The Good Old Days

Hebrews 9:1-10

A. Introduction v.1

Symbols

preoccupied with them, because lazy? Sometimes for safety, convenience – symbol fits where words don’t. People in old days didn’t mind using words, people today more accustomed / conditioned to images. Important things to consider re: symbols – how will they relate to future generations? will they still have meaning? same meaning? And will it still be politically correct to use them – e.g., sports team symbols; flags; rainbows; etc.

Some intended to be temporary, others have enduring qualities. Symbol of floppy disk has lost its significance. Symbol of the cross never will. Symbolism and ritual central part of worship under old covenant. Yet during that period, God made it plain change was coming. Jesus himself addressed subject of worship throughout earthly ministry, especially on two occasions.

Rituals

Read – John 2:13-19 “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” At his trial, then scoffers at Calvary ridiculed him for saying that. John, from later perspective clarified… v.21: “But He was speaking of the temple of His body.” Somehow, place of worship would be different, not limited to “brick and mortar” on a hill in Jerusalem. Shortly after, Jesus expanded that idea further.

Read – John 4:19-24 New covenant worship would differ in more than just location – “neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem”. Time was near “when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth”. Would be different kind of worship, still ordained by God – “the Father is seeking such to worship Him”.

new covenant better than old… in these ways

old covenant had its symbols, had its rituals, not of man’s invention but because God ordained; were exactly right for what God intended… at that time, for his people

structure of place of worship was intentional – starting w/chapter 25 of Exodus, with words / measurements / pictures, God instructed Moses precisely what expected for tabernacle

same true for furniture, accessories, utensils; included recipe for incense, details for priestly garments, tablecloth, quantity of ingredients for bread

and then the rituals: Levites have this responsibility, priests those duties, high priest these privileges; will be done at this time, these days, this way

no matter anything else, everything under old covenant was good – no comparison, even though we are relieved was all for then not now, was good and right for then

and is good and right for us to have detailed record of then as proper foundation for now; even though we have real deal now, shadows and pictures helpful teachers’ aids

shouldn’t want to go back to the old, shouldn’t want to throw it away either; God has graciously included in Bible… so we can know Jesus better

B. the earthly sanctuary v.2-5

structure

outer and inner rooms – holy place, holy of holies

already inside an enclosure, come through gate into courtyard – distinct and separate from world around, yet entrance by way of brazen altar (altar of burnt offering)

sacrifice, reminder of sin necessary for proper approach to worship – couldn’t just waltz in, give God high five

but wait, not there yet: still in courtyard, must pass by laver – yes, sacrifice is necessary and good, not effectual for cleansing; still need to wash before entering house of worship

shadows and hints of Lord Jesus – the one who would be in view of all the people, the real sacrifice once for all for forgiveness of sin, whose blood would wash us, cleanse us from our sins

first and second curtain

structure itself not wide open for public view – several layers of covering over top and sides, making it a tent; under the tent another enclosure divided in two compartments / rooms

entrance into tabernacle proper from outer courtyard through a curtain or veil; separated holy place from outside courtyard

then, beyond that, another second veil shielding innermost room – Holy of Holies or Most Holy Place or Holiest of All from all the rest

even if allowed, only small percentage of total population could even fit at one time: courtyard 1/4 acre, only slightly larger than parking area; tent would fit inside sanctuary with room to spare; one worship space, for 1 mil. people

gives new meaning to fellowship, doesn’t it! sabbath worship didn’t look same in Moses’ day as now, but don’t lose sight of this: it truly symbolized presence of God among his people as they camped around it

outer room furnishings

lampstand

inside the worship space proper, out of view of the world, with tapestry over top and reflected in polished gold walls images belonging to heaven – “curtains of fine twisted linen and blue and purple and scarlet; you are to make them with cherubim that are the work of an artistic designer.” (Ex. 26:1)

provided light for activities inside holy place, constantly supplied oil – if things inside this space have spiritual significance, cannot expect natural light to be sufficient

table and showbread

fellowship and nourishment – something we Baptists seem to understand well! Fellowship dinner, fellowship around table, makes perfect sense to us; would also to those in the Holy Place

loaves of bread – 12 loaves picturing 12 tribes being represented before God; along with wine and oil on the table, provided meal for priests on the Sabbath

inner room furnishings

behind the second veil – the place that above all others represented the dwelling place of God himself, the meeting place between God and man: Ex. 25:22 “There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.”

golden censer (Leviticus 16:12-13)

not the altar of incense described in the wrong place; that really is in the outer room; this is something different:

“Then he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from the altar before the LORD, with his hands full of sweet incense beaten fine, and bring it inside the veil. And he shall put the incense on the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of incense may cover the mercy seat that is on the Testimony, lest he die.”

so why the censer, not the altar in description here? is talking about tabernacle, one day each year, Day of Atonement – Yom Kippur, when High Priest is actually inside Holy of Holies

incense cloud representing prayers of intercession, pleading with God that he accept the sacrifice and extend mercy

ark of the covenant (with contents)

contained the covenant “documents”, the two tablets, defining God’s relationship with his people; pot with manna, reminding of God’s provision for his people; Aaron’s rod, showing God would supply a line of priests to serve his people

cherubim and mercy seat

the cover with angels pointing to glory of God, forming seat of his throne when he was present with his people

significance… briefly!

writer setting up parallel between earthly tabernacle under old covenant when High Priest was carrying out most sacred service… and heavenly sanctuary where our present High Priest is serving

when Jesus was in the world, was light of the world; now, he is light of life for us his people by his Spirit

we fellowship together around His table as Jesus meets with us and provides nourishment for our souls

Jesus is perfect Mediator and Intercessor bringing our prayers before the throne of His Father on our behalf, pleading his own sacrifice for his people

Jesus is one who has satisfied all requirements of the covenant in our place, is our bread of life, and is Priest forever supplied by God for us

Jesus himself is our mercy seat, our atoning sacrifice, the one who shields his people from consequences of breaking the law

C. ordinances of divine service v.6-8

the first part (6)

ordinances or services that needed to be performed in both areas of the tent – notice carefully who went inside the first part: the priests… not the worshipers, not even in sight of the worshipers

average believer restricted to the courtyard, could not actively participate in rituals associated with fellowship and prayer and nourishment; could not receive spiritual benefit of that kind of closeness to God’s presence

the second part (7-8)

notice again who goes inside the Holy of Holies – the High Priest… once a year… through the veil, with incense and blood – intercession and sacrifice

one in a million opportunity for that individual to meet with God – God’s presence obvious among his people, only directly communicated with one

D. symbolic for the present v.9-10

limited effectiveness – “cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper”

every time worshiper entered sacred area, were reminded by altar and laver of sin and need for sacrifice; could never rest, confident they were finally forgiven, their future secure

when we enter sanctuary, are reminded by cross of completed redemption – worship now with heart, soul, mind on which God’s laws are written

is spiritual worship from hearts and minds that truly belong to God, no longer requiring symbols and shadows

Those were good old days; had their place and use by God’s good design. We live in better days now – Jesus has come, has accomplished his work of redemption, is our Priest and Mediator, present by his Spirit among us. Best days stll to come, we will be present with him in that heavenly sanctuary, experiencing him and enjoying full fellowship with God forever.

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