Hebrews 9:1-5 Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness.2 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. 3 Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place, 4 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. 5 Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.
The author now reflects on the how the old covenant has become obsolete, especially in regards to the cultic practices of the tabernacle in the wilderness. The first covenant laid out the worship practices for ancient Israel. At the center of this was worship at a portable tabernacle. The later temple built by Solomon had some of the same concepts. At the center of all of the activities of the tabernacle was the Holy of Holies, the most sacred place because it was where God’s presence was said to dwell. The author here obviously knows the structure of the tabernacle described in the last chapters of Exodus. Each of the artifacts in the tabernacle has special purposes as part of the worship practices of Israel. The focus of the author’s thinking is the “throne of grace” on top of the ark of the covenant. This was the very special place where atonement for sin was made and the people experienced God’s gracious forgiveness. Only the high priest could enter this place once a year to make this atonement. This was the place of mercy and forgiveness. The author argues that all of these elements of the old covenant were pointing to the new covenant. God’s purpose in all this was to teach the people about sin, forgiveness, grace, mercy, and the need for atonement. Jesus fulfilled all of this and brings the old covenant and new covenant together into perfect harmony.
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