HEBREWS 9 – LIFE with a Clear Conscience
Remembering that this is a letter written by a Hebrew to Hebrews living in the first century AD, the first five verses of this chapter is a brief overview of the original “house of worship”. They didn’t need much explanation because they knew it well. It was first set up in the Sinai desert in a tent – called a Tabernacle – after Israel left Egypt and became a nation in their own right. You may think that wading through the Book of Exodus chapter 25, 26, 27, 35 and 36 can be a waste of time. But reading the first five books of the Bible carefully, will lay the foundation and give you an idea of who this Creator God is, how detailed He is, and what He sees as important.
You may have heard the term “seat” when people talk about a house being “the seat” of the Duke of xyz. The “seat”, the family estate, is the place from which the Lord of the Manor ruled over his lands. Well, the Ark of the Covenant was “the mercy seat” of God. If you wanted to go into his “throne room”, you had to go into the “Most Holy Place” and stand before the mercy seat. This “mercy seat” travelled ahead of God’s people until they came to the place that God had prepared in advance for them to go. From this place – from the mercy seat – the Creator God dished out grace and mercy to those He made in His own image – in the hope that they’d know Him and be like Him.
Now when everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. But only the High Priest entered the inner room (the “Most Holy Place” or the “Holy of Holies” behind the curtain), and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. [v6-7]
Why is this important for us today?
It’s vital that we get our head around this because history has proven that, even with an incredibly extensive law – that has so far not been equalled anywhere in the world for its thorough complexity, covering all elements of righteous life expressed in community[a] – no ritual, no gifts, no sacrifice, has the ability to clear the conscience of the worshipper! [v9] I am sure that there isn’t a person on the planet who can explain to me how to get rid of the corruption in my mind. Even if I train myself to avoid it in the day, I dream about it at night completely against my will!
“‘Woe to me,” I cried, “for I am ruined! I am a person of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, yet my eyes now have seen what the King, the Lord Almighty, is like.”[b]
If it were only my lips that let me down, I’d be in trouble enough. But it’s my thoughts, my words and my deeds – done though negligence, through weakness, and through my own deliberate fault – these have dug for me a hole so deep that no amount of sacrificing will dig me out!
However, this is “the gospel”, the really Good News! And what’s brilliant about it, is that it’s “once” and it’s “for all”. [v12,26]
When Jesus came as High Priest of the good things, He didn’t enter by means of the blood of goats and calves. He entered the Most Holy Place (heaven itself [v24] – the Creator God’s residence – God’s throne room) by His own blood and obtained, once and for all, eternal redemption for us. [v11-12] In other words, He “redeemed” me out of the hole I dug for myself. But the Good News doesn’t stop there. What He did actually cleansed our “spiritual consciences” from acts that lead to death. [v14]
FOR THIS REASON, Christ is the mediator of the new agreement – the executor of “the will”. He’s the one in Zechariah’s vision that we talked about yesterday who stands up for us against accusation, gives us “clean clothes” and the right to stand among those who are standing in God’s presence.[c]
Now that a death has taken place to make amends for the wrong-doing committed under the first agreement, this is a new covenant, a new contract, a new “Will”, drafted between the Creator and those He made, so that those who have been called may receive our Father God’s eternal inheritance [v15]: …LIFE with a clear conscience… and the right to freely and permanently stand before our Maker along with those who are standing there.
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[a] Deuteronomy 4:8
[b] Isaiah 6:5
[c] Zechariah 3:1-7