Verse 4 of Hebrews chapter ten ends with the thought that the blood of bulls and goats could never cleanse our consciences of our guilt and shame. We can cover our sin with them for a short time but then must repeat the process over and over again. These offerings do not give God any pleasure at all. They are merely pictures of the one true offering that Christ will make to bring in the new order. Many of us still live under the old order. We come week after week to church and are reminded of our failure to measure up in a wide variety of ways. Then we offer our sacrifices of service, money, prayers and songs only to leave knowing we’ll be back the next week to do the same thing over again. We fall into this routine and forget that God does not take pleasure in this. Hebrews 10:5-7 says, “Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure.’ Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’ ”

The offerings under the old system were simply the “shadows” of the real thing. Christ and his offering is the one and only necessary sacrifice for man’s sin. Yet even today we are so hooked on our religion and its rituals we cannot let them go and trust Jesus. David Guzik quotes William Newell and asks us a profound question, “For example, you need a load of wood: you go to the wood man, and he takes you to a large oak tree in the far corner of the lot. Pointing to the long shadow it casts, he offers to sell you this shadow. Will you take it? Now, if God says that in the Law there was a shadow, not even the very image of the things—and of course, not the things themselves, why will you hold to the shadow?”[1]

To confront religious people with the inadequacy of their religion is dangerous. Jesus was crucified. Paul was whipped, stoned and imprisoned. Stephen was martyred as were thousands after him. What made Jesus’, Paul’s and Stephen’s messages so offensive was the fact that they quoted the religious experts own scriptures to prove their point. This is what the writer of Hebrews has done in Hebrews 10:5-7. He quotes from Psalm 40 to show prophetically that God’s intention was to resolve man’s sin issue not through the blood of bulls and goats but through the sacrifice of His own son who satisfies for us all our debt to God for our sin. Another commentator compares the two by speaking of the difference between the recipe and the meal. He writes, “It would be foolish indeed to prefer reading a cookbook to eating a good meal when one is hungry. Not that there is anything wrong with reading a cookbook—it can be very enlightening—but it is not very nourishing! Yet some of the original readers of Hebrews were doing something very much like that. They preferred to content themselves with the externals of faith—such as the law, the Aaronic priesthood and animal offerings—and to ignore the fulfillment of these things in the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. They wanted the cookbook rather than the meal!”[2]

[1] David Guzik, Hebrews, David Guzik’s Commentaries on the Bible (Santa Barbara, CA: David Guzik, 2013), Heb 10:1–4.

[2] Ray C. Stedman, Hebrews, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Westmont, IL: IVP Academic, 1992), Heb 10:1.