Hebrews Chapter 8

January 9, 2014

This Preaching in Shorts Bible study is on Hebrews. Each chapter is read verse by verse with the major points highlighted and discussed.

You can listen to the study by clicking here

In Chapter 7 the writer of Hebrews contrasted Christ’s priesthood with that of the Old Testament order.

The writer now makes another important observation. The change in priesthood indicated a change in other elements of the Old Testament system. And one of those changes was a change in covenant.

Hebrews 8:1-13 (NIV)
1 The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man. 3 Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. 4 If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already men who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. 5 They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” 6 But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises. 7 For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. 8 But God found fault with the people and said: “The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. 9 It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord. 10 This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 11 No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. 12 For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” 13 By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.

Hebrews 8:1-7

In the old Jewish system, the priests were chosen from the tribe of Levi and they offered sacrifices on the altar for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus, not from the tribe of Levi, but in the order of Melchizedek, is the High priest who offered a perfect sacrifice that ended the need for further sacrifices and priests.

When the writer uses the present tense in verse 4 “there already are priests who offer the gifts” it helps to date the writing of this letter to the Hebrews to sometime before AD 70 when the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, which ended the sacrificial system that had been in place.

I thought this article from Christianity Today from 1990 might give a nice sense of the history of the time:

Gessius Florus loved money and hated Jews. As Roman procurator, he ruled Judea, caring little for their religious sensibilities. When tax revenues were low, he seized silver from the temple. As the uproar against him grew, in A.D. 66, he sent troops into Jerusalem who massacred 3,600 citizens. Florus’s action touched off an explosive rebellion—the First Jewish Revolt—that had been sizzling for some time.

Cestius Callus, the Roman governor of the region, marched from Syria with twenty thousand soldiers. He besieged Jerusalem for six months, yet failed. He left six thousand dead Roman soldiers, not to mention weaponry that the Jewish defenders picked up and used.

Emperor Nero then sent Vespasian, a decorated general, to quell the Judean rebellion. Vespasian put down the opposition in Galilee, then in Transjordan, then in Idumea. He circled in on Jerusalem. But before the coup de grace, Nero died. Vespasian became embroiled in a leadership struggle that concluded with the eastern armies calling for him to be emperor. One of his first imperial acts was to appoint his son Titus to conduct the Jewish War.
Crushing the Revolt

By now, Jerusalem was isolated from the rest of the nation, and factions within the city fought over strategies of defense. As the siege wore on, people began dying from starvation and plague. The high priest’s wife, who once basked in luxury, scavenged for crumbs in the streets.

Meanwhile the Romans employed new war machines to hurl boulders against the city walls. Battering rams assaulted the fortifications. Jewish defenders fought all day and struggled to rebuild the walls at night. Eventually the Romans broke through the outer wall, then the second wall, and finally the third wall. Still the Jews fought, scurrying to the temple as their last line of defense.

That was the end for the valiant Jewish defenders and for the temple. Historian Josephus claimed that Titus wanted to preserve the temple, but his soldiers were so angry at their resilient opponents that they burned it. The remaining Jews were slaughtered or sold as slaves.

Results of the Revolt

The Jewish Revolt marked the end of the Jewish state until modern times. The destruction of the temple also signified a change in the Jews’ worship. The temple’s sad end slammed the door on the Jew’s sacrificial system. They adjusted, of course, creating new rituals for home and synagogue. But the Sanhedrin was dissolved, and the center of Jewish religion moved to the educational institutions of Jamnia.

Where were the Christians? Out of town, basically. Many had been driven out of Jerusalem by persecution decades earlier. Eusebius wrote that when the revolt began, in A.D. 66, some of the remaining Jewish Christians fled to Pella, a city across the Jordan River.

It could be said that these events threw the young church’s balance of power toward the Gentiles. Missionaries like Paul had originally dealt with a strong (and conservative) Jewish church, based in Jerusalem. But the Christian Jews’ non-involvement in the revolt drove an obvious wedge between them and their traditional counterparts. After A.D. 70, Christians were not permitted in the synagogues.

The fall of Jerusalem, then, made the Christians even more distinct from the Jews and impelled the church to develop among the Gentiles.

Hebrews 8:8-12

This passage is quoted from Jeremiah 31:31-34.

Jeremiah 31:31-34 (NIV)
31 “The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. 33 “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

It compares the new covenant with the old covenant. The old covenant was a covenant of law between God and Israel. The new covenant is one of grace. It is based on Jesus offer to forgive our sins and bring us to God through his sacrificial death on the cross.

In the new covenant, God now puts His laws in our minds and writes them in our hearts. He fills and empowers us by His Spirit so that we live this life for Him.

In the Bible we can find the principles for living a righteous life, and now, our hearts can be transformed so that we desire to live by doing the next right thing.

Hebrews 8:13

The recipients of the letter had grown cold because of the persecution they were facing. The joy they had experienced when they first came to Jesus had ebbed away. Growth in the Lord had stopped. Sometimes, we might feel this way as well. What we need to do is remember that this is an ongoing process. We need to stay connected to God in the good times and the hard times because He is our source. Real now and forever, full and abundant life is found in Him. Stay connected, read the Word, spend time in prayer, spend time in worship and fellowship. Continue to seek Him with all that you are.

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