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1 Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;
There is nothing higher, nothing greater, nothing more exalted than this - the throne of the Majesty in the heavens. This is the high calling to which we are called. If there is one lesson in the Tabernacle, and all the tragic events connected with it and its contents, it is the great and terrible majesty of God. Jesus Christ shows forth his love and condescension - but the majesty had to be established first.
Only on the altar of the sacrifice of Christ can He be approached. His own Son must die before men can come near Him. Not because He is vindictive, or malignant, or despotic, but because eternal things can only be built on true principles, and the principle of righteousness and perfection must underlie everything related to eternity.
"Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins." We approach God shielded by the perfection of Christ. *
2 A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.
Paul in Hebrews draws all his types and shadows of the Christ from the tabernacle not the Temple (Hb.8.2). This is consistent with the types and shadows he draws from the wilderness wanderings (Hb.3 ,4), where Israel so grievously apostasized (Hb.3 .17-19), the word preached not being mixed with faith in them that heard.
"Let us therefore fear." (Hb 4:.l,2.)
The Apocalyptic Messenger
3 For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer.
Sacrifice did more than establish principles and keep the issues clear between righteousness and sin. It provided an outlet for the expression of repentance, gratitude and love. It gave man something he could do to show his feeling toward God - a way in which he could offer the best and choicest of his possessions, and in the uprising smoke of acceptance he found peace. The principle of sacrifice still holds true. It is the opposite of the basic principle of the flesh-selfishness.
"He that will lose his life shall find it" (Matt. 16:25).
The Law was nothing in itself - it just taught lessons.
And to those who could discern, here also was a constant reminder that, in the fullness of time, the love of God would provide a lamb who would bring mankind back to perfect divine fellowship. For those who had eyes to see, the sacrifices were what the bread and wine are to us. The depth and righteousness of the mystical significance is limited only by the development of our mind to receive it.
"Wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat to offer" (Heb. 8:3).
The whole plan from the beginning is built on sacrifice. Every prophecy and ordinance points forward to one great culminating sacrificial act. And now the time has come when it is all brought expectantly to a focus on this one man, standing alone before God. What has he to offer? Only a complete self-surrender - only the utmost possible - could fittingly fulfil the requirements of the case. Anything short of perfection would hopelessly lower the plane upon which eternal salvation was being developed. Anything short of perfection was failure.
What a weight for mortal man to carry through thirty years of troubled life, never free from the burden of the world's redemption. This was the sacrifice called for - ceaseless vigilance and struggle - the issue constantly in the balance.
Only our utmost efforts at self-discipline and self-transformation can justify our dependence upon this man's mediatorship and friendship.
We have no perfection to offer, but we are asked to give all that we have. To give less would be to mock his suffering, and belittle the seriousness of the condition that made it necessary. *
4 For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law:
Paul has already shown that one must arise according to a new and different priesthood. He has shown this from the references to Melchisedec who was a priest, but not of the Mosaic order. And the Messiah is to be a "priest after the order of Melchisedec." Now Paul goes further to show that this new order couldn't fit into the old Mosaic system. The main point he is establishing all through the Hebrews is that everything connected with the Law of Moses ritual is done away and no longer operative-replaced by something immeasurably better.
The Jews Difficulty
It was difficult for the Jews who had become Christians to realize that that which had been ordained by God and had been the centre of their national life for one thousand five hundred years should be changed. The Law was ingrained into their very nature. The whole life of the Jew was built upon it from the day of his birth.
To see the Truth concerning the end of the Law required tremendous independence of mind. It meant going directly in the face of all the established thought and authority of the nation. It meant taking the time and trouble to study and learn his own Scriptures to the point of being able to stand up confidently against the experts, rather than the easy way of accepting handed-down interpretations. It meant above all things thinking-really thinking-for himself. Very, very few have ever been willing to do that and stand by it.
But Paul takes it point by point. Here is a new and superior order of priesthood foretold in their own Scriptures. But is it still possible for them to cling to some of the old order? No, says Paul, it all must go. No new patches on an old garment. No half measures.
This new high priest - if he were here on earth - could not fit into the old system. There was no provision in that system for him. The Law would disqualify him from priestly service. Clearly then an end of the Law was contemplated by God, as Paul points out in Heb. 7:12-
"For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law."
This mysterious Melchisedec, irremovably rooted in the Jewish Scriptures at two vital points - the records of Abraham and David - is Paul's strongest lever in overturning the Jewish conception of the eternal supremacy and unchangeability of their Law. Melchisedec undeniably Abraham's superior - David's great son to be of the Melchisedec order. *
6 But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.
7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.
8 For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:
God did not intend the Hebrew commonwealth to exist perpetually under the Sinaitic constitution. Israel was not always to be in bondage to the law of Moses. A great revolution was predetermined of God which should result in the abolition of the Arabian covenant, and the dispersion of Israel among the nations. This is allegorically styled, "casting out the bondwoman and her son;" which was necessary for the good and all-sufficient reason, that the Sinaitic constitution was not adapted for the people and state when Christ should sit upon the throne of His father David, and the saints should possess the kingdom.
The law of Moses enjoined ordinances concerning the flesh, such as " the water of separation" (Numb. 19; Heb. 9:3), which would be quite incompatible with the realities of the age to come. Under the law there was "a remembrance again of sins every year" (Heb.10:3); but under the new constitution from heaven, "the sins and iniquities of the people will be remembered no more" (Jer 31:31-34).
The Sinaitic constitution was faulty; it was therefore necessary that it should give place to a better, which shall be established on better promises (Heb. 8:2,7). Hence, the bondwoman was to be cast out, to make room for a more perfect arrangement of the commonwealth.
Since the expulsion of Israel by the Romans, Jerusalem and her children are in the situation of Hagar and her son, while wandering in the wilderness of Beersheba. She is divorced from the Lord as Hagar was from Abraham, and "being desolate, she sits upon the ground" (Gen. 21:1), and bewails her widowhood (Isaiah 3:26).
But, there is to be "a restitution of all things." Jerusalem is to become a free woman as Sarah was; and to take her stand in the midst of the earth, as "the city whose architect and builder is God." She will then "remember the reproach of her widowhood no more. For her Maker will be her Husband; the Lord of Hosts is His name; and her Redeemer the Holy One of Israel (even Jesus) the God of the whole earth shall He be called.
She will then be the metropolis of the world, and her citizens, or children, will be more numerous than those she rejoiced in under the law, as a married wife. The period of her glory will have arrived; the twelve tribes be again the united, peaceful, and joyous, inhabitants of the land; the "greater than Solomon," their King; and His city, "the heavenly Jerusalem," which "is free, and the mother of us all."
Elpis Israel 2.2.
What could be plainer than these words of Jeremiah to which he refers? Had they never considered what they meant? Were not the Scriptures read every Sabbath in the synagogue, and every day in the home?
They said, "We can't be wrong. We read the Scriptures constantly. We are familiar with what's there." But how easy to read it and accept it without getting the faintest idea what it means! All Jewish study and learning was about the Scriptures. There were doubtless many who practically knew them by heart, and the books of commentary were legion. These words of Jeremiah which Paul quoted would not be new to them-
"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with them in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt."
"Well," Paul says, "what does that mean? How does that fit in with your view of the case? What is the "rest that remaineth" which David referred to long after the Israelites entered the Promised Land? Who is the priest of the Melchisedec order? What is the new covenant? And doesn't a new covenant necessarily make the old obsolete?"
These questions would be annoyingly uncomfortable to those who were thoughtlessly content with the old and did not want to be disturbed. But they would be intensely satisfying and interesting to the few real thinkers among them who hungered and thirsted for divine knowledge and wisdom. These inspired teachings of Paul would be like a discovery of hidden treasure-as if someone had at last opened a locked door which had been for ages the object of reverent hope and wonder. These were the things the angels desired to look into, and these questions Paul propounded, and undertook to answer, would have been topics of conversation among the godly through all the previous ages.
To some, as he said, he was a savour of death unto death; to others of life unto life. It all depended on how they reacted to his message. It all depended upon how deep their knowledge of divine purposes and principles went. The obvious lesson, of course, is to be sure we redeem the time and get ourselves well grounded and deeply rooted. That is our only defense. With a poor knowledge of the Bible, we are just empty lamps ridiculously pretending to be brighter than all the world's great luminaries. But with a good knowledge of the Bible we are the light of the world.
There are no short cuts to a good knowledge of the Bible, and no excuses for a lack of it. If a desire to continually know more about God and His Word is not our primary object in life, then our whole profession is a mockery. Our characters are made up of the things that fill our hearts and minds and attention. If these things are personalities, or trivialities, or temporalities-then our characters are small and empty and stunted, totally unfit for the great things God has in store. We shall never be any better or bigger than the things that fill our minds.
We are therefore continually exhorted to set our minds and attentions on the things that are above. Such are the matters Paul treats of in writing to the Hebrews. How much do we know and understand about them? They were recorded so that by continual meditation upon them we could empty our minds of chaff and rubbish, and gradually transform them from fleshly to spiritual.
It is so easy to deceive ourselves into the idea that others know more of the Scriptures because their memory is better. But we don't have any trouble remembering the things we are interested in-they crowd into our minds without any effort. Just listen to the things people habitually talk about, and see how wonderfully well-versed they are in them, and what marvelous memories they have in certain directions.
9 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.
v 8-11 Paul quotes the prophecy, not to show that it was fulfilled, but to prove that the Mosaic being imperfect, a new covenant was to supersede it; and secondly, to demonstrate that the new one "perfected for ever them that are sanctified" by the blood of it, so that there was no occasion for a repetition of offerings for sin as under the old.
It is strange that men in the face of glaring facts to the contrary can venture to affirm that this prophecy is fulfilled. How could the New Covenant be made with the House of Israel on Pentecost, when instead of being in Palestine, it was beyond Parthia in a scattered condition?
There were Israelites there from the Caspian countries; but to admit individuals of a nation to the privileges of a covenant afterwards to be made with a whole body politic, is not making it with that nation. Though many Jews submitted to the faith, and had the laws of God written on their hearts by the Holy Spirit received, the House of Judah positively rejected the covenant, because it was offered to them in the name of Jesus, with whose blood it was testified it had been purged.
Then again, the apostolic age was not the time proposed in the prophecy for its national acceptance. "After those days" I will put my laws in them, &c., are the words. After what days? "The days come," says God that I will do so and so. But when will these coming days in which he is doing the things promised be? After the "those days" alluded to in the twenty-ninth verse. Let us produce the testimony.
"Behold, the days come, saith Yahweh, that I will sow the House of Israel and the House of Judah with the seed of man, and with the seed of beast. And it shall come to pass that like as I have watched over them to pluck up, and to break down, and to throw down, and to destroy, and to afflict; so will I watch over them to build, and to plant, saith Yahweh. In those days they shall say no more, "The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children's teeth are set on edge. But every man shall die for his own iniquity."
After those days of building and planting the New Covenant is to be made with the two houses; when, as Ezekiel testifies, "they shall be two kingdoms no more at all," but one united nation under the second David, who shall be their King and Prince forever.
...But, granting that the New Covenant was made with the two houses on the aforesaid Pentecost, we inquire, do those who contend for this mean to say, that Yahweh then put his laws in their inward parts, and wrote it in their hearts? If they say "yes," then we demand the proof, for we have neither experience nor testimony of the fact; and can have none, we add, so long as the twelve tribes reject the claims of Jesus. If, on the other hand, they say, "God hath not placed his law there yet;" then we object that he has not yet made the covenant with them, because when he does, this will be the result according to the word.
Mystery of the Covenant of the Holy Land explained
12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.
Such, however, was not the case in the Mosaic Age. The offerings were neither perfect, pure, nor pleasant to Yahweh. They were imperfect, not having been perfected by the expiation they typified; but keeping up a remembrance of unpardoned offences every year. This will not be the case with the perfect offerings of the Age to Come. These will not be remembrancers of transgressions unforgiven; but memorials of pardon through the sacrifice of Messiah the Prince.
There is no day of annual atonement in the future age. Israel's offences are blotted out once for all as a thick cloud when the New Covenant is made with them on their re-settlement in the Holy Land when that age begins; a forgiveness of national offences which lasts for ever.
Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, Dec 1854
13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.
The kingdom could not be restored again to Israel under the Mosaic code. This had "decayed, and waxed old, and was ready to vanish away" (Heb. 8:13). It was to be "cast down to the ground," the daily sacrifice was to be taken away, and the temple and city to be demolished, by the Little Horn of the Goat, or Roman power" (Dan. 8:9, 12, 24 ; 9:26).
Elpis Israel 1.2.