Have you ever heard someone say, or perhaps thought yourself: I like the Jesus of the New Testament, but the God of the Old Testament is a bit scary! Too angry and not enough grace!
We can be tempted to think that the Old Covenant law and bloody animal sacrifices are bad and the New Covenant love and grace of Jesus is good!
This, however, is a disjointed view of the Bible. It is a false dichotomy to view the two testaments in this way. Even those of us who have been studying the Bible for a while now can still easily fall into this way of thinking. Since we know the Old Testament sacrifice couldn’t save us, we view it negatively. But the writer to the Hebrew’s does not see it this way.
Although there are sharp distinctions between the old and the new, we are not to despise the former. Rather we are to see the Old Covenant as one that looks forward (another sign!) to the fulfilment of the new. The old reveals our need for the new!
Think of it this way. We’ve all seen signs that say: Do not press. In fact, Questacon in Canberra has this as an exhibition in their first room. It’s one of the first things you see. A little machine with a button along with a message that reads ‘Do Not Push’. So of course, we pushed it! When you press it, the screen shows how many people have actually pushed it. Fun!
This is what the Old Testament law does. It shows us the sinful desires of our heart. We press what we’re not supposed to press, we pursue godlessness and reject the one who gives us the law for our good. And the pure fact that we cannot keep that law is what should cause us to cry out for something better. That is what the writer of Hebrews wants us to see. The law as one that looks forward to something better.
There’s a lot in this passage to think through. A few things that should really stick out to us: The Holy Spirit who wrote the New Testament, also wrote the Old Testament (verse 15). This should give us confidence to read the Old Testament understanding that God had a plan all along. They are not disjointed, but unified!
The second is that the law is not done away with (cf. Matt. 5:17), rather it is now written on our hearts and minds. If God’s grace in the Old Testament was to show us the way, His grace in the New Testament is to bring the way to us through His Son and to inscribe obedience in our hearts. I now desire to follow Jesus and to be obedient in all His ways (I still mess up, but my desires have changed). And this happens through the perfect and sufficient sacrifice of Jesus. Because He died instead of an animal, because he took the consequence for sin upon himself, God says he will remember our sin no more. That’s why you or I no longer need to sacrifice animals. Our sin has been taken care of. Jesus has accomplished everything necessary for the forgiveness of our sins. He is sufficient and His grace is enough. Will you trust Him to take care of your sin problem?
- Why did God institute the sacrificial system? If sacrifices were ultimately insufficient (God still remembered their sin even after each annual Day of Atonement), then what was their effect?
- Why does the author note that rather than bringing forgiveness of sin, the sacrificial system actually brought a reminder of sin? What is the conclusion the author draws about the blood of bulls and goats that were sacrificed?
- In Hebrews 10:11, the author begins to contrast the sacrifices of the Old Covenant with the death of Jesus. What does he compare? How do these comparisons reflect the insufficiency of Old Covenant sacrifices and the sufficiency of Christ’s death?
- A priest stands during his duty, but Jesus now sits. Why is this an important comparison?
- What is the glorious conclusion the author draws about the sin of those for whom Jesus has offered a sacrifice?
Father God, please would you write your law on my heart, so that I may live a life of willing obedience to you. Give me a new heart and help me to daily fix my eyes on Jesus, who right now sits victoriously at your right hand. Thank you that I no longer need to fear death and that I can confidently fight my sin through Jesus. Amen.