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A Promise Confirmed In Blood (1)

Hebrews 9:16-18
In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. (NIVUK)

When a person dies, their possessions and money should go to whoever is named in the will. That document is a 'covenant' or 'testament' – a promise of what must happen. However, nothing can be transferred until the person dies. But first, there needs to be evidence that the person is dead. This is called in these verses, 'proving the death'; or, in the original 'presenting evidence to demonstrate that a death has taken place', so that the will can be proved to be valid.

Because the life of the animal is carried in its blood, the presentation of blood was sufficient for atonement to be made for the sins of the people (Leviticus 17:11). In the old Mosaic law, God was satisfied by the life-blood drained from the animal which was to be sacrificed. It was the same at the first Passover, "… when I see the blood, I will pass over you …" (Exodus 12:13). That is why, "… without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness …" (Hebrews 9:22).

God's people were taught through the old covenant law that His promise of forgiveness could not take effect until a sacrifice had been made. The law was like an ancient Greek or Roman pedagogue - an educated slave who supervised his master's children, teaching them essential life skills and escorting them to school. The pedagogue was not their father but was employed by their father to lead them into truth (Galatians 3:24-25). In the same way, the old covenant law was designed to help people understand what Jesus Christ had done, and how His blood represented His life which was “… poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28).

And yet how often Christianised religion wants to go back to the pedagogue rather than the Father. Too many are reluctant to go straight to the Father through Jesus the Son (Ephesians 1:7, 13-14); wanting reassurance from priests, and rituals, that their sins are forgiven. It was also a problem for 1st C Hebrew-background believers who had been brought up with the system of temple sacrifices. Like them, we need this letter to remind us that God's forgiveness is only possible because Jesus' blood was shed for us. Upon His death, all the 'benefits of His Passion' – including guilt-cleansing, acceptance by God, the indwelling Spirit and eternal life - become ours as we trust in Him. When Satan tempts us to despair of ourselves, the blood of Christ answers his accusation (Revelation 12:11). It is the only evidence we need that we are beneficiaries of the new covenant (1 Corinthians 11:25). Come to Him today: repent and thank Him for His blood, shed for you, which satisfies God's justice and cleans our consciences. And urge others to trust Him too.

Father God. Thank You for teaching us through the old covenant how the blood of Jesus would inaugurate the new covenant, of which we are beneficiaries through faith in Him. Forgive me for seeking reassurance through other means than the simple historical evidence of the blood of Jesus, which we remember as we take bread and wine. Please let my testimony to the world and the devil be that, 'Jesus' blood was shed for me'. In His Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams