~ Joy ~
“Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man.”
Two messages ago we considered the Fall and its effects. The race of men rebelled against God and fell to ruin in Genesis 3. We were cut off and cursed by God and so are without hope in this world… unless God extends totally undeserved kindness. Our problem is not that we simply need a little moral instruction or a good example to follow. Our problem is deeper. We have a heart problem. We need a Savior who can save us from our sin.
Last time we considered the unique person who was born in Bethlehem. Who was required to be the Savior? How deep is the love and grace of God toward this ruined race that the Father would send His one and only Son, the second person of the one triune God, to be joined to humanity forever in order to secure their salvation forever?
This time we will consider the radical change in God’s dealings with the world marked by the coming of Christ. How did the coming of the only Son from the Father change God’s relationship to the world? His coming…
1. Brings A New Covenant
2. Brings The Reality Once Pictured
3. Welcomes A New People
A New Covenant
Allow me to walk you through one of the arguments that the writer of the book of Hebrews makes. This writer is warning the church not to return to the Old Covenant, but to cling to the infinitely greater value of Christ and the New Covenant He established.
One way the author of Hebrews demonstrates the superiority of what has come in Christ is by considering Psalm 110:4 in Hebrews 5 and following. In Psalm 110 the psalmist David, writing by the inspiration of Holy Spirit, speaks of the Messiah to come. And remember this is in the Old Testament, under the Old Covenant.
Psalm 110 – A Psalm of David.
The LORD says to my Lord [that is Christ]:
“Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.”
The LORD sends forth from Zion
your mighty scepter.
Rule in the midst of your enemies!
Your people will offer themselves freely
on the day of your power,
in holy garments;
from the womb of the morning,
the dew of your youth will be yours.
The LORD has sworn
and will not change his mind,
“You are a priest forever
after the order of Melchizedek.”
The Lord is at your right hand;
he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.
He will execute judgment among the nations,
filling them with corpses;
he will shatter chiefs
over the wide earth.
He will drink from the brook by the way;
therefore he will lift up his head.
The author of Hebrews focuses in on verse 4 and the declaration by God that “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” The author of Hebrews sees incredible implications here. In this Psalm a priest and a priesthood are mentioned which are not appointed or established in the Old Covenant, the Law Covenant given at Mount Sinai. And this priest (after the order of Melchizedek. See Genesis 14) is said to be a priest forever.
The implications of this are enormous. Why would the Holy Spirit speak of a priest and priesthood which are nowhere found in the covenant given at Sinai? The Holy Spirit was revealing something new in Psalm 110. The author of Hebrews teases out the implications of this and in chapter 7 says,
“Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron?”
Oh, how this needs to be a part of our thinking. Do you see the implication of Psalm 110? God was revealing that there was need for a different priesthood, a different kind of priest, and an entirely new way of drawing near to God! The point of the author of Hebrews is that the Levitical priesthood and the entire covenant they mediated established at Sinai through Moses was not sufficient.
The author of Hebrews goes on to explain this further in the very next verses,
“For when there is a change in the priesthood [as God revealed there would be in Psalm 110:4 and God established with the advent of Christ Jesus], there is necessarily a change in the law as well [the law covenant given at Sinai through Moses]. For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar [the alter of the covenant given at Sinai through Moses]. For it is evident that our Lord [Jesus] was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.
This becomes even more evident when another priest arises [Jesus] in the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent [as it was with the Law Covenant given at Sinai through Moses], but by the power of an indestructible life. For it is witnessed of him [by God Himself in Psalm 110],
‘You are a priest forever,
after the order of Melchizedek.’
For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside [By God!] because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced [by God in Psalm 110], through which we draw near to God.”
This is incredible stuff! God, in Psalm 110, introduced a new priest and priesthood and so was revealing that the covenant given at Sinai was weak and useless to perfect anyone. A brand new covenant would be needed to do that, one with a different kind of priest.
Let me show you that it is indeed a brand new covenant that was needed and not just a few tweaks to the old. Hebrews 8 quotes Jeremiah 31:31-34. And notice that the entire old covenant is being superseded by a brand new covenant.
For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.
For he finds fault with them [Israel and Judah] when he says:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah,
not like the covenant that I made with their fathers
on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
For they did not continue in my covenant,
and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor
and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
for they shall all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
and I will remember their sins no more.”
In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
This is incredible, stunning, seismic. Hebrews 7 and 8 tells us that the Old Covenant:
- made nothing perfect (7:19)
- was weak and useless (7:18)
- was not faultless (8:7)
- was made obsolete (no longer serviceable) by a new covenant (8:13)
I hope you see the startling point that God sent His only Son in order to establish a radically new order, a new way of drawing near to God, a new covenant. The intention of God in sending the only Son form the Father was never to continue the arrangement set up at Sinai. His intention was to establish something categorically different and new and better. As Hebrews 10:9 says, “He does away with the first in order to establish the second.” 2 Corinthians 3 says in no uncertain terms that the Old Covenant, given through Moses, was that which was being brought to an end (2 Cor 3:7 and 11) and in its place a covenant far superior.
Christ’s coming brings a new covenant.
Christ’s coming brings…
The Reality Once Pictured
I do want to spend a moment to consider the function of the first covenant. Why did God add the law covenant if He intended to bring it to an end and introduce a second superior covenant? Well, there are number of ways the NT answers this question. For our purposes this morning I will not try to give a full answer to that question, but here in Hebrews we discover something about the relationship between the Old and New Covenants and perhaps something about God’s intention in giving the Old Covenant.
Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have [that is we, the people of God under the New Covenant] such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain
According to this passage, what is the relationship between in the Old Covenant and the New?
The Old contained a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. The priests that the Old Covenant appointed served the copy and shadow of the heavenly things. We might even say that the priest’s that the Old Covenant appointed were themselves the copy and shadow of the heavenly Priest of the New Covenant. The Old Covenant contained a copy and shadow patterned after the things that the New Covenant has in substance.
The Old Covenant Priests were on earth, they offered the blood of bulls and goats, they entered the tent erected by men, but now, in the New Covenant The High Priest has come. He is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in The Holy Places, in The True Tent that the Lord set up, not man.
The coming of Christ and the New Covenant was the coming of the substance of what had only before been pictured, pointed to, and shown with copies on earth. The Old Covenant given at Sinai through Moses was never intended to function as the substance and fullness of God’s plan to dwell with His people. The Old Covenant was given to teach and instruct and point to the heavenly things. Hebrews 8:1-5 shows us that the very thing that the Old Covenant was pointing to has arrived with Jesus!
Listen to Hebrews 10:1,
For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near
Christ’s ministry is so much better.
Hebrews 7: 21-28
The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath [Psalm 2], which came later than the law, appoints a Son [we know who that is] who has been made perfect forever [that is He has become that perfect High Priest by His incarnation, life, death, and resurrection].”
As 2 Corinthians 3 tells us the glory of this New Covenant relationship so far out shines the glory of Old Covenant relationship that when we look at the Old Covenant now it has come to have no glory at all! Let me read it to you.
2 Corinthians 3:9-11
9 …if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation [that is the Old Covenant], the ministry of righteousness [that is the New Covenant] must far exceed it in glory.
10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it.
11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.
I have a good friend who has illustrated this incredible transition from Old to New like this: The Fall plunged the world into the night of deep darkness. The ruined race of men were condemned to stumbling around in pitch blackness, but had a promise and a hope that someday God would bring the glory of His light again.
When God established the Old Covenant at Sinai it was as if God was giving a flashlight to His people and what glory it had in the night of deep darkness, what hope it gave, what an incredible contrast it provided!
But God revealed, even while this flashlight was being held in the darkness, in different ways (Ps.2; Ps. 110; Jer 31) that this covenant was not sufficient. That covenant was not the final blessing He had planned for His people.
When God established the New Covenant in Christ it was the dawning of the new day! The glorious brightness of the Sun (Son!) rose and filled the sky with such light and warmth that every shadow fled away. The flashlight had been a picture of this new day.
But now, of course, the flashlight has been infinitely surpassed by the brightness of the Sun. You don’t cling to a flashlight when the new day has come. The glory of the flashlight cannot even be seen when compared to the glory of the Sun.
Christ’s coming brings a new covenant.
Christ’s coming brings the reality once pictured.
Christ’s coming welcomes…
A New People
As we bring this message to a close I want to make sure that we see the glory of what this means for us in this room. Listen to the way Paul would have us think about ourselves. Our true Lord and true High Priest would have us remember some things as we celebrate His birth this Christmas.
11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands-
12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
14 For HE himself is our [Jews and Gentiles] peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility
15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,
16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.
17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off [gentiles] and peace to those who were near [Jews].
18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,
21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together [Jews and Gentiles], grows into a holy temple in the Lord.
22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
Do you hear the wonder of these words? In the New Covenant we ourselves have been welcomed as equal heirs, citizens, and family members of God.
Yes at one time, we must remember, we were aliens and strangers with no claim to God’s favor, excluded from the nation of Israel and at that time excluded from the covenants of promise. We had no hope for His kindness.
But now, all of that has changed! With the dawning of the new day it is not only the Jews who are welcomed in. The Gentiles, we, have been brought near.
The Old Covenant distinctions have been broken down! In the place of two people, Israel and Gentiles, Christ has created one new man! You and I are not now excluded, not any longer strangers and aliens. We are in fact fellow citizens of this new day with the all the saints of God and members of God’s glorious household.
As Peter said in Acts 2:38-39,
“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”
The NT covenant does not exclude anyone who will repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. The divisions of the Old Covenant have been out-shined by the glory of the New Covenant. Those old divisions were the flashlight in the dark night. In fact, those divisions spoke of spiritual realities and pointed forward to the New Covenant.
The true division was never in flesh and blood; it was never outward and physical. The true division is inward. It is a matter of the heart, accomplished by the Spirit, not by the letter (Romans 2:28-29). The Old Covenant pointed to these spiritual realities with outward signs. Circumcision is a matter of the heart; you must be born again; you must be born of the Spirit.
Under the Old Covenant Israel was given the law on stone tablets, an external standard testifying to God’s righteousness. But that covenant of letter was insufficient. It had no power to change the heart. Instead that external standard crushed and condemned everyone under it.
Under the New Covenant we have One who took the curse of the law, upheld the righteous requirement of the law, beat the power of sin and death, secured eternal redemption for all (out of every tribe, tongue, people, and nation) who draw near to God through Him, pours out His Spirit upon them, writing the law upon their hearts (Jeremiah 31:31-34), and joins us together into a holy temple.
The flashlight has given way to the Sun.
We find in the Old Testament Scriptures (Psalm 110) that God Himself, after establishing the covenant at Sinai, promised a different kind of priest and priesthood, indicating that the priests of the Old Covenant, indeed the entire Old Covenant was insufficient to bring God’s people to perfection. The Old Covenant made nothing perfect (7:19), was weak and useless (7:18), was not faultless (8:7). A new covenant was needed. And indeed this New Covenant was promised in Jeremiah 31:31-33.
Hebrews 8 gives us insight into some of what God was doing in the Old Covenant. In the Old Covenant God gave copies and pictures of the heavenly realities. Like a flashlight in the dark tells us something about the light of the noonday Sun. So, for example, physical circumcision told us something about the need for true heart circumcision. The priests of the old covenant told us something about our need for the Priest. The external law written by God’s finger on stone tablets (Exodus 31:18) told us something about our need for the law to be written by the Spirit on our hearts.
The coming of Christ in Bethlehem is the dawning of the promised day and everyone from every tribe tongue and language is called to repent and believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ and will be welcomed.
With Christ the reality arrived, the reality which the Old Covenant was never intended to achieve, but was always intended to bear witness to. Christ and the New Covenant actually delivers what the Old Covenant could only point to. The Old Covenant given at Sinai was never meant to be the great and final way by which the ruined race of men could draw near to God. And The New Covenant was always intended to be the great and final covenant by which the ruined race of men would draw near to God.
God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son.
As we prepare this Christmas to celebrate the glorious gift of God in sending His Son, that baby in a manger, remember that at one time we were far off, stumbling in deep darkness, without hope in the world, but now the Day has come and all people are called to repent and believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ. He has opened the way to all people to draw near to God. His birth is the dawn of the great and awesome Day.
O’come let us adore Him.
Andrew “Andy” Murray was born and raised in New Hampshire. His father, pastor Loren Murray, served Fellowship Bible Church in Chester, NH. At six years of age Andy trusted in Jesus Christ and was baptized. He was brought up “acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” At the age of 12 his father was in a fatal car accident. Reflecting on the loss of his dad Andy writes; “I see now the wise and loving hand of Christ in my life, as He used this event to, shape, mold and press me toward Himself. It was this event that sparked in me an earnest desire to know God from His Word. By His grace, this desire has continued to grow.” Andy met his wife, Elizabeth, at Philadelphia Biblical University (now Cairn University). They have four wonderful boys. Visit Windham Bible Chapel.