Exodus 26:1-37, Genesis 3:24, Hebrews 9:6-14
Where I grew up, there was a hill near our house called “Thrill Hill.” It was like a roller coaster, and in all my forty-six years, I’ve never seen another hill like it. At least twice while I was a kid, some teenagers who were new to the road, sought to “catch some air,” lost control, and wrecked. My parents would then hurry down the street to see if they could assist after the accident. Once, a car literally ended up in our neighbors’ living room. By the late ‘80s, every house on the downside of the hill had put up poles and boulders in their yard to keep teenagers from crashing through their living room windows.
I was not allowed to ascend Thrill Hill by foot for this reason. It was too dangerous. None of the neighborhood kids were allowed to either—that I could remember, at least. We had to go around it, or cut through yards to get to the ballpark, pool, or school on our bikes. It was a pain in the legs. Going over Thrill Hill would have saved so much time, even if I had to push my Huffy bicycle most of the way.
One time I decided to defy my parents by going up Thrill Hill, and they saw me. When I got home later I was in so much trouble. I lay in bed that night, feeling the guilt of it all. I had not only disobeyed them, but I had done it in a way that put me in danger.
I felt terrible. No kid made more promises of sacrifice and good deeds to God than I did that night. I resolved to be a better kid—a much better kid. But it all felt so hopeless, and I could get no real relief. As a kid, I dreamt of sacrificing my toys to rid myself of the guilt. (This was a recurring theme all throughout my high school years and into college.) At the literal end of the day, how would I deal with the guilt of my sins? What sacrifices could I make each time to get rid of the guilt? The Israelites had to deal with the same problem of sin and the need for repeated sacrifices, but theirs were real: real animals sacrificed to atone for their very real sins.
One of the reasons we refer to the story of what Christ has done as “good news” is that His work on the cross ended the need for God’s people to repeatedly go into the most holy place to take care of their sin. “But when Christ appeared as a high priest he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:12).
This was good news. A sacrifice had finally been made that dealt with their guilt before God that could not be undone by more sin. And not only for them, but for you and me and little boys twisting in their guilt in the dark of their bedrooms, night after night. But the gospel is true. “How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works so that we can serve the living God?” (v. 14).
Written by Matthew B. Redmond