We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle.
We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat, etc. Here are three points which require notice.
I. THE CHRISTIAN ALTAR. "We have an altar." One of the positions which the writer of this Epistle endeavors to establish is this, that by the renunciation of Judaism these Hebrew Christians had not lost anything of real value, or that the good in Judaism was perfected in Christianity. He shows that in Jesus Christ, the Head of the Christian dispensation, they had One far greater than Moses, by whom the elder economy was given. For giving up the Levitical priesthood there was far more than compensation in the possession of an interest in the great High Priest. Moreover, the tabernacle in which our great High Priest appears for us is "greater and more perfect" than either the tabernacle in the wilderness or the temple at Jerusalem. And in our text he points out that Christians have also an altar with its provisions and blessings. By this altar we understand the cross upon which our Lord offered himself a Sacrifice for human sin.
1. On this altar the perfect Sacrifice was offered. (We have already dealt with the perfection of Christ's sacrifice in our homilies on Hebrews 10:5-10, and 12, 13.)
2. This altar has superseded all other altars. The perfection of this sacrifice rendered its repetition unnecessary, and abolished forever the imperfect and typical sacrifices of the earlier dispensation (cf. Hebrews 7:27; Hebrews 10:10-18).
II. THE PROVISION WHICH THIS ALTAR FURNISHES. The writer speaks of eating of this altar. The reference is to the fact that certain portions of some of the sacrifices under the Mosaic economy were eaten by the priests, and certain by the Levites also (cf. Leviticus 6:14-18, 24-30; Leviticus 7.; Numbers 18:8-11; 1 Corinthians 9:13). The provision from the Christian altar is Jesus Christ himself, the great Sacrifice. By faith" we become partakers of Christ;" we appropriate him as the Life and the Sustenance of the soul. Our Lord said, "I am the living Bread which came down out of heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever," etc. (John 6:51-58).
1. This provision is spiritual. Not of the literal or material flesh and blood of Jesus do we eat and drink, but by faith we become partakers of his mind, his feelings, his principles, his spirit, his life, himself. Hence St. Paul writes, "I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me," etc. (Galatians 2:20). Again, "Christ our Life" (Colossians 3:3, 4).
2. This provision is delightful. To those who are healthy the eating of suitable provision; Is not only necessary and satisfying, but pleasurable. It gratifies the palate. The spiritual appropriation of Christ is joy-inspiring. In Christianity we have "a feast of fat things."
3. This provision is free, and free to all. Some of the Levitical sacrifices belonged to the sacrificing priest only, others only to the priest and Levites. But all may come to Christ by faith, and partake of the inestimable benefits of his great sacrifice. "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters," etc. (Isaiah 4:1, 2; Revelation 22:17).
III. THE EXCLUSION OF SOME FROM' PARTICIPATION IN THIS PROVISION. "Whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle." The reference is to the Jewish priests and Levites. They who clung to Judaism rejected Christianity, and were necessarily excluded from its benefits. They were self-excluded. They would not come unto Christ that they might have life. All who reject the Lord Jesus are in a similar condition: e.g. the self-righteous moralist, the modern representative of the ancient Pharisee; the captious and the scoffing skeptic; the worlding who elects to have his portion in this life; and others. The provision is free, free for all; but these exclude themselves from participation therein. How is it possible for any one to enjoy the blessings of Christianity who rejects the Christ? - W.J.
Parallel VersesKJV: We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle.