CHAPTER 7 HAVING set before us in full detail the contrast between the temporary priesthood of Aaron and the abiding priesthood of Christ, chapter 8 opens with a summary of the whole matter. In this summary, occupying verses Hebrews 8:1-2 there are four things which we shall do well to note.
Firstly, the Lord Jesus is “such an High Priest,” that is such an One as chapter 7 has shown Him to be. We need therefore to refresh our minds as to all those points of contrast which show forth the infinite superiority of Christ, as expounded in that chapter.
Secondly, being such He has taken His seat at the highest point of glory. The supreme Majesty has His throne in the heavens, and on the right hand of that throne He is seated—that is, in the place which signifies that all its executive functions are vested in Him. There is no weakness, no infirmity, in Him. The place He fills indicates that He wields all power. We learned that this exalted place is His when we had only read so far as Hebrews 1:3; but there we saw Him seated in glory as the answer to His finished work in the purging of sins. Here it is as the Priest that He is crowned with glory.
Thirdly, His priestly ministry concerns itself, not with the holy places on earth, constructed and pitched by Moses, which were the scenes of Aaron’s ministry, but with that real sanctuary and tabernacle which came from the hand of God. The real sanctuary is the heaven of God’s immediate presence: the true tabernacle is that mighty universe of created things, wherein the third heaven of God’s presence lies. Christ’s priestly service has to do with God and His presence as its centre; whilst within its circumference it embraces the whole creation of God. What a stupendous thought is this! How paltry do Aaron’s glories look beside it!
Fourthly, such an High Priest as this is ours. “WE have such an High Priest”; while Israel had priests of Aaron’s order. This one fact, apart from all other considerations, indicates how far in advance of Judaism is Christianity. These Hebrews, as we have seen, were inclined to slackness; some of them showed signs of going back. Let them lay hold of this, and how it would encourage them to hold fast, and keep on in the path of faith. Let us lay hold of it and we too shall feel its encouraging power.
Our thoughts turn from the High Priest Himself to His service and ministry when we read verses Hebrews 8:3-6. It is helpful to notice that verse Hebrews 8:5 is really a parenthesis; the whole verse might well be printed within brackets. The sense follows straight on from verse Hebrews 8:4 to verse Hebrews 8:6.
Though the Lord Jesus is not a priest of Aaron’s order yet in many a way He exercises His ministry after the pattern set forth in Aaron. So it is necessary that He should have something to offer in the presence of God; and that something cannot be a gift of the kind that was customary in connection with the law, for had He been on earth He would have been no priest at all, for He did not spring out of Levi or Aaron. His priesthood is of an heavenly order. Only as risen and glorified has He formally assumed His priestly office.
What the Lord has to offer in His priestly capacity we are not told at this point; but we believe that the reference is, not to the fact that He offered up Himself, as stated in verse 27 of the previous chapter, but to what we find when we reach Hebrews 13:15. It is “by Him” that we offer the praise of our lips to God. He it is, who offers up to God as the great High Priest all the praises springing from those who have been constituted priests by the grace of God. What we are told is that His ministry is more excellent than any that was entrusted to Aaron; and that its superiority is exactly proportioned to the superiority of the promises and the covenant of which He is the Mediator.
Before considering this, however, let us make note of two things. First, that the last clause of verse Hebrews 8:4 shows us that this epistle was penned before Jerusalem was destroyed, when the Jewish offerings ceased. “There are priests,” it says, not, “there used to be.” This same fact confronts us when we come to the last chapter; and the importance of it is made manifest there.
In the second place notice that in the parenthesis (verse Hebrews 8:5) it is made quite plain that the tabernacle and all its appointments were only a shadowy representation of heavenly things; and not the things themselves. This no doubt was a hard saying to a Jew, for he was very apt to think of these visible things in which he boasted as though they were the great end, beyond which nothing was needed. He should not have thought of them in this way, for from the outset they were declared to be but a representation of the things God had before Him. Moses was not to deviate one hair’s breadth from the pattern shown to him in the mount. Had he deviated he would have misrepresented instead of representing the great realities which had to be shadowed forth.
This fact being digested we at once see that the Old Testament types, connected with tabernacle and offerings, are worthy of our earnest consideration. The study of them is not, as some may think, an intellectual pastime giving scope to a lively imagination, but a pursuit in which there is much instruction and profit. They must be interpreted of course in the light of the heavenly things themselves, which are revealed in the New Testament.
The ministry of Christ as Priest, the new covenant, of which He is the Mediator, and the promises on which that covenant is founded, are all brought together in verse Hebrews 8:6.
It could hardly be said that the old covenant of law was established upon promises at all, though there were certain promises connected with it. It was established rather upon a bargain, in which Israel undertook in all things to obey, and God guaranteed certain blessings conditional upon their obedience. The bargain was hardly concluded before it was broken by Israel making the golden calf. The fact that the new covenant is established upon promises, that those promises are God’s, and that they are better than anything proposed under the law, at once differentiates it sharply from the old. To gain some idea of these better promises you must read the latter part of our chapter, which is quoted from the passage in Jeremiah 31:1-40—where the new covenant itself is promised—verses 31 to 34. God’s “I will,” is the characteristic feature of it. All is a question of what God is going to do, and of what consequently Israel is going to be and have.
Now of this better covenant Christ is the Mediator. We might well ask, On what ground can God thus scatter blessings upon unworthy men without infringing the claims of righteousness? The only possible answer to this is found in the mediatorial work of Christ. As Mediator He has given Himself “a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:6). As Mediator too He administers the covenant which has been established in His blood.
The Lord Jesus is presented to us in this epistle in a variety of characters. We sometimes sing,
“How rich the character He bears,
And all the form of love He wears,
Exalted on the throne.” but do we stop sufficiently to consider the richness of His character in all its variety? We have already had Him brought before us as Apostle, High Priest, Forerunner, Surety, Victim, and now as Mediator. All these offices He holds in connection with the new covenant and those who come into new covenant blessing. As Apostle He announces it. As Surety He assumes full responsibility for it. As Victim He shed the blood that ratifies it. As High Priest He sustains it. As Mediator He administers it. As Forerunner He guarantees the arrival in glory of all those blessed under it in the present dispensation.
What flaw can be discovered in this? None whatever! Where is the loophole through which evil or failure may creep? No such loophole exists! All new covenant blessing is rooted and grounded in the mighty Son of God and is as flawless and perfect as He. Is not this magnificent? Does it not fill our souls with assurance and triumph?
The first covenant of law was not faultless as verse Hebrews 8:7 indicates. There was no fault in the law, but the covenant was faulty inasmuch as all was conditioned upon faulty man. Hence it is set aside in favour of the second, which is based upon God’s purpose and God’s work. As the last verse of the chapter puts it, the very fact that He speaks of a new covenant shows that the first has grown old and is ready to disappear.
Jeremiah’s prophecy, which is quoted here, shows us that the new covenant is to be formally established with the house of Israel and the house of Judah; that is, with restored and reunited Israel. Under it they will enter upon the blessings of the millennial reign. By the new birth the law will be written on their hearts, so that it will be as natural to them to fulfil it as now it is natural to them to infringe it. Moreover their sins will be forgiven; they will have the knowledge of God, and be His people. But the gospel today brings us just these blessings upon an exactly similar basis.
The fact is that everyone converted today, no matter from what nation they come, is blessed upon new covenant principles, though as yet the new covenant is not formally established at all; and when it is established it will be with Israel, and not with the nations, nor even with the church. We have it, in the spirit of it, and thus we anticipate what is to come. At the same time we must carefully note that Christian blessings are by no means confined to those promised to Israel under the new covenant. On the contrary we enjoy blessings which go far beyond them. Such, for instance, are the blessings spoken of in the epistle to the Ephesians.
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Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Hebrews 8". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany