Hebrewsby Robert M. Solomon
The writer ends chapter 8 by showing how the new covenant in Christ supersedes the old covenant established by the law of Moses. The old covenant was centred on the worship of God in the tabernacle that was constructed according to God's detailed plans. The original readers would have been familiar with the tabernacle story (Exodus 25-31 and 35-40)-the history and furnishing details and how the worship of God was carried out (the ″regulations for worship″, Hebrews 9:1). The writer does not repeat the details except those that have significance for the point he is making.
The tabernacle, first constructed during the wilderness wanderings under Moses, was an ″earthly sanctuary″ (Hebrews 9:1). One entered the tabernacle grounds through one gate. This area was called the courtyard and was where all the worshippers would congregate. The tabernacle itself (vv. 2-3) had a first room called the Holy Place, where only priests could enter to do their priestly work. Inside this room were the seven-branched golden lampstand (which was kept burning always), and the table for the consecrated bread (twelve loaves, changed every Sabbath, and eaten only by the priests). There was also the golden altar of incense (described here as being in the Holy of Holies), which is burnt twice daily (morning and evening) to symbolise the prayers of the people. Beyond the Holy Place is the ″Most Holy Place″ (v. 3), where only the high priest could enter once every year. Inside was the gold covered ark of the covenant, containing a golden jar of manna which was never spoiled (Exodus 16:32), Aaron's staff that had budded to bear fruit when his priesthood was challenged (Numbers 17:8-10), and the stone tablets of the covenant, written by the finger of God (Deuteronomy 10:1-5)-all relating to original events during the Exodus event. The cover of the ark was called the mercy seat (the ″atonement cover″, Hebrews 9:5). Two golden cherubim (angels) were on the atonement cover covering it. The ark represented God's glorious presence and His covenant with Israel. God promised that He would meet His people in the Holy of Holies (Exodus 25:22).
All this was done according to God's instructions in the law. For centuries it was the prescribed way for sinful people to approach and worship a holy God. But when Christ came, it became redundant, for it was clear that the architecture, furnishings, and practices in the temple were but a shadow of the reality that is in Christ. Jesus opened a way right into the Holy of Holies for anyone seeking God to enter.
Why do you think God gave detailed instructions about the tabernacle? How can the structure and worship at the tabernacle help us to understand the Person and work of Christ better?
The New Testament teaches that we (individually and corporately) are God's temple (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19). What implications are there for us? In Christ, you now have full access to God. Spend a moment to reflect on what this means and worship Christ.