Sunday, December 23, 2012
Advent 4 Hebrew 10:5-10 "What can you do in the Church to help save souls?"
Then, having come into the world, He says, "sacrificial-offerings and presented-offerings You do not want, yet a body You have made complete to me. With complete-burnt-offerings and (those) concerning sin, You are not pleased."
Then I said, "Look, I have come. In a scroll of a book it is written concerning Me, The accomplishment, God, of Your will."
Having said, above, that sacrificial-offerings and presented-offerings and complete-burnt-offerings and (those) concerning sin You do not want nor are You pleased, (those according to the Law to be sacrificial-offerings); then He said, "Look, I have come to do Your will." He takes away the first so that the second one stands. In which desire we are made holy by the delivering over of the body of Christ, once and for all.
The tasks of a priest seemed endless back in the Old Testament. All day long they would stand on their feet to offer five different types of sacrifices for the people regularly. "Fellowship", "Grain", "Burnt" and "Sin" offerings are all mentioned here in our text. In addition to these four, the Levites also had to offer "Guilt" offerings when people sinned against God, to forgive them and atone for their sin.
Year after year, sin after sin, folks kept bringing fruits of their farms as sacrifices to God. The cycle seemed endless. But all these sacrifices weren't what the Lord wanted. They pointed forward to the "once and for all" sacrifice of the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world. Psalm 40 reveals that the Father would give the Son a *body* to offer up, a sacrifice was God's will, pleasing to Him.
No wonder not-yet-born John literally skipped for joy in his mother's womb, since His Savior was only one womb away! The prophecy of God taking a body for sacrifice had not been fulfilled! What was written in that scroll of holy scripture was all about what Jesus had come into this earth to accomplish. God's Word was all about what God's Son would come down from heaven to earth to do–His heavenly Father's will. "Look–I've come to do Your will" He says. It is the only will you need.
Yet you pray, "Thy will be done." But sadly you may pray this thinking it is all about you. You think, "God, help me to fit my life into the things that are your will for me to accomplish today." Now, while this is all fine and good, it is not what this petition is all about. Thy will be done is really about what God is doing, not what you are doing. It's about God stopping every single will which opposes His kingdom coming to you, or His name being made holy among you. Sometimes it's your will He stops.
The good and gracious will of God is Jesus' to accomplish! He gives His body in sacrifice for you on the tree, and sheds His blood there for you! He then feeds you with that same body and blood for your atonement, having reconciled you to your heavenly Father by His holy offering at Calvary, feeding you with the very payment price of your redemption. This is the once-and-for-all sacrifice with which God is well pleased. This is the offering with which is the will of God, the very desire of your Father above.
Yet how often do you read the Bible and wrongly assume it is all about what you are to do in attempt to please God. Much like the people of Israel long ago foolishly thought that their acts of sacrifice could do something to make God like them again. Even the laborious efforts of the Temple priests could not accomplish such an arduous task. Know that you can never, ever do enough on your own to please God. Which is why the work of God Himself in Christ Jesus must replace your feeble efforts.
For only Jesus is the Holy One of God. The accomplishment of God's will is found only in His work. The rest of mankind has inherited the sinfulness of Adam, and so we sin a lot, every day. If the sacrificial system of the OT were in place today, I'm sure your pastor would pass out from exhaustion! That just to atone for his own sins! No, that is not God's desire, for us sinners to keep offering sacrifices to Him. One final, perfect, holy sacrifice was needed for you–in Jesus Christ at the cross.
But you may think, "Our God is so confusing. He commanded sacrifices He didn't want and asks for offerings that He doesn't really need?" According to God's Law, these sacrifices were required, just as the offering up of your body in sacrificial service is still commanded. But you don't live by the Law.
The Law of "what you should do" is given by God to serve His Gospel, never to replace it. The Law constantly accuses you, showing you how your feeble efforts pale in comparison to what Jesus has done in His sacrifice for you, so that you seek the forgiveness offered in word and sacrament. You are made holy by Christ's work alone, brought to His sacrifice on the cross in your baptism, receiving the fruits of His offering in the Lord's Supper, and hearing that God's will for you is done in Christ Jesus.
Hymns from LSB:
#346 When All the World Was Cursed text tune score
#357 O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
#342 What Hope! An Eden Prophesied