Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. For a tent was prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence. It is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.
These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.
- The old covenant had regulations for worship.
- The old covenant had holy earthly places.
- An example of a holy earthly place was the tabernacle.
- The tabernacle had two sections.
- In the first section of the tabernacle were a lamp stand, table and bread of presence.
- The first section of the tabernacle was called the holy place.
- The second section of the tabernacle was divided by a curtain
- The second section of the tabernacle was called the Most Holy Place.
- The Most Holy Place contained the golden alter, and the Ark of the Covenant.
- The Ark of the Covenant was gold plated.
- Inside the Ark of the Covenant was a golden urn, Aaron’s staff that budded, tablets of the old covenant.
- Inside the golden urn was manna.
- Over the Ark of the Covenant were the cherubim of glory.
- The cherubim were overshadowing the mercy seat.
- The author cannot speak in detail about the thing in the Most Holy Place.
- The priests go regularly into the Holy Place, or first section of the tabernacle.
- The priests perform the ritual duties in the Holy Place.
- Only the high priest goes in to the Most Holy Place.
- The high priest only goes into the Most Holy Place once a year.
- The high priest does not go into the Most Holy Place without taking blood.
- The high priest offers the blood for his sins and the unintentional sins of the people.
- The holy places are not open as long as the Holy Place (first section) is still standing.
- The Holy Place is a symbol for the present age.
- By the old covenant gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper
- The gifts and sacrifices that are offered deal only with food and drink, washings, and regulations for the body.
- The regulations for the body were imposed until the time of reformation.
After talking generally about the old covenant the author to the Hebrew now addresses the ceremonies contained in the old covenant. By doing so, He demonstrates that there is nothing in a single ceremony to which Christ has not put to an end. The whole form of worship contained sacrifices and other symbols in a sanctuary the author calls an earthly place of holiness. These things are only symbols of reality.
In the tabernacle the Holy Place was closed off to the people by a veil. And then the Holy of Holies, what the author calls the Most Holy Place, was even shut off by the another veil from the priests. The holiness of God was separate and removed from the people. But those veils have been torn down (Hebrews 10:20 and Matthew 27:51).
The writer does not spend a lot of time or give much detail about the duties of the priest or the layout of the tabernacle because that is not the point he is making. He says the priests who performed the priestly duties could only enter the first section. Only the chief priest entered the holy of holies and then only once per year. He concludes that while the tabernacle under the Law was standing the sanctuary was closed up. The tabernacle itself was to remind the Jews that they were looking for something else.
The author says the tabernacle and ceremonies were a symbol for the then present age. They were unable to bring God and man into communion because man was still sinful and unrighteous. These ceremonies could not make man righteous. Therefore, the ceremonies were confined to a period of time, that is, there was a separation between God and His people. The ceremonies only dealt with the outward things and did nothing with our nature.
The symbols in our religion are only symbols and shadows of what is real. And we try to cling to a shadow as if it were the means, the end or even the purpose of our worship. The ceremonies of the old covenant were only place holders because we could not have an intimate relationship with God due to our sinfulness. But now with Christ’s atoning sacrifice, we can have that relationship. The ceremonies of the old covenant are no longer needed.
It is the work of Christ which redeems us and makes us new again. While, to be honest, I enjoy a high liturgical church service that is only a symbol a shadow of reality. The reality is as Christian we are in the presence of Christ. Praise God!