Our high priest is an upgrade
- 8:1 If you don’t hear anything else I say, hear this. We now have a high priest who sits beside God in heaven. Our high priest sits in the place of greatest honor, on the right side of God’s throne.
- 8:2 Our high priest doesn’t minister in a worship center built with human hands. He serves in the original worship center—the one God made.
- 8:3 Part of the job of the high priest is to offer gifts and sacrifices to God. They don’t go to God empty-handed. Neither does our high priest.
- 8:4 If our high priest were still on earth, he couldn’t serve as a priest. Jewish law dictates who can serve as a priest. 1
- 8:5 Priests minister here on earth at a worship center that’s just a copy of the one in heaven. God said so when he gave Moses instructions for building the tent worship center: “Carefully follow the pattern I just showed you here on the mountain.”2
- 8:6 The ministry of our high priest is more important than the ministry of earlier priests. And the agreement he brought to us from God is better than the earlier agreement between God and the people. That’s because the promises God makes in this new agreement are better.
Jewish law is obsolete
- 8:7 If the first agreement between God and his people had been fine and dandy, we wouldn’t have needed a second.
- 8:8 But God had a complaint about the people.
“Listen. The time is coming when I’m going to make a new agreement with the people from Israel and from Judah.3
It’s not going to be like the agreement I made with their ancestors back in the days when I took them by the hand and led them out of slavery in Egypt. They broke that agreement. I abandoned them because of it.
This is the new agreement I’m going to make with all of Israel.4 I’m going to embed my laws into their minds. I’m going to write them onto their hearts.5 I’ll be their God. They’ll be my people.
They won’t have to teach anyone about me anymore. They won’t have to tell their neighbors or their relatives, ‘You need to know the Lord.’ Everyone will already know me, from the most important to the most invisible.
For the sins they’ve committed, I’ll show them mercy. I’ll forget their sins, and never bring them up again.”6
- 8:13 God called this a new agreement. It replaced the old agreement, which became obsolete and is already on the verge of disappearing.7
Only Jews born into the tribe of Levi could serve as priests. Moses and his older brother Aaron were both from the tribe of Levi. Aaron served as the first high priest (Exodus 28:1).
Exodus 25:40; 26:30.
When the prophets delivered this message, the nation of Israel had split into two countries. Jews in the North became known as Israel. Jews in the South took the name of the dominant tribe, Judah.
New Testament writers portray the “Israel” of God’s new agreement, or covenant, as everyone who embraces Jesus as the promised Messiah and the Son of God. “If you’re one of the Messiah’s people, then you’re a descendant of Abraham. You’re part of the family. And you’re going to inherit what God promised” (Galatians 3:29).
Jewish laws that Moses passed along to the Jews were possibly passed along by word of mouth before they were later preserved in writing. Every Jewish male signed their agreement with God in blood, through the worship ritual of circumcision. But in the new agreement that Moses predicted would come, God would no longer call for circumcision of every male. Instead, God would circumcise the hearts of the people (Deuteronomy 30:6).
Much of Jewish law revolved around the sacrificial system, which was one of the main ways Jewish people expressed their devotion to God in worship. Romans ended the Jewish sacrificial system when they leveled Jerusalem and the last Jewish Temple in AD 70, while crushing a Jewish revolt. Today, standing on the hilltop where the Temple once dominated the cityscape, is a 1,400-year-old Muslim shrine built when Arab invaders overran the Holy Land. The shrine is Jerusalem’s most famous landmark, the Dome of the Rock.
The argument the writer of Hebrews is making in chapter 8 would have sounded unbelievably radical to the Jewish people. In political terms, it would be like an American politician today arguing to throw out the Constitution, retire Congress, and then reboot under a different system entirely. A do over. What do you think is the strongest point the writer makes in Hebrews 8 to defend his argument?
What you think is the point of saying, “Priests minister here on earth at a worship center that’s just a copy of the one in heaven” (8:5)?
The writer of Hebrews quotes God as saying, “This is the new agreement I’m going to make with all of Israel” (8:10). The footnote to that verse says that New Testament writers generally portray “Israel” of the new agreement as everyone who embraces Jesus as the Messiah. “If you’re one of the Messiah’s people, then you’re a descendant of Abraham. You’re part of the family. And you’re going to inherit what God promised” (Galatians 3:29). That was Paul talking. Why do you think the writer of Hebrews didn’t make that clear, too?
Does the following description of what God promised to do sound like:
- Something he has already done,
- Something he will do,
- Or something that will eventually restore everyone to a good relationship with him?
“I’ll be their God. They’ll be my people. They won’t have to teach anyone about me anymore.… Everyone will already know me, from the most important to the most invisible” (8:10-11).
LIFE APPLICATION. The writer says the old Jewish laws are obsolete because God has fulfilled his ancient promise: “I’m going to embed my laws in their minds. I’m going to write them onto their hearts” (8:10). Do you think God’s most important laws are written in the minds and hearts of people? In either case, why do you think that?