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Worship In The Earthly Tabernacle
 (ch. 9:1-10)


Verse 1 speaks of the "first covenant."  It is interesting to know that the word "covenant" is not in the original Hebrew text as we have it.  Translators, or at least most, insert the word "covenant" because the rest of the verse speaks of regulations, which can only mean the regulations of the Old Covenant known as the Law of Moses.


Without going into detail, because the author himself says that he won't go into detail in verse 5, the first 5 verses of this chapter addresses the Old Testament tabernacle.  It had an outer court and then within the tent had two sections.  The two parts were divided by a curtain.  On one side of the curtain was the Holy Place; while on the other side was the Most Holy Place where the presence of God dwelt.  Only the high priest entered that room, and that was only once a year.  In all three areas of the tabernacle there were certain items that were used in the various aspects of the ceremonial functions that were demanded by the Law.


Over the years many have addressed the symbolism of all of these items in the tabernacle, and I do believe they are symbolic of a New Testament reality, but I won't speak to that here either.  


There is a problem in verse 4 when the author, or at least the NIV, states that the altar if incense was in the Most Holy Place.  That is not correct as seen in the Old Testament.  Many Bible teachers believe this is a mistranslation of the Septuagint that the author of Hebrews appears to be quoting.  What seems more likely is that the sensor that the high priests uses in the Holy of Holies once a year that he would have held in his hand is what the author is speaking of here.         


We should know that many people over the years have attempted to duplicate and build this tabernacle with little success.  Either we don't have all of the building instructions or else there is a misunderstanding of certain Hebrew words.  There were only about 5,000 words in the old Hebrew language.  That is not very many words and for this reason, translating from old Hebrew into English is very difficult.  We should not forget, just incase you are wondering about the inspiration of Scripture, that the orthodox view of Biblical inspiration is that only the original writings of the original authors are inspired.  Any translation is not considered inspired.         


In the following verses, the explanation of the tabernacle continues.  One thing to note in verse 7 is that it says that the High Priest had to take blood with him when he went into the most holy place once a year.  The shedding of blood is most important in relation to our standing before God.  The life of our body is found in blood.  Adam's sin brought death into the world.  Every cell, every molecule, became subject to death.  In scientific terms this is called "entropy," the Second Law of Thermal Dynamics.   To make things right God demanded that blood must be shed in order for man to be reconciled to Him.  That is why God Himself killed an animal to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve.  In the Old Testament, God said that animals were sufficient for the time being to atone for our sins; yet, animal blood would not satisfy God forever. 


The picture of the high priest going into the Most Holy Place with blood once a year is obviously a picture of what Jesus did for us.  The Old Testament rituals were symbolic of New Testament realities.  When Jesus shed His blood, and as it dripped down from the cross on to the ground, the real presentation of a blood sacrifice was offered to God.


It is interesting to note that the priests of old made sacrifices for the "sins of ignorance" as seen in verse 7.  Sins of ignorance mean sins that are committed unknowingly.  The priest did not make sacrifices for known sin, but for unknown sins only.  See Leviticus 4:2 and Numbers 15:24 to 31.  There was no sacrifice made for known sins.  This is where the Old Covenant fails.  The New Covenant is better because it covers intentional sins.   


In verse 8 the writer says that in the symbolism of the tabernacle the Holy Spirit was saying something to the people.  He was saying "that the way into the Most Holy place was not yet disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing."  This is New Testament thinking on the symbolism of the tabernacle.  It speaks to the Holy Spirit and His involvement in the New Covenant.     


Verse 9 begins by saying that "this is all an illustration."  That is what the Old Covenant in all of its various aspects was all about.  It was an illustration of the good things to come that can be found in Jesus.  An illusion is not the real thing.  It simply speaks to the real thing that it emulates.  The tabernacle, and really all of the Law of Moses, is an illusion.  It's not the real thing.  For this reason, the Law of Moses has been set aside for that which it is an illusion of.    


The writer goes on to say that all "the gifts and sacrifices could not clear the conscience of the worshiper."  That is not the case with the New Covenant.  One reason for this is because the sacrifices made for sins were for sins of ignorance.  Willing sins were not atoned for and thus the conscience of a person was still guilty. 


The fact is that Jesus has shed His blood and that God accepts His sacrifice.  When we trust Jesus to represent us before God as He does, God accepts us.  We, therefore, are no longer guilty as a result of any kind of sin we have committed.  As a result of this fact our conscience should no longer bother us and tell us that we are guilty and not accepted by God.  My conscience is free from and negative thinking.  It is free from any so-called guilty feelings, even though we should understand that guilt is not a feeling.  It is a position in which we stand before God our judge.  If as Christians our conscience still condemns us, then we do not properly understand the words and the teachings that are proclaimed here in the book of Hebrews.  Once understanding the gospel, we will have no problem with our conscience condemning ourselves.


The writer closes this section by telling us that all aspects of the Old Covenant were external to us.  They were only "a matter of food and drink and ceremonial washings" that were meant to predict a better future reality.  The intent of the New Covenant is internal, not external.  This is because God, through His Spirit, dwells in the lives of the real Christian.

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