“Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand, the table and the consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover. But we cannot discuss these things in detail now” ( Hebrews 9:1-5 )
Worship as directed under the first covenant was very detailed. Everything was laid out according to the pattern Moses was shone on the mountain. Everything included in the temple worship had special meanings and significance. Even the items themselves which were placed within the Most Holy Place represented God’s supernatural ability to care for and lead the Israelites.
Behind the second curtain was the Ark of the Covenant, where God dwelt with the people. Inside the Ark was the gold jar of manna, a reminder of the bread that fed the Israelites for years while wandering through the desert in disobedience, Aaron’s staff, which God used after a rebellion to show that Aaron and the Levites were His chosen priests ( Numbers 17 ). And lastly, the Ark contained the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments to remind the Israelites of their Covenant.
Guarding the ark and the Most Holy Place were cherubim of glory. The Israelites could not enter because these creatures protected this area. In fact, only the High Priest could enter this room, and only once a year with blood which He poured on the mercy seat making atonement for the sins of the people. The priest made this offering directly before God. We know this from Moses’ account inside the tent, “When Moses entered the Tent of Meeting to speak with the LORD, he heard the voice speaking to him from between the two cherubim above the atonement cover on the ark of the Testimony. And he spoke with him” ( Numbers 7:89 ).
The writer of Hebrews is drawing attention to all of these details, but notice the last statement in verse 5 declaring that these things cannot be discussed any longer. Why? Because the creatures guarding the way into the Most Holy Place where God dwelt among His people are no longer there. This is an amazing truth! After Jesus entered into the more perfect tabernacle in heaven to make perfect atonement for us, there was no longer a need for warrior angels to protect the way to God. Jesus opened this up so that we could have direct access to God the Father ( Hebrews 10:19-22 ). In fact, we are now to approach the throne of grace in confidence ( Hebrews 4:16 ) in a way the Israelites never could.
This makes perfect sense considering the last verse of chapter 8, “By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear” ( Hebrews 8:13 ). Jesus brought with Him a new way of approaching God. We can approach Him in faith washed clean by the body of Christ, unafraid of anything standing in our way because anything that could condemn or harm us has been removed by the blood of Jesus. Our covenant of grace is vastly superior and Jesus is the one who will forever protect and guarantee the way into the presence of the Father Himself.