The Mosaic Law, with its priesthood, covenant, sacrifices and tabernacle, could never make a person perfect, since it was but a shadow of the true form, which is found in Christ and his final sacrifice (v.1). If perfection had been the case then sacrifice would no longer be needed, because there would no longer be any consciousness of sin (v.2). The whole Mosaic law is a prophecy foreshadowing a better covenant – perfection in Jesus. There was always a reminder of sin; the repetitive nature of old covenant sacrifice demonstrates the ongoing grip of sin and peoples’ sinfulness (v.3-4). In verses 5 to 7 we see a quote from Psalm 40 v.6-8; when you read this and compare it to Hebrews 10:5-7 you will notice a different wording. Psalm 40:6 says “you have given me an open ear” whereas Hebrews 10:5 says “a body have you prepared for me”. With an open ear Jesus was obedient to the Father and became the once and for all human sacrifice with the body God provided – Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit in Mary. The writer to the Hebrews is bringing the story right up to date by the changing of quotations.
The sacrifice of a dumb animal could never satisfy God’s justice, but the sacrifice of an obedient, sinless man could. The curse of sin originated with Adam (human) so animals could never totally satisfy God’s justice, they were a pointer to a better covenant (8:1-13), a better tabernacle (9:1-12) and a better sacrifice (9:13-28). Another variation between Psalm 40 and Hebrews 10 comes in v.6, where the writer says “in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure”, whereas Psalm 40:6 says “burnt offerings and sin offerings you have not required”. God actually now dislikes any form of sacrifice that takes away from his precious son Jesus’ sacrifice. He has abolished the first covenant, (the animal sacrifices and other ceremonial parts), in order to establish the new covenant. We have been sanctified (the state of being made holy) by the once only offering by Jesus – his death on the cross (v.10).
Verses 11-14 show again the difference between the old and the new covenants. It states that the priest stood daily at his service; it was a continual, constant slaughter of animals with no time to sit down; in fact when you read about the tabernacle descriptions and the furnishings there is no chair mentioned. The priest literally had no time to sit.
Jesus, on the other hand, sits at the right hand of the Father, an indication of his once and for all sacrifice, testifying that his work is complete. The final verse (v.16), quoted from Jeremiah 31:31-34, sums up the new covenant and the work of the Holy Spirit. If you are troubled by the fact that God has made the old covenant obsolete (which includes the Ten Commandments etc.), then think on this. We are actually carrying out a lot of the old covenant because of the work of the Holy Spirit revealing Jesus to us. We do it out of our love and worship of him, through transformed lives, Jesus’ teaching, and grace. This is not because we are commanded to by law, but through our expression of a sanctified life, the Holy Spirit bearing witness to us of Jesus’ sacrifice.
The new covenant is truly a better way. Thank you Father and thank you Jesus, we have been forgiven and our sins remembered no more – v.17-18. Amen.