Chapter 8

“Now of the things which we have spoken, this is the sum”: the summary of the whole, the principal or chief point is—“We have such an High Priest, who is set on the right hand of the Majesty of the heavens.” God has given us such a Priest—One who “became” us, exactly fitted to our condition. We need a priest who is very high up, for we are called with a heavenly calling, and such an high priest “became” us, as this one whom God has given us. The sum total of all that we can possibly want is in Christ. God has found for me, given me a Priest, in whom there is sufficiency commensurate to my need: strength for weakness; succour from temptation; salvation all the way from every form of evil. All this we are learning and proving as we pass through the wilderness—learning what will be of infinite value in eternity. O to make good use of this Great High Priest; to allow Him to daily break us in and lift us up, as we journey along! “A minister of the holies and of the true tabernacle.” Our calling, our Priest, and our place of worship are all in heaven. There is no vail there, as in the earthly tent, hiding the glory and hindering our access. To that heavenly sanctuary which has been set up by the Lord, in which He ministers, all believers have access, as worshippers. To raise us up there, and draw our minds and hearts heavenward, is His service in that heavenly tabernacle, all the days of our earthly pilgrimage. There is no holy ground, no sacred edifice, or place of worship, on earth, for God’s people. Earth is the place of their pilgrimage: heaven, the place of their worship.

Verses 3, 5.—“For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices.” Christ is both Sacrifice and Offerer. He fulfils in Himself all the types. “He offered Himself, without spot, to God” (chap. 9:14): “He gave Himself for us an Offering and a Sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour” (Eph. 5:2). And now He stands by His Sacrifice (see Gen. 15:11; Numb, 23:3) administering its benefits to His people, and they, as worshippers, stand by that Sacrifice also, finding in it their rest and the procuring cause of all their blessing. The earthly Tabernacle was but a copy of all this. It was made after a pattern, which was followed by Moses, in all its details, “as the Lord commanded Moses,” which is seven times repeated in Exod. chap. 40: There was nothing left to human device or skill: all was planned by Jehovah, for He was there telling forth, in type and shadow, the glories of the Person of Christ.

Verses 6, 7.—Here the superiority of all that Christ has brought in is clearly shewn. “A more excellent ministry”—“a better covenant”—“better promises.” The old passes away to make room for the new: type gives place to antitype, the shadow to the substance. All through this Epistle, God is seen laying aside one after another, to make room for Christ, and when Christ is brought in, He displaces everything, and fills up the entire space in Himself. Everything withdraws when the Holy Ghost brings Christ to the front, and this is just as it ought to be, and what God claims for Him. What perversity in men, to cling to shadows and reject the substance: to occupy themselves with earthly priests and vestments—with all the mummeries of a dead and worldly religion, which is a farce in God’s sight—yea, a distinct denial of all that the Holy Ghost has testified of Christ in this Epistle! For, be it remembered, that to say an earthly priest or a sacrifice is required, is, in God’s estimation, to discredit Christ —to say, in effect, He is insufficient.

Verses 7-9.—“The first covenant” was a contract between Jehovah and man, in the flesh. It pre-supposed sin, and only revealed what was in man’s nature. Its promised blessings were dependent upon man’s promised obedience, and because he failed, all was forfeited. The new covenant is based upon “better promises”—even the promises of God—the “I wills” (see 5:10) of sovereign grace. Of this covenant Christ is Mediator: in Him all its blessings are made secure. Christ fills up before God the entire void, and God looks upon Him and His work as everything. Man and his works have no place. Christ offered Himself to God—His blood was shed for man’s sin. He could say, as He gave the cup to His disciples: “This is My blood of the new covenant, shed for many” (Matt. 26:28). It is worthy of notice here, that the original word for “covenant” occurs thirty-three times in the New Testament. Thirteen times it is rendered “covenant,” twenty times, “testament.” Two widely different ideas are expressed by these terms, such as the following. In a covenant two act, while a testament is the bequest of one. A covenant is dissolved by death (Rom. 7:1-4), whereas, a testament is only valid by the death of him who makes it (Heb. 9:16-17). A covenant has no inheritance implied; but a testament implies something bequeathed. Yet the Holy Ghost, throughout the New Testament, has intentionally used only one word, and that, while there is quite another word, more exact, in the Greek language, to express a “covenant.” The reason for this, I believe, is, that God would thereby fix our gaze upon the Cross of Christ, and see there, that what had existed up to that day as a covenant, then, for the first time, became a testament, and that while the covenant between God and Christ is from everlasting (Heb. 13:20), “the new testament” dates from the death of the Son of God on Calvary.

Even the old covenant made between Jehovah and Israel, of which Moses was mediator, looked onward to death (Heb. 9:20). So, in the new, the main requirement was “blood” (Heb. 13:20). So unyielding was the compact between God and Christ, the sole contracting parties, that it cost Him everything, even His blood, to fulfil it. Now that this has been given, it only remains for God to fulfil His pledges to Him. This He has done already, by resurrection from the dead (Heb. 13:20), and Christ Himself, in resurrection, becomes His own Executor, to carry out His own desires toward His people, and to Him all power is given. Could the execution of His will be in better hands? Would you desire it to be in those of any other? He has gone up yonder to prove His will in courts above, and to take possession, not for Himself, but for those on whose behalf He ministers there. From Him has already descended the Holy Ghost, the Comforter (John 16:7), the Witness of Christ’s acceptance and glorification, and the Earnest of our inheritance. And as His prayer in John 17 freely tells, He associates His people so fully with Himself, that they who now share His life, shall yet share His glory also.

Verses 10-13.—When the time has come for Jehovah to resume His dealings with His earthly people, after the Church’s call is complete, He will deal with the “house of Israel”—not as in the wilderness, under law, but in grace; not according to their “We will do” (Exod 19:8), but according to His own “I will” (v. 10). The law can tell me my character and shew me what I am; but in the Cross of Christ I learn the character and the heart of God. Therefore, in that day, under that new covenant, all Israel shall be saved, all shall “know the Lord,” and all their “unrighteousness, sins, and iniquities” will be gone together, in one sweep, from God’s remembrance; His law will be written in their minds and hearts. To ours He has already sent His Spirit (Gal. 4:6).