THERE IS A THEMATIC LINK between today’s two primary readings.
First Chronicles 1–2 begins long chapters of annotated genealogical information. This is not the sort of material to which we are instantly drawn. Yet biblical genealogies accomplish many things besides the obvious one of recording genealogical descent. If one were reading the Bible through, at this point the lists of names would serve, in part, as a review: the beginnings up to David, with 1 and 2 Chronicles taking the reader to the end of the active Davidic dynasty. The genealogy also sets out in brief compass some of the branches that can easily be lost to view in the tangle of reading the narratives themselves. How are Abraham’s descendants tied to Noah? Abraham himself had children by three women: Hagar, Keturah, and Sarah. Where did they end up?
Of course, the genealogy does not aim to be comprehensive. It is heading toward Judah, toward the Davidic dynasty. And this is the point: There is movement and change, there are developments and fresh covenants, but from the beginning the Bible’s storyline has been a unified account heading toward the Davidic line, and ultimately toward “great David’s greater Son” (see the meditations for May 17 and September 10).
In genre and emphasis, Hebrews 8 is very different from the genealogies of the opening chapters of 1 Chronicles. Yet part of the argument in this chapter overlaps with lessons from 1 Chronicles. At this point in Hebrews, the author is arguing that the tabernacle (and, in principle, the temple) established by the covenant at Sinai must not be taken as the final expression of God’s will for the worship of his people. That is to misunderstand its purpose in the sweep of redemptive history. The author has already argued at length for the superiority of Jesus’ priesthood over the Levitical priesthood (Heb. 5–7)—indeed, that this superior priesthood was announced by the Old Testament Scriptures themselves. Now he draws attention to the fact that the “sanctuary” constructed in the desert followed exactly the “pattern” shown Moses on the mountain (Heb. 8:5). The reason for this, the author argues, is that it was only a shadow of the reality. To make it the ultimate reality is to misconstrue it. Moreover, readers of the Hebrew canon should know this. That tabernacle was tied to the Mosaic Covenant. But centuries later, at the time of Jeremiah, God promised the coming of a new covenant (Heb. 8:7–12). “By calling this covenant ‘new,’ he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear” (Heb. 8:13). The dawning of the new covenant not only relegates the old covenant’s tabernacle to the past, but displays the unity of the Bible’s storyline, however diverse the streams—for the varied streams converge in Jesus.