A reflection on Hebrews 10:5-10 for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 19, 2021.
Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,
‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body you have prepared for me;
in burnt-offerings and sin-offerings
you have taken no pleasure.
Then I said, “See, God, I have come to do your will, O God”
(in the scroll of the book it is written of me).’
When he said above, ‘You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt-offerings and sin-offerings’ (these are offered according to the law), then he added, ‘See, I have come to do your will.’ He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Hebrews 10:5-10 (NRSVA)
The author of the letter we know as ‘Hebrews’ clearly has a Jewish audience in mind. Althouth there is wide-spread speculation as to who the author is, who the document seeks to communicate to is much clearer. After all, the author relies heavily on the Hebrew Scriptures. It would seem reasonable to identify an audience who is versed in – and cares about – the Jewish texts.
In the above passage the citation is from Psalm 40:6-8 and is clearly based on the Greek translation, known as the Septuagint, rather than the original Hebrew text. This is entirely believable as much of the Jewish world of the time was fluent in Greek. It is evidence of an early Christian priority for understanding and communication.
There is no evidence in the Gospels of Jesus ever using this Psalm. This passage is the only place we see a claim that Jesus used it. Perhaps it is unclear whether the writer is referring to a claim from the mouth of Jesus himself or ‘placing’ this passage in the mouth of Jesus in a more symbolic way.
Either way, it is clear that the words of Psalm 40:6-8 gather, for the author, the priorities of both Jesus and God in a unique way. From the gospels we know that one of the distinctinguishing factors between Jesus and the religious leaders of his time was the prioritisation of ‘sacrifices and offerings’. The Jerusalem Jesus entered was physically and economically built around the sacrificial system.
Yet here we see a radical reversal of this priority in – of all places – the heart of God.
The claim here is that God’s priorities are not found in offerings made to God. Rather, they are – unimaginably – found in the offering of God!
God’s will: that we would be ‘sanctified’ – or set aside for friendship with God – by an offering not made to, but made by, God.
The revealing of this priority will start with the Christ coming into our world in a ‘body’. It will start with another unimaginable – the en-fleshment of God.
Ours is a radical, upside-down, world-view indeed!
What do you make of a God who sacrifices for – rather than seeking a sacrifice to? What changes for you if this is the revealed heart of the God who made everything?
What do you make of a God who becomes one of us? What changes fopr you if this is the revealed heart of the God behind everything?