A New Dimension of Worship: Hebrews 9:1-6
“1) Now even the first covenant had regulations of divine worship and the earthly sanctuary. 2) For there was a tabernacle prepared, the outer one, in which were the lampstand and the table and the sacred bread; this is called the holy place. 3) Behind the second veil there was a tabernacle which is called the Holy of Holies, 4) having a golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden jar holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod which budded, and the tables of the covenant; 5) and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat; but of these things we cannot now speak in detail. Hebrews 9:1-5
Make no mistake, the old system of worship was glorious by earthly standards. Both the tabernacle in the wilderness and later the temple in Jerusalem were full of glorious objects to accompany worship. In fact, some were so magnificent they were in the Holy of Holies and not visible to the common people.
For example, the golden altar of incense, the ark of the covenant, the cherubim of glory and the mercy seat were only seen once a year by the high priest. They were behind the veil which separated the presence of God from the people.
Over time that separation proved to be the problem. Notice how verse 5 ends, “… of these things we cannot now speak in detail.” There is an old saying; “Out of sight, out of mind.” The separation between God and man was a gulf so big that none could bridge the gap.
For all practical purposes, the Old Testament system of worship restricted God to time and place. He was where the tabernacle or the temple was, but the people moved around a lot. God and His ways gradually dropped from the consciousness of the people. They would do and be their best when they came to the temple ground, but the rest of the time many of them lived as if God could not see them and therefore was irrelevant for daily living.
The new covenant changed everything. Instead of God being restricted to dwell in the Holy of Holies, He now dwells in every born again Christ through the Holy Spirit. Our bodies become the temple of the Holy Spirit. (See 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 & 6:19-20) This dynamic changes everything.
This in no way minimizes the fact that God is omniscient, omnipotent or omnipresent, it merely personalizes His presence within every believer. It emphasizes the reality that He is where we are. He will never leave or forsake us. He becomes part of our very consciousness. There is no longer any separation between God and His people.
This distinction is monumental. It illustrates the difference between mere religion and a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit. The new covenant is a relationship and not a religion. It is inward and not outward. It is intimate and not indifferent. It is personal and not impersonal. It is everything the old covenant was not in terms of access and connection with God.
John 4:21-24 captures this dynamic of the new covenant. Jesus told the Samaritan woman that the places of worship were insignificant because; “23) … an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24) God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”” Jesus ushered in a new dimension of worship.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global