Grace For The Journey
In Hebrews 10:1-10 he returns to the earthly work of Jesus as High Priest, and in Hebrews 10:11-18 he brings the sermon to its stirring conclusion, returning to the citation from Jeremiah where he began in chapter 8. The contrast between shadow and reality takes a somewhat different turn. It is not the earthly Tabernacle which is the shadow of the heavenly, it is the Old Covenant that is the shadow of the new. The writer thus shifts from the vertical antithesis between earth and heaven that had dominated his exposition so far, and reads the contrast in terms of the horizontal, and temporal axis defined by the terms “new” and “old” in the quotation from Jeremiah. What casts a “shadow” (verse 1) is no longer a heavenly reality, as in the heavenly model of the Tabernacle mentioned at 8:5, but the present “bodily” (verses 5 and 10) reality of Christ, “foreshadowed” in the rituals of old. The uses a common image of a body and its shadow (as in Colossians 2:17) to point to the reality of Christ’s example.
Continuing his interpretation of the Day of Atonement, he contrasts the penitential rituals of Israel’s high priest with the far more effective atonement accomplished by Christ (verses 1-4). There are at least two ways in which the sacrifice of Jesus is superior to that of the former priests. First, under the Old Covenant the Day of Atonement was celebrated every year, because the sacrifices performed by the high priest were not sufficient to accomplish real atonement. God’s reconciling act toward mankind should not need an annual renewal.
Second, the sacrifices of the Old Covenant involved the blood of sacrificial animals. The sacrifice of the New Covenant was accomplished by the blood of Christ Himself. We have hints here not only of the distinction between the inferior shadow and the superior reality, but of the traditional homiletical device: if the ancient sacrifices accomplished a little, how much more will the sacrifice of Christ achieve.
As he does so often our author turns again to Scripture in verses 5–7, where he cites Psalm 40:6-8, as we find it in the Greek version of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, which differs dramatically from the Hebrew. Instead of “you have given me an open ear” the Septuagint reads, “A body you have prepared for me.” As he has with Psalm 110 in Hebrews 1:5 and Psalm 8 in Hebrews 2:6, the writer applies the words of the psalm directly to Jesus, and those words provide him the warrant for the body-shadow image that structures this section.
The author uses the Psalm to indicate that Jesus’ sacrifice not only surpasses the former sacrifices, but it abolishes them. In this way he prepares the way for the discussion later in Hebrews of the abrogation of the rituals of the Old Covenant in favor of participation in the New.
The affirmation of the Psalmist, that our Great High Priest has come to do God’s will, includes another important claim. The previous chapter, with its play on what a “covenant” is, suggested that the members of a New Covenant were “heirs” to something. One of the essential elements of that package of inheritance is the example of the “inaugurator and perfecter” (12:2). It is his example, as a “new and living way” (10:20) that his followers “inherit.” The example is defined by the words of this Psalm, in which Jesus, in effect, answers the Father’s call to be a “priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek” (5:6; 6:20; 7:21).
Here our author for the first time uses the full formula for naming the Great High Priest “Jesus Christ.” If “Jesus” in some fashion is the most appropriate way of referring to
His full humanity and “Christ” is the most appropriate way of referring to His exalted divine status, the two names together serve as a reminder that the earthly Jesus is also the Christ enthroned in the heavenly places, and conversely that the exalted heavenly being is who and what He is because of His very human act of obedience to God’s will. The heavenly ideal is incarnate. The reminder that this happens once and for all (that the readers’ redemption is accomplished once and for all) echoes Hebrews 7:27 and 9:12.
Verses 11-18 serve as both the culmination and the summary of everything our author has said in this long exposition of Jeremiah 31, beginning with 8:1. The New Covenant is superior to the old because it is accomplished once and for all, and was not renewed annually. The New Covenant is ratified by the enthronement of Jesus at the right hand of God. The New Covenant is not written on tablets of stone but on the hearts of believers. At the same time that the believers’ hearts are inscribed with righteousness, God’s memory is wiped clean of the believers’ former sins.
There is also a foreshadowing here of a theme that will be more fully developed toward the end of Hebrews. Christ, who is seated at the right hand of God, has yet one more triumph to accomplish: “Since (sitting at the right hand) He has been waiting ‘until his enemies would be made a footstool for his feet.’” Here Hebrews alludes again to Psalm 110, but points ahead to a consummation even beyond the consummation of the great Day of Atonement. (See 1 Corinthians 15.)
The author returns to the citation of Jeremiah, calling attention to two of its promises that have emerged as absolutely central to our homilist, the writing of God’s laws on the hearts of the people (verse 16), and the forgiveness of sins (verse 17). It should be clear now how these two things are related. The “sacrifice” of Christ, which combines actions resembling the Day of Atonement and the inauguration of the first covenant (Exodus 24), creates a new covenantal reality, promised by Jeremiah. In that reality those who are marked by Christ’s blood/life have received the example of His obedience to God to guide their lives and have heard the assurance that God simply does not remember sin anymore. The “sacrifice” is not one in which a ransom or a debt is paid, nor is it one in which one suffers for another. The sacrifice simply marks the recipients of God’s gracious forgiveness.
The author of Hebrews has repeatedly pictured for us the insufficiency of the elements of the first Covenant. This is all summarized in the first four verses of chapter 10, “For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the ver image of the things, can never with the same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshippers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.” The law was a shadow of the good things to come. The law was never the reality.
The first Covenant with its sacrifices and activities
Was only pointing to something greater to come.
It could not make perfect those who draw near as evidenced by the Tabernacle construction where no one entered into the presence of God, except the high priest once a year on the Day of Atonement. If the first Covenant and the Tabernacle did perfect people so that they could draw near to God, then the sacrifices would not have stopped, and this system would have continued.
The repetition of the sacrifices daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly only grounded into the hearts of the worshipers two things.
1) It Reminded The People Of Their Sins – Verses 2-3.
It is important to carefully read that the author does not say that God remembered the people’s sins every year. Rather, the text says that worshipers have a reminder of sins of their consciences every year. The guilt of their sins come back into their minds and hearts with every sacrifice that was offered under that system. It could never cleanse the guilty conscience.
2) It Revealed That They Would Never Permanently Take Away Sins – Verse 4.
Think about how often each day we would have needed to have a sacrifice made for the various sins we commit, in doing so we can quickly realize that we need a better system for our sins than the Old Covenant. Our lives would be consumed with the daily sacrifices for our sins, the guilt would remain in our hearts, and the problem is not solved.
Before we read this next section, we realize that the author has made the point in chapter about how Jesus’ sacrifices is vastly superior to that of the animal sacrifices of the first Covenant. He does not need to retrace that idea again until the conclusion. He wants to see something more as we carefully read Hebrews 10:5-10, “Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: ‘Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure.’ Then I said, ‘Behold I have come – In the volume of the book it is written of Me – to do Your will, O God.’ Previously saying, ‘Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleaser in them’ (which are offered according to the law, the He said, ‘Behold, I have come to do Your will, I God.’ He takes away the first that May establish the second. By that will we have been sacrificed through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
What the author does in verses 5-7 is amazing . . .
1) We see that the author is quoting from Psalm 40:6-8. We will look at the quote in just a moment. But first observe who the author says is the speaker of those words. In verse 5 we read, “Consequently, when Christ came into the world, He said ….” When we turn to Psalm 40, we notice that it is identified as a psalm of David. There are many things in the psalm that show that those were David’s words, like in Psalm 40:12 where he says that his iniquities have overtaken him, and they are more than the hairs of his head. Yet, the author of Hebrews also sees this psalm as a messianic psalm, predicting something about what Jesus would do.
The writer of Hebrews puts Psalm 40:6-8 in the mouth of Jesus, declaring that God does not desires these sacrifices and offerings. God does not delight in sacrifice after sacrifice. It is not what God wants. What does God want?
God wants a person to
Delight in doing His will.
2) Notice that this picture is applied to Jesus. He is given a body and what does He do with it? Jesus says, “I have come to do Your will, O God.” The purpose of the Christ becoming human was so that He could do God’s will on earth in the body given to Him. But . . .
Understand what else God is teaching us.
The contrast is not that God does not desire
An animal sacrifice but needs a human sacrifice in Jesus.
The contrast is that God does not desire in an animal sacrifice
But desires the heart of the person who comes to do the will of God.
This is the message of Psalm 40 and that is the reason why it is quoted here in Hebrews 10.
God does not take pleasure in the mere
Outward activities of worship and righteousness.
God takes pleasure in the heart that
Is desiring to do His will
That leads to the activities
Of worship and righteousness.
We cannot and must not ever strip away from our actions the heart that God wants underneath those actions. The Bible is filled with declarations that God wants your heart and mind to love, not for you to simply fill up a sheet of things you have done for God. God is offended and expresses displeasure for the good actions done with the wrong heart (cf. Isaiah 1:11-13; 66:3-4; Jeremiah 7:21-23; Amos 5:21-24; Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:6-8; Psalm 51:16-17; 1 Samuel 15:22). God hates hypocrisy. God will not be treated like a god who can be appeased through certain heartless activities. So often that is what we do. But that is not what Jesus did. The Son of God was given a body and He comes to do the will of God.
Now what is God’s will that Jesus came to do? Verse 9 tells us, “He takes away the first in order to establish the second.” As we have noted, this section is about the superior Covenant we need so that we can come near to the Father. What Jesus does is He takes away the first Covenant that keeps us separated from God, remaining at a distance, and established the second Covenant that is able to bring us close to the Father.
This is the point in verse 10. By God’s will we have been made holy through the offering of the body of Jesus once for all.
The perfect life of Jesus and His subsequent sacrifice
Are both critically important for bringing us to God.
Jesus could not just come and die.
He needed to live a life in complete submission to God,
Which the writer exposed for us back in Hebrews 7:26-28.
The weight of this act is fully declared in Hebrews 10:12-14, “But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” Jesus accomplishes God’s will, sits at the right hand of God, waiting for all His enemies to be subjected to Him.
We are not His enemies because by His single sacrifice He has perfected us for all time. God’s laws were written on the heart of His Son (Psalm 40:8).
He delighted to do God’s will
Which is the heart of
Submission that God desires.
Because of the Son’s submission to the Father, He has perfected those of us who are being made holy. Did you catch what the writer said in verses 10 and 14? We are made holy through Jesus’ sacrifice. The holiness we need is pictured in our lives as the writer quotes Jeremiah 31 again, which we see in verses 15-17. God promised to have a people who have His laws written on their hearts and minds. Those are the people that God forgives of their sins and those are the people that God does not remember their sins any longer. We have been made holy when we come into a relationship with Jesus. We are made holy when we have the laws of the Lord written on your hearts and minds. This means that God’s will controls our life. We do not follow our desires but God’s desires.
Here is what God says to us: “I have made you clean.” Now what should we do now that we have been made clean and forgiven? To answer this question, I want us to think about what we do with our children. There is one time when you do not want them to go play outside in the yard. That time is when you have just gave them a shower and put nice, clean clothes on them. You have made them clean and put them in their nice clothes that are not intended for rolling around in the dirt. So, you tell them that cannot go play in the grass because they just took a shower and have been made clean.
God is telling each of us that He has made us clean through the offering of Jesus. Now He does not want us to go back into the world of sin and roll around in it! Do not look longingly at the filth that Jesus has cleansed us from? Do not strain to run right back into the mess that the blood of Jesus washed us clean from! How sad it is that God rescues us from the things in this world that destroy us, only for us to run headlong right back into those very things that will continue to destroy us! Rather than hearts that love the Lord because He has made us clean, we have hearts of resentment, loving the world that we have been cleansed from.
This is our hope to not give up by going back into the world. Jesus has made us holy. We are clean and stand acceptable in the sight of God. We are not put ourselves back in the world. We are to make a clean break from the world; we need to let God write His laws on your heart and enjoy a relationship of forgiveness and hope of eternal life.
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”