Here is the main point: We have a High Priest who sat down in the place of honour beside the throne of the majestic God in heaven. There he ministers in the heavenly Tabernacle, the true place of worship that was built by the Lord and not by human hands. And since every high priest is required to offer gifts and sacrifices, our High Priest must make an offering, too. If he were here on earth, he would not even be a priest, since there already are priests who offer the gifts required by the law. They serve in a system of worship that is only a copy, a shadow of the real one in heaven. For when Moses was getting ready to build the Tabernacle, God gave him this warning:
“BE SURE THAT YOU MAKE EVERYTHING ACCORDING TO THE PATTERN I HAVE SHOWN YOU HERE ON THE MOUNTAIN.” [Exodus 25:40]
But now Jesus, our High Priest, has been given a ministry that is far superior to the old priesthood, for he is the one who mediates for us a far better covenant with God, based on better promises. If the first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need for a second covenant to replace it. But when God found fault with the people, he said:
“THE DAY IS COMING, SAYS THE LORD, WHEN I WILL MAKE A NEW COVENANT WITH THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL AND JUDAH. THIS COVENANT WILL NOT BE LIKE THE ONE I MADE WITH THEIR ANCESTORS WHEN I TOOK THEM BY THE HAND AND LED THEM OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT. THEY DID NOT REMAIN FAITHFUL TO MY COVENANT, SO I TURNED MY BACK ON THEM, SAYS THE LORD. BUT THIS IS THE NEW COVENANT I WILL MAKE WITH THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL ON THAT DAY, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS IN THEIR MINDS, AND I WILL WRITE THEM ON THEIR HEARTS. I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY WILL BE MY PEOPLE. AND THEY WILL NOT NEED TO TEACH THEIR NEIGHBOURS, NOR WILL THEY NEED TO TEACH THEIR RELATIVES, SAYING, ‘YOU SHOULD KNOW THE LORD.’ FOR EVERYONE, FROM THE LEAST TO THE GREATEST, WILL KNOW ME ALREADY. AND I WILL FORGIVE THEIR WICKEDNESS, AND I WILL NEVER AGAIN REMEMBER THEIR SINS.” [Jeremiah 31:31-34]
When God speaks of a “new” covenant, it means he has made the first one obsolete. It is now out of date and will soon disappear.Hebrews 8:1-13
Let’s explore the depth of these three words:- “The sanctuary, the tent and the shadow. I will begin this Gem with the statement that Jesus is the true Great High Priest who ministers in the true Tabernacle and all other tabernacles are merely shadows.” That one statement has set the scene for what is to follow. I spent the time in the previous Gem making the author’s main point clear.
We have a High Priest who sat down in the place of honour beside the throne of the majestic God in heaven. There he ministers in the heavenly Tabernacle, the true place of worship that was built by the Lord and not by human hands.Hebrews 8:1-2
I don’t need to repeat the importance of the comments I made in Gem 2112. I am sure you got the point from the author’s key statement. But there is so much more to unpack in that statement. For this Gem I am going to focus on the three words in the title.
The words in the Greek text for the Sanctuary are τὰ ἅγια (Ta Hagia ) meaning the holy things, the Holy Place or the Sanctuary. There is no distinction in verse 2 or hint of dividing the Tabernacle into the Outer Court and the Inner Court, nor the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. Rather the neuter plural could also refer to the holy things, everything holy related to the tabernacle or the sanctuary. The Sanctuary, strictly speaking is the Holy of Holies but with the use of the plural form of the word the sense is all of it: all the trappings and the place of the Sanctuary. The sense of what the author is arguing is essentially the Most Holy Place – the inner sanctum of the Tabernacle. The part where the LORD Himself was present once a year. But of course it is more than that. The whole Tabernacle is also being meant and all the Holy things which are part of it. When we talk of the Tabernacle we are talking of the Holy Place [hagios], the Holy of Holies and the Holy things. τὰ ἅγια (Ta Hagia ), literally the Holy things, is being used here, but in a different sense.
Then we have the reference to the “tent” [σκηνή] (skēnē) or as many versions translate the Tabernacle. The tent is described as having been ‘built’ or ‘pitched’ [πήγνυμι] (pēgnymi) by God. That is such an interesting word to use. Yes it contains the idea of pitching or erecting a tent but has the connotation of the building of the Tabernacle or even the Temple. There is so much more to what is going on here, which I will explain below. In John 1:14, Jesus is described as “having tabernacled among us”. The Greek word is [ἐσκήνωσεν] (eskenosen) which Eugene Peterson in earlier versions of the Message translated as “pitched His tent among us” or in later versions “moved into the neighbourhood”. But it is all closely related to the concept of the shekinah glory. Do you notice the re-occurrence of the three letters [skn]?
The Shadow / The Pattern
The writer of Hebrews has told us in verse 5 “They serve in a system of worship that is only a copy, a shadow of the real one in heaven.” The real Tabernacle, Holy Place, Most Holy Place, The Holy of Holies is in heaven. Remember the author then backed that statement up with the quote from Exodus 25:40.
Be sure that you make everything according to the pattern I have shown you here on the mountain.Exodus 25:40
Read the quote from Exodus 25 and you will see the trappings of the Tabernacle are talked about as well as the Tabernacle itself. The word for pattern in Hebrew is [תּבנית] (tabnı̂yth). This refers to both the structure of the tabernacle and the holy things. All of it! But the term in Hebrew also signifies a model, resemblance, figure, likeness, pattern, similitude. What was it that God showed Moses on Mount Sinai? The writer of Hebrews tells us in this passage that God showed Moses the true Tabernacle in heaven, which clearly was not just the layout but which included the trappings or the holy things as well. Moses saw the archetype, the true Tabernacle in heaven and then made the copy, the shadow, the replica on earth.
Now to pull this together for this Gem. I asked the question above:- Do you notice the re-occurrence of the three letters [skn]?
- eskenosen (Greek) / Shakan, shaken (Hebrew) – “tabernacle”, “dwell”
- shekinah – presence (as in the glory of the Presence)
There is a whole lot more being said by the use of these words than we can understand at first glance. Hebrew words are based on three letters called radicals. Those same three letters can then morph into other forms while using the same root word, in order to convey different shades of meaning. Simply in terms of the changes that occur to form nouns, verbs, adjectives and other parts of speech. But it is also true in Hebrew that subtle meanings are conveyed in the forms of the root word which are present in other words formed. That is why Eugene Peterson could rightly translate John 1:14 as “pitched his tent among us” in an earlier version of the Message. (The TS2009 translation does the same thing). The Complete Jewish Bible translates John 1:14 as follows:-
The Word became a human being and lived with us, and we saw his Sh’khinah, the Sh’khinah of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth. [CJB]John 1:14
There is more to say about all this but I am going to leave it there for the moment. I am attempting to make these Gems shorter for you so as not to overwhelm you. But that is hard to do when we are talking about the Word of God. There is just so much to it and so much to comment on. Chew on these things I have given you for the moment to see what you come up with before the next Gem. You can see for yourself that in the Message and the TS2009 some liberty has been taken in the text to express things more freely. You are at liberty to do the same. It might help you to understand at a deeper level the sense of Shekinah Glory, a term which many Christians use as a buzz word.
Our problem is that we go from toy to toy rather than from glory to glory.A W Tozer
If I had a million brains I could not fully process all the ways God is working around me right now for my good / His glory.Louie Giglio
We just can’t fully grasp the subtleties that are expressed in biblical words which go right over our head.Ian
If Moses could only see the afterglow of God’s glory and if that afterglow was enough to make the Israelites hide their face from the intensity, what does that say about the Glory of God?Ian
‘God showed Moses the true Tabernacle in heaven’ are you suggesting here that maybe Moses was transported to heaven?
No Ross, I wasn’t suggesting that, although based on Paul’s comment about being caught up to the third heaven (2 Cor 12:2ff), it may well be possible. I think that God could have shown Moses in vision form (like so many others) what the Tabernacle in heaven looked like, even given him a guided tour.
What I do want to draw out here rather than in a specific Gem for the comment, is that the Tabernacle on earth was a shadow of the real one in heaven (Heb 8:5) and the old system was a shadow, a dim preview of what was to come (Heb 10:1). Isn’t interesting that we are talking of a something which symbolises the full radiant glory of the risen LORD? Isn’t appropriate therefore that in the light of that full blown brightness, anything in the earthly realm would be seen as a shadow?
Thank you Ian.