Hebrews 10:1-10 – The shadow of the reality!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 4, 2012 AM
“True! Nervous – very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses – not destroyed – not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell.” Thus begins “The Tell-Tale Heart”, a short story by Edgar Allan Poe, first published in 1843. It is told by an unnamed narrator who endeavors to convince the reader of his sanity, while describing a murder he committed. Ultimately, the narrator’s guilt manifests itself in an auditory hallucination: The narrator hears his victim’s heart still beating under the floorboards where he hid the body. Guilt can make us hear things, do things, or say and promise things we would not normally hear, say or do. Sin is like that. Guilt coupled with pride convinces us to remain in ungodly relationships, do things we know we should not do, or say things we should not utter.
Guilt coupled with pride can also make us continue to stick to old habits and beliefs that are utterly worthless or even harmful. This is what was occurring with the listeners of the sermon of Hebrews. The author was desperately trying to help them see that their pride and guilt was causing them to make poor choices concerning their faith in Jesus. Some were actually thinking about returning to their old way of doing things. Going back to the shadow of the Old Law could never save them or assuage their guilt. The old way was a mere shadow of the reality itself! Can this be true of us in our day and age? The answer is a resounding, “YES!” Let’s discover why and how we can avoid making the same mistake concerning the shadow of the reality!
I enjoy going to Disneyland or Disneyworld. I confess I like theme parks and especially the rollercoasters, where the faster and more loop-the-loops the better! Yet I am amazed and somewhat saddened to see the amount of money spent because of parental guilt in these parks. And all of the experience is based on a false premise, namely that everything is make-believe. It is not real. While the requirements of the Old Testament Law were very real, they were actually only a foreshadowing of what was to come. Hebrews therefore teaches us about…
I. A mere shadow! (Vv. 1-4)
“…the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” (Matthew 4:16 NIV)
1. “The law is only a shadow” that is a mere example or more exactly a foreshadowing in relation to the temporal good things of the spiritual and eternal good things of the Gospel to come. The good news is the “good things” that were coming because of Jesus Christ! We find that Colossians 2:17 tells us that in fact these “are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ!” More about that in a moment, however, the Old Law for “this reason” could “never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.” An example cannot be as good as the real thing! This is why the author of Hebrews continues by asking, “If it could, would they not have stopped being offered?” Of course, the answer would be that certainly, they would have stopped, but they didn’t. So, if in fact they had stopped then “the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins.” Can you imagine realizing that the continuous sacrifices, which you had “repeated endlessly year after year”, actually testified to the Law’s inability to “perfect” its worshipers? What a bummer! We discover that instead “those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins!” Sin is actually a defiance of the eternal law, and these material sacrifices belong to a ceremonial law, which is far less acceptable to God than moral duties or eternal consequences. We know that sin is committed against God and is objective and without truly measurable limits. Therefore, it can never be atoned for by the blood of creatures but it leaves a stain on the mind and conscience, which blood can never reach! What the blood of these creatures could not do, the blood of Christ has done, and does continually. The Law was just a mere shadow.
EXAMPLE: When I was little, I was afraid of the dark. Of course, my brother did not help the issue because he delighted in hiding in the closet, jumping from behind closed doors, or even lying under my bed and waiting for me to come to bed. Our minds can play tricks on us and that is why theme parks and certain horror movies are so popular. Yet they are not real. They are mere shadows of what our minds have conceived. Convincing folks that some things are not valid can be tough. The sacrifices of the Old Law could not perfectly cleanse anyone. They were only meant as a reminder of the cost involved and as an example of what would prove to be so much better. The Law was a mere shadow of better things to come.
This is why the author spent so much time in his argument concerning the Old Testament Law and the New Testament Christ. He wanted his readers to be convinced of…
II. The reality! (Vv. 5-10)
“These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” (Colossians 2:17 NIV)
1. “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.’” The author is using Psalm 40:6-8 where David writes, “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced; burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. Then I said, ‘Here I am, I have come– it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.’” (Psalms 40:6-8 NIV) Jewish scholars believed this has always referred to the Messiah to come. Interestingly, the phrase “a body you prepared for me” is one Septuagint rendering of the Hebrew expression “you have dug ears for me.” It was a phrase used in preparing the body for burial. In the “body” which Jesus assumed in his coming, he could say that he had come to achieve what the Old-Covenant shadow sacrifices never achieved, the perfecting of New-Covenant worshipers, those who lived in the light and not the shadows! The reality was that Jesus could say, “Here I am — it is written about me in the scroll — I have come to do your will, O God.” Remember, it was not his will but God’s will that Jesus earnestly desired to do! Jesus’ last concern was that he not be dissuaded in any way from doing what he was called to do! We learn that, “Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.” (Isaiah 53:10 NIV) By Jesus willingly doing what he did, he “sets aside the first to establish the second.” The author continues by reminding his readers that “And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” The Law was simply a shadow but Jesus was and is the light and life of all men. This is the reality!
EXAMPLE: As fun and as exciting as make-believe can be, reality is far better. That is, if you are prepared for it. We can become so enamored with the lives of others that we disdain our own existence or we live beyond our own means. I have seen parents try and make up for their lack of a childhood by overindulging their children. I have also watched as young couples have an inappropriate view of what their married life should be like. Then there are those who think that the world owes them a living. It is interesting to watch folks, as reality comes crashing into their lives. Just as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz learned, “There is no place like home”, the believer needs to understand the reality of Jesus: That “we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all!” That is the reality and not some shadow!
A mere shadow or the reality, which do you prefer. I rather like reality myself.
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.