The father was the Old Testament judge Eli, and he was ashamed because his two grown sons were corrupt and ungodly men who misused their privilege as priests for their own gain and carnal pleasure. So Eli asked them this question:
“If someone sins against a man, God will mediate for him, but if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?” (1 Samuel 2:25a, my emphasis)
He stated so concisely the dilemma that all sinners face. How can we be right with a holy God, given the fact that all sin is an affront to Him? The book of Hebrews focuses on answering that question in considerable detail.
The answer begins to appear in the first few verses of the first chapter. So far we have looked at five of seven wonderful descriptions: Christ is Heir of All Things, the Creator, the Radiance of God’s glory, fully God, and the one who upholds the universe. The sixth description summarizes the answer to Eli’s question: HE CLEANSED US FROM OUR SINS. After making purification for sins, is the way it’s written in v. 3.
Hebrews describes what Jesus did in Old Testament terms – in the language of high priests and blood sacrifices and a portable worship center called a tabernacle. The old covenant demanded ongoing sacrifices, millions of them. The priests literally never sat down - their sacrificial duties were never done.
Why? Because all those sacrifices only “covered over” sins; they never actually took them away. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins (Hebrews 10:4).
But Hebrews constantly reminds us that this old system was always pointing to something better, to something that would actually work. A blood sacrifice was coming that would actually cleanse from sin, would finally and forever answer Eli’s question: if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him? Answer: Only God Himself can do it. But that can happen only if God becomes man and pays the penalty Himself.
Hebrews exalts the supremacy of Christ whose all-sufficient sacrifice cleansed His people from their sins. His substitutionary atonement is expressed in a variety of ways.
- He turned away God's wrath for our sins (2:17).
- He shed His own blood for our sins (9:12,22).
- He offered His body for our sins (10:10).
- He redeemed us by His death for our transgressions (9:15).
- He put our sins away so that God remembers them no more (8:12; 10:17).
- He satisfied God's justice forever (7:27; 9:12, 26; 10:10, 14).
This is the truth that sets us free. And if the Son sets you free, you’ll be free indeed.