STUDY Hebrews 8:1-6
(click here for notes)
The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man.
Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this once also to have something to offer. If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already men who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: "See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain." But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises. (NIV)
New Covenant Priest
In this section of Hebrews, the author of Hebrews is arguing that Jesus, the fulfillment of the Melchizedek priesthood, is the priest of a better covenant than the one the Israelites had. The writer bases his conclusions on an exposition of Jeremiah 31:31-34, the clearest and most specific prophecy of the New Covenant found in the Old Testament.
1. After detailing how Jesus is like Melchizedek, the author sums up Jesus' priesthood by saying, "We do have such a high priest" (v.1) What specific characteristics or qualifications define Jesus' priesthood? (Hebrews 2:17-18; 3:1-3; 4:14-15; 5:5-10; 7:26-28; 9:11-12)
2. What is the Majesty in heaven? (Mark 16:19; 15:62; Hebrews 1:3; 4:14)
3. We were taught that the heavenly sanctuary was the pattern for the Israelites' temple, complete with different compartments. To what does Hebrews teach the heavenly sanctuary corresponds? (Hebrews 9:11-12; 24)
Every high priest, says verse 3, had the job of offering gifts and sacrifices, and "it was necessary" for Jesus to have something to offer, too.
1. What were the Levitical priests' gifts and sacrifices, and what was their purpose? (Leviticus 16:13-15, 34; Hebrews 5:1; 9:7-10)
2. How did Jesus' sacrifice differ from the Levitical priests', and why was it necessary that Jesus have something to offer? (see Hebrews 7:25; 9:12, 14; 1 Peter 3:18; Ephesians 5:2)
3. Why would Jesus not be a priest "if he were on earth"?
4. What were the "gifts prescribed by law"? (see Hebrews 5:1; 9:9)
5. How do the "gifts prescribed by law" help to illustrate that the law and the Old Covenant were inadequate and needed replacing?(see Hebrews 9:8-10)
Copies, Shadows, and The Real Thing
The priests that offered "the gifts prescribed by the law" served at a sanctuary that was "a copy, and shadow of what is in heaven." (v.5)
1. What parts of the tabernacle and its ministry were "copies", and what were "shadows"? (see Hebrews 9:23; 11-12; 10:1; Col. 2:17)
2. What did the copies replicate or symbolize, and what did the shadows foretell?
3. If the details of the Old Covenant were only copies and shadows, why were they so important that Moses was "warned" not to deviate in any detail from "the pattern shown you on the mountain"? (see Exodus 25:40)
The Holy and the Most Holy
The Holy Place, where the priests could enter and serve, contained an acacia wood table covered in gold on which rested gold dishes. Also on this table were the twelve loaves of "showbread", or "the bread of the Presence" (Ex. 25:30). The golden, seven-branched lampstand also stood in the Holy Place as well as the altar of incense. All this was separated from the Most Holy (where only the High Priest could go) by a heavy curtain.
1. What did the showbread, or bread of the Presence, represent? (see Ex. 33:14-15; Lev. 24:5-9; Matt. 26:26; Luke 22:19; John 6:33, 35, 41, 48, 51)
2. What did the lampstand represent? (The same Greek word, lychnia, occurs in all of these texts: Hebrews 9:2; Revelation 1:12-13,20; 2:1, 5; 11:3-4. The Greek word lychos appears in these texts: Matt. 5:15; John 1:7; 5:35)
3. What did the priests (not the high priest) represent? (1 Peter 2:5, 9; Rev. 1:5b-6; 5:10; 10:6)
4. The use of incense acknowledged what? (Mal. 1:11)
5. What did incense often represent? (Psalm 141:2; Rev. 8:3)
6. What did the curtain separating the Holy from the Most Holy represent? (Hebrews 10:19-20)
The Most Holy Place contained the Ark of the Testimony, or Covenant, which housed the Ten Commandments underneath the "atonement cover" (Lev. 16:13), or "mercy seat".
1. Why was Aaron supposed to take a censor of incense into the Most Holy Place on the Day of Atonement? (Leviticus 16:12-13)
2. Why would Aaron die if he looked at the "atonement cover"?
3. Why were only Aaron and successive high priests allowed to enter the Most Holy Place, and who did the high priests represent?
4. What did the Ark of the Covenant and the tables of commandments represent? (see Jeremiah 31:33-34; Hebrews 8:7-13)
5. What are the "better promises" (v. 6) upon which the New Covenant is based? (Jeremiah 31:30-34)
1. Based on the texts and comparisons above, how did the tabernacle represent heavenly realities?
2. How are those heavenly realities different in the New Covenant?
3. What does it mean for you that you are a priest of God?
4. Who is in your life who needs your mediation of God's truth, mercy, and forgiveness?
1. What unresolved issues in your life need to be clarified by the light of truth and the atonement of Jesus?
2. What anxiety, fear, or habit in your life still feels as if it's "under the law" instead of covered by grace?
3. Of what is Jesus asking you to let go and submit to him? What do you fear will happen if you let go of this thing?
4. Ask Jesus to fill you with the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit.
Ask him to bear the burdens of your life's complications and arrangements.
Ask him to strengthen your trust, and let Jesus have the "messes"
that hold you in bondage. Accept his forgiveness and freedom, and trust
his love to hold those whom you give up to him.
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Studio, Redlands, CA USA. All rights reserved. Revised February 15, 2001.