Hebrews 9:1-10 – A new universal order!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 30, 2012 AM
There are those in our day and age who spend an unhealthy amount of time wondering about conspiracy theories and who is behind what and when. Often these folks talk in hushed voices about how there might be a secret cabal wanting to start a new world order such as the CFR (Council on Foreign Relations) or the WFM (World Federalist Movement). I have to laugh at some of the convoluted aerobics they have to do in order for their pet conspiracy theory to be remotely fit together and come out anywhere near correct. While there are very real forces who want to control how people vote, what they eat, or how they raise their children, they are not so secret. Some of these utterly weird and fantastic ideas have crossed over into some theological heresy concerning the end times, such as in premillennial dispensationalism. Some folks, however, are surprised to learn that Christians not only believe in, but practice, and desire the establishment of a new universal order!
In fact, the perfect plan of God was to establish his universal order, which he has done through his Son Jesus Christ. The author of Hebrews begins to share just how the old tabernacle was just a pattern of what God truly had planned all along. Each part of it had meaning and was given for a particular purpose. My mother used to tell us, when we cleaned our room, “Everything in its place and a place for everything!” God believes this as well. We see it in how God had the tabernacle built. It was his pattern for the upcoming new universal order! Let’s discover how this is possible…
God reminds us that, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV) The writer of Hebrews therefore noted that the Tabernacle was modeled on a heavenly pattern (Hebrews 8:5), and we will see that he used it to give meaning to the priesthood and the atoning work of Christ (9:9). His refusal to indulge in excessive symbolism should serve as a guide for us. Yet, in the tabernacle we find…
I. The old order of doing things! (Vv. 1-5)
1. Hebrews relates that “the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary.” God gave Moses directions on how the Israelites were to set up the tabernacle. The Hebrew word mishkan implies “to dwell”, “rest”, or “to live in”, referring to the “in-dwelling presence of God”. God’s shekhinah, his glory, is based on the same root word. The English word “tabernacle” is from the Latin tabernāculum meaning “tent” or “hut”, which in ancient Rome was a ritual structure. The tabernacle was the portable place where God came to dwell among the Israelites from the Exodus until they conquered the Promised Land. They were not to deviate from God’s directions. When the “tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand, the table and the consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place.” The lampstand was placed on the south (left) side of the Holy Place. It was made of gold and had seven branches. The central stem and the six branches each ended in a lamp which provided light for the Holy Place and were to be kept lit from dusk until dawn. It signified the light of God’s presence and was a “lasting ordinance.” The table of consecrated bread was located on the north (right) side of the Holy Place, opposite the lampstand. It was made of acacia wood overlaid with gold. It held 12 loaves of bread, bowls of frankincense, and vessels for wine. This bread was changed weekly and with the wine was an expression of gratitude to God. “Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant.” The alter was located in front of the veil separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place, this altar was of acacia wood overlaid with gold. Incense, which represented the prayers for the people by the priests, was to be offered on this altar by the priests every evening and morning. The Ark of the Covenant was where God would come to rest between two golden cherubim called the mercy seat. It was upon this mercy seat that the blood of the slain goat was sprinkled on the Day of Atonement. All these were arranged in a precise way for specific purposes, but the author could not “discuss these things in detail now.” He is noting the old order of doing things!
EXAMPLE: Churches have old ways of doing things whereby those in attendance can be heard to exclaim, when anything new threatens, “We have never done it that way before!” For some the old ways are the best ways and it is a matter of pride. While we cannot and should not dismiss the tabernacle, the priesthood, and the way it was set up, I am so glad it was not what God had in mind for the future of his redeemed through faith in Jesus Christ! Remember, Hebrews reminds us, “Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.” (Hebrews 7:27 NIV) And, Peter would write, “Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” (1 Peter 3:18 NIV) God had planned a better way than just the old order of doing things.
Over fifty chapters of the Bible are related to the tabernacle, how it was to be made, how it was to be set up, and the worship and how the sacrifices were to be made within its walls. It was important for the time God used it in directing the Israelites. Yet, all of it…
II. Pointed to a new universal order! (Vv. 6-10)
1. The “regulations for worship” mentioned were now dealt with so that they underlined the inadequacy and failure of the Old-Covenant service. “When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry.” Think about that, day after day, year after year, the priests entered, did the same thing the same way and it did not completely spiritually cleanse anyone from their sins! How do we know that, because “only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance.” It makes us wonder why anyone in our day and age would continue in a system that promoted this kind of hopelessness. The outer room of the tabernacle could be entered regularly by the officiating priests, but it was only on the Day of Atonement that the high priest entered the inner room. As incomplete as this was, we discover that “The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing.” When the new covenant came, written on the blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, the old tabernacle would fade and rot away to the dust of time. In fact, we do not have any of the implements of the Tabernacle. They were carried off by invaders, lost, or rotted away. Because all of this was pointing to something better! “This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper.” It never could. The Levitical arrangements were designed to convey the idea that the true way to God did not lie in them. Sadly, the Old-Covenant sacrificial system did not meet human need at its deepest and most urgent level. It could not clear the worshiper of their guilt. All of the sacrifice, all of the priestly pomp and circumstance, all of the golden glitter, incense, blood, and prayers were but a mere shadow of the better thing to come! “They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order.” When Jesus came, all the lampstands, statues of golden cherubim, the golden box for holy relics and the bleating of sacrificial animals fled away and were silenced; they were of no more real use and service! All of it was used by the Holy Spirit of God to point to a new universal order established in Jesus Christ!
EXAMPLE: There are those who call themselves the mediators between the Old Testament and the New. That they somehow have solved the problem of regulations verses faith. When the real truth is that there is no problem whatsoever. Just as God designed the Tabernacle and its furnishings for specific purposes in specific ways, he also designed his perfect plan for a new universal order. Peter said it best when he declared, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.” (1 Peter 1:18-21 NIV) Contrary to some heretical views that God “evolved” into a more loving God, his plan all along included the Tabernacle. However, salvation is not found in the old order of doing things, but in God’s new universal order by faith in his Son, Jesus Christ!
We learned about the old order of doing things and the new universal order that has come. Which one would you prefer?
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.