A lot of people wonder at the Old Testament and why we even have it. Especially the parts about the making of the tabernacle and all the laws, many of which are no longer applicable to us today.
The reason is found in these next three chapters, and is summed up in verse 8 of this chapter. They were all shadows and copies of spiritual realities.
The writer of Hebrews says specifically that the tabernacle was a shadow and copy of heaven itself. Even though the tabernacle was obviously not even close to being as glorious as heaven, nevertheless, because it was a copy, Moses was warned to make everything exactly as he had been told.
But the tabernacle wasn’t the only thing that was a shadow and copy. Many of the laws that we don’t understand today were too. The ideas of unclean and clean, for example, and the laws concerning food, leprosy, and even mildew were all pictures of sin and the need to stay pure as God’s people.
The sacrifices were shadows and copies as well. As we said yesterday, they were not sufficient to deal with our sins, but they looked forward to the perfect sacrifice Jesus made on the cross.
And finally, the covenant that God made with the Israelites at Mount Sinai was a mere shadow and copy of the the true relationship he wanted with us. The laws he gave them were all external to themselves, and it was up to them to try to keep them all. And if they did, God said he would be their God and they would be his people. That they would be his priests and a holy nation for him.
But because these laws were not truly part of the Israelites, they were unable to keep them. And so God said,
“The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord.
This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (8-12)
In the old covenant, God gave the Israelites law. But in the new covenant, God promises to put the law into our hearts, changing us from the inside out.
Under the old covenant, the Israelites had priests and prophets to teach people to know God. And even then, there was a distance between God and the people. They didn’t really have a personal relationship with him.
But now, Jesus is our priest, and he brings us directly before his Father and we will know him personally.
So let us rejoice that we no longer need to deal with shadows and copies which were imperfect, but that through Jesus, we now have what is real. A real relationship with God with hearts purified through his sacrifice on the cross.
And let us draw near to him, not just now at Christmas time, but every day.