Passage and Presence, Patterns and Precepts
Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law; who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, “See,” He says, “that you make all things according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.” Hebrews 8:4-5 (NAS)
Jesus, the Son of God, our great High Priest
The inspired writer of the Hebrew letter introduced Jesus, the Son of God, as our great high priest back in Hebrews 4:14. In the previous two installments we considered Jesus’ superiority to Aaron as our high priest based upon Old Testament quotes found in Hebrews 5:5-6. If you missed those, they can be found at the congregational website, newcreation.us. From Hebrews 5:6 to our text today, which contains the next citation of an Old Testament passage, the penman has continued working on the principle of Jesus as our high priest.
The end of chapter five on into the early verses of chapter six of Hebrews is about the saints becoming the ripe or mature fruit that are supposed to be produced by the branch that budded (as in Aaron’s rod, Num. 17:1-11). Chapter six closes with the full assurance of a better hope anchored upon the oath of God, and Christ as our High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek, interceding for us in the presence of the Father. Chapter seven then switches back to a further discussion of Melchizedek as one “made like the Son of God” who holds his priesthood perpetually, and as a priest of God, the one who gave the blessing to Abraham. (This writer’s opinion is this was one of the pre-incarnate appearances by Jesus in the Old Testament). The principle that the lesser is always blessed by the greater is cited, thus establishing Christ’s superiority over even the progenitor of the physical nation of Israel, Abraham. The fact that the change of the priesthood from earthly, mortal men to a heavenly, permanent, spiritual one in Christ Jesus then substantiates the change from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant which will be discussed more fully later in Hebrews chapters eight through ten.
The Pattern Shadowed in the Tabernacle
In moving the Hebrews from the natural, earthly pattern in the Temple system, which they understood and had arranged their lives around, to implementing by faith the spiritual, heavenly pattern as it’s being laid out step by step in progressive revelation from the Holy Spirit, the faithful scribe is moved to quote from Exodus 25:40. “And see that you make them after the pattern for them, which was shown to you on the mountain.” (NAS)
As we’ve driven home so many times before, New Covenant Israel, the church, needs to remember that the Old Testament was written for our instruction and that the many events recorded and preserved “happened as examples for us” (1 Cor. 10:6a). This little study on a weekly basis of Old Testament quotes found in the New Testament, has so far been over a three year journey-and we’re not done yet.
So let’s step back for a moment and consider the book of Exodus as a whole from which this quote is lifted.
We know the main event is that for which the book is named, the Exodus. But what would you consider to be the theme of the book? How about deliverance? Through Moses leadership and the works of God, the nation of Israel is delivered from bondage in Egypt. The next key event that the book focuses upon after their deliverance from bondage, is their safe passage and deliverance to Mount Sinai where Moses receives the Law, then delivers it to the nation of Israel.
How would you say the book is divided? How about the first fourteen chapters as pharaoh, plagues, and pursuit; with the plagues being the central events in the earliest chapters. The remainder of the book (chs 15-40) concerns passage to Mt. Sinai where God’s presence descends and dwells upon Sinai. It is there that the LORD’s pattern is implemented by the precepts delivered to Moses. In Psalms 119, the Psalm of praise for God’s law, the psalmist refers to the law as a whole as the “precepts” of the LORD twenty-one times. The overwhelming bulk of the latter chapters in Exodus are devoted to Moses expounding upon Yahweh’s precepts and the divinely designed pattern. So, take a guess how a lot of folks categorize the book of Exodus. That’s right, plagues and precepts.
Where the LORD’s concern is zeroed in, and the pattern is particularly emphasized, is in the building of the Tabernacle and the associated furnishings within it. So critical was adhering to the pattern of the LORD as delivered by Moses, that in the book of Exodus that terminology, or verbiage similar to it, is cited four times (Ex. 25:9, 40; 26:30; 27:8) as well as one other time in Numbers 8:4 concerning the lighting and placement of the lampstand. Once the construction of the Tabernacle and the furnishings were completed, Moses examined the work, confirmed it to have been built according to the pattern, and blessed the sons of Israel. (Ex. 39:42-43)
The physical Tabernacle was the shadow cast by the substance of the pattern in the heavenly places. It’s important for us to note that the pattern and precepts given Moses were shown to him on the mountain. There are only two mountains that really matter in Scripture that need to be understood properly. That’s Mt. Sinai in Arabia, and Mt. Zion in heavenly Jerusalem. Moses scaled Mt. Sinai and received the first “copyright” ever issued from the LORD. He was charged with insuring the copy of the heavenly things were done right as a foreshadow of what was to be the substance-the pattern and precepts of the New Covenant issued from Mount Zion in heavenly Jerusalem. Next week, we expound upon that mountain.