The law is described as a shadow of things to come just as the setup and design of the tabernacle was patterned after the real holy places in which God dwells. The sacrifice must continually be offered and can never make those who draw near perfect. The very fact the offerings were repeated served as a reminder of sin because, as in Heb. 9, the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sin. Treating a condition is not the same as a cure.
Compare what Christ says in verses 5 – 7 to Psalm 40:6. But he also adds to it, first quoting from the Psalm and then saying “I have come to do you will.” It is that will, verse 10 points out, by which we are sanctified once and for all through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ. His sacrifice, once and for all, accomplished what the old sacrifices made again and again could not do. Recall our discussion last week. Having completed his work, Christ sat down at the right hand of God. Verse 14 repeats that his work is done through a single sacrifice and verse 18 repeats that once sin is forgiven there is no longer any need for sacrifice.
The text then shifts back to how we enter the holy places of God through Jesus Christ, our great high priest, who has opened the curtain for us. This passage lists the things we as believers are to do be doing in the full assurance of faith; holding on to hope, stirring one another to good works, meeting together. This is the introduction to a longer discussion of faith that will continue in Hebrews 11, often cited as the Hall of Fame of Faith. Abraham believed God (Genesis 15:6) and it was counted to him as righteousness. Abraham is the first person identified in scripture as being made righteous by faith. That is a universal constant throughout scripture. What we believe and confess about God determines our standing in God’s grace.
“Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” quoted here and in Romans 12:16, is an Old Testament reference to Deuteronomy 32:35. “The Lord will judge his people” is the very next verse (Deut. 32:36). This is the Book of Hebrews, written to an audience that knew and understood the old covenant and held Moses and the law in high regard. The former covenant has been replaced by a better one but God Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, is the same and will continue to be faithful and just concerning his promises.
Have faith and preserve your soul. Hebrews 11 gives many examples of those who did exactly that.
Hebrews 9 begins with a brief overview of the tabernacle layout. The difference between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place and some of the furnishings are described. Verse 6 transitions into what the priests do in the Holy Place to what the High Priest does in the Most Holy Place. These accounts are brief. The instructions for making the tabernacle are given in great detail beginning in Exodus 25. The instructions for priests are the focus of the Book of Leviticus.
Hebrews 8 continues the comparison of Jesus Christ to the Old Testament high priests. It’s a short chapter and there’s not a lot here to unpack, just a continuation of a line of reasoning we have been studying. In chapter 9 we are going to see more details about how the earthly tent – the tabernacle – was set up. In this chapter we are simply reminded that the earthly tent was patterned after the things in heaven. The earthly tent, set up in the Old Testament, made by the hands of men, was a copy, a duplicate of the real heavenly high places. Every priest must make an offering. If Christ were on the earth he would not be a priest at all (see v. 4) because there are priests that make offerings according to the Law. But the ministry of Jesus is greater, having entering the authentic holy places the earthly tent is patterned after. He offers a better sacrifice (which we will get to in Hebrews 9 as well).
The end of Hebrews 6 again mentions Jesus as “a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” 7 goes into the history that we previously linked to in Genesis 14. Abraham gave him a tenth of all he had, 400 years before the Law was given to Moses at Sinai. Hebrews 7 describes Melchizedek as without without father or mother, not having beginning or end. He has no genealogy which stands in contrast to the well established genealogies of Aaron, the first Levitical priest, and of Jesus. You may encounter speculation that goes in all sorts of directions, from Melchizedek actually being an appearance of Christ in the flesh in the Old Testament to the idea that he literally lived forever. Very little is said about him in Genesis but the writer of Hebrews devotes seven chapters to describing his priesthood. The important thing is this: that the ministry of Jesus Christ is greater. He is superior to Aaron and Melchizedek. He is the minister of a better covenant than any Old Testament priest because if the former were sufficient there would be no need for another. (Heb. 7:11)
It’s a corny joke and I apologize for repeating it but when we see the word “therefore” in the Bible we need to stop and consider what it’s there for. At the end of Hebrews 5, we find a warning against those that have failed to mature. The writer laments that believers who should be on solid food (of God’s Word) still need to be given milk like infants. So 6 begins with a call to move on to maturity, leaving the elementary things behind.
The end of Hebrews 4 informs us that Jesus is our Great High Priest and then the chapter ends. Hebrews 5 tells us why he is a better high priest than the Levitical priests of the Old Covenant. The high priests called by God to the priesthood were human beings and had the same shortcomings as the people they ministered to. They had their own sins to confess and be forgiven before they could attend to the sins of others. The Christ is God’s own Son and also a priest forever after the order Melchizedek. Abraham was blessed by Melchizedek in Genesis 14 and Abraham gives him a tenth of everything he has. This is centuries before the Law was given to Moses. The Levitical priesthood had not been established and there was no commandment, at least none recorded, to give a tithe. Genesis will not answer all of our questions. There is no recorded beginning nor ending of Melchizedek’s priesthood and this little detail is used to show what kind of high priest Jesus will be. There is no beginning and no end to his priesthood. He does not have his own sins to sacrifice for, and he is not called by God but is God’s own Son. Although he was the only begotten Son, through suffering in his mortal flesh he learned obedience.
The final verses of chapter 5 is a chastisement to an audience that should be eating “spiritual food” as mature believers but must still be given milk as infants. Hebrews will get to comparing Jesus to Melchizedek in a couple of chapters and list more ways in which he is greater.
The key to understanding Hebrews 4 is to have read Hebrews 3. The basic concept presented in chapter 3 is that Jesus is greater than Moses. The chapter ends with God’s people not entering the rest they were promised because of disobedience:
For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief. Hebrews 3:16-19
Moses is perhaps the most significant type of of Christ in the Old Testament. There are many examples of types of Christ given, such as the high priest, the sacrificial lamb, the branch that was thrown in the bitter water at Mara. Moses had a great many things in common with Christ; he led the Hebrews out of slavery in Egypt, gave them God’s Law, and led them through the wilderness to the Promised Land. Some teachers go as far as to point out that Moses was taken out of the water by Pharaoh’s daughter and Jesus was taken up from the waters of baptism by John the Baptist. That might be a stretch… but those things did happen. Jesus frees the Christian believer from slavery to sin, teaches us God’s Law (kept it perfectly so we don’t have to actually), and leads us through this present wilderness we are in toward the promised land of God’s Kingdom.
Click here to read Hebrews 2 at Bible Gateway. You can easily select the translation of your choice at top of the page.
Click here and look for this icon to download audio.
Your Bible probably has little subtitles above sections of chapters that act like road signs describing what happens next or the topics that follow. The wording is often different from one Bible to another and even the places that passages are divided. Even though chapter and verse divisions can sometimes seem arbitrary there is at least agreement about where they go. It is helpful to remember that the original text had no such divisions. Hebrews 2:1 begins with the word therefore so the writer is about to make a point that he’s been building up to. The language of verses 2 and 3 continue this case building rhetoric. To paraphrase: So let’s pay careful attention so what we have heard. The message of angels, described extensively in chapter 1, has been proven reliable. The proof is that those who did not heed their warnings received retribution. In that case (v. 3) how can we neglect so great a salvation? The message of salvation was declared by the Lord, confirmed by eye witness accounts, and further attested by signs and wonders shown by God and by gifts of the Holy Spirit. Continue reading →
Earlier today I started a Bible study on Hebrews. Here is a link if you need one. Would anyone be interested in listening to that Bible study? I’ve been working on this since last night and have edited this post several times in the process. Click the play button on the embedded audio player below to listen to the Bible study. The download button below will not initiate a download but rather link to Google Drive where the file is located. You can click the download icon at the top of that screen ( ) to save the .wav file to your device.