Recently I was meeting someone in the evening at the church building where I work. Our facilities are downtown in Little Rock, Arkansas and it was something of a dreary night anyway. As I got out of my car to head to my office, knowing there wasn’t anyone else around, I started toward the outside entrance when a heard someone or something moving in the shadows behind some shrubbery and was startled for a moment. It was a homeless person who had his sleeping bag arranged behind the shrubs and I had awakened him so likely he was as much or more startled than I was. I thought a great deal about him making his bed behind the bushes beside an empty building and what it would be like to live and sleep each night in those shadows.
Spiritually, we often live in the shadows as well. In Hebrews chapter 8, the writer describes Jesus as the great high priest “who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being” (Verses 1-2) All priest, he said, are appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, so it was necessary for Jesus to do the same. But his offering wasn’t made in some physical tabernacle on this earth, which is a mere shadow of the real thing that is in heaven. The tabernacle built by Moses in the wilderness that became the pattern for the temple but by Solomon and others after him had to be built by the exact pattern since it was a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. But Jesus went to the true tabernacle in heaven to offer the gift of his own precious blood as the sacrifice to God. In verse 6 he said, “But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.”
Throughout the Book of Hebrews the writer has been pointing to all the ways the New Covenant and the salvation offered is far superior to anything offered under the Old Covenant. Here he adds several more of those comparisons to demonstrate how vital it is for these Christians who had left Judaism to become Christians to remain true to Jesus and not go back to the old way of life under the law. Notice here he tells them Jesus is a better high priest, who makes a better offering on a better altar in the better tabernacle under a better law than what was there before. This is a phenomenal statement. Everything about the worship and service to God under the New Testament is superior to anything under the Old Testament. That old way of life was like living in the shadow instead of taking what is real that the shadow merely reflects. Can you imagine trying to hug your wife’s or husband’s shadow instead of them? The Old Testament way of worship gave a pattern but the reality is available now through Jesus our high priest.
Focus especially on the statement that this new covenant is based on better promises than anything offered under the old covenant. In verses 7-13 he explains that point. “For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. But God found fault with the people and said: ‘The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors 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. This is the covenant I will establish with the people 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. No longer will they teach their neighbor or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.’ By calling this covenant ‘new,’ he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.”
Look closely at the better promises here mentioned. One is “I will put my laws in their hearts and minds.” No longer would the laws simply be on stone tablets, hidden away in the ark of the covenant. The laws of God would be planted deep on the hearts of those who follow Christ. Paul declared back in 2 Corinthians 3 that he was a minister of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit for the letter kills but the Spirit gives life. The second was that there wouldn’t be the need to teach one another to know the Lord for all in the covenant would know him from the least to the greatest. Under the Old Law people were born under the covenant if they were of the right family and nation. As a young child grew up that was circumcized on the eighth day, they were in a covenant relationship with God, yet they didn’t yet know the Lord at all. They had to be taught about God and get to know him. But under the New Covenant we only enter by choice when we are born again of the water and Spirit to enter into the covenant with God. So all in the covenant know the Lord already and won’t need to get to learn and know him. The third promise is phenomenal. “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Under the Old Law there was the constant reminder of sin when they returned every year to make an offering for sins. Under the New all sins are forgiven when we are washed in the blood of Christ and as we walk in the light of God our sins are constantly cleansed according to I John 1:7. “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness.” God’s forgiveness for those in covenant with him is so great that our sins are totally forgotten by God. He remembers them no more.
Imagine one going to God in prayer asking Him to forgive some sin that they have already gone to him about before. Picture God saying, “I don’t have a clue what you are talking about. You don’t have any sin to forgive since all is forgiven and gone never to come up again.” Too often in human relationships we forgive something only to bring it up again when we are angry or frustrated about something. With God once forgiven means it is totally gone from his memory.
Get out of the shadows and go to the real thing, the great high priest, Jesus, in the greatest temple in heaven, with the greatest offering, the blood of Jesus, under the greatest covenant, the New Testament, with the greatest promise that our sins are all forgiven and completely gone from God’s memory. If you aren’t in such a covenant relationship with God, you are missing the most amazing offer ever made or imagined. Jesus our Lord and Savior made the way for us all and his gospel message goes out to all people everywhere.