This past Sunday my pastor began a sermon series taking us through the book of Hebrews. This first sermon was an introduction to the book, orienting us for the coming study. We covered the first three verses. Pastor made an interesting and insightful remark when we came to verse three, and I wanted to share it with my readers here on the blog. First, lets take a look at the scripture:
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son,whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. (Hebrews 1:1-3 *emphasis mine)
There is quite a bit of theological meat in that first little bit of the letter to the Hebrews. My pastor pointed out that in the Tabernacle and Temple, there were no seats because they were continually working. What does that mean, you might wonder? The Tabernacle/Temple was where God’s glory resided, and where the priests performed sacrifices for the sins of the people. (In my very first week of writing this blog, I did a piece on Old Testament sacrifices explaining in detail their significance and purpose. You may find it helpful to read that post if you are unfamiliar with or unclear about animal sacrifices.) Because people have sin natures and therefore continually sin, and animal sacrifices were not sufficient to cover sins for all time, the work was never finished. Sacrifices had to be made continually, thus the priests were always working and the work was never finished.
The above diagram is from my copy of the MacArthur ESV Study Bible, showing what the Tabernacle would have looked like. The Tabernacle was established after the exodus of the Jews out of Egypt. Providentially, I am in the book of Exodus for my daily reading plan this week, which was just perfect, after Sunday’s sermon. The commentary for the MacArthur daily reading plan today said this about the solitary seat in the Tabernacle:
Exodus 25:17 mercy seat. The lid or cover of the ark was the “mercy seat” or the place at which atonement took place. Between the Shekinah glory cloud above the ark and the tablets of Law inside the ark was the blood-sprinkled cover. Blood from the sacrifices stood between God and the broken law of God!
The only seat in the Tabernacle, and later Temple, was the mercy-seat which was on top of the ark of the covenant. God’s seat. And that is where the blood of the lambs sacrificed for the sins of the people was sprinkled. But like I have already said, there was not general seating for people because the work was never finished. Until Jesus ascended to heaven after His resurrection. That takes us back to verse 3 in chapter one of Hebrews. The second half of verse 3 again: After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. Unlike the priests in the Old Testament, who could never stop working because the work could never be finished, Jesus was the perfectly satisfying and accepted sacrifice for the sins of all those who would ever believe in Him. His sacrifice was accepted by the Father, and completed the redemptive work of salvation of the elect for all time. That was signified in His sitting down at the right hand of the Father. τετέλεσται (tetelestai) it is finished. Hallelujah!
Soli Deo Gloria!