Hebrews: The Death of the Old Law
Adult Bible Class, May 22 & 25 - Hebrews 9:1-17
I have always been impressed and amazed when reading about the building of the temple in the days of King Solomon. Just the efforts that went into collecting all that is precious here on earth (gold and silver, cedar wood, fine purple cloth) is impressive. I doubt that man has ever seen that much gold in one place ever since.
Then you come to the actual building of the temple. The skilled craftsman that were employed and the talents that God gave them, along with the incredible, precious materials that had been amassed, came together in this spectacular edifice: this massive structure of perfectly hewn stone, fine cedar, exceedingly abundant overlays of gold, and fine purple cloth everywhere. It would have been a sight to behold just because of the structure itself. With this beautiful building as the backdrop, we have the scene in I Kings 8, the day of dedication for the temple of the Lord.
On this day, the glory of the Lord filled the temple (I Kings 8:10-11). His glory was manifested in a thick cloud that filled the temple. So vast was this cloud that the priests could not even stand to minister. His presence entered the house and overwhelmed the building with His glory. What an awesome sight to behold! Then Solomon and the people offer sacrifices that cannot be counted (I Kings 8:5). Later, what could be counted of the sacrifices is shared with us, noting that there were 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep slaughtered that day (I Kings 8:63).
While we cannot see this sight any longer, try to imagine it… this incredible and spectacular building, priests in full array, the king in his wonderful garments, and all of that overshadowed by the presence of God Almighty!!! Literally breathtaking... but in the midst of all this physical beauty, there is the ugliness of sin and death.
Imagine how much blood was literally pouring out of the courtyard of the temple. The sacrifices alone produced approximately 340,000 gallons of BLOOD, an olympic-sized swimming pool half-full of animal blood. What a disgusting sight. Death everywhere. Death pouring through the streets. Death getting on your feet. Death filling your nostrils. The cost of our sins clinging to us and covering us. The Hebrew writer refers to that sinful life as “dead works” (Hebrews 9:14).
In Hebrews 9, the author outlines the practices of the old covenant, specifically the structures within the tabernacle and regulations for offering sacrifices. He points out that this divine system of worship in this earthly sanctuary were shadows directing us to the true form of things in heaven. Later, in Hebrews 10:4, the Writer points out, “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” In chapter 9, the Writer emphasizes that His flesh, the flesh of Christ, was the true tabernacle and that through Him and His flesh we can enter into the true temple: the actual presence of God (Hebrews 9:11-12).
The sacrifices of old cleansed the flesh, but the blood of Christ will “...purify our conscience from dead works to serve the Living God” (Hebrews 9:13-14). Christ is the dramatic change. We are no longer looking at some magnificent man-made structure; we are looking at God Himself. We are no longer carrying around with us the reminder of our sins as we see and smell the blood, see and smell the death. We carry within us the One and True Living God (I Corinthians 3:16-17, 6:19-20). We who are in Christ no longer carry with us the remembrance of mere shadows but the eternal Spirit within ourselves. With that change comes the eternal redemption (Hebrews 9:12) AND the eternal inheritance (Hebrews 9:15).
It is through Christ that we have been given access to “...the greater and more perfect tent…” (Hebrews 9:11). Without Him, we would merely have the purification of the flesh and we would desperately be looking for something more, longing for something greater. Thanks and praise be to God Almighty that we have been delivered from that state of incompleteness. The death of the first covenant and the cost paid to make that happen freed us from the burden of our sin (Hebrews 9:16-17).
It is contrary to our physical living to view death as a means of deliverance; but spiritually, that is exactly what needs to happen. Just as Christ put to death the first covenant through His blood, He also created the new and perfect covenant through the exact same event. In His death, He gave us the opportunity to also put to death our old selves and to be raised up a new creation in Him (2 Corinthians 5:17). How awesome a God we have, to put this incredible plan in place and to provide Jesus Christ, the Perfect Sacrifice to fulfill that plan.
“...knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (I Peter 1:18-19).