Here I Am
Key Verse 10:10
“And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
The theme of the writer at the moment is that Christ’s sacrifice was once for all. That means that when Jesus offered himself as the sacrificial lamb to atone for our sins, he did so once for all— once for all time. His sacrifice was wondrous. It was sufficient. It was perfect. It completely atoned for our sins once for all. Look what the author says in the last verse we looked at in the previous chapter. “So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” (9:28) Christ came to this world once as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and sacrificed himself once for all for many. Not for all— but for the many. Who are those blessed people to be counted among the many that Jesus sacrificed himself for? They are the ones who believe in him— those who trust that his once for all sacrifice offers them forgiveness of and cleansing from sins which otherwise have kept them alienated from God and hostile to him. They believe, and so they are counted among the many whose sins the Lord will never count against them. And when he comes again, they who are waiting for him, will also receive the salvation promised them. What will happen to the rest, to those who are not washed in his blood? They will be judged by the Lord and their destiny is tragic. How terrible it will be for those who have rejected the Son of God whom God in his great love had sacrificed for the salvation of the world! Today people, young and old alike don’t think much about their eternal destiny. But the truth is that we are all “destined to die once, and after that to face judgment”. (9:27)
Read verses 1-4. “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. If it could, 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, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”
What he’s saying here is very simple, yet profound. He’s saying that the animal sacrifices were temporary and never meant to be permanent, because as necessary as they may have once been, they couldn’t fulfill their intended purpose. The author has often repeated this teaching. All the animal sacrifices and offerings people were required to make to God for their sins, year after year, couldn’t possibly fulfill their purpose. And what was their intended purpose? Look at verse 3 again. They were intended to remind the worshipper of God how serious sin is, and its consequences. In some cases, and for those who have a tender conscience before God, this particular purpose of the sacrifices and offerings was partially fulfilled. Any man or woman who love God would be convicted and cut to the heart every time they made a sacrifice and offering for their sins. It was a reminder to them of how much of a sinner we are, and how much every sin we commit hurts God and our fellow man. What a blessing these sacrifices and offerings must have been to those who are genuinely sorry and repentant for their sins! Every time they sacrificed, it broke their heart that they had violated God’s perfect law by sinning. And it must have gladdened their hearts that God had provided a temporary way for forgiveness. That much we can say that the purpose of sacrifices and offerings was partially fulfilled. I say partially because as much as some were convicted of sin through sacrifices, many also offered without a thought to the sins they had committed against God and each other. But they sacrificed and offered because the law required it, and because they thought that’s what God wants— for them to go through the ceremony and ritual of sacrifice. They had no idea that the ceremony and ritual of sacrifice is pointless and meaningless without engaging one’s own heart. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Psalm 51:17)
But the author mentions other intended purposes for the sacrifice and offering God’s people had to make and which in no way were fulfilled. Look at verse 1. For one, he says that these sacrifices and offerings failed to “make perfect those who draw near to worship”. Look also at verse 2. He also tells us that these sacrifices and offerings failed to cleanse the worshipper from a guilty conscience of sin. In verse 1 he tells us that the law, and consequently the sacrifices and offerings prescribed by the law were only a “shadow of the good things that are coming” and which have already come. Well, these (the intended purpose of sacrifice and offering) are the “good things” he’s talking about, the things that make perfect those who want to worship God, and the cleansing of their consciences from the guilt of sin. Of course, the good things that are coming— have already come! Why? Because they were all realized in and through the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He is by far the “good things” that are coming— and which have already come— because along with his coming to us in the flesh, also came with him God’s mercy and God’s grace, God’s love and his assurances, the Kingdom and the all the promises of God. Indeed the law and the sacrifices were nothing but a shadow of Christ and the blessings of his inheritance.
So the author tells us that the sacrifices— because they were only a shadow of what’s to come— failed to fulfill God’s intended purpose for us. They were like a blurred, imperfect image of who Christ is and of what he came to fulfill. What the law and sacrifices failed to fulfill in their purpose, Christ himself has completely fulfilled through his coming, life and works. For example, the sacrifices and offerings couldn’t possibly make perfect those who want to worship God. And why is it necessary to be perfect in order to appear before God? We have spoken of this before, but it doesn’t hurt to speak of it again. We were created to worship and enjoy God. This is largely the purpose of our existence. It’s impossible for any human being to have a sense of fulfillment until he or she draws near to God in true worship. This is not up for discussion. You will not have a sense of fulfillment in your life unless you worship God in spirit and in truth. But no human being can do that! And the reason is sin. As long as sin is unforgiven, unless it is cleansed from the human heart, no one can worship God or draw near to him. So God gave his people the sacrificial system as a temporary measure for the forgiveness of their sins. But that meant that they had to sacrifice again and again because the sacrifices were never sufficient enough to make a person perfect enough to draw near to God in worship. It just wasn’t enough! There were always sins that haven’t been forgiven and then there were also sins to be committed right after the worshipper made an offering for sins past. But then Christ came and offered himself. His sacrifice completely covers all our sins (past, present and future) and makes us perfect— not because we won’t sin anymore— but because Christ’s sacrifice completely covers our sins forever. These are the “good things” that have already come. All other sacrifices were nothing but a shadow of that One Great Sacrifice and Offering that covers our sins once for all, and makes us perfect enough to worship God.
The author also talks about the guilt of conscience and the cleansing from the guilt of conscience through sacrifices and offerings that could never actually do that. Look at verse 2. He says that if the many sacrifices were able to cleanse the conscience from guilt, they would have been cleansed long ago and the sacrifices stopped long ago as well. They offered forgiveness to the one who made the sacrifice for his our her sins— and temporarily for that matter. But they didn’t do a thing to cleanse the conscience of the guilt of sin. Actually no amount of sacrifice and offering could do a single thing about cleansing the heart of the worshipper from the guilt of sin. What’s the deal about the guilt of sin then that it’s impossible to remove? People sin and perhaps at first they feel the guilt of conscience for what they’ve done. But for most people who continue sinning, the guilt of conscience slowly subsided until it goes away. Just because you don’t remember much that money you stole or that shameful act you committed, doesn’t mean that the guilt is gone. The guilt is still on your conscience but numbed and shut up somewhere within where it doesn’t bother you much any more. But even is someone should die with a numbed conscience, it doesn’t mean the guilt is erased. At the judgment every human conscience will bear the mark of guilt and condemn them. Even the most moral and devout of people couldn’t get rid of their guilt no matter how many sacrifices and offerings one makes. Today those with a sensitive conscience try to ease that guilt of conscience by doing religious things, by doing good deeds, and other such methods to ease their conscience. But no amount of sacrifice and offering can do a thing about the inside guilt.
Until Jesus came and sacrificed himself no one was able to draw near to God because of a guilty conscience. But Christ, who is the “good things” that have come, not only forgives our sins, but cleanses our conscience from guilt so that the mark of sin and guilt is gone. As the apostle tells us elsewhere: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1-4) Every Christian knows in their heart that in spite of their sins, that awful sense of guilt and the condemnation that comes from it is long gone and “The peace of God, which transcends all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) guards their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Read verses 5-9. “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, O God.’ First he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them’ (although the law required them to be made). Then he said, ‘Here I am, I have come to do your will.’ He sets aside the first to establish the second.”
Verses 5b-7 are a quotation from Psalm 40:6-8. Obviously, this Psalm is largely a Messianic Psalm. And this means that it’s a passage written and prophesied long ago by the Psalmist in relation to the Messiah to come. How difficult it must have been for Old Testament people to fully comprehend the greatness, the depth and the glory of these words! But the author of Hebrews fully understood them in the Holy Spirit and explained them to us. Let me start with verse 8 where he says “(although the law required them to be made)”. He’s talking about all those sacrifices and offerings that were being made for countless generations because of sin. He tells us that they were necessary and required by the law to be sacrificed and offered to God for the sins of God’s people. In other words they weren’t pointless or meaningless offerings at all— nor were they all offered in vain! It was God who required them to be sacrificed and offered. And the faithful among God’s people had faithfully done so. But then the author tells us something else— something baffling indeed! What then does he tell us?
Although these sacrifices were prescribed by the law, although God himself had required that they be sacrificed and offered, God himself neither desired them, nor was he pleased with them! And that’s exactly what the author is explaining to us. Look at verse 5a. “Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said”. Now the rest of this quote (5b-7) is our Lord Jesus speaking to God in this Messianic Psalm. And this is what he tells God: “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, O God.’”
First, our Lord Jesus deeply understood what God wants. For generations people offered and sacrificed burned offerings to God. But no one could understand that even the world’s entire animal kingdom couldn’t satisfy God’s righteous requirement to cover for the sins committed against him and each other in this fallen world. Even the entire world’s sacrifices couldn’t please the holy and righteous God. It wasn’t enough! It wasn’t at all what God desired. What then did God desire? What would actually please him? What God desired was the perfect sacrifice, and no one on earth could present that kind of sacrifice to God. Yet no one on earth understood this! But Jesus, the Son of God did! Jesus deeply understood that no sacrifice was good enough or sufficient enough or perfect enough to hold back God’s wrath on sinners and his displeasure with all the sins committed against him and against one another. Jesus, the Son of God deeply understood what God really wanted. Jesus understood that God wanted to send his Son into the world to become that perfect sacrifice. Jesus understood that God the Father wanted him to take on himself the mission of becoming the Perfect Man so as to become the Perfect Sacrifice and Offering.
Look at the last part of verse 5. The words “But a body you prepared for me” tells us that the Lord Jesus understood that God wanted to prepare a human body for him so that he might live the Perfect life that pleases God and die as the sinless and Perfect Sacrifice for our sins. That, we call the incarnation of our Lord Jesus as a man. It wasn’t easy for the Lord Jesus to become a man, however. To do that he had to sacrifice his glory and majesty in heaven and deny all his divine privileges and come to this miserable world and live among us and share in our human lives. But Jesus understood that it’s what God wanted him to do, since God prepared a body for him. Jesus then lived the Perfect Life and then offered himself to be crucified on a cross. How wonderful it is that Jesus understood what God really desired more than all the sacrifices and offerings in the whole world. God desired an obedient Son who would fully submit himself to the will of God and live a life that pleases God in the humility of God himself. Jesus understood that God wanted to reveal himself to the world in this way to show the extent of his love for unworthy sinners. How wonderful it is to know what God desires the most and then to fulfill it. Mostly people don’t know what God desires. They say they’d like to know, but in truth they really don’t! And even if they did, they don’t fulfill or want to fulfill what God desires. What does God desire the most? Our sacrifices? Our religious dos and donts? No, God desires a humble and obedient son, as Jesus set the example for us, and called us to follow him. That’s what Jesus understood of God’s pleasure and desire. God is not delighted with the offerings and sacrifices we make in our Christian lives, as much as he is with those who love him from the heart, and live by his gospel truth.
Look at verse 7. “Then I said, ‘Here I am— it is written about me in the scroll— I have come to do your will, O God.’” How glorious are the words “Here I am” every time we hear them uttered in the Bible by those who love God. When Adam sinned and was overwhelmed with shame and guilt, God had to look for him: “Adam where are you”, but Adam was hiding from the Lord because his heart was heavy with guilt and he was afraid to face God. Sin really makes us hide from God and dread facing him. Sin makes us useless to God and unwilling to even hear what he wants from us. When God was about to ask Abraham to sacrifice his son he called his name “Abraham”, and Abraham said: “Here I am”. (Genesis 22:1) That was the voice of a man ready to do anything for the Lord because he had the faith and the love to do anything for the Lord. Samuel was just a little boy when God was ready to put the huge burden of responsibility on him. But three times Samuel said “Here I am” and after that he said: “Speak, for your servant is listening”. (1 Samuel 3:1-10) When Isaiah was young and ready to begin serving God, he said: “Here am I. Send me”! (Isaiah 6:8) Today even Christians seem to be hiding from the Lord or are ready to run away from him and the responsibility he would entrust to them. So many excuses to hide from him, or to not be available for service. So many want God’s grace but also want God to leave them alone. God calls for service, but they are too busy with their own affairs. When was the last time you really listened to the Lord’s voice, and were ready to say “Here I am”?
But Jesus understood the enormity of the responsibility and mission God wanted to give him and said “Here I am”, I know what I have to do because it’s written in God’s word, and you because you desire it. So “Here I am” to do your will my God. Jesus was ready to do anything the Lord wanted him to do, even if it meant to sacrifice his life. He was ready to do the Lord’s will. Jesus understood what the will of God was because “It is written”. It was the will of God that he renounce his heavenly glory and become a man. It was the will of God that Jesus live a life of humble obedience to the will of God. It was the will of God that Jesus be betrayed and crucified by the very people he loved and came to save. “Here I am… I have come to do your will, oh God”. Because Jesus was ready to do the will of God, you and I have the privilege to draw near to God in worship. Oh what it cost him to make this blessing an assurance for us! What is God’s will for you? How ready are you to obey his will? These are some of the things that we ought to meditate on in humility of heart and in faith!
Look at verse 9. “Then he said, ‘Here I am, I have come to do your will.’ He sets aside the first to establish the second.” When Jesus was ready to obey the will of God, God sent him to become our Savior. Through his sacrifice God was able to put aside the First Covenant based on insufficient sacrifices and offerings and put into effect the Second and New Covenant based on Jesus’ life and works and faith in it— a covenant of grace and of mercy and of truth and of life. What does this New Covenant have to offer those whose faith is in Christ and his works? Look at verses 10-18. In these verses we see what are the “good things” that have come— the reality rather than the shadow? Read verse 10. “And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” And this is how we who believe in Christ are made holy and perfect so that we can enjoy the fellowship with God in holy worship. It was Jesus’ once for all sacrifice that made this possible for us. Look at verses 11-18. These verses tell us about the precious New Covenant blessings which sacrifices and priests could never secure for us. It tells us about the good things that we inherit through Christ’s once for all sacrifice. Read verse 14. “Because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” This is what we need to believe, that Christ’s sacrifice was once for all what makes us perfect and holy so that we enjoy the blessings of his sacrifice. We need to believe this.