Christ the Substance of the Ancient Sacrifices of the Law
Hebrews 10:5-7
Why when he comes into the world, he said, Sacrifice and offering you would not, but a body have you prepared me:…

To take Jesus Christ for our Redeemer and for our Example is an abridgment of religion, and the only way to heaven. If Jesus Christ be not taken for our Redeemer, alas! how can we bear the looks of a God who is of purer eyes than to behold evil? If we do not take Jesus Christ for our Example, with what face can we take Him for our Redeemer? Should we wish that He who came into the world on purpose to destroy the works of the devil, would re-establish them in order to fill up by communion with this wicked spirit that void which communion with Christ leaves?

I. First, we will consider the text AS PROCEEDING FROM THE MOUTH OF JESUS CHRIST. We will show you Jesus substituting the sacrifice of His body instead of those of the Jewish economy.

1. Our text is a quotation, and it must be verified. It is taken from the fortieth psalm All that psalm, except one word, exactly applies to the Messiah. This inapplicable word, as it seems at first, is in the twelfth verse, "Mine iniquities have taken hold upon Me." This expression does not seem proper in the mouth of Jesus Christ, who, the prophets foretold, should have no deceit in His mouth, and who, when He came, defied His enemies to convince Him of a single sin. There is the same difficulty in a parallel psalm (Psalm 69:50), "O God! Thou knowest My foolishness, and My sins are not hid from Thee." The same solution serves for both places. Jesus Christ on the Cross was the Substitute of sinners, like the scapegoat that was accursed under the Old Dispensation. The Scripture says in so many words, "He bare our sins." Is the bearer of such a burden chargeable with any exaggeration when He cries, "My iniquities have taken hold upon Me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of Mine head"? Moreover, the fortieth psalm is parallel to other prophecies, which indisputably belong to the Messiah. I mean particularly the sixty-ninth psalm, and the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah.

2. A difficult passage, that needs elucidation. The principal difficulty is in these words, "A body hast Thou prepared Me." The Hebrew has it, "Thou hast digged, bored, or opened Mine ears." It is an allusion to a law recorded in the twenty-first chapter of Exodus, where they who had Hebrew slaves were ordered to release them in the Sabbatical year. A provision is made for such slaves as refused to accept of this privilege. Their masters were to bring them to the doors of their houses, to bore their ears through with an awl, and they were to engage to continue slaves for ever, that is to say, to the year of Jubilee, or till their death, if they happened to die before that festival. As this action was expressive of the most entire devotedness of a slave to his master, it was very natural for the prophet to make it an emblem of the perfect obedience of Jesus Christ to His Father's will. But why did not St. Paul quote the words as they are in the psalm? The apostle followed the version commonly called that of the Seventy. But why did the Seventy render the original words in this manner?

(1) The word rendered " prepared " is one of the most vague terms in the Greek tongue, and signifies indifferently "to dispose," "to mark," "to note," "to render capable," and so on.

(2) Before the Septuagint version the Mosaic rites were very little known among the heathens, perhaps also among the dispersed Jews. Hence in the period of which I am speaking few people knew the custom of boring the ears of those slaves who refused to accept the privileges of the Sabbatical year.

(3) It was a general custom among the Pagans to make marks on the bodies of those persons in whom they claimed a property. They were made on soldiers and slaves, so that if they deserted they might be easily reclaimed. Sometimes they apposed marks on them who served an apprenticeship to a master, as well as on them who put themselves under the protection of a god. These marks were called stigmas (see Galatians 6:17; Ezekiel 9:4; Revelation 7:3-8). On these different observations I ground this opinion. The Seventy thought, if they translated the prophecy under consideration literally, it would be unintelligible to the Pagans and to the dispersed Jews, who, being ignorant of the custom to which the text refers, would not be able to comprehend the meaning of the words, "Mine ears hast Thou bored." To prevent this inconvenience they translated the passage in that way which was most proper to convey its meaning to the readers. Now as this translation was well adapted to this end, St. Paul had a right to retain it.

3. Jesus Christ, we are very certain, is introduced in this place as accomplishing what the prophets had foretold; that is, that the sacrifice of the Messiah should be substituted in the place of the Levitical victims. On this account our text contains one of the most essential doctrines of the religion of Jesus Christ, and the establishment of this is our next article. In order to comprehend the sense in which the Messiah says to God, "Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldst not;" we must distinguish two sorts of volition in God — a willing of a mean, and a willing of an end. God may be said to will a mean when He appoints a ceremony or establisheth a rite which hath no intrinsic excellence in itself, but which prepares them on whom it is enjoined for some great events on which their felicity depends. By willing an end I mean a production of such events. If the word "will" be taken in the first sense, it cannot be truly said that God did not will or appoint sacrifices and burnt-offerings. Every one knows He instituted them, and regulated the whole ceremonial of them, even the most minute articles. But if we take the word "will" in the second sense, and by the will of God understand His willing an end, it is strictly true that God did not will or appoint sacrifices and burnt-offerings; because they were only instituted to prefigure the Messiah, and consequently as soon as the Messiah, the substance, appeared, all the ceremonies of the Law were intended to vanish.

II. To WHAT PURPOSE ARE LEVITICAL SACRIFICES, OF WHAT USE ARE JEWISH PRIESTS, WHAT OCCASION HAYS WE FOR HECATOMBS AND OFFERINGS AFTER THE SACRIFICE OF A VICTIM SO EXCELLENT? The text is not only the language of Jesus Christ, who substitutes Himself in the place of Old-Testament sacrifices; but it is the voice of David and of every believer who is, full of this just sentiment that a personal dedication to the service of God is the most acceptable sacrifice that men can offer to the Deity. Ye understand, then, in what sense God demands only the sacrifice of your persons. It is what He wills as the end; and He will accept neither offerings, nor sacrifices, nor all the ceremonies of religion, unless they contribute to the holiness of the person who offers them.

1. Observe the nature of this sacrifice. This offering includes our whole persons, and everything that Providence hath put in our power. Two sorts of things may be distinguished in the victim of which God requires the sacrifice; the one bad, the other good. We are engaged in vicious habits, we are slaves to criminal passions; all these are our bad things. We are capable of knowledge, meditation, and love; we possess riches, reputation, employments; these are our good things. God demands the sacrifice of both these.

2. Having observed the nature of that offering which God requires of you, consider next the necessity of it (1 Samuel 15:22; Psalm 50:16, 17; Psalm 51:17; Isaiah 1:11, 16; Jeremiah 7:21, 22, 23). To what purpose do ye attend public worship in a church consecrated to the service of Almighty God, if ye refuse to make your bodies temples of the Holy Ghost, and persist in devoting them to impurity? To what purpose do ye send for your ministers when death seems to be approaching if, as soon as ye recover from sickness, ye return to the same kind of life, the remembrance of which caused you so much horror when ye were afraid of death?

3. The sacrifice required of us is difficult, say ye? I grant it. How extremely difficult when our reputation is attacked, when our morals, our very intentions, are misinterpreted; how extremely difficult when we are persecuted by cruel enemies; how hard is it to practice the laws of religion which require us to pardon injuries, and to exercise patience to our enemies! How difficult is it to sacrifice unjust gains to God, by restoring them to their owners; how hard to retrench expenses which we cannot honestly support, to reform a table that gratifies the senses! How difficult is it to eradicate an old criminal habit, and to renew one's self, to form, as it were, a different constitution, to create other eyes, other ears, another body!

4. But is this sacrifice the less necessary because it is difficult? Do the difficulties which accompany it invalidate the necessity of it? Let us add something of the comforts that belong to it, they will soften the yoke. What delight, after we have laboured hard at the reduction of our passions, and the reformation of our hearts; what delight to find that heaven crowns our wishes with success!

5. Such are the pleasures of this sacrifice: but what are its rewards? Let us only try to form an idea of the manner in which God gives Himself to a soul that devotes itself wholly to Him. "O my God! how great is Thy goodness, which Thou hast laid up for them that fear Thee! " My God! what will not the felicity of that creature be who gives himself wholly to Thee, as Thou givest Thyself to him!

(J. Saurin.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me:

WEB: Therefore when he comes into the world, he says, "Sacrifice and offering you didn't desire, but you prepared a body for me;

Christ in the Old Testament Scriptures
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