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The insufficiency of the old ceremonies

With these things prepared like this, the priests enter the first room repeatedly, performing their ministry. But the high priest alone enters the second room, and he does that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. Hebrews 9:6-7 CSB


From the text, the writer of Hebrews continues to talk about the insufficiency of the sacrifice involved in the old covenant. After the description of the tabernacle of the old covenant, the author speaks in detail on the old ceremonies. First, the priests would regularly enter the Holy Place “repeatedly, performing their ministry.” Some of these tasks included lighting the lamps, replacing the loaves of bread every Sabbath and burning incense on the golden altar. Although this was done regularly, there was still a clear divide between them and God. In verse 7, we see that the high priest was the only one allowed into the Holy of Holies, “the second room,” once a year on the Day of Atonement, in which he had to provide a blood offering for himself and “for the sins the people had committed in ignorance.” Because priests were not allowed to go beyond the Holy Place, they did not have access to God. That privilege was given only to the high priest. But even he was restricted in approaching God. A key part is in that last sentence, “committed in ignorance.” This phrase indicates that the sacrifice offered by the high priest was for this purpose: for sin committed consciously is a blatant defiant before God. “But the person who acts defiantly, whether native or resident alien, blasphemes the Lord. That person is to be cut off from his people” (Numbers 15:30). There was no perfect atonement available for sins committed consciously by the people. Also, the fact that the high priest had to do this every year shows that it had no permanent effect in removing sin completely. What is on display here in these previous verses is that these ceremonies showed the inability to have direct access to God. Through the revelation of the Holy Spirit, every believer now is able to access God, with Christ paying the perfect atoning sacrifice for sin. These “gifts and sacrifices” were “symbols,” unable to “perfect the worshiper’s conscience.” Yet, through “the new order,” being Christ’s death and resurrection, believers can be transformed completely and this is the good news. Access to God through the old ceremonies were temporary for they were symbols pointing to what Christ would ultimately complete once and for all.


Blessings,

Isaac De Guzman

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