You see, that very weakness, the weakness of the one who administered the sacrifice for sin, the high Priest, magnified the weakness of the flesh “virus” that infected the human side of the legal agreement! (Exodus 19:8) And this is made clear in Hebrews 7:23, “And there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing.” They kept dying all the time! But wait, I thought they were administering the perfect religion, to bring Israel to God? But “the wages of sin is death.” So death was still reigning, even in those very high priests! (Romans 6:23a) Hebrews 7:11 “Therefore if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should ARISE according to the order of Melchizedek.......” And therein is the problem, the Levitical priesthood could not offer the perfection God required for intimate fellowship, and that was evidenced in that the high priests under that legal system kept on dying!
“For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices WHICH THEY OFFERED YEAR BY YEAR make the comers (those who came unto God through those sacrifices offered by the priests) perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purged (cleansed), WOULD HAVE HAD NO MORE CONCIOUSNESS OF SINS. But in those sacrifices there is a REMINDER OF SINS every year. For IT IS NOT POSSIBLE THAT THE BLOOD OF BULLS AND GOATS COULD TAKE AWAY SINS.” (Hebrews 10:1-4)
Did you stumble over that phrase, “consciousness of sin”? It is saying that an adequate sacrifice administered by an adequate high priest, one who didn’t keep dying, would remove the consciousness of sin! The NIV places the word “guilt” in this location. All of the more literal translations keep the word “consciousness” in this verse. Guilt doesn’t quite reflect the meaning of this “outrageous” verse. Thayers Greek Lexicon: a. “consciousness of nobility; a soul mindful of it’s nobility, a soul mindful of it’s noble origin. b. the soul as distinguishing between what is morally good and bad, prompting to do the former and shun the latter, commending the one, and condemning the other.” This is a guilt magnified by the knowledge of the right way, but in spite of that knowledge, choosing the wrong way! “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17) The phrase, “sinning against light” comes to mind. Therefore, there had to be found a better sacrifice and a better priest to not only purge from momentary sins, but cleanse the conscience so that it makes the right choice!!!
Just a thought on the inadequacy of animal sacrifices. Of course animal sacrifice couldn’t put away sins! The law requires the penalty be paid by the law breaker. God does not “overlook” the sin of any man, woman, or child. It is His very Character as God that has been violated! Here’s the point. Animals were not cursed for sin! They did not bear the “wages of sin”, the required penalty- death, because they were not guilty of sin! Paul in Romans 8:19-22 explains that all of creation was subjected to futility (death) unwillingly. Our disobedience in that perfection of Eden subjected all of creation, against it’s created will and purpose, to the bondage of death! And now “we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now.” (8:22) Every time a squirrel gets hit by a car (I’m not overly fond of squirrels), everytime a volcano erupts, every time a virus sweeps the earth, it is the groaning of creation. And Paul implies that this groaning , this travailing in pain, is actually the earths “birth pangs”. The earth is in labor, “the earnest expectation of the creation waits for the manifestation (revealing) of the sons of God.” (8:19) The beauty of this earth, the incredible song of the birds I am hearing at this very moment, even in all of the damage done to it in our fallenness, is the anticipation of the hope (8:20) that awaits, “a new heaven and a new earth where Righteousness dwells”. (2 Peter 3:11-13; see also Acts 3:21; Hebrews 2:5; Revelation 21-22) And what is the earth waiting for? Remember, the “the revealing of the sons (think adoption) of God? “The creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” (8:21) And what is that hope of deliverance? The Adoption completed, “the redemption of our body.” (8:23)
“O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 7:24-25a) And that verse will bring us to the only adequate sacrifice, our Melchizedek--next time, I promise!