20 January 2011

Hebrews 7:18 - 8:6

"For Moses, when he was about to erect the tent, was warned, 'See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.' But Jesus has now obtained a more excellent ministry, and to that degree he is the mediator of a better covenent, which has been enacted through better promises." (vv. 5-6)


The tent referred to in this passage is a small portable sanctuary, sometimes called a tabernacle, which the Israelites carried with them during their wanderings in the wilderness following the exodus from Egypt. It was a place where they expected to encounter God and was sometimes described as the 'tent of meeting [with God]'. 

A contrast is drawn between the old order of priests and the old covenant or binding promise, between God and the people of Israel, and Jesus. The new better, and by implication, greater covenant is built on better (and greater) promises. Jesus is described as the mediator or guarantor of the new covenant (or binding relationship) between God and the people. In ancient times it was common for pagan gods to be called on as guarantors of an agreement; as were priests and prophets. Moses is especially known as a mediator between God and the people, carrying the tablets with the Ten Commandments on down the mountain to where the people were. Jesus guarantees personally in his life, death, and resurrection a new way to know God. 

The "better promises" which the writer talks about are in fact the promises offered by a new relationship between God and the people. This is centred on who Jesus is and what God does through him. Jesus is the better and greater promise. Jesus ushers in a new promise, a new commandment, a new order. 

To Ponder

What does your 'tent of meeting with God' look like? Is it a formal church building or is it round a table with friends? Is it an actual place or is it deep within you? Where do you meet with God?

Some promises are hard to keep - which ones have we broken?

For you, who is Jesus? What has God done through him?

Bible notes author

Revd Helen Cameron

Helen Cameron is a Methodist presbyter and Chair of the Northampton District. Prior to this she was the Assistant Secretary of the Conference and Director of Methodist Formation at the Queen's Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education in Birmingham.