For the law having a shadow of the good things to come, not the very image of the things, can never with the same sacrifices year by year, which they offer continually, make perfect them that draw nigh. Heb 10:1
The old covenant is but a shadow of the new. But where there is a shadow, there must be the real thing casting it, and there must be light causing a shadow in the first place. The Holy Spirit in us is casting light on the real thing, having us understand the shadow, and from there, learning more about the real.
In Hebrews 10 we learn that the priests had to offer sacrifices every year, again and again. It did not bring perfection to the ones coming near. It did something else. It had them remember their sins.
God himself gave all those great feasts for us to remember. He wanted us to remember the good things he had done – just as Psalm tell us: be still, my soul, and remember what he has done for you,
But we more often than not tend to remember the failures, lacks, and troubles. Thus, the offerings reminded us of our sins, instead of the forgiveness offered.
God gave Pessach – for the Jews to remember that they were set free from Egypt. For us, that the real Pessach lamb set us free from our sins and captivity. The lamb was but a shadow. The Feast of Unleavened Bread gave them reason to think back that it happened suddenly. No time to prepare real bread. For us, it speaks of the unleavened life Jesus lead – no sin. And First Fruits reminded them of the provision they had. And Jesus, as the first fruit from the dead, provided eternal life to us.
On Pentecost, they received the law. We received the Spirit.
The Feast of Tabernacles reminded them of God living in their midst. God will live again in our midst.
So many shadows – no wonder the times were dark. Dark only for the ones that took the shadows for the real thing. Dark, because both sin offerings for individuals as well as the scape goat offered on the Day of Atonement only postponed the inescapable. Punishment was only postponed for a year. In Deuteronomy we learn that obedience brings blessings, while disobedience brings curses. In Zechariah we see, that who so ever does not go to Jerusalem for Tabernacles, on his land there will be no rain for a year. The curses that follow his sin are not postponed, but hit with full measure.
But then David writes something unspeakable:
It has not been your will to have an animal sacrifice and a meal offering; rather, you have prepared for me a body. No, you have not been pleased with burnt offerings and sin offerings. Then I said, ‘Look! In the scroll of the book it is written about me. I have come to do your will.’ Ps 40:7-9
Moreover, David even acts on this. When confronted by Nathan with the story of somebody that owned 100 sheep not only taking away the only sheep from a friend, but also killing the friend – and then understanding that it was himself Nathan was talking about – he did not go to the temple to offer sacrifices. All he did was repent!
How New Testament. But wait, it was another 1000 years before Jesus would even be born, let alone have died for our sins.
And David did more than that. He built a Tabernacle for the arc of covenant, on top of Mount Zion, with no separation between holy place and most holy, even without side walls. Everybody in Jerusalem, lifting his eyes to Zion, could see the arc. Again: how New Testament.
David was looking past the shadows, into the light, and saw a glimpse of the real thing. He saw because he had a personal, intimate relationship with the father, built over years in the waiting.
That is why God calls David a man after his own heart.
When Jesus read these verses in Psalms, he started to understand. Just remember that Jesus was all man walking the earth. He was born as a baby and had to learn just like us: walk, talk, you know. And then it says that he grew in wisdom and knowledge and favor with God and men. He had to learn exactly who he was. And reading those verses, he knew that these verses not only spoke of David, but much more of himself.
He told people that he had come to do the father’s will. And in his darkest hour he told the father: Look, when we planned all this, before the foundation of the earth, it looked like a great plan. But down here, with the hour closing in, it becomes so real and frightening. So, if it is possible to spare me from this, please let me know. But “You have prepared for me a body, and I have come to do your will”.
And just one more shadow: when David committed sin with Bathsheba, the son had to die.
What happened after David’s time? Salomon became king. He had a forty year reign without war – a king of peace. But he went back to the old covenant. He built the temple, hiding the arc of covenant in the most holy place. And later he depended on his own work to sustain peace.
We tend to go back to the shadows. We try to please God through works and deeds, following rules and regulations. We hide God from the people and install a priesthood again as an intermediary. But the old covenant only has one purpose: nothing set in stone can safe us, only a living relationship can.
This is the agreement which I will make with them after those days, says the Lord; I will put my laws in their hearts, writing them in their minds; he said, And I will keep no more memory of their sins and of their evil-doings. Jer 31:33
We’re back on the day of Pentecost. The law, set in stone and put in a box, cannot save us. The deal on the first Pentecost was: if you obey these rules, I will do my part and bless you. But man failed time after time, just like in the garden. We just can’t do it out of our own strength. But the second day of Pentecost came, and God seemingly changed the rules. One man had done it! The impossible. Jesus had lived a life without sin and fulfilled the old covenant. And giving his life for all of us, as all of us, he set us in as heirs. We have fulfilled the old covenant in him. In the new covenant, both sides are fulfilled. All we need is faith.
With the law written in our hearts, with the Spirit given into our hearts, we do out of love what trying out of sheer willpower we never accomplished. Love makes it easy to live a blameless life.
We are made holy, complete, perfect, mature by one offering.
Because by one offering he has made complete for ever those who are made holy. Heb 10:14
We just do not believe it quite yet. You are perfect in Him. This life, this walk of faith has one goal: to come to the understanding of exactly that fact. We do so in faith, in prayer, in an intimate relationship with him and others. This is why we are not to stop building each other up. This is why we are not to forsake the meetings with other believers. This is why we commune with God and brothers. To come to the understanding that Jesus has made us perfect in his offering. This is what Paul talks about when he says: we are a new creation. You are a new creation. The old is but a memory that tries to hold you back.
Jesus has built an entry into the most holy place, through the curtain. The curtain is still there, but there is an entry. What does that mean? Coming into the holy place, you have not automatically come into the most holy place. There is still a passage way to be taken. Having experienced Pentecost, being filled with the Holy Spirit is not enough. There has to be a third feast, a next step, another decision. Baptized in water, spirit, and fire. Tabernacles. Maturity.
I said just a moment ago that we have been perfected by Jesus, and that is true from the time we accept his works on the cross. But I also said that it was necessary to believe it, to discover that truth in faith. That is Tabernacles. The realization that I am a full grown son of God.
One last shadow: in the old covenant, only one person was allowed in the most holy place – the high priest. That has not changed. Jesus is our high priest after the order of Melchizedek, he the head and we the body. Only in him, only in Christ are we allowed entrance. No other way to the father.
Let us stop living in the shadows, but let the shadows help us see the real in the light of the Spirit.