When my grandmother died, each of her grandchildren receive a sum of money. The will was written years before, but we didn’t get the benefit of it until she had died. The author of Hebrews uses that as the reason for a death to be required for forgiveness to be given. The shedding of blood is required. Under the old covenant that meant the sacrifice of many animals for forgiveness.
Michael Eaton writes
The new covenant resembles a ‘testament’ or human ‘will’.
(i) The donor makes the plans for someone to inherit what he has to give them.
(ii) The arrangements are made by the ‘testator’ – the one giving away his possessions at death.
(iii) The beneficiaries must accept the terms of the inheritance (in our case faith and patience).
(iv) The covenant or testament only comes into effect when the person giving the blessings dies. All of this illustrates how God gives us our inheritance in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Some of the processes under the old covenant are described in the passage. The author refers back to the story of Exodus 19–24 when the covenant between Israel and God through Moses first began. It is possible that he is also using traditions known to the writer but not mentioned in the Old Testament. He says: “For when every commandment of the law had been told by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people.”
Not all the details can to be found in Exodus 24:3–8, it may well have been known from tradition that some of the ceremonies were mentioned elsewhere.
The main point is this – without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. No one could be forgiven or released from the penalties of the law, or from the condemnations concerning skin diseases, or from the dozens of small ways in which the law could impose penalties and judgments – without the shedding of the blood in sacrifice. Forgiveness is by atonement. Even God could not look at our sins and say, ‘Let’s forget you ever did that’. Forgiveness is not by compromise. It is by the sacrifice of a substitute; the death penalty in all its fullness coming upon Jesus . Without the shedding of the blood of Jesus there is no forgiveness of sins.
Praise God for Jesus’ blood that has cleansed us perfectly for all time!