A better covenant (part 1)

Nov 11, 2007 by: Sam Hestorff| Series: The Book of Hebrews | Category: Hebrews
Scripture: Hebrews 7:11–7:28

When you woke up this morning, did you go through a routine?

I would imagine that all of us have some kind of routine that we go through each morning and perhaps your routine sounds a little bit like this . . .

As your alarm clock goes off, you awake from a deep sleep wondering "what on earth is that horrible sound?" You are able to slowly open one eye to glance long enough at the time and realize that you might be able to put in another 9 minutes of sleep and so you quickly slap the snooze button before it's too late and you are fully awake but it seemed that as soon as your eyes were closed again, the alarm rang again.

Panic might have set in at this point, realizing that perhaps you needed that extra 9 minutes to get ready and so you jumped out of bed and quickly made your way to the kitchen to get the coffee started, and on your way to the kitchen you might have turned on the TV or went outside to grab the morning paper - assuming you don't have a trained dog to do that for you.

You might have poured yourself a bowl of cereal or made a piece of toast or perhaps you were bold enough to cook a full-blown breakfast. When breakfast was ready and the coffee was hot you were able to sit down to watch the TV or read the newspaper as you enjoyed a meal.

After breakfast, perhaps you jumped into the shower, followed with brushing your teeth, fixing your hair and putting on the necessary hair product to hold it in place. For the women - maybe you put on make-up.

After the bathroom routine, you perhaps headed to your bedroom to pick out your outfit for the day, keeping in consideration what kind of a day was it going to be - hot, cool or perhaps both and so you need to dress in layers. Did you want to dress to impress or simply want to feel comfortable?

Once the clothes are picked out and you have put them on and had a chance to check yourself in the mirror and tell yourself "man, am I looking good". It was time to face your day and perhaps you to headed down to your local high priest and had him sacrifice a couple of animals on your behalf so that your day could be blessed.

Did your routine sound anything like that?

Well maybe parts of it did but I am willing to say that no one in this room visited their local high priest and had any animal's sacrificed. But if you did, you might want to watch out for the police because they probably have a search warrant out for your arrest right about now.

The reality is that as 21st century western Christians, the sacrificial system isn't a part of our lives. But for the readers of the book of Hebrews, who grew up in a Jewish Culture, this was a "must do" in their routine and so the words of chapters 7 may have been like a cup of cold water thrown right in their faces.

You see, they were faced with a major paradigm shift. Not a shift from the authority of the Old Testament to the authority of the New Testament. But rather, it was a paradigm shift about how to relate to God

Now you might be thinking to yourself "what does this have to do with me, after all I can't relate to this concept of a Levitical sacrificial system?" What does that even mean anyway? but the message the writer of Hebrews has for his readers is just as important to us today as it was for these first century Christians who were on the edge of giving up on their faith because the reality is that when life gets difficult, too painful or feels too empty for us, we too run the risk of giving up on Jesus. And I can tell you . . . I have been there myself and so today I hope that you hear encouragement in these words.

And no matter what is going on in your life, whether it's too busy, or too painful, or too confusing or even if everything seems perfect, I hope that you can walk away from tonight boldly proclaiming "it is well with my soul"

Let us pray.

Read Hebrews 7:11-28

I believe that the desire of every person ever created is to get closer to God. It is something that we are born with - this desire to be in relationship with and to worship the one who created us. I don't care if someone calls themselves an atheist or agnostic or any other label that would claim that they don't believe in God. I still believe that God created all of us with this desire to draw near to Him.

And for the Children of Israel, God's chosen people; there was just one place that God's presence would manifest itself fully. In the holy of holies - a small room in the inner sanctum of the temple in Jerusalem.

And even the thought of being in Jerusalem - near the temple brought delight, as reflected throughout the Old Testament and especially in the Psalms. Read Psalm 84, Psalm 55

But although God had blessed the Jews, the ability to draw near to God was blocked by an impossible barrier. Even though they were called God's chosen people they were kept at an arms distance from Him.

Gentiles were completely out. Jews could get near the temple where God dwelled. Priests could get even closer but only one could step into the presence of God - but at the entrance to this place hung the most powerful symbol of limited access to God under the Old Covenant - A VEIL - that separated God's people from His holy presence. It was in essence a sign that read "KEEP OUT".

This limited access was not the cause of God, nor was it the desire of God but rather it was the effect of the sinfulness of people. It was divine justice that followed a simple equation.

Sin = Death

Death = Separation from God

And only one, a high priest, who came from the lineage of Levite and more specifically Aaron could enter into this place on behalf of the people and he would present to God a sacrifice that would satisfy divine justice so in turn the people might satisfy their desire to get closer to God.

This was the system that was put in place at the base of Mt. Sinai where God entered into a covenant relationship with His people Israel. There He said "I will be your God and your will be my people" and he gave to them the 10 commandments - which are at the heart of God's covenant arrangement with Israel.

And with this covenant God was establishing a priestly kingdom in which God would be there King and the priests would teach His people the laws and make atonement when they failed to obey the law. It was their job to draw people near to God through law and through sacrifice.

But there were a couple of problems with this sacrificial system that was put into place with this covenant.

First, the priests were inadequate.

They were lawbreakers themselves. They were unclean and blemished and before a high priest could enter into the holy of holies, they had to make offerings for themselves in order to be cleansed and then he could go into the presence of God on behalf of the people.

And even then there was no guarantee that his offering was acceptable. In fact, there were times that the priests were struck down dead in the presence of God because they were not worthy to be in the presence of God.

The priests were inadequate and therefore what they offered was incomplete and did not lead to perfection because it did not lead to God's people completely drawing near to God.

Second, the offering was inadequate.

How could an unwilling animal substitute for our sin? Read chapter 10:1-4

The fact that they had to do it over and over and over and over again proves that the offering was inadequate.

You see, this sacrificial system had a major problem and it was this . . . it did not bring about perfection. What is perfection? It is the ability to draw near to God. To fulfill the desire that God gave to us to be in relationship with our creator. To be called His.

Now you may be thinking to yourself, why did God put into place this inadequate system?

The answer . . . because the old covenant was never designed to fix the distance between God and man but rather was to be a foreshadow of one who was coming to institute a new covenant that would offer full blown intimacy with God to anyone who will come.

It was designed to build a longing for a sacrifice that would forever fill our desire to draw near to God and to be in relationship with our creator.

And then on a Friday afternoon at 3PM - hanging between two thieves, Jesus said "It is finished" and with those words all of the laws of the Old Covenant were fulfilled, rendering the old covenant and everything attached to it obsolete.

And then He said "Father into your hands I commit my spirit" and the earth quaked and the rocks split open and the veil that separated God from man was torn in two from top to bottom.

And now no longer was there a symbol that said "Keep Out" but now through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ God was saying "all who will come - may come. And I will be your God and you will be my people"

And Jesus Ascended into heaven and sat at the right hand of God and there was proclaimed as High Priest forever.

We are designed to be close to the one who created us. We are designed to worship God and it is only when we accept Jesus as our high priest that we can draw near to God and no matter what our situation be able to boldly proclaim "It is well with my soul"

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