Hebrews 8-10

In Hebrews 5-7 the author set forth several ideas confirming the superiority of Christ’s high priesthood—and the implications this had for his readers. They could be assured that the perfection of their Priest offered them the unique benefit of unfettered access to God. In Hebrews 8-10, the author expanded his sphere of thought to include the superiority of Christ’s sacrifice over those offered in the old covenant. He wanted his audience to see Jesus’ superiority in the storyline of Scripture.

(1) In Heb 8:5, the author quoted Exod 25:40 to establish that the old covenant was organized according to a pattern, a copy and shadow that anticipated the reality of Jesus’ heavenly mediatorial ministry. When the Lord came down upon Mount Sinai in Exodus 19, He gave Moses the law and the plans Moses was to follow for constructing the tabernacle so that Israel could enjoy God’s presence as they traveled toward Canaan. The Lord commanded Moses, “Be careful to make everything according to the model of them you have been shown on the Mountain” (Exod 25:40). The author of Hebrews wrote that Jesus was unique as a High Priest because of His eternal nature and place of ministry at God’s right hand in heaven (Heb 8:1-2). What the Lord showed Moses was a copy of what Jesus would fulfill in His death, resurrection, and ascension.

(2) In Heb 8:8-12; 10:16-17 the author quoted Jer 31:31-34 to propose that Jesus fulfilled Jeremiah’s promise of a new covenant and permanent forgiveness for God’s people. Jeremiah repeatedly chastised the people of Judah because they did not heed the lesson God taught them when Israel was carried into exile by the Assyrians. Since Judah persisted in idolatry just as Israel had practiced, the Lord would bring the Babylonians against Judah and carry them from the land as well. The people needed a new heart and eternal forgiveness—they needed a new covenant. In Jer 31:31-34, the Lord promised to make this new covenant with His people and the author of Hebrews wrote that Jesus inaugurated it when He offered His own blood to atone for the sins of His followers. The use of Jer 31:31-34 in Heb 8:8-12; 10:16-17 frames Hebrews 8-10 as a unit in which the author described the efficacy of Jesus’ blood to atone for sins in a way that exceeded any sacrifice offered in the old covenant—including the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16; Heb 9:1-10).

(3) In Heb 9:20, the author quoted Exod 24:8 to illustrate that only through the offering of blood does God forgive sins. After the Lord gave Israel the law through Moses (Exodus 19-23), Moses led the people in a ceremony to confirm their participation in the covenant. At the ceremony, Moses had young men from the various tribes offer sacrifices and he took some of the blood from the sacrifices and sprinkled it on the altar and the people (Exod 24:1-8). The author of Hebrews commented that the since the blood Moses sprinkled that day cleansed the earthly elements of the old covenant, so the blood of Jesus—offered at the consummation of the ages—has cleansed the heavenly tabernacle where Jesus ministers as the High Priest of the new covenant. There Jesus now appears in God’s presence for believers until He returns to provide eternal salvation for all who wait upon Him (Heb 9:23-28).

(4) In Heb 10:5-9, the author quoted Ps 40:6-8 as words Jesus spoke through His incarnation and substitutionary death to forgive the sins of His people. In Psalm 40, the psalmist cried out for deliverance and recounted his commitment to rely upon God from his heart. The psalmist recognized that God delights more in His people understanding His instruction and placing their confidence in Him than offering rote sacrifices. The author of Hebrews exploited the psalmist’s contrast between doing God’s will and offering sacrifices. Jesus fulfilled God’s will by offering Himself once for the forgiveness of sins, sanctifying His people forever.

(5) In Heb 10:30-31, the author quoted Deut 32:35-36 to warn his readers that God will punish all who turn from Christ. In Deuteronomy 32, Moses praised God for His covenant commitment to Israel and indicted the people for their failures. Moses reminded Israel that God would display His vengeance upon those who rebelled (Deut 32:35-36). According to the author of Hebrews, if God punished Israel for failing to adhere to their covenant commitments, how much more would He punish those who disregarded the blood of Jesus and spurned the Holy Spirit (Heb 10:30-31)? But the author of Hebrews was more optimistic than Moses. The author was confident that his audience would endure to receive what God had promised, recalling their earlier days of faithfulness to the confession of Christ and the ways they cared for the suffering community (Heb 10:32-39).

(6) In Heb 10:37-38, the author coordinated Isa 26:20 and Hab 2:3-4 to exhort his audience to confidently endure their trials in Christ. Isaiah exhorted Israel to wait upon the Lord during the rise of the Assyrian threat and Habakkuk likewise encourage Judah to wait on the Lord during the rise of the Babylonians. The words of the prophets offered a plural call for endurance, warning God’s people of the dangers of apostasy. The author of Hebrews quoted the prophets, saying, “For in yet a very little while, the coming One will come and not delay. But My righteous one will live by faith; and if he draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him” (Heb 10:37-38). The author was confident that his audience would heed God’s word and endure. Placing himself amongst them he wrote, “But we are not those who draw back and are destroyed, but those who have faith and obtain life” (Heb 10:39).