A Better Word
The idea for today’s sermon comes from these lines from Hebrews, “You have not come to something that can be touched, … But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem… and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”
When I read these words from Hebrews it struck me that the writer of Hebrews was comparing the shedding of Abel’s blood to the blood of the sprinkling.
So, let’s talk a bit about the blood of the sprinkling.
In the Old Testament the blood of the sprinkling
is the rite of atonement for the people’s sins.
The word atonement means to pay for.
So, the sprinkling of the blood is a ritual,
given to Israel by God, administered to the people by the Aaronic priesthood for the forgiveness of their sin.
The ritual consisted of the blood of an animal,
in this case a bull and a goat, being shed and then sprinkled on various parts of the Israelite’s place of worship.
During the ritual of the sprinkling of the blood of the atonement blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat in the Tabernacle, on the tent of the meeting and on the altar.
All of this sprinkling of blood on the tabernacle, which you can read about in Leviticus 16:1-19, was made necessary by the people’s sins
and resulted in the cleansing of the Tabernacle of God making it a fit place for God to be present with the people so He could forgive the sins they had committed in the past year.
This ritual sprinkling of blood held no power
to prevent the people from sinning.
Nor did this sprinkling of the blood
atone for the sins the people would commit
in the future.
And so this sprinkling of the blood had to be repeated each year on the Day of Atonement.
There you have a bit of information about the meaning of the sprinkled blood in the Old Testament.
The blood of sprinkling is about God holding the chosen people accountable for their sin.
It is also about God providing a way for the people to pay for their sin and so to be forgiven of it.
So, the word that the blood of the sprinkling in the OT speaks is the word of God’s merciful judgment.
And according to Hebrews the blood of the sprinkling speaks a better word than the word spoken by the blood of Abel.
So, what word did the blood of Abel speak?
If you recall the story of Cain and Abel, as told in Genesis, you will remember that the blood of Abel, shed through his murder shed by his own brother Cain, cries out to God from the ground
on which it was shed.
Here is a portion of that scripture:
8. Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Let us go out to the field.’ And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.
9.Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’ He said, ‘I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?’
10.And the Lord said, ‘What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground!
11.And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.
12.When you till the ground, it will no longer yield to you its strength; you will be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth. 13Cain said to the Lord, ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear!
14.Today you have driven me away from the soil, and I shall be hidden from your face; I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and anyone who meets me may kill me.’
15.Then the Lord said to him, ‘Not so! Whoever kills Cain will suffer a sevenfold vengeance.’ And the Lord put a mark on Cain, so that no one who came upon him would kill him.”
So again, what word does the innocent blood of Abel cry out to God?
Perhaps its a word of vengeance; vengeance for the spilling of innocent blood.
Most certainly the word spoken by Abel’s blood
is a word that cries out for justice.
Based on God’s judgmental response to the murder of Abel it could well be that his innocent blood
cries out to God, pleading for both vengeance
Could it also be that Abel’s blood cries out to God for vengeance and justice, tempered by mercy?
Possibly, because God’s judgment on Cain did not include the death penalty because others were not permitted to avenge Abel’s innocent blood
by taking Cain’s life.
We have reviewed the significance and possible meanings of the word spoken by Abel’s blood
and the word of the sprinkled blood.
So, that brings us back to where Hebrews talks about, “the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”
It could well be that the sprinkled blood spoken of here is the blood of the sprinkling that we spoke of earlier.
It could be that the blood of the sprinkling
speaks a better word than the blood of Abel,
because the blood of the sprinkling speaks explicitly about the forgiveness of sin.
The blood of the sprinkling actually provides the people with a means to be cleansed of their sin.
While the word of the blood of Abel crying out to God from the ground does not provide the relief of anyone’s sin burden, including Cain’s.
But to get at the point that the writer of Hebrews is trying to make about the word of the sprinkled blood we must consider the rest of the Hebrews reading for today.
“18.You have not come to something that can be touched, a blazing fire, and darkness, and gloom, and a tempest, 19.and the sound of a trumpet, and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that not another word be spoken to them.
22.But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23.and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24.and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”
The blood of the sprinkling in the OT brought the people into right relationship with God once per year when the rite of atonement was performed by the priests.
But through faith in Christ, Christian believers have come to, or been brought by their faith,
to a better place; that place of eternal forgiveness found only in Christ.
The better word we have come to by the sprinkling of Jesus’ blood is God’s heavenly Kingdom right here on this earth.
Cleansed by the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus,
through faith in him, our relationship with our God is no longer one of the dread we would experience were we to come upon a blazing fire,
absolute darkness, foreboding gloom or raging tempest.
Nor is the word given to the world by the sprinkling of Jesus’ blood at the foot of the cross a word that those with ears to hear beg not be spoken to them.
The word the sprinkled blood of Jesus speaks to the world, crying out from the foot of the cross,
is the ultimate word of God’s complete mercy
and utter forgiveness for all our sin, for all sins.
When we hear God’s word to us, the sprinkled blood of Jesus speaks to us a better word,
brings us to a better place, that place of God’s blessed and eternal forgiveness in Christ Jesus.
To enter into God’s heavenly Jerusalem here on this earth, we need only claim, by faith,
our place in the last words spoken by Jesus’ blood as it sprinkled the foot of his cross.
“Father forgive them
for they know not what they do”.
Father forgive us
for we know not what we do.