takes effect at such time and in such manner as therein declared. A testament is a voluntary act and deed of a single person, duly executed and witnessed, bestowing legacies on such legatees as are described and characterized by the testator, and which can only take effect upon his death. Now observe, Christ is the Mediator of a New Testament (Hebrews 9:15; Hebrews 9:15); and he is so for several ends and purposes here mentioned. 1. To redeem persons from their transgressions committed against the law or first testament, which makes every transgression a forfeiture of liberty, and makes men debtors, and slaves or prisoners, who need to be redeemed. 2. To qualify all those that are effectually called to receive the promise of an eternal inheritance. These are the great legacies that Christ by his last will and testament has bequeathed to the truly characterized legatees.

I hope that helps to clarify the importance of Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, which does not seem to be covered adequately in many of our churches today, even on Good Friday.

Moving on to Tuesday of Holy Week, below are links to the readings as well as to explorations of the Epistle, the Gospel and the withered fig tree:

Readings for Tuesday of Holy Week

Contemplating the withered fig tree (2017)

More to follow in the days ahead.

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