Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,
“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body have you prepared for me;
in burnt offerings and sin offerings
you have taken no pleasure.
Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”
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, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
In today’s passage, we’re reminded of the New Covenant that came about through Christ’s life, death and resurrection. Christ fulfilled the Old Covenant and its system of priests, burnt offerings and animal sacrifices by atoning for our sins and freeing us to live no longer under the law but under God’s grace. I know I need this reminder often and perhaps especially during this Advent time of waiting.
At the beginning of our passage, the Hebrews writer references Psalm 40:6–8, but instead of ascribing the words to David, the original psalmist, the Hebrews writer ascribes them to Christ.
As an English education professor at Hope, I love studying these sorts of rhetorical moves and how they point to the many examples of foreshadowing in the Old Testament. Finding these and other literary devices in Scripture adds to my delight in reading God’s living Word and deepens my understanding of God and His plan for His people. It’s one of the reasons that I think everyone should take literature classes!
David wrote Psalm 40 during a time when God’s people, the Israelites, were called to show faithful obedience within the Old Covenant, a sacrificial system that required external atonement for sins. Even within this system, David reflects that desiring to do God’s will needs to come first.
When we consider these same words as spoken by Christ, the idea of desiring God’s will becomes even richer to us. That Jesus was willing to become the one and only sacrifice was possible only because of the wholehearted obedience that he showed to God’s will throughout the entirety of his life, from his birth to his death on the cross. Because of this obedience, Christ paid for all of our sins and allowed us to be sanctified. Because of this obedience, David’s prayer to God later on in Psalm 40: “Do not withhold your mercy from me Lord, may your love and faithfulness always protect me” (v. 11–12) is no longer a request but a certainty because of our membership in the New Covenant.
During this Advent season, may we find comfort in Christ’s wholehearted obedience to God’s will. May we follow Christ’s example in orienting our own lives to God’s will and live out and into the New Covenant with freedom, grace and joy.
Dr. Deborah Van Duinen is an associate professor of education at Hope College.
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.