“Out, damned spot! out, I say!”
Lady Macbeth’s line is one of Shakespeare’s most famous. In the first act of Macbeth she helps her husband to murder the King. By the end of the play she is in mental torment and eventually takes her own life. In her final scene she is before a doctor and cannot cleanse her conscience.
Out, damned spot! out, I say!… who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him? …What, will these hands ne’er be clean?…Here’s the smell of the blood still; all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh, oh, oh!
The Doctor says “What a sigh is there! The heart is sorely charg’d. …This disease is beyond my practice.”
Shame and guilt is a disease. And it’s a disease beyond the practice of 17th century doctors. It’s beyond the practice of 21st century doctors. Taking away our guilt and shame is beyond every power on earth, even – and perhaps especially – religion. But in Hebrews 10 we learn about a “once for all” cleansing that contrasts starkly with the old religious ways.
In verses 1-4, we’re told that even God’s own religion did not cleanse people from sin – it only reminded them of sin. Every day the blood of animals was shed, yet everyone knows that animals can’t pay for sin. Every year there was a grand theatrical performance called the Day of Atonement. The High Priest had a starring role and there was a scapegoat. You confessed your sins over the scapegoat and there were sacrifices and at the end it was pronounced that God was “at one” with Israel. But… the next year they did it all over again. They weren’t cleansed from their sins, they were only reminded of their sins.
This whole system was a shadow of the coming reality (v1). The real atonement was achieved when Christ came into the world (v5-10).
There is a true and willing Sacrifice who steps forward amidst the bloodshed of the temple and says “Enough! Here I am. I’m the Reality to which these shadows have pointed.”
Jesus, our Scapegoat, died the death of every slanderer, every pornographer, every bully, every murderer, swindler, adulterer, terrorist… every sinner. And now
we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:10)
That phrase “once for all” is so precious. Understanding it will transport you from the shadow-lands of guilt and perpetual striving to the freedom of Christ’s finished work. Therefore in the next paragraph, Hebrews lays out the stark difference between the reality of Christ’s sacrifice and the shadow of the old covenant (v11-14).
The old sacrifices were continual, Christ’s was once for all
The old sacrifices were powerless, Christ’s was completely effective.
The old priests stood for their constant work, Christ sits having finished the work.
Do you realise the wonder of Christ’s finished work? Do you understand that, through Him, you are made holy “once for all”?
The final paragraph will help us (v15-18). Here the writer returns to his favourite passage – Jeremiah chapter 31. He proclaims the glorious truth that our “sins and iniquities God remembers no more.”
Imagine debts piling up. You pay off one credit card with another. It snowballs and suddenly you’re £90 000 in the red. The debt collectors are after you. You don’t answer the phone, you pretend you’re not in.
Eventually you get some financial advice. They tell you to phone the credit card company and explain your situation. You pluck up courage and give your details over the phone. Then you begin to make excuses… “Now, about the £90 000, I’ll try to pay it back, I just need some time…” The woman on the other end of the phone says “We have no record of any debts in your name.” You ask her to double check. She double checks, “We have no record of any debts in your name.”
If you’ve trusted Jesus your Scapegoat, those are God’s words to you today.
Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. (Hebrews 10:17)
Don’t live in the shadows. Don’t try to clean yourself up. Remember you’ve been cleansed through the cross of Christ - once and for all.
Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O LORD. 2 Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. 3 If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? 4 But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. 5 I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. 6 My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning. 7 Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. 8 And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities. (Psalm 130)