Hebrews Bible Study Week 9: Chapter 8

By | January 23, 2021
This entry is part 9 of 16 in the series Hebrews Bible Study

{Updated to add: This post and many of the following posts were part of an online Bible study over the book of Hebrews that I hosted in the past on my previous blog. I am reposting here to make the resource available to anyone interested.}

It’s hard to know how to begin any blog post these days. Almost every email, post, article, or Facebook meme I’ve seen has something to do with COVID-19. It’s tiring to keep reading and hearing about it, but the reality is that it is here. It’s refreshing to hear or read something that has absolutely nothing to do with the virus, but the reality is that it has affected us all in many ways and will continue to do so for some time. I remember hearing a wonderful sermon on Psalm 27 by Paul Tripp years ago, in which he said that trusting God doesn’t mean we minimize difficult circumstances or pretend that they are not there/as bad as they are. It means recognizing the ugliness of the situation and choosing to meditate on God instead of the situation.

My husband and our assistant pastor both spoke to our church yesterday via FB live at two different times, and it was encouraging to hear them both point to the saving work of Jesus Christ. If God could send his Son to die for our salvation, he clearly loves and cares for us in the midst of a crisis he has sovereignly allowed. As I studied this morning, I thought what a blessing it is to be able to spend this time of crisis studying and meditating on Jesus’ saving work, his greatest act of love for us.

That being said, here are my questions for this week, and here is the pdf: Hebrews 8 Questions

Hebrews 8 Questions

1. What was the point of what the author had been saying? What do we have?

2. Describe our high priest. Where is he seated? (We’ve already seen this phrasing before, so what does this phrase tell us about our high priest?)

3. How are “the holy places” described?

4. What does every high priest appointed to do?

5. So, what is necessary for this high priest?

6. What would be true of this high priest if he were on earth?

7. The priests who offered gifts according to the law served what?

8. Christ’s heavenly priestly ministry is better than the Levites’ earthly ministry because what was true of the tent Moses erected (at which the Levites served)?

9. Why is Christ’s ministry much more excellent than the old?

10. Why was a second covenant necessary?

11. Most of the chapter focuses on why God found fault with the old/first covenant/promises quoting what Old Testament passage?

12. What had the Lord said he was going to establish? With whom?

13. What was this new covenant not like?

14. Why was he going to establish this new covenant?

15. What was the covenant that the Lord was going to establish? List its contents. (Feel free to mine the depths and beauty of the new covenant!)

16. When God established a new covenant, what did he do to the first one? How is the first one described?

“‘I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more’” (Hebrews 8:10-12 ESV).


3.26.20 Updated to add: Spoiler Alert! Be sure not to read my notes until you’ve done your own study!

8:1-13: The Mediator of a New Covenant

8:1-2. The point of all the author had been saying, comparing Levitical priests and Jesus’ priesthood, is that Jesus’ priesthood—along with the new covenant his ministry initiated—is better than the old priesthood/law/covenant. Jesus is a high priest who—having completed his earthly task—sits down with the Father on his throne. His priestly ministry is in heaven. (It seems to me that the phrases high priest seated at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven and  minister in the holy places that the Lord set up are parallel phrases. So, high priest = minister and right hand of majesty in heaven = holy places the Lord set up.)

8:3-5. OT priests offered gifts and sacrifices (cf. 5:1), and thus Jesus should have something to offer. The author has already mentioned that Jesus did offer himself (7:27), but he does not develop that here. He continues to compare the priesthoods. The Levites served and worshiped in a copy/shadow, patterned after the real thing—heaven (cf. Ex 25:40). Jesus—unable to be a Levitical priest because of his descending from Judah—ministers in heaven as a priest, a ministry more excellent than the Levites’.

“Some readers with a Jewish background may have considered that there was something lacking in Christianity because it offered no elaborate ceremony in an earthly sanctuary. Hebrews makes the opposite point. Christ introduces the ultimate, spiritual realities to which the old covenant ritual pointed, fulfilling and replacing the whole system prescribed in the law of Moses.”[1]

8:6. The author now compares the superiority in excellence of Jesus’ high priestly ministry in heaven to the covenant he mediates also being better than the first covenant because it is based on better promises.  “Jesus inaugurates or mediates the benefits of the new covenant by means of his death and heavenly exaltation (cf. 7:22; 9:11–15; 10:12–18).”[2]

8:7-9. The second covenant is better, because the first is not faultless. The author quotes Jeremiah 31:31-34 to point out the fault of the first and contrast it with the better new covenant/promises.

Both the old covenant and the new covenant were established with Israel/Judah. (Other NT passage focus on the in inclusion of Gentiles; cf. Gal 3-4; Rom 9-11. But Hebrews does make it “quite clear that anyone who has confidence in Jesus Christ and what he achieved will share in the fulfilment of God’s promises to his ancient people (e.g. 3:14; 4:3; 5:9; 7:25).”[3])

The new would not be like the old that God had established with them when he brought them out of Egypt in that they didn’t obey the covenant, so God showed no concern for them. (Jeremiah was written during the Babylonian exile in the 6th century B.C. Their judgment for not obeying the covenant was exile.)

It seems like the “fault” of the old covenant and the way in which it differed from the new was in its inability to make every member (all of Israel) changed in their hearts (thus many and then most “did not continue in my covenant”). In addition to being born into the old covenant, Israelites needed a work in their hearts (cf. Deut 10:16; 30:6) to truly love and obey God. In contrast with the old, the new covenant did this as we will see.

8:10-12. The Lord describes the new covenant that he would make with Israel:

God will put his laws in their minds and write them on their hearts—head and heart knowledge of the truth. “Hebrews views the fulfilment of this promise in Jesus’ cleansing of the hearts of his people from a guilty conscience, so that they may ‘serve the living God’ (9:14; cf. 10:19–25).”[4]

God will be their God; they will be his people. This promises—contingent upon their obedience—had already been given to Israel (cf. Lev 26:12).

They won’t have to teach their neighbors and brothers to know the Lord, for they would all—from least to greatest—know him (cf. Isa 54:13; Jn 6:45; 1 Jn 2:27). This must refer to those who are already in the covenant. They won’t need to be told to know the Lord—like those members of the old covenant who still needed to “circumcise their hearts”—because he was already working in them to do so. “Hebrews implies that this promise is fulfilled in the direct approach to God ‘with confidence’ that Jesus makes possible (4:16; 7:25; 10:19–22; cf. 12:22–24).”[5]

God will be merciful toward their sins and choose never to remember them.

“The word For in v 12 shows that the basis of these promises is the assurance of a decisive cleansing from sin: For I will forgive their wickedness, and will remember their sins no more. It is clear from chs. 9–10 that Jesus’ sacrifice achieves the fulfilment of that foundational promise (e.g. 9:14, 26, 28; 10:10, 14).”[6]

8:13. Although Jeremiah does not explicitly make the old covenant obsolete, his speaking of a new one implicitly does. Everything attached to the old covenant—its Levitical priesthood, sacrifices, laws, and mode of worship at the tabernacle/temple were vanishing.

[1] Peterson, D. G. (1994). Hebrews. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 1338). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

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