IE3a: The Imperfection of the Earthly Sanctuary part 2

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

“Which had the golden altar of incense.” Notice that a change has been made ─we are told that the Golden altar {2] is inside the “Most Holy Place, which was usually called the ”Holy of Holies.” Why has it been moved to the inside? The veil between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies was made of fine twine Egyptian byssus linen colored blue, purple and scarlet─ with the cherubim woven into it, and it spoke of the humanity of the Lord Jesus. When He died on the cross, He gave His life, His human life, and at that time the veil was rent in Twain. So, the veil, which was torn in two has been removed, signifying that the way to God is wide open, because Christ has made a way. He said, “no man, cometh to the Father, but by me” (see John 14: 6). The veil has been rent in twain and we can come right into God's presence today. But what happened to the Golden sensor or the Golden altar? It has been moved inside the Holy of Holies. Aaron on the great Day of Atonement came with the blood to sprinkle upon the mercy seat, taking a sensor filled with coals and with incense in it, and he went inside the Holy of Holies. He was transferring, as it were, the altar of incense to the inside. He took the sensor of burning coals from off the altar with sweet incense on it and took it into the Holy of Holies, but he brought it back out again. And he had to do that again the next year and then again, the next.
However, we have a great High Priest, who is our intercessor always at the Golden Alter making intercession for us. His prayers are heard, by the way. Therefore, the Golden Alter is on the inside, but it is also on the outside, because you and I can come through prayer. That is what Paul meant when he said, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:1-2).
The writer mentions the things which were in the ark. “This ark contained the gold jar of manna” ─this speaks of the present ministry of Christ. He feeds those who are His own. He feeds them with His Word. He is the Bread of Life. The Bible is God’s bakery, and if you want bread, that is where you will go to get it.
“Aaron’s staff that had budded.” This speaks of the death and resurrection of Christ because it was a dead rod and life came into it.
“And the stone tablets of the covenant” speaks of the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled all the law.
“But we cannot discuss these things in detail now.” The writer means he does not have time to dwell upon the tabernacle, because the things which he is emphasizing are not the priesthood and worship. He is concerned about what real worship is and how we are to worship.

6When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry.
7But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance.

“The priests entered regularly into the outer room” ─they never finished the job. If they went today, they would be going again tomorrow, and the next day, and on and on and on. I believe it must have become very monotonous over the years for a priest to continually go through this ritual. The very repetition of it meant that it was not sufficient (not enough), that is, that one time would not due. However, we are going to see that Christ went once into the Holy Place ─it was necessary for Him to go just one time.
“To carry on their ministry,” that is to say, “accomplishing the worship of God.” This was the goal of it all, that God’s people might worship Him. This is speaking of real worship, not just a church service where an order of service is followed. When real worship takes place, it is a worship that draws us into the presence of Christ where we can adore Him.
To worship means to give someone something of which they are worthy. The Lord Jesus Christ is worthy to receive our praise and adoration. During His temptation in the wilderness, the Lord Jesus answered Satan, “. . . For it is written, ‘Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou worship’” (Matt. 4:10). You will not have to beg and coax and goad people into doing something if they are participating in real worship of Christ ─because real worship leads to service. Such worship is possible only through Jesus Christ.
Since the writer is going to contrast Christ’s offering with the offerings of Judaism, he must first describe those which were required by the law. There were many he could choose from, but he selects the most important in the whole legal system, the sacrifice that was offered on the great Day of Atonement (Lev. 16). If he can prove Christ’s work to be superior to that of the high priest on that outstanding day of Israel’s religious calendar, then he has won his point.
We must not get the idea that the Jews assembled in the tabernacle for worship. The priests and Levites were permitted into the tabernacle precincts, but not the people from other tribes. Furthermore, thou the priests ministered in the holy place day after day, only the high priest entered the Holy of Holies, and that was only once a year. When he did, he had to offer a sacrifice for his own sins as well as the sins of the people. In contrast, the heavenly tabernacle is open to all the people of God, and at all times! (Heb. 10:19-25).
The writer of Hebrews stressed the divinity of Christ because he saw a sin which only God could forgive. If sin is only against man, then man can forgive it; but if it is against God, then only God can forgive it. No priest or ritual can do anything more than to announce or symbolize the terms by which God forgives sin. Jesus does more than forgive. He puts sin away (9:26). He cleanses us from “dead works” (9:14), the deeds that bring death, and he brings the renewal of life.

8The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still functioning.

“The first tabernacle (the outer court; Heb. 9:6) was still functioning,” but only temporarily, for in the future it would be dismantled and replaced by the second. The fact that it was still standing was proof that God’s work of salvation for man had not yet been completed. The outer court stood between the people and the holy of holies! As long as the priests were ministering in the holy place, the way had not been opened into the presence of God. But when Jesus died on the cross, the veil of the temple was torn from top to bottom (Matt. 27:50-51) and the way was opened into the holy of holies. There was no longer any more need for either the holy place or the holy of holies, for now believing sinners could come into the presence of God.

9This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper.
10They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order.

The sacrifices offered and the blood applied to the mercy seat could never change the heart or conscience of a worshiper. All the ceremonies associated with the tabernacle had to do with ceremonial purity, not moral purity. They were “carnal ordinances” that pertained to the outer man but could not change the inner man.

Special Notes:
[1} Each sabbath the priests would remove the old loaves and put fresh loaves on the table. The old loaves could be eaten, but only by the priests.
[2} The Golden alter stood in the holy place just in front of the veil that divided the two parts of the tabernacle. The Golden Alter did not stand in the holy of holies, but its ministry pertained to the holy of holies. In what way? On the annual Day of Atonement, the high priest used coals from this alter to burn incense before the mercy seat within the veil (Lev. 16:12-14).

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