Is your conscience bothered by something you have done wrong? If so, tune in to find out who can cleanse your conscience. In today’s study of Hebrews 9, Pastor Jason will look at that and how the old system of worship was a shadow of things to come.
Whenever I am on Facebook, I will come across cartoon illustrations. One of these cartoon illustrations depicted one sock having a conversation with another sock. A sock approaches another sock in tears. He begins to present to the other sock a flyer looking for his missing soul mate. The sock says to the other, “Don’t worry, we have a search team looking for them.” In the background, we see an illustration of a dryer with two socks looking for the missing. Maybe we will never find those missing socks, but what do we do with the one left? One option is to use the odd socks to create artwork. Well, that is what my brother-in-law did.
My Brother-in-law is a successful artist who lives in New York. As an artist, he creates impressive art that illustrates the times of the culture to make a positive statement. He once collected a bunch of mismatched socks from the family to create his artwork. Those leftover socks were used to create an illustration that is now hanging on someone’s wall.
As we have been studying the book of Hebrews, the author of Hebrews has been using illustrations to point his listeners back to Jesus. These Jewish believers were facing persecution for following Jesus. Some were thinking of returning to the old way to the old regulations and temple worship instead of embracing their newly acquired freedom under the new covenant. So, the author has been reminding them that following Jesus is worth it and that the old regulations and temple worship were but a shadow of things to come. In chapter 9, verses 1-10, the author will focus on the temple worship of the first covenant, why it was an illustration for us today, and how to have a cleansed conscience.
The author, in his letter, knew that his Hebrew listeners were knowledgeable about temple worship and would not go into the specifics of how each piece of furniture was used. Our study for today will look at each component of temple worship and how Jesus fulfilled each one, beginning with the house that contained the furniture, the Tabernacle.
The tabernacle of the Old Testament was a place of worship, Like a church building today. In The book of Exodus, we read that God gave Moses directions on how to build a mobile worship tent they could pack up and take with them on their journey to the promised land. These directions were precise and had to be followed 100% with no deviation. The reason is that the tabernacle had to be the correct representation of the tabernacle in heaven.
The Hebrew counterpart of the Greek word Tabernacle means “dwelling place.” God commanded the people to build this royal tent to become his dwelling place. The tabernacle would become where the people could go and focus their worship on the Lord. God would dwell with his people within the tabernacle system.
Under the new covenant, God lives in the hearts of all Christians alive in Jesus Christ. I love Paul’s response to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, when he said, “Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
God is not contained in a temple. If you believe in Jesus Christ, God’s Holy Spirit dwells in you.
The lampstands in the temple were lit every morning and every evening by the priest. These lamps were kept lit to signify to the people that the presence of the Lord was among them.
When Jesus walked among the people, he told them that He was the light of the world. “Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” (John 8:12 NLT)”. Jesus, the Son of God, became the light of the world. As Christians, we are the salt and light of the world because of what Christ has done for us. Jesus told his disciples, “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, which gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father (Matthew 5:14-16).
The table of consecrated bread was a thank-you offering, a symbol of God’s daily provisions. Twelve loaves of bread were placed on the table each week in the Holy Place, representing the twelve tribes of Israel. When Jesus was teaching his disciples to pray, he said, “give us this day our daily bread,” as a reminder to the disciples that God will provide daily for their needs. As believers in Christ, we can confidently approach God and ask him to provide for our daily needs. After this, Jesus teaches his disciples not to worry. In Matthew 6, beginning in verse 31, Jesus says, “so don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
Jesus is also the bread of life. “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:35 NLT)
The gold altar of incense. This golden altar was placed in front of the ark of the covenant, and incense was burned to symbolize the prayers of the people rising fragrantly to God.
Under the new covenant, the prayer of the righteous is a pleasant aroma rising to God. David understood this when he wrote Psalm 141, saying, “accept my prayer as incense offered to you, and my upraised hands as an evening offering” (Vs.2).
Not only do our prayers rise fragrantly to God, but when we live for Christ, our lives are like a Christ-like fragrance that rises to God. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians that “our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this? (2 Corinthians 2:15-16) The answer to this rhetorical question is no one but God is adequate to save.
The Ark of the covenant was a chest overlaid in gold and contained the covenant symbols, and the contents served as reminders for the nation of Israel of what God had done.
The first item was a gold jar that contained mana. Mana was the heavenly food that God provided for the nation of Israel every morning to feed the families. The Bible describes manna as a white coriander seed that tasted like honey wafers. People would go out every day to collect these flakes and make meals. The manna was placed into the jar to preserve it for future generations. That was, they could see the food God had provided Israel in the wilderness when God set them free from slavery in Egypt.
The second item was Aaron’s staff. The Lord had commanded Moses in Numbers 17, to bring twelve staffs into the tabernacle with each leader’s name imprinted on them from each tribe of Israel. Moses had to place the twelve staff in front of the ark of the covenant. God told Moses that buds would sprout on the staff belonging to the tribe that God chose to approach the Ark of the Covenant. Moses obeyed the Lord, and the next day Moses collected the staff from God’s presence. Moses found that Aaron’s staff representing the tribe of Levi had sprouted, budded, blossomed, and produced ripe almonds! Aaron’s staff reminded the people that God had chosen the tribe of Levi to be his priests.
Then the third item was the stone tablets Moses received from the Lord on the mountain. These tablets had the ten commandments inscribed onto them, and these ten chief covenant stipulations were what he required of Israel. These tablets served as a reminder for the nation and reminded them of God’s top ten.
We all need reminders, don’t we? Reminders of what God has done for us in the past. These reminders allow us to reflect on God’s provisions and the grace he has shown us. I know of people who keep a prayer journal to record prayers and God’s answers to their prayers. Some record those moments in a journal, where God shows up in their lives in unexpected ways. Moments where God delivers them out of a difficult situation or when he blesses them. I enjoy keeping a journal because I can pass these God moments down to my children and future generations.
The Atonement Cover
On the top of the ark of the covenant lies the atonement cover, otherwise known as the mercy seat. Once a year, the High priest would go into the Most Holy Place and approach the ark of the covenant. Once he approached the ark, he would sprinkle the blood of a special sin offering on the atonement cover to make atonement for the people’s sins. This special moment allowed the temple to stay holy, and the Lord would remain among his people.
The atonement cover served as God’s throne in the tabernacle. When the High Priest would approach the ark, he would see the presence of God hovering over the cover in the form of a cloud. The cloud was a visible manifestation of God’s presence and was called God’s Glory. On the left and right of the cloud were two carvings of angelic cherubim. The cherubim served as God’s royal attendants, with their wings shielding the area where his presence was manifested.
Imagine being that High Priest on the day of atonement. As you enter the Most Holy Place, you see the ark of God’s covenant in front of you. As you approach the ark with a sin offering, you see God’s presence and a cloud manifested over the ark sandwiched between the cherubim. Just think of the awe that you would be experiencing as you see a cloud that is not moving and is stationed right in front of you. Then you remind yourself that you are not just approaching a cloud but God himself. How cool is that!
Under the Old System of worship, a person would offer a sacrifice for their sins, and their conscience was cleansed until they sinned again. Time after time, a person under the old system would have to make continuous sacrifices to clear the conscience of their sins committed towards God.
Under the new covenant, Jesus shed his blood to make atonement for the people’s sins on the cross. The tabernacle and the temple had a curtain separating the Most Holy Place from the Holy Place. When Jesus died on the cross, the curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place was torn into two pieces from the top down—signifying that God accepted Jesus’s atoning sacrifice and made it so everyone could now approach God.
How to have a cleansed conscience
Jesus became our High Priest and is now sitting next to God in heaven, and he is advocating for you and me. When we place our faith in Jesus Christ, we come into a relationship with God, who will forgive us of our sins and cleanse our conscience with the lamb’s blood. Our relationship with God is not based on external regulations but Christ himself.
The Bible says that one day everyone will approach God and stand before him in judgment. God will judge what we did with our lives here on earth. When people place their faith in Jesus, they receive eternal life with him in heaven. On that day of judgment, a Christian will stand before God, and Jesus will look at you and say, this is my guy; this is my gal. These are the ones that I have atoned for, and you have given me, and he will welcome you into heaven. Then some have not placed their faith in Jesus. You, too, will stand before God in heaven, but his answer will be different. When Jesus looks at you, he will say that he did not know you and to leave his presence.
If you want a cleansed conscience and have not made that choice to place your faith in Jesus Christ, then today is a great day to do so. Heaven is a prepared place for prepared people. If you want to get ready to meet the Lord and spend eternity in heaven, if you’re going to stand before God and have Jesus look at you with a loving glance and say to you that is my guy, my gal. Then go to abidinginthefaith.org and click on the know God button to learn how.