A college professor walks into the lecture hall and poses this question to the room full of budding engineers - “What is the hardest thing to break?” Immediately the students begin processing through the mass of knowledge they have acquired over the years - discussing and calculating the mass, density, and resistance of various items, both man and God made. After much calculation and deliberation the students had amassed a list including things such as Tungsten, stainless steel, titanium, and even legos, which, though made of plastic, have an ability to withstand an insane level of weight and force without breaking! But though their list seemed to be exhaustive the professor stood before the class and said “Though you have come up with quite the list of possibilities the true answer to my question has not made it onto your list of possibilities. For you see the hardest thing to break is not a tangible man made item or a naturally occurring element. No. The hardest things to break are the habits you subconsciously live out daily.”
At first the class felt duped. After all, what in the world do habits have to do with engineering? But then the professor went on to explain that in order for them, this new generation of thinkings and creators and inventors, to come up with and create that new invention or to revolutionize the thinking of yesterday and today than they are going to have to go beyond the “known” of the past and venture into the uncharted unknown of the future.
This idea of trading the known methods of the past for the unfamiliar territory of the future is exactly what the writer of Hebrews is addressing here in Hebrews chapter 10. The apostle knew very well that the Hebrews were fond of and comfortable with the Levitical law by which they had lived for decade upon decade. And now, after one “simple act” by Jesus on the cross, everything they had been taught, everything they had known, everything they had spent their life practicing and teaching to their families, was being turned on its head! Those sacrifices that you have held in such high reverence for so long no longer have a place in the New Covenant. Those laws you have spent their lives memorizing and adhering to for fear of literal death, just scratch that. That guy Jesus just wiped that slate clean!
I truly can’t imagine the tug of war that must have gone on in the mind of God’s people as they struggled with this transition from the old law to the new covenant. And so here, in verses 1-6, we find an encouragement to the Hebrew people that though the law was of divine appointment, and very excellent and useful it its time and place, when standing in comparison with Christ, the weaknesses and imperfections became evident and clear, some of which include:
The law was like a shadow of Christ - revealing only a glimpse into what was to come.
The law could never be fully satisfied. The sacrifices offered did not themselves take away sin; whereas Christ’s death on the cross brought full pardon for all who receive Him as Lord and Savior.
Now, having reminded the people of the “gaps” if you will in the Levitical law, he reminds the people in verses 7-18 of the perfection and wholeness found only in Christ. I love the word picture of Christs sacrifice and grace found here in verses 14-17:
“For by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds.” then He adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
What a statement of grace, truth, and freedom!! And because of that freedom, the Romans are reminded that they can now, as verse 19 declares, “have confidence to enter the holy places.” If you remember, under Levitical law only a priest who had been cleansed could enter into what was called “the Holy of holies”. This was a place in the temple in which the Holy spirit lived and a place in which those who entered who were not ordained and properly cleansed to do so would die. So obviously there was a level of fear when it came to approaching this place that housed the holiness of God. The reason for this harsh consequence is simple - sin cannot live in the presence of God. So great care was taken by the priests of the time to consecrate themselves before the Lord, following all of the laws and heading all of the warnings given.
However, when Jesus was crucified the Bible tells us that:
“Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit. At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” Matthew 27:50-51
That means that now the Holy Spirit was no longer only accessible by Priests in the Holy of Holies but they can now ALL, as Hebrews 10:19 confirms “have confidence to enter the holy places BY THE BLOOD OF JESUS.”
And this is the same confidence that we are able to approach the Lord today! Not because we are perfect but because we are made perfect in Him by the blood of Jesus. So today, as we close I want to end by reading verses 22-25 and 35-36 over you, as an encouragement, as a prayer, and as a reminder of who Christ is, what He has done, and who YOU are when you live your life surrendered to and resting in Him.
“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confessions of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near…[and] do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.”