Christ must have the first place in all things. In the Epistle to the Hebrews, it is the purpose of the Holy Spirit to show that every one and every thing must give way and make way for Him.
When Peter, James and John were on the mountain with Jesus, and the latter was speaking with Moses and Elijah, Peter’s suggestion was to give equal place to all three. God did not allow the honour of Christ to suffer, even though Peter did it through ignorance. Immediately Moses and Elijah were hidden from their sight, as follows: “While he [Peter] was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and lo, a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I have found my delight: hear him”, Matthew 17:5. It is worth noting that the cloud covered them, without darkening them; it was bright – the excellent glory, 2 Peter 1:17. The word is used in the translation of the LXX for the cloud which took possession of the tabernacle and filled it with glory, Exodus 40:34-35.
Christ is God’s great focal point for us and this is emphasized all through the Epistle to the Hebrews. One thing after another is set aside in order to have the Lord Jesus, the Christ of God, alone before us.
- Prophets and “many ways”. In the opening verses of Hebrews, we are told that God had spoken in many ways in the prophets, but now He is speaking directly, “in Son” [in the person of the Son]. Dreams and persons had been used, but now God Himself is speaking.
- Angels are surpassed in chapters 1 and 2, and He who has obtained a name more excellent than they, is brought before us. And this is done on the authority of scripture after scripture.
- Moses is set aside next in chapter 3. Although Moses was a faithful servant “in God’s house”, (Hebrews 3:5), Christ is “Son over God’s house” (Hebrews 3:6). It is God’s house, built by Christ (verse 3), and he who built all things is God; but He (Christ) is over it as Son.
- Joshua was unable to bring Israel into God’s rest (Chapter 4} but Jesus, the true Joshua, gives God’s own rest. [This rest is not the rest of conscience. Israel had been sheltered by the blood in Egypt. This is the rest of Canaan. Unbelief and idolatry spoilt everything for them. The warning for us - that unbelief and sin do not prevent us from enjoying our heavenly privileges now.]
- Aaron in chapters 5 and 7 must give way to the true Melchisedec. Aaron’s priesthood was constituted by the law of a fleshly commandment (ch.7:16}, but it must give way to the priesthood of the Son, which is “established in the power of indissoluble life”.
- The old covenant must go (Chapter 8) and that which Christ ministers continues for ever.
- The sanctuary under the law did not give a worshipper a settled or perfect conscience; it kept him at a distance from God’s presence. This now gives way to the torn veil which means that we can go in to the presence of God. And if we can now do this, it is a witness to the fact that the worshipper is now complete, “perfected”. The sanctuary, the tabernacle, was an earthly one. (Chapter 9)
- The victim or offering under the law never accomplished atonement, but the sacrifice of Christ has purged the conscience for ever. (Chapter10)
The system of the law was good, but what Christ has established is far better. This word “better” is used frequently in Hebrews, as are words such as:- eternal, abiding, continuing.
Angels, notable persons and the old system must all give way before Him whom God has set forth for us. The law and its ordinances were but shadows of the coming good things. We now have the substance; why be occupied with the shadows?
MM April 2008