Thursday, December 16

Reader: “When sins have been forgiven,”

Response: “there is no need to offer any more sacrifices.”

Scripture: Hebrews 10:10-18

For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.

Under the old covenant, the priest stands and ministers before the altar day after day, offering the same sacrifices again and again, which can never take away sins. But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand. There he waits until his enemies are humbled and made a footstool under his feet. For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy.

And the Holy Spirit also testifies that this is so. For he says,

“This is the new covenant I will make

    with my people on that day, says the Lord:

I will put my laws in their hearts,

    and I will write them on their minds.”

Then he says,

“I will never again remember

    their sins and lawless deeds.”

And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices.

Some thoughts:

The book of Hebrews is particularly tuned to the Old Covenant God made with his people, the Jews, and the radical change that occurred with the New Covenant, made for all peoples. As I read today’s passage, I couldn’t help but reflect on what I mentioned a few days ago as I watched a Yom Kippur service. The essence of this service is pleading with God to forgive our sins. This day is viewed by Jews as the holiest day of the year and is marked as one of the seven major feasts of the year. Repentance and personal conduct are a central themes. 

What strikes me in regard to “conduct” is that we think primarily of things we do as highlighted in the Yom Kippur service: be kind, thoughtful to others, tell the truth, live a moral life, be just in your dealings, be content with what we have and so forth. Yet in reading this portion of Hebrews, we come across a word that is seldom heard these days when conduct is mentioned and that word is “holy.” We can get lost in doing good things and still not live a holy life. Who these days is making an effort to be holy? Are you? In some places it is a pejorative. “So who wants to be holy? That’s no fun.” Yet we are made holy, not by our efforts but by the sacrifice made on our behalf. This is another of those “both and’s.” At the same time we are commanded to be holy (I Peter 1:16, Lev.19:2), we are to make an effort (Phil. 2:12-13). 

With the Old Covenant, the sin problem had a shadow of the solution as the priest stood offering sacrifices day after day, but especially on Yom Kippur. An animal life was given and blood was shed but such actions did not solve the problem, it only painted the picture in charcoal, a shadow picture of the ultimate solution. In the glory of Christmas celebration we dare not forget that this baby Jesus willingly came for the purpose of dying and shedding his own blood to make us holy and wholly acceptable to the Father. 

It is important in this glorious season of the year to not leave the infant Jesus in the  Bethlehem manger for he is seated at the right hand of the Father, his work completed, as you read this. He is waiting until his enemies are humbled. We are made perfect forever in God’s sight through that single sacrifice. In this New Covenant his laws are written in our minds (guiding how we think) and his laws put in our hearts (how we act). We are to be transformed people! Then the most glorious news which I wanted to shout in that synagogue, the words of the Lord, “I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds.” Yom Kippur is forever cancelled! There is no need for any more sacrifices. Remember the Messiah’s words from the cross, “It is finished!”

Music: “I Wonder As I Wander”    Audry Assad

Bonus:  “I Wonder As I Wander”     Cambridge Singers   arr. John Rutter

“I Wonder As I Wander”     Vocore

Prayer:Lord God of heaven and earth, what shall I render to thee for the gift of gifts, thine own dear Son, begotten, not created, his infinity of love beyond the heart’s grasp. Herein is a wonder of wonders: he came below to raise me above, was born like me so that I might become like him.  Herein is love; when I cannot rise to him he draws near on wings of grace, to raise me to himself. Herein is power; when Deity and humanity were infinitely apart he united them in indissoluble unity, the uncreated and the created.  Herein is wisdom; when I was undone, with no will to return to him, and no intellect to devise recovery, he came, God-incarnate to save me to the uttermost, as man to die my death, to shed satisfying blood on my behalf, to work out a perfect righteousness for me.  O God, take me in spirit to the watchful shepherds, and enlarge my mind; let me hear good tidings of great joy, and hearing, believe, rejoice, praise, adore, my conscience bathed in an ocean of repose; place me with ox, ass, camel, goat, to look with them upon my redeemer’s face, and in him account myself delivered from sin; let me with Simeon clasp the new-born child to my heart, embrace him with undying faith, exulting that he is mine and I am his. In him thou hast given me so much that heaven can give no more. Amen.                     ―from The Valley of Vision, p.16