Jesus: The Instigator of the New Covenant
How many of you all have been told by someone else, “There’s a better way to do that” or “There’s a faster way to do that”? I know that I’ve been on the receiving end of this statement several times and sometimes it’s a little frustrating! Maybe you have a system that you’ve always used to go about filing important information. You have copies of receipts and documents and you have a complex organization system with folders and filing cabinets. For you, this works because it’s how you were trained or simply what makes sense in your mind. For someone who is more tech minded, this “old” way makes zero sense. Why would you have an entire filing cabinet worth of documents and have to dig through them and print copies off every so often whenever you could have them all saved on your desktop on your computer? There can be debate here because some of you might not be big into technology and computers and your way might make the most sense in your brain, however what cannot be debated is that you can store more information in a computer than you can a filing cabinet.
Consider how much technology has advanced in the realm of phones. Some of you were alive before people had these things called smart phones - this is a shock to our younger generation! But it’s true! Some of you had landlines where you shared your line with a neighbor. Again, this makes no sense to people under the age of 25 because we all have cell phones. But think of how the phone has changed over the decades. Originally houses had a landline and you might have a bag phone in your car but it would take up a large amount of space. In time, though, houses had their own landline (many houses don’t even have a landline anymore) and people replaced bag phones with cell phones. We have changed and new things have replaced older ones. Consider the computers that helped the Apollo 11 mission. They were the IBM System 360/Model 75s computers. They were nearly the size of a car and they were $3.5 million each! Their core memory (storage) capacity was 250,000 bytes. That might sound like a lot if you’re not very tech savvy, however in today’s terms that is laughably small. I bought a MacBook Pro several months ago and it has 512 GB of storage capacity. That comes out to be 550 Quadrillion bytes. A single MacBook Pro has the same storage capacity as 2.2 Trillion of the IBM computers that helped land our astronauts on the moon in 1969.
Sometimes newer isn’t better, other times it is. We know that there are some new things that aren’t good, but we also see that sometimes new things are incredible improvements and upgrades over the past. Last night Star Wars: The Phantom Menace was playing on TV and I, being a Star Wars fan, watched about 15 minutes of it before watching some baseball. The Phantom Menace came out nearly 20 years ago and if you watch it today and compare it to the latest Star Wars film, the Rise of Skywalker, that came out a little more than a year ago you would be amazed to see the advancement in graphics and computer animation. In the book of Hebrews the preacher has been talking about the New Covenant being superior to the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant was not perfect because the people did not uphold their responsibility. God did not make a mistake, the Jews failed time and time again. Because of this, we see throughout Scripture that a new covenant is coming. The prophets whispered about it hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth and we have the benefit of living thousands of years after His resurrection! We see that the New Covenant is superior for several reasons and we will look at 3 specifically in our text today.
1 Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, 2 a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man. 3 For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; so it is necessary that this high priest also have something to offer. 4 Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law; 5 who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, “See,” He says, “that you make all things according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.” 6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. 8 For finding fault with them, He says, “Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, When I will effect a new covenant With the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; 9 Not like the covenant which I made with their fathers On the day when I took them by the hand To lead them out of the land of Egypt; For they did not continue in My covenant, And I did not care for them, says the Lord. 10 “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel After those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds, And I will write them on their hearts. And I will be their God, And they shall be My people. 11 “And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen, And everyone his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ For all will know Me, From the least to the greatest of them. 12 “For I will be merciful to their iniquities, And I will remember their sins no more.” 13 When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.
A Superior Priest (1-2)
A Superior Priest (1-2)
The preacher has spent 7 chapters to arrive at what we see here in Hebrews 8:1. The people need help - they need a new covenant, a great high priest, a perfect sacrifice and a new priesthood. The first 7 chapters have shown us the reasons why there is a need for something new. Finally in Hebrews 8:1 there is an answer, Jesus Christ is the perfect answer and solution to these problems. He is the high priest, He is the perfect sacrifice, He is the instigator of the New Covenant and His priesthood knows no end! This is great news! Friends, just as people were in desperate need of a Savior thousands of years ago, we are equally in need of a Savior today! The answer found throughout Scripture is that Jesus Christ is the only way and the only solution to our problems!
The preacher writes that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the throne. We talked about this last week in Hebrews 7:26 as Jesus is exalted above the heavens, He serves in a way that the earthly priests could never serve! The priests of old had a specific timeframe (their lives) where they served in the temple. They were born of the tribe of Levi and they fulfilled their obligations from one generation to the next. Think of how Jesus is superior here. He is of a different tribe and His work continues as He is interceding on our behalf right now! Paul talks about this in Philippians 2
8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,
Christ, the eternal Son of God, humbled himself and became a man. We can’t even imagine the humility that this took! Imagine a celebrity leaving their wealth, fame and possessions behind and going to a 3rd world country in order to build relationships with the natives and become a part of their culture. We would say that this person demonstrated a lot of humility to leave behind all of their worldly possessions and comforts in order to help a people group who is in need. The humility of Jesus Christ is infinitely greater to anything we can imagine on this side of heaven. The eternal Son of God humbled Himself to the point of death, even death on a cross - something that confused the Jews in the 1st century because of Deuteronomy 21:23 which says cursed is every man who hangs on a tree
23 his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.
Yet, Jesus was crucified, on a tree… This confused the Jews! How could the Messiah be cursed by God? Paul answers this objection in Galatians 3
13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—
The life and death of Jesus still confuse people today! For us as Christians, though, we take heart in Hebrews 8:1 and we see that Jesus is alive and He is reigning at the right hand of the Father. In the ancient world the king often sat in the middle or on his throne and the person to his right was the most powerful noble in the court. Christ’s position to the Father is similar. He is the most exalted and most powerful being in the universe. He is our mediator and still working in the throne room of heaven right now! And He is coming back again. He is our minister in the sanctuary and in the “true tabernacle” - what does this mean?
We know the term tabernacle appears throughout the Old Testament and it often refers to the tent where God met with His people. As the people wandered in the wilderness, they carried this tent with them and they would set it up as they traveled. You could say that man makes this tent and sets it up. Jesus, though, is our minister in the true tabernacle - in heaven. The earthly tabernacle and place of meeting with the Lord was set up by man but the true tabernacle in heaven is set up by the Lord. Again, Jesus is greater! His priesthood is greater and He serves as the superior and perfect priest!
A Superior Place (3-5)
A Superior Place (3-5)
Many of us have a place that we enjoy going to and a place that contains some history or good memories for us. For some of you that is grandma’s house. For other’s its your own home. For some maybe that is a favorite destination that you like going to either locally or in a different state! We have places that we like and they are significant to us. We also have places that we don’t necessarily like going. As a child, I was home schooled until 4th grade and in my first year of public school I didn’t know what on earth I was in for! About half way through the school year I witnessed a fight in the bathroom and told my teacher about it, not thinking of the ramifications of this decision. About 15 minutes later the intercom in the classroom came on and the assistant principal called me down to the front office to hear more about what happened! I nearly was sick to my stomach because I was a rule follower and never would have imagined that I’d get called to the office. I could think of a million other places that I would have rather been in that moment than there.
The preacher of Hebrews talks about two different places in verses 3-5. He notes that the high priest had to offer sacrifices and that “this high priest” was no different. We understand this point because we know that blood is so important for sacrifices and we know that the blood of Jesus washes us white as snow. We’re good with verse 3 but verse 4 is kind of confusing. “If He were on earth He would not be a priest at all” - what does this mean? Christ does not fit the mold of a typical Old Testament priest for several reasons that we’ve already talked about in Hebrews 7 as He is of the order of Melchizedek rather than the order of Aaron. Jesus is of the tribe of Judah - not the priestly tribe of Levi. Jesus is not like these earthly priests who ministered in the temple, Jesus ministers in the heavenly tabernacle and He brings about a superior offering!
Check out what verse 5 says, the Old Testament priests serve as a copy and a shadow of the heavenly things. How do you think these Jewish Christians would have reacted to this message? They probably would have been pretty hostile! They would have been comfortable in the temple. They would have liked the old systems in the past. But the New Testament repeatedly talks about how the tabernacle is a shadow of something else. It had a purpose to display the glory and holiness of God while also pointing ahead to something far greater. Do you see the Christocentric nature of the Old Testament now? The old way was a shadow, Jesus is the substance. It’s all pointing ahead to Jesus Christ! Leviticus and Numbers can be a little dry for some people and if you every do a yearly Bible reading plan that is runs from Genesis to Revelation like many people do, you’ll have to really motivate yourself at the end of January because those books are difficult to get through, but whenever you see that they are pointing ahead to the perfect priest and the perfect tabernacle they make more sense.
The final portion of verse 5 tell us of the importance of the earthly tabernacle. There was a pattern that Moses was to follow when building it. There are sometimes where there is a grey area in Scripture and there is some liberty in understanding how we are to respond, Exodus 25-26 are not such places. God goes into great detail in telling Moses how to build the tabernacle.
9 Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.
There is a pattern here. God is specific. The preacher notes that the earthly tabernacle, as specific and special as it was, is merely a copy of the heavenly tabernacle. To the Jews, this would have been a tough pill to swallow. The Temple was the center of Jerusalem and you couldn’t imagine Jewish life without the temple! Even though the temple was essential to Jewish life, it was nothing more than a copy of the superior place of worship in heaven.
I love what Martyn Lloyd Jones says in his sermon on Hebrews 8:1-5 about this very idea.
“We exalt philosophy and speculation and human thinking. What man thinks, what man says- that has been the approach. Is it not surprising that we are in utter confusion… There is only 1 thing for us to do: come back to the pattern shown in Scripture.”
Do you trust in your own opinions, speculations and thoughts or do you trust in the God of the Bible? Jesus ministers as the superior priest and He ministers in a superior place: the heavenly tabernacle!
A Superior Promise (6-13)
A Superior Promise (6-13)
In Scripture there are several times where there is bad news followed by good news. Sometimes we see two words in between that completely change our story and give us hope! Ephesians 2 comes to mind as Paul notes that we were dead in our sins and we walked according to this world but God, being rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ! Genesis 50:20, “You meant this for evil, but God intended this for good.” Where we sometimes see a mess of things, God uses that mess to bring about His glory - Romans 8 shares with us that He uses all things to work together for the good of those who love God. This is a promise that you can take to the bank, friends! God is working and even when it might not seem like He is, we trust His Word and we rest in His promises.
Here in Hebrews 8 we see another such example of bad news followed by good news and a “but” separating the two. The Old Covenant sacrifices done in the tabernacle by priests were fine, but now there is something even greater - there is an excellent ministry and a better covenant mediated by none other than Jesus Christ and it is founded upon better promises. What are these better promises?
The preacher quotes out of Jeremiah 31 in Hebrews 8:8-12 and we see that hundreds of years before the birth and life of Jesus, it was prophesied that there would be a New Covenant and it would be superior to the Old. Why was this necessary, though? Again, the Old Covenant had flaws, according to Hebrews 8:7. If it would have been faultless then there would have been no need for a New one, but verse 8 says “finding fault with them, He says...”
The law kept pointing to something greater because it was impossible for the people to keep the law perfectly. This is still the case for us today! I know some really good people who have broken the law and have had to pay the consequences for their actions. You all have broken the law as well. We have broken the laws of our nation and the Bible is clear that we all have broken God’s law and there must be a punishment for this. Some people object and say, “Why can’t God just forgive everyone and wipe the slate clean? After all, He’s God!” This argument stems from a misconception of the nature of God. God is love - amen! But God is also holy and just. God’s holiness means that He cannot be in the presence of sin. He is separated from it. God’s justness means that He cannot let a violation go unpunished. There must be proper atonement and forgiveness. For God to forgive without there being a punishment would mean that God would by definition be unjust. There had to be something new and this is what the Old Testament talks about throughout generations!
Let’s look at what the prophet Jeremiah said about this new covenant: Right from the get go we see in verse 8 that the Lord says, “I will effect a New Covenant.” With the house of Israel and the house of Judah - what happened in the kingdom after the death of King Solomon? The kingdom split into 2 parts (Israel in the north and Judah in the south). What this covenant notes is this is applied to all the Jews. As Paul talks about in Romans 11, Gentiles are grafted into this promise and this covenant as well. We see I appear a lot in these verses and we see the nature of this covenant. This is not something bartered back and forth or man’s offer to God - no, this is God’s covenant that He brings about! It is “new” - the Old Covenant, in verse 9, was made with the ancestors of these Jews and even though God provided and led them, the Jews did not obey. The new covenant, in verse 10 will be written on their hearts.
Let’s compare and contrast real quickly. How is the New Covenant written? On our hearts. How were the 10 commandments written? On tablets of stone! This is a pretty cool difference! Doesn’t the Bible talk about how our hearts are wicked and deceitful above all things? Jeremiah himself said this in Jeremiah 17:9. So if God’s law is written on our hearts and our hearts are wicked and evil, how is this a good thing? Ezekiel helps answer this question
19 “And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh,
As a follower of Jesus Christ, the mediator of this new covenant, everything about you changes! You no longer live for yourself, you live for the glory of God. You not only care about your needs but for the needs of others. You are no longer in this by yourself, you are a part of a global family! Your old self and its heart of stone is gone! Your new self and its heart of flesh has come. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Are you a new creation today? Is your heart still cold and hardened to the truth of Scripture or have your eyes been opened? Friends, Jesus changes everything and this is the promise of the New Covenant - we can’t do this on our own, we require a savior. Praise God, the Bible says that Christ is in fact that savior, He is that high priest, He is the Messiah who cried out, “It is finished” - I paid it all.
If you are in Christ, as Romans 8:1 declares, there is therefore now no condemnation! Hebrews 8:12 tells us that God is merciful to our sins and He will not remember them anymore. Again, how can this be the case? How can God be completely just and holy and “not remember our sins”? Because the debt has been paid in full. Think for a moment about a couple in marriage counseling where there have been some serious challenges in recent months. The wife says, “Well I can forgive but I cannot forget what my husband has done.” Have you ever noticed that whenever we try to forget something, especially something that hurt us, we keep on remembering it? Forgiveness does not entail forgetting what happened. To forget means “not to hold it against the person who has wronged us.” We can remember what was done, but we treat them as if they never did it. We don’t hold it over their head like many people often do in relationships! How can God “forget” our sins? Because of the cross. On the cross of Calvary, every sin was laid upon Jesus Christ and God’s wrath was poured out upon Jesus Christ.
21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
We experience true, undeserved, forgiveness because of what Jesus has done for us. As Christians, who experience this forgiveness, what is our excuse for not forgiving others? We can’t use the, “well she said this thing that really hurt my feelings” or the “he was a jerk and did something dumb” lines and claim the high ground. Think of your sin before a holy God who forgives you in full. We often see stories on the news about a tragedy occuring, perhaps a drunk driver who kills a little baby girl or a teenage boy and the parents, sometimes, note that they forgive the person who took their child’s life. How on earth can someone forgive like this? Because they have experienced the life changing forgiveness that can only come from Jesus Christ and being forgiven of our sins in the eyes of a holy God. We are forgiven to forgive!
This is the new covenant. It is not written on tablets of stone, it’s written on our hearts. The old covenant, as verse 13 tells us, served its function and now there is something new. The old covenant was temporary and earthly, the new covenant is eternal and our high priest carries our His work not in an earthly tabernacle but in the heavenly one - as we will look at in Hebrews 9 in the coming weeks.
In reading Hebrews 8:12, there is a feeling of peace and rest that comes from God. Have you experienced that peace in your own life? If you have not, I sincerely pray that today something might have clicked and that you would do business with God right now.
Are you feeling convicted because of your sin this morning due to the holiness and mercy of God? That’s a good thing! We are called to repent of our sins and place our faith completely in Jesus Christ.
The Lord is merciful and we have an obligation to share that mercy, forgiveness and grace with others as well as members of the kingdom of God.
As one Christian songwriter puts it: “We stood ‘neath a debt we could never afford. Our sins they are many, His mercy is more.”
The old has gone, the new has come. The Gospel changes everything! Has it changed your life today?