Did you ever stop to think, if you are a believer, that Jesus’ perfectly obedient life was lived for you? That when God views you through Jesus your representative, he sees you as perfectly pleasing to himself? That is the astounding message of Hebrews 10:4-14.
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The New Testament author of Hebrews says it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin (10:4). “Why is that?” we ask. Because animals, being amoral creatures, are incapable of offering God what he most desires from his human creatures — an obedient human life, lived in right relationship to the Creator from first to last. If the Israelites had obeyed God in covenant loyalty, there would have been no sacrifices of bulls and goats. Animal sacrifices were remedial — they were never God’s first choice (1 Sam. 15:22; Psa. 51:16-17; Jer. 7:22-23).
The stringent physical qualifications required of a sacrificial animal symbolized the pure life that God had wanted from the person bringing the animal (Lev. 17:11-12). The ritual sprinkling, pouring or smearing of the slain animal’s blood reminded the guilty person bringing the animal of the “wages of sin” which he actually deserved to receive (Lev. 4:6, 8; Rom. 6:23). Because the sacrificial animal represented the person who brought it, that individual ritually placed his hands on the animal’s head and confessed his sins — symbolically transferring his guilt to the animal that would take his place (Lev. 4:4). The sacrificial system thus provided a preview of Jesus Christ, the coming “Lamb of God” who would carry away in his own body the sin of the world (John 1:29, 36; 1 Pet. 2:24).
Jesus came into the world to give the Father his first choice, to provide what God had always wanted but had never received — a life of perfect human obedience, a life lived fully in right relationship with God himself. So Hebrews 10:5-7 quotes Psalm 40:6-8 as if from the mouth of Jesus. “You do not prefer animal sacrifices,” he says in effect to God, but “a BODY you prepared for me” — a human body in which to live a fully obedient human life in right relationship with God. “I have come,” says Jesus, “to DO YOUR WILL, O God.” In verses 8-9, the author observes that the Psalm mentions two subjects. First he mentions animal sacrifices (“sacrifices and offerings”), then he mentions human obedience (“come to do your will”). Jesus “takes away the first” — animal sacrifices — “in order to establish the second” — perfect human obedience, which was always God’s first choice.