“The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. For after he says, ‘This is the covenant I will make with them after those days,’ the Lord says, ‘I will put my laws on their hearts and write them on their minds, and I will never again remember their sins and their lawless acts.’ Now where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
God wants a relationship with us. That’s part of why he made us. We were created uniquely relative to the rest of creation. No other creature in the world is capable of relationships the way we are. This is because we of all the creatures on earth were created in His image. Yet sin mars this relationship. Actually, that’s not strong enough. It makes it impossible. As long as there is sin between us and God, we cannot be in a relationship with Him. So, God began to work toward fixing that. Before it came time for the real solution, though, He put in place a stopgap measure that allowed for us to get close, but it never quite got us where we wanted to go. Let’s talk this morning about how God fixed that.
Just to bring you up to speed, we started into Hebrews 10 last week, where we have found the author beginning to wrap up his argument about the superiority of the new covenant to the old. After setting things up by stating as clearly and simply as he has yet that the mechanisms of the old covenant could never bring the salvation we had long since looked to them to bring, he shifted gears to explaining how this transition from old to new was always God’s plan. That’s where we find ourselves here this morning.
His first argument on this point was that it had long been God’s will to replace the unending system of animal sacrifices and various other kinds of offerings in response to our sinfulness with a single offering made by Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself. This came from Psalm 40
Here, we see him turning to a well-known passage from the prophet Jeremiah about the new covenant. Written after the Babylonians initial conquest of Jerusalem as part of a letter to the original group of exiles, Jeremiah was aiming to give them, as well as the people remaining in their devastated homeland, some encouragement.
They had been through what had to have felt something like Hell to their imaginations. It is hard for us to imagine the full weight of the worldview shock they experienced when Babylon conquered Jerusalem. Sure, God had sent other prophets promising judgment in the past, but He had always relented and shown them mercy. Plus, they were never as bad as their brothers and sisters to the north had been before Assyria destroyed them. Besides, their God was bigger and more powerful than any of the false gods of the nations surrounding them. And then they lost. Badly.
What Jeremiah was saying to them was essentially this: “Look, I know things are bad, and we can’t seem to keep the Law, inviting all of this judgment, but it’s not going to be like this forever. God is preparing to do something new. In fact, He’s going to make a new covenant with us. This new covenant isn’t going to be rooted in external things like the current one is. It is going to be internal. Instead of the Law’s being written on scrolls where someone has to teach it to us, God is going to write it on our hearts and minds. What’s more, this new covenant is going to bring the one thing we’ve always needed, but couldn’t ever get: forgiveness.”
Indeed, as the author has been drumming into our heads, the one thing the old covenant could never give us was real forgiveness of sins. “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” It’s not at all clear the Israelites of old fully realized this, but it’s not a truth that would have been inaccessible to them. A little bit of thought with God’s help could have made it clear. Animals aren’t humans and so animals can’t effectively intercede for human. An animal death isn’t the same as a human death. There’s simply not the one-to-one correspondence we needed there to be. So, we remained mired in our sin.
But that’s not what God wanted.
So, as the apostle Paul put it, “When the time came to completion, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons [and daughters].” God sent Jesus to die in our place, to be the sacrifice that met the demands of His righteous justice in order to pay the price for our sins. But that wasn’t all. Once Jesus had risen from the grave on the third day, and had departed to return to the Father’s right hand, the Father and Son together sent the Spirit to take up residence in our hearts to begin the process of sanctification whereby we would begin to reflect the character of God from the inside out. No longer would we have to rely on external guardrails and restrictions to keep us from sin. God was going to put inside of us the help we needed to remain in the righteousness of Christ.
And when all of this happened, no more offerings or sacrifices would be necessary. Because instead of constantly trying to play catch up with God, always separated from Him by our sin, we would have forgiveness, real and glorious forgiveness. Sin is gone. Salvation has come. All because God’s love was too great to leave the separation in place. Seems like a pretty good deal to me.