Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, ”See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises.
Did you every make shadow puppets as a child? I always enjoyed making turkeys, puppies, and other basic shapes that could be projected on the nearby wall. Now, in the process of making these images, I never once confused my hand-shaped puppy for that of a real dog. I knew that these images were just projections of an object and not the object itself. In the same way, how powerful is the assertion by the author of Hebrews to say that the Old Testament priests served a shadow of the heavenly things or what was to come? While bold in statement, it is true in reality. The priests of the Old Testament had to offer regular sacrifices for the sins of the people. But these sacrifices never fully satisfied the justice of God, where Christ proved to be the ultimate atoning sacrifice for our sins. Because of Christ’s death on cross and resurrection on the third day (read 1 Corinthians 15 for more information on the power of the resurrection), we can now be made alive by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8).
The better covenant referred to in this passage is Jeremiah 31:31-34. It reads the following:
31“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
Why is this covenant better than that of the Old Testament? Read 2 Corinthians 3:1-12 and be encouraged that we don’t serve a shadow or a copy, but the living God, living Savior, living Spirit, and the living Word!
1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. 3And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God,6who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
7Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 10Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.
12Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end.