Please turn to Hebrews 9:1-14. The author of Hebrews has already told us that Jesus is a better high priest because His priesthood is like the eternal priesthood of Melchizedek. In this passage, he shows us how Jesus is the mediator of a better covenant. This passage can easily be divided into three sections. First, in verses 1-5, the author of Hebrews points us to the architecture and the furnishings of the tabernacle. Then, in verses 6 to 10, he shifts his focus from the architecture and the furnishings to the rituals of Old Testament tabernacle worship. Finally, in verses 11 to 14, the author shows how Jesus surpasses the rituals of the old covenant and how He is the reality foreshadowed by Old Testament worship.       

I. Consider the Furnishings of the Old Testament Tabernacle.

In Hebrews 9:1-5, the author explains how Jesus is the mediator of a better covenant by pointing us to the Old Testament furnishings for worship and the architecture of the tabernacle. Thus, he wants us to consider the theological significance of the tabernacle and to think about the furnishings that are mentioned here in verses 1-5. The tabernacle symbolized the presence of God. Inside the tent, there was the altar of incense which symbolized the prayers of the people of God going up to God. The incense in Old Testament worship symbolized that God hears His peoples’ prayers and especially the prayers of the priests on behalf of His people. In addition, the ark of the covenant was the symbol of God’s throne. It was the symbol of His sovereignty and His reign and His providence over His people. Inside the ark, there was a golden urn filled with manna which symbolized God’s provision for His people. Aaron’s blossoming rod was also  placed into the ark of the covenant. It symbolized God’s providing a line of priests to serve His people. The tablets of the covenant were also inside the ark of the covenant and symbolized God’s righteous rule. The cherubim with their wings were over the top of the ark which pointed to God’s glory. Remember when the great angels were surrounding God’s throne in Isaiah 6:3 and singing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!”  The veiling of their faces and their feet symbolized the glory that they could not even bear to look upon in the immediate presence of God. So the tabernacle and all of these furnishings beautifully symbolized the presence and provision of God.

If you and I had lived in the days of the Old Testament we would never have seen those things. The only people who saw those things were the priests. And only the high priest, once a year, saw the things that were in the inner sanctum, in the Holy of Holies. And the author of Hebrews asks us, “Do you understand what that symbolizes?” It symbolizes that the way into the very presence of God had not yet been disclosed. The Old Testament ritual system was not the way into the presence of God. The curtain was still there separating God and His people and from their enjoyment of His nearer presence.  However, when Jesus died on the cross, the curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the outer temple was rent from top to bottom. So, in these verses, the author of Hebrews emphasizes that very architecture and furnishings of Old Testament worship was not God’s ultimate plan to bring us into His presence.    

II. Consider the Ritual of the Old Testament Priesthood.

In Hebrews 9:6-10, the author encourages us to think about the Old Testament ritual for worship and to reflect on its theological significance. The author of Hebrews tells us that Old Testament ritual worship was a sign, a symbol, and a shadow. First, it was a sign in that it represented to us that the way into God’s presence had not yet been disclosed.  So the very fact that the Holy of Holies was still there and that only the high priest could go in, signified, the author of Hebrews says, that the way into God’s nearer presence had not yet been disclosed in the Old Testament ritual. Secondly, it was a symbol. In verse 9, he explains that the Old Testament ritual worship was a symbol of our need for cleansing that comes by the sacrifice of blood. But it did not provide a sacrifice that was able to forgive our sins. It only provided a sacrifice that was able to make you ritually clean.  If you went through the sacrificial system of the Old Testament you were declared ceremonially clean. This ritual could make you outwardly clean, it could make you ritually or ceremonially clean, but it could not get to your conscience.  It could not cleanse your heart from the deepest sins of your life. No, something else was needed and the very ritual system pointed forward to something else. Thirdly, the Old Testament ritual worship foreshadowed a time of change. By design, Old Testament ritual worship had a built-in obsolescence. In this passage, it was called “the first covenant.” You do not have a first covenant unless there is a second. Elsewhere he calls it “the old covenant.” You do not have an old covenant unless there is a new covenant. Thus, he emphasizes that this “first covenant” or “old covenant” was designed by God to be superseded by a better one.   

III. Jesus is a Better Priest and a Better Mediator. 

In Hebrews 9:11-14, the author proclaims that Jesus is a better High Priest and a better Mediator of a better covenant because He actually fulfills the things that Jeremiah prophesied in Jeremiah 31:31-34. First, in verse 11, he tells us that the way into the very presence of God has been disclosed in Jesus. That is why it was so significant that the curtain was rent at the death of Jesus because He is the way into the nearer presence of God. Secondly, in the new covenant, through the blood of Christ, we have not simply a reminder that we need to be cleansed, and not simply a sign that it is by the sacrifice of blood that we are cleansed, but we are actually cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. His blood brings actual, complete forgiveness. Thirdly, in the new covenant, we do not have the shadow, we have the reality. In Luke 22:20, Jesus, at one point during the Lord’s Supper, takes the cup and He says, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood which is poured out for you.” The author of Hebrews is telling us that nothing but the blood of Jesus can wash away our sin. Therefore, Jesus is a better High Priest and He is a better Mediator of a better covenant because His sacrifice is the only sacrifice that forgives sin. May God grant that each and every one of us would trust in Jesus as our Savior and Lord today and always.