“The Holy Spirit was making it clear that the way into the most holy place had not yet been disclosed while the first tabernacle was still standing. This is a symbol for the present time, during which gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the worshiper’s conscience.” (Hebrews 9:8-9)
Have you tried “selling” something? I’m not only talking about salespeople trying to advertise a product; this could also be when you tried to sell the idea to your parents to buy you a phone, let you get a driver’s license, or let you go to summer camp. During the sell, you may have had a counterargument ready–why the alternative is inferior—to strengthen your argument.
When the author of Hebrews explains why Jesus is better, he doesn’t just simply state that Jesus is better, but he expands on one of the countless things that Jesus is better than: the old covenant. In the first ten verses of Hebrews 9, he elaborates on the idea of the “old,” “obsolete,” “faulty” covenant. (8:7-8,13). If you were not already convinced that the old covenant is inferior–the writer seems to be saying–let me blow your minds!
The old covenant was inadequate in covering over sin. The gifts and sacrifices offered by (high) priests “cannot perfect the worshiper’s conscience” (v. 9), that “the law perfects nothing” (7:19). Before the existence of the new covenant sealed by the unblemished blood of Christ, the blood of a bull and goat would atone for the sins of the people (v. 7). However, the sacrifices of the old covenant were so inadequate, priests had to perform them “repeatedly,” and high priests, “once a year,” compared to Jesus’ one and final sacrifice.
Furthermore, the old covenant was restrictive in nature. Only a priest and a high priest were allowed to enter the holy place and the most holy place, respectively. This setup didn’t allow believers to know God intimately, contrary to God’s command in Hebrews 8:11.
As you meditate on these verses in Hebrews, pray for a greater appreciation and faith in the work of Jesus in the new covenant! For the old covenant simply doesn’t compare to the grace and saving power of Jesus’ blood through his death and resurrection. Let’s rejoice!