“But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” (Hebrews 10:3–4, KJV 1900)
It is possible for people to have bad memories. I often have a problem with names. Faces I can remember, but sometimes I cannot place the names with the faces. It is something that I work hard to overcome. However, names are not the worst thing that we can forget. We can often forget how far short of God’s glory we fall and how weak we are in the flesh when it comes to sin. In this way, we are very frail and prone to wandering from the path of righteousness.
The writer of Hebrews has been addressing the inadequacy of the law and system of sacrifice to deal with the sin problem of man. The priests would offer sacrifices daily for the sins of people. Every year on the Day of Atonement, the high priest would enter the holiest place and present the blood of the bull to cover his sins and then the goat for sins of the people (Lev 16).
Imagine you were one of the writer’s Jewish audience who was raised up in this system of sacrifice. After reading the letter, one of the big questions would be, “What then was the point of these sacrifices repeated year after year?” the author answers this question by stating, “in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins.” The system of sacrifices, and in particular the great spectacle of the events of the Day of Atonement were to jog the minds and hearts of the Jewish people regarding the problem of sin and God’s great mercy.
It was to show them that all had sinned and fallen short of God’s holy standard. It was to show them the serious nature of sin and that the penalty of sin was death. It was to demonstrate that they, the people, did not deserve the mercy of God, but rather judgment due to sin. It was to point to the holiness of God, and His merciful patience with them. Ultimately, it was to point to the finished work of Christ in His sacrifice for sin.
It could have been a great teaching point for everyone. When the children would see what was going on and ask, “Daddy, what does all this mean?”, he could explain these things to them. It was so they would never forget.
The take away for the people should have been to understand the seriousness of sin. They should have been brought to humility and mourning over their sin. They should have been pleading out for mercy and giving thanks to God for His patience and provision for them.
Today, I am afraid, too many Christians have poor memory. We forget how prone we are to sin and how far short we still do fall from God’s infinite holiness. We need to remember the one sacrifice Jesus made for all of us. For us today, we have a time to remember when we partake of communion. It is then we take the bread, which represents His body broken for us and the cup, which represents the new covenant in His blood. When we partake, we should remember the severity of sin, the price that was paid for our redemption. We should be humbled and be thankful to God for His mercy toward us.