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Hebrews 10:1-10: Shadow vs Reality

The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Hebrews 10:1 – 4

Our pastor began this series, “Look to Jesus,” a study in Hebrews in October. It’s a great study – worth the time to listen and reflect if you are going to delve into that book! I got a late start in processing my notes online – but beginning in January you can find a weekly installment on Hebrews in this blog, category, “Hebrews.” Today, our passage is Hebrews 10:1 – 10, which naturally breaks into two parts, the shadow and the reality!

Shadows – “like rude lineaments, which shadow forth the perfect picture; for painters, before they introduce the living colors by the pencil, are wont to mark out the outlines of what they intend to represent.”

John Calvin

In previous weeks we have explored the temple, sacrifice, the priesthood – all of which pointed to Jesus who in every way is better! Now the author of Hebrews addresses the law itself. The law could not bring completion, perfection, finality. Instead sacrifices had to be made year after year, specifically on the Day of Atonement. The Day of Atonement was a day of fasting, lament, sorrow, all celebration denied, an annual focus on guilt. And while on that day, people received cleansing, it had limited effectiveness.

We all long for intimacy between ourselves and God. Adam and Eve walked with God in the cool of the evening, Abraham and God conversed, Moses met God on the mountain. And while God filled the tabernacle and temple with His presence, the people’s relationship with God continued to deteriorate. There were some who knew God personally, but disobedience drove a wedge between the people and God. The author of Hebrews addresses “the good things coming.” The BEST thing is to be able to bask in God’s presence, to look into His eyes of love, to know His face shining on you, to walk intimately with Him! The law could not provide that but a good thing was coming, has come! Our sins are forgiven, removed from us as far as the east is from the west. Our guilt is lifted, we need not to be ashamed in His presence any longer – we have been clothed with Christ!

It is interesting that God had been teaching his people that ritual of the Law alone was not what He wanted. Sure, He put the law in place but He gave the Law specifically to point to His high standard of righteousness, so that we could see our need for Him, our need for the gospel. The law was a shadow pointing to one who was greater!

  • Then Samuel said, “Does the Lord take pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as he does in obedience? Certainly, obedience is better than sacrifice; paying attention is better than the fat of rams (1 Samuel 15:22).
  • Certainly you do not want a sacrifice, or else I would offer it; you do not desire a burnt sacrifice. The sacrifices God desires are a humble spirit – O God, a humble and repentant heart you will not reject (Psalm 51:16-17).
  • “Of what importance to me are your many sacrifices?” says the Lord. “I am stuffed with burnt sacrifices of rams and the fat from steers. The blood of bulls, lambs, and goats I do not want. When you enter my presence, do you actually think I want this – animals trampling on my courtyards? Do not bring any more meaningless offerings; I consider your incense detestable! You observe new moon festivals, Sabbaths, and convocations, but I cannot tolerate sin-stained celebrations! (Isaiah 1:11-13)
  • For I delight in faithfulness, not simply in sacrifice; I delight in acknowledging God, not simply in whole burnt offerings (Hosea 6:6).
  • “I absolutely despise your festivals! I get no pleasure from your religious assemblies! Even if you offer me burnt and grain offerings, I will not be satisfied; I will not look with favor on your peace offerings of fattened calves. Take away from me your noisy songs; I don’t want to hear the music of your stringed instruments. Justice must flow like torrents of water, righteous actions like a stream that never dries up” (Amos 5:21-24).
  • With what should I enter the Lord’s presence? With what should I bow before the sovereign God? Should I enter his presence with burnt offerings, with year-old calves? Will the Lord accept a thousand rams, or ten thousand streams of olive oil? Should I give him my firstborn child as payment for my rebellion, my offspring – my own flesh and blood – for my sin? He has told you, O man, what is good, and what the Lord really wants from you: He wants you to promote justice, to be faithful, and to live obediently before your God (Micah 6:6-8).

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said,
‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—I have come to do your will, my God.’
”First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Hebrews 10:5 – 10

Notice the “Therefore” in verse 5. Because the law was a shadow, because sacrifices had to be repeated over and over, we look to Christ – who is the ultimate fulfillment of the law!

The author of Hebrews uses a portion of Psalm 40 to illustrate the reality that is Christ. The Psalm was originally about David, and as we have been learning, Christ is the greater David! David’s words were fulfilled in Christ! The translations of Ps 40:6-8 and Hebrews 10:5-7 differ somewhat, but as my study Bible says, “both express the larger sense: “you have prepared ‘me’ to act in obedience” … applying to David and more so, to Christ.

Christ was obedient to the will of His Father. Joyfully obedient! The author of Hebrews has already taught us that Christ learned obedience through what He suffered. Paul teaches in Romans, by Christ’s “obedience the many will be made righteous.” It’s this same obedience that God wants from us!

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 

Romans 12:1

Through Christ we have been made holy! It’s our position in Him! Set apart, devoted to Him, “for he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” We are seated with Him in the heavenly realms. Our citizenship is in heaven. And here on Earth, we continue to be His ambassadors of reconciliation!

Once for all
You died so I could live again
Once for all
You washed away our sin
Streams of mercy and love
Flowing free forevermore
And Your blood ran down
Once for all

Lyrics by Paul Baloche
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