Epistle to the Hebrews (9:1-5)   Leave a comment

Epistle to the HebrewsThat first covenant between God and Israel had regulations for worship and a place of worship here on earth.There were two rooms in that Tabernacle. In the first room were a lampstand, a table, and sacred loaves of bread on the table. This room was called the Holy Place.Then there was a curtain, and behind the curtain was the second room called the Most Holy Place. In that room were a gold incense altar and a wooden chest called the Ark of the Covenant, which was covered with gold on all sides. Inside the Ark were a gold jar containing manna, Aaron’s staff that sprouted leaves, and the stone tablets of the covenant. Above the Ark were the cherubim of divine glory, whose wings stretched out over the Ark’s cover, the place of atonement. But we cannot explain these things in detail now.” Hebrews 9:1-5

Reading the first few verses of this chapter appear to us as the book of Leviticus – with so many boring regulations. In a certain sense, the Epistle is like the conclusion of the book of Leviticus. The book of Leviticus showed us so many rules and regulations that new believers would yawn at reading them. The author is actually pointing out that under the old covenant there were so many regulations for worship. Is not that discouraging to be surrounded by laws and not be free to worship God? On earth we have buildings call churches or “places of worship”. But under the old covenant there was only the tabernacle for the Israelites in Jerusalem. We Christians can worship God wherever we are in our spirit. There’s not really a dedicated place for worship, our heart is itself the temple of the Holy Spirit. Note well that it’s not the author’s objective to explain in detail what the loaves, lampstand etc were used for. The authors are in fact saying “But we cannot explain these things in detail now“.

Aaron’s staff that sprouted, the golden jar manna, the stone tablets reminded the miracles God did to get the Israelites out of Egypt to Canaan. All these are very significant for the Jews and were kept safely in a holy place. As mentioned earlier the design of the tabernacle and the cherubim of divine glory stretching out their wings were a shadow of the actual tabernacle in heaven. In heaven there’re actually angels surrounding God’s throne like that. It will take too much time to go through each item mentioned in the first 5 verses. I’ll pick up the veil for extrapolation since the authors  of the gospels kept some space for it in their writings.

The veil or curtain.

The veil separated the Most Holy place from the rest of the holy places in the temple. This veil was made of many layers of cloth(2m thickness). The Most Holy place was actually where God manifested His presence and where the High Priest feared to tread once a year on the Day of atonement(Exodus 30:10). God’s presence was therefore shielded from the eyes of sinful men. God wanted man to have fellowship with Him but this proximity ended at the veil. The high priest himself had to offer a sacrifice for himself before presenting himself to God there. The day of atonement was therefore a solemn moment for the Jews.

Why was the veil torn when Jesus died?

Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit. At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart,and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead. They left the cemetery after Jesus’ resurrection, went into the holy city of Jerusalem, and appeared to many people.The Roman officerand the other soldiers at the crucifixion were terrified by the earthquake and all that had happened. They said, “This man truly was the Son of God!” Mat 27:50

Do you think this curtain of 2 meters thickness got torn just by luck? Let’s go through Exodus 26:1

Make the tabernacle with ten curtains of finely twisted linen and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, with cherubim worked into them by a skilled craftsman. All the curtains are to be the same size—twenty-eight cubits long and four cubits wide.Join five of the curtains together, and do the same with the other five. Make loops of blue material along the edge of the end curtain in one set, and do the same with the end curtain in the other set. Make fifty loops on one curtain and fifty loops on the end curtain of the other set, with the loops opposite each other. Then make fifty gold clasps and use them to fasten the curtains together so that the tabernacle is a unit.”

The temple at Jesus’ time probably had a different curtain but it more or less resembled the one in Exodus. If the veil was not really torn, anyone in this era could have argued against what was written by the gospel writers. Let’s think about it, the veil of the Most Holy place is very symbolical and it would not have gone unnoticed if this veil was not actually torn. Anyone could have said “Hey dude, you gotta be kidding, can’t you see the veil hanging over there?”

Anyone could have said that bodies of the godly men were never raised from the dead and discredit what the gospel writers said. One great missionary in my country once said that it was as if some turbulence occurred in the dead’s resting place when Jesus died. An earthquake occurred and dead people rose from the dead when the immortal Son of God went down there to preach repentance to those who died in their sins(1 Peter 3:19, 4:6)!

Take a ream of paper and try to tear it. No matter how strong you are I bet you’ll not be able to tear even an inch of this ream. It required mighty strength to tear down this thick veil. God Almighty Himself tore down this veil!  But wait, was not God himself strict on putting this veil and hiding His presence from sinful men? Yeah but at the instant Jesus died the old covenant and all its laws became obsolete. What do you do when a contract is no longer valid, huh? You tear it down, right? Jesus established a new covenant and God almighty no longer dwelt in the temple but in the heart of His people through the Holy Spirit He promised. Emmanuel, God with us is now living in our hearts. This is a mystery that God dwells in the heart of mere human beings.

This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.” Col 1:26

The door has now been opened to non-Jews and the destruction of the temple of Solomon did not decrease worship to God. It’s destruction by the Romans in AD 70 confirmed that this temple was no longer needed since God was no longer dwelling in it. God’s dwelling place was only on Jewish land and people from the whole world had to go to the holy land, Jerusalem to worship.

Remember what Jesus said to the Samaritan woman?

Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem.You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews.But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way.For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” John 4:21

The veil reminded sinful man that there is a separation between them and the Holy God. The removal of the veil proved that this separation was removed. No more barriers between God and man. Why? Because of the perfect sacrifice of Jesus.

Dear friend, look at what Jesus did:

And so, dear brothers and sisters,we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death,Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.” Hebrews 10:19

Enter boldly! No more fear! Remember that Uzza died on the spot when he touched the ark (1 Chr 13) ? When I read that even an animal had to be stoned if it came near mount Sinai, I feared God’s holiness and presence.

Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, ‘Be careful that you do not approach the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain is to be put to death.They are to be stoned or shot with arrows; not a hand is to be laid on them. No person or animal shall be permitted to live.’ Only when the ram’s horn sounds a long blast may they approach the mountain.” Ex 19:12

But what Jesus did is marvelous.He did not just open the door to earth’s tabernacle but He opened the door to God’s dwelling place in heaven- the Most Holy Place!

Yes this is where we should go, bow down and worship. Do not fear going there for Jesus is with you.  He’ll bring you there to worship God. This is the place Jesus went to prepare for us. Are not we priests of the living God (1 Peter 2:9)?

He said “Here I am with the children I purchased by my blood. Open heaven’s tabernacle for them to worship the Mighty and Holy God!”.

In Hebrews 2:13 Jesus said :

And again,‘I will put my trust in him.’And again he says,‘Here am I, and the children God has given me.’

If Jesus who is God brings us in the most Holy Place, why fearing to worship in this place? The veil is torn my friend. There is NOTHING now which stands as a barrier between God and you lest sin dwells in you. What can you ask more? Jesus is the One who rules over God’s house. So run there with a heart of worship!

The blood of the new covenant makes us whole and guarantees our sanctification.

For this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.” Mat 26:28

Here’s a pertinent song to this theme:

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Posted January 27, 2013 by Cedric in Theology

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