THE WRITER NOW TURNS TO PSALM 40:6-8. HIS PURPOSE IS TO SHOW THAT THE OLD TESTAMENT ITSELF SUPPORTS HIS CONTENTION, TESTIFYING TO THE INADEQUACY OF THE LAW AND POINTING TO THE NEED FOR SOME BETWEEN PROVISION. This superior provision is found in the person of the incarnate Son of God. “Therefore’ continues the Writer, ‘when he (Christ) came into the world he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, But a body you have prepared for me”’ (10:5). The Writer puts the words of Psalm 40:6 into the mouth of Christ. In so doing, he expresses both a negative truth and a positive one.
CHRIST DECLARES FIRST THAT THE ‘SACRIFICES AND OFFERINGS’ MADE UNDER THE OLD COVENANT WERE NOT DESIRED BY THE FATHER. HOW CAN THAT BE, SEEING THAT GOD HIMSELF PRESCRIBED THOSE SAME SACRIFICES AND OFFERINGS? The answer is that He no longer requires them now that Christ has come ‘into the world.’ The idea here is that a new era has dawned, and what was once required has now become redundant. Shadow has been replaced by substance. And what is that substance? The positive statement gives the answer – ‘a body you have prepared for me’ (10:5).
HEBREWS, HERE, AS ELSEWHERE, FOLLOWS THE SEPTUAGINT (GREEK TRANSLATION OF THE OLD TESTAMENT), SAYING, ‘A BODY YOU HAVE PREPARED FOR ME’, INSTEAD OF MY EARS YOU HAVE OPENED (OR PIERCED)’, AS IN THE ORIGINAL HEBREW. There have been many attempts to explain this deviation from the Hebrew text, the simplest being that the Writer always used the Septuagint, much as today we might work from the English translation of the original. This leaves unexplained, however, why the Septuagint deviates so markedly from the Hebrew in the first place.
OWEN OFFERS AN ALTERNATIVE AND BETTER EXPLANATION. HE SUGGESTS THAT THE SEPTUAGINT WAS ALTERED DURING THE EARLY CENTURIES A.D. TO CONFORM TO HEBREWS. He cites other cases where New Testament readings seem to have been written back into the (earlier) Septuagint.’ On this view, the Writer, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, deliberately changed the words of the psalm to convey more clearly the meaning of David’s prophecy. That is, he was not only quoting the psalm but interpreting it as well.
WHEN THE PSALMIST WRITES, ‘MY EARS YOU HAVE PIERCED’, HE WAS PROBABLY REFERRING TO THE EAR-PIERCING RITUAL IN WHICH A SLAVE, ON THE THRESHOLD OF FREEDOM AFTER SEVEN YEARS’ SERVICE, COULD VOLUNTARILY BIND HIMSELF TO HIS MASTER FOR LIFE (EXOD. 21:1-6). This act of total commitment pictures the obedience of the incarnate Christ to his Father, an obedience to which the Writer has previously drawn our attention (5:7-8) and to which he will soon return (see 10:7). By altering the psalmist’s words to ‘A body you have prepared for me’ the Writer links the idea of submissive obedience presented in the psalm to that of a bodily sacrifice. He thus expands on the original Hebrew of the psalm by implying that Christ’s obedience was such as to lead him to the cross, where he offered himself bodily as a sacrifice for sins.
THIS THINKING IS IN PERFECT HARMONY WITH PHILIPPIANS 2:7-8. ‘HE MADE HIMSELF OF NO REPUTATION, TAKING THE FORM OF A SERVANT, COMING IN THE LIKENESS OF MEN. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient (unto) death, even the death of the cross.’
THE ‘PREPARATION’ OF CHRIST’S BODY REFERRED TO IN 10:5, INVOLVED SEVERAL THINGS. FIRSTLY CAME THE INCARNATION. THOUGH HE WAS ‘IN THE FORM OF GOD’ HE TOOK THE ‘FORM OF A SERVANT, COMING (TO EARTH, IN THE LIKENESS OF MEN.’ The incarnation is perhaps, the greatest mystery of all. How was it possible for the eternal Son of God, wile retaining his power and authority over all creation, to assume a truly human form with all its physical limitations? Well might Charles Wesley cry in wonder,
My God contracted to a span, Incomprehensibly made man!
YET HEBREWS RIGHTLY INSISTS ON THE COEXISTENCE IN JESUS CHRIST OF FULL DEITY AND FULL HUMANITY. THIS ALONE CAN FULFILL GOD’S ETERNAL PURPOSES OF GRACE AND FULLY MEET THE SINER’S NEED.
SECONDLY, CHRIST’S PREPARATION INVOLVED HIS LIFE – ‘BEING FOUND IN APPEARANCE AS A MAN’. HE WAS TRULY MAN BUT UNLIKE ANY OTHER MAN HE ALONE WAS WITHOUT SIN (4:15). His perfection as a man was essential, for the offering had to be without blemish. It is the righteousness of Christ as a man that is imputed to human sinners for their salvation.
THE THIRD AND FINAL PREPARATION WAS HIS OBEDIENCE AS HE FACED THE CROSS: ‘FOR THE JOY THAT WAS SET BEFORE (HE) ENDURED THE CROSS, DESPISING THE SHAME’ (12:2). He humbled himself – ‘as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mount’. There was no bitter complaint over the way he was treated – no fury as his own creatures nailed him to a cross. He humbled himself because he had come to suffer vicariously for the ‘transgression of God’s people’ (Isa. 53: 7-8).
IT IS APPROPRIATE, THEREFORE, THAT WHEN WE CELEBRATE THE LORD’S SUPPER WE SPECIFICALLY REMEMBER THE ‘BREAKING’ OF CHRIST’S BODY AND NOT SIMPLY HIS DEATH AS SUCH. The sinless human body of Christ was an essential element in the logistics of redemption.
A PURPOSE FULFILLED
IN THE LAST CHAPTER WE BEGAN TO CONSIDER THE WRITER’S CITATION FROM PSALM 40. WE SAW THAT THE SOLE REASON WHY THE BODIES OF ANIMALS WERE OFFERED UNDER THE OLD COVENANT WAS TO FORESHADOW THE BODILY OFFERING OF THE SON OF GOD. Those animal sacrifices meant nothing in themselves and provided no satisfaction to the Godhead. That is why the psalmist continues ‘In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin you had no pleasure’ (10:6; Ps. 40:6). However, the offering they typified is a different matter altogether. For Jesus says, ‘Behold, I have come – in the volume of the book it is written of me – to do your will, O God’ (10:7; Ps. 40:7-8).
THE WILL OF GOD (10:6-7, 10)
NOTICE FIRST HOW THE PSALMIST EMPHASIZED THE ROLE OF OLD TESTAMENT SCRIPTURE IS PREPARING FOR THE COMING OF CHRIST – HE SAYS, ‘IN THE VOLUME OF THE BOOK IT IS WRITTEN OF ME…’. THE WORD ‘VOLUME’ REFERS TO A SCROLL, WHILE ‘BOOK’ MEANS ANYTHING WRITTEN. Although this is a clear reference to the Scriptures, we do not know exactly which scriptures David had in mind. However, it is a reasonable reference that he was speaking of the law itself (particularly the priesthood and sacrifices) as predictive of the work of Christ.
HOW DIFFICULT IT WOULD HAVE BEEN TO UNDERSTAND THE MEANING OF THE DEATH OF CHRIST WITHOUT THE PREPARATION PROVIDED BY THE OLD COVENANT! THAT WOULD BE TRUE EVEN FOR US TODAY, BUT DOUBLY SO FOR CHRISTIANS OF THE FIRST CENTURY. A prophet arises, performs miracles of healing, claims to be the Son of God and is put to death by the Romans. What would his followers make if it all? But the law of Moses (along with other Scriptures) gave them a paradigm (a pattern) == one within which they could both interpret the death of Christ for themselves and proclaim it to others, especially their follow Jews.
ABOVE ALL, SCRIPTURAL PREDICTION IMPLIES THAT CHRIST CAME TO DO THE WILL OF GOD, FOR WHAT IS PROPHESIED IN ADVANCE MUST BE PREPARED IN ADVANCE. TO THE CASUAL OBSERVER, CHRIST’S DEATH MAY HAVE SEEMED AN ACCIDENT OF HISTORY, THE FORTUITOUS OUTCOME OF HUMAN ENVY AND INTRIGUE. But Peter puts our thinking straight as he tells the Jews, ‘Him, being delivered by the carefully planned intention and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death’ (Acts 2:23). Let us be clear == it was God’s will that Christ should suffer and die for our sin. It was all planned in meticulous detail by a sovereign God. We can therefore be assured that ‘God has called us… not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began’ (2Tim. 1:9). Christ was ‘the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world’ (Rev. 13:8, see also 1Peter 1:19-20).
THE DEATH OF CHRIST WAS GOD’S ETERNALLY ORDAINED MEANS FOR THE SALVATION OF THE ELECT, WHOSE NAMES ARE WRITTEN IN THE ‘BOOK OF LIFE OF THE LAMB’ (Rev. 13:8). It was thus in obedience to the will of the Father, and in fulfillment of his timeless purpose, that Christ came bodily into the world to offer himself – ‘a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice’ for sin. For, slays Calvin, ‘Christ alone… is fully fitted to do the will of God.’
THE UNPROTESTING ANIMALS SACRIFICED UNDER THE OLD COVENANT WERE MERELY PICTURES, PREPARING MEN’S UNDERSTANDING FOR THE REALITY HAT WOULD FOLLOW. IT WAS THIS REALITY THAT ISAIAH PROCLAIMED, LONG BEFORE CHRIST CAME, WHEN HE WRITE, ‘HE WAS LED AS A LAMB TO THE SLAUGHTER, AND AS A SHEEP BEFORE ITS SHEARERS IS SILENT, SO HE OPENED NOT HIS MOUTH…HE WAS CUT OFF FROM THE LAND OF THE LIVING; FOR THE TRANSGRESSION OF MY PEOPLE HE WAS STRICKEN’ (Isa. 53:7-8).
THE SELF-GIVING OF THE SAVIOUR TO REDEEM US FROM OUR SINS OUGHT TO BE A CONSTANT SOURCE OF COMFORT AND THANKSGIVING FOR EVERY BELIEVER. Both the purpose and the means of our salvation were ordained before we existed, and represent not just the desire, but the unchangeable will of our sovereign God.
PASSING BY VERSES 8-9 FOR THE MOMENT, WE FIND THE CONSEQUENCE OF GOD’S PRE-ORDAINED WILL AND PURPOSE STATED IN VERSE 10. ‘BY THAT WILL WE HAVE BEEN SANCTIFIED (CONSECRATED) THROUGH THE OFFERING OF THE BODY OF Jesus CHRIST ONCE FOR ALL.’ Lane comments, ‘The immediate ground of consecration is totally new offering of the body of Jesus Christ as the inaugural act of the new covenant. The ultimate source is the will of God’.
NOTE THAT ‘SANCTIFIED’IS THE PERFECT TENSE (INDICATING A COMPLETED WORK) AND THE PASSIVE VOICE (INDICATING A WORK OF GOD, NOT MAN). Just as Christ’s offering was once for all, so is the setting apart (consecration) of God’s elect. Kistemaker writes, ‘The verb (been sanctified) indicated that at a given moment, someone acted on our behalf to sanctify us, and we have become pure.’ Delitzsch adds, ‘In (God’s will, we are or have been once for all sanctified.’ What does this mean in practice?
INVARIABLY IN HEBREWS, SANCTIFICATION IS THE ONCE-FOR-ALL ACT OF CONSECRATION BY WHICH GOD ‘SET ASIDE’ THE BELIEVER FROM A PROFANE AND EMPTY WAY OF LIFE TO SERVE AND GLORIFY THE LIVING GOD. Peter describes the sequence of God’s saving work in the soul of man. We are, he says, (1) ‘elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father,’ (2) ‘in sanctification of (or by) the Spirit, (3) ‘for obedience (to the gospel) and (4) ‘sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ’ (1 Peter 1:2).
THE NEW TESTAMENT WRITERS USUALLY THOUGHT OF SANCTIFICATION AS THAT WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN WHICH HE DELIVERS AN INDIVIDUAL FROM THE AUTHORITY OF DARKNESS AND TRANSLATES HIM INTO THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST (COL 1:13). For example, Paul reminds the Corinthians that they had once lived in rebellion against God, then adds, ‘such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God’. (1 Cor. 6:11, emphasis added.) The believer’s sanctification is not so much a thing that he must strive towards, as an accomplished work of grace by which he is obligation to live for God (l Cor. 6:19-20).
SANCTIFICATION, IN THIS SENSE, CAN THEREFORE BE THOUGHT OF AS THE SUM AND OUTCOME OF FOUR THINGS. Firstly, the eternal purpose of the Father (‘by that will we have been sanctified’). Secondly, the atoning work of Christ (through the offering of the body of Jesus). thirdly, the effectual operation of the Holy Spirit, implementing and applying the first two means at the time of regeneration. And fourthly, the outworking of an accomplished sanctification I the daily life of the believer, causing him to walk in the ways of God. (The doctrine of sanctification is greatly impoverished if we restrict it to only the fourth of these points).
WHAT AN AMAZING CONFLUENCE OF DIVINE WORKS! WHAT PAINS GOD HAS TAKEN TO SANCTIFY US! How important it must be, therefore, that we have been set apart in Christ for God’s glory. Well might Paul instruct the Thessalonians,’ …that is the will of God, your sanctification’ (1 Thess. 4:3). – Andrews
Professor Thomas A. Rohm