10 The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming. It is not the real things themselves. The same sacrifices have to be offered over and over again. They must be offered year after year. That’s why the law can never make perfect those who come near to worship. 2 If it could, wouldn’t the sacrifices have stopped being offered? The worshipers would have been made clean once and for all time. They would not have felt guilty for their sins anymore. 3 But those offerings remind people of their sins every year. 4 It isn’t possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 So when Christ came into the world, he said, “You didn’t want sacrifices and offerings. Instead, you prepared a body for me. 6 You weren’t pleased with burnt offerings and sin offerings. 7 Then I said, ‘Here I am. It is written about me in the scroll. God, I have come to do what you want.’” (Psalm 40:6–8) 8 First Christ said, “You didn’t want sacrifices and offerings. You didn’t want burnt offerings and sin offerings. You weren’t pleased with them.” He said that even though the law required people to bring them. 9 Then he said, “Here I am. I have come to do what you want.” He did away with the first. He did it to put the second in place. 10 We have been made holy by what God wanted. We have been made holy because Jesus Christ offered his body once and for all time.
As I read the book of Hebrews, I try as hard as I can to put myself in the shoes of the audience – Jews who have their whole life and through their whole culture, seen God and their sin through the lens of His holiness and their need to constantly sacrifice animals to Him in order to make themselves right.
While there must have been many things about Christ’s fulfilment of the law that must have been confusing to a first century Jew (and still are today!), this passage in the book of Hebrews spells out in a beautifully constructed argument, how Jesus became the once-and-for-all sacrifice.
I can imagine it being incredibly appealing to think that there was no more need for the ritual slaughter of animals, and to some extent, I can imagine that it might have seemed a bit too easy!
My experience though is that it is one thing to accept the work of the cross and the sacrifice of Christ, but just as the Jews had trouble giving up their own cultural practices, we too have trouble in seeing that his sacrifice is indeed sufficient. In our own ways, we keep trying to work for our own salvation by almost bargaining with God at times.
Whether it is the attitude of “I’d better go to church this week to make myself right with God” or “If I give generously of my time or finances, then God will accept me” or even “I know I am not perfect, but at least I am not as bad as…” we all have a tendency to try to work our way into heaven.
God, help us to truly live in the knowledge that we are accepted how we are, and give us the power and blessing to be able to change to become more like you.
Written by Ps. Justin Ware