Hebrews 8-10 are describing the glorious covenant that we have in Christ, which he established for us through his blood. Jesus gave himself because that was the superior sacrifice we needed to bring to us a cleansing, forgiving covenant. The reason the author is showing us these pictures of Jesus is so that we would not give up. The author does not want us to give up our faith and turn away from the Lord. Before expressing the important implications and applications from his teaching thus far in the book, there is one more picture that the author wants to draw for us as he brings this section of his teaching to an end. Open your copies of God’s word to Hebrews 10:1-18.
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. 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.
But the repetition of the sacrifices daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly only grounded into the hearts of the worshipers two things. First, I am reminded of my sins with the repetition of the sacrifices (10:2-3). 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 my sins come back into my mind and heart with every sacrifice that was offered under that system. It could never cleanse the guilty conscience. Second, the repetition of the sacrifices revealed that in these sacrifices they would never permanent take away sins (10:4). Please think about how often each day we would have needed to have a sacrifice made for the various sins we commit, then we can quickly realize that we need a better system for our sins. Our lives would be consumed with the daily sacrifices for our sins. So the guilt remains in the hearts of the worshipers 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.
What the author does in verses 5-7 is amazing. First, you will 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 will 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. 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 become 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 desire the heart of the person who comes to do the will of God. This is the message of Psalm 40 and 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 scriptures are filled with declarations that he 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 expressed 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? Look at the end of verse 9. “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 when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:12–14 ESV)
Jesus accomplishes God’s will, sits at the right hand of God, waiting for all his enemies to be subjected to him.
Made Holy (10:11-18)
Now 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? We are made holy through Jesus’ sacrifice (10:10,14). The holiness we need is pictured in our lives by quoting 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. You have been made holy when you come into a relationship with Jesus. You are made holy when you have the laws of the Lord written on your hearts and minds. This means that God’s will controls your life. You do not follow your desires but God’s desires.
Here is what God says to you: 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 showered them 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 and shower and have been made clean. Listen, God is telling each of us that he has made us clean through the offering of Jesus. Now do not 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 you holy. You are clean and ready to stand in the sight of God. Do not put yourself back in the world. Make a clean break from the world, let God write his laws on your heart, and enjoy a relationship of forgiveness and hope of eternal life.