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 1 and 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 3 to 6. It is helpful to notice that
verse 5 is really a parenthesis; the whole verse might well be printed
within brackets. The sense follows straight on from verse 4 to verse 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
Before considering this, however, let us make note of two
things. First, that the last clause of verse 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 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 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 brokenby 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-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 Tim. 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
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 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.