Maybe it’s because I am a woman that I never saw the appeal. All I could think of was housework—laundry that needs washing over and over, shirts that need ironing again and again, dust that keeps settling, meals that need cooking three times a day. Oh for something that when I finish with it will stay finished!
I think the Old Testament Jews understood a little. Have you ever read the complex procedure for the Day of Atonement? You should sometime, and then think about the promise of a forgiveness that lasts forever.
Every year the sins that were forgiven the year before were once again remembered against God’s people, and every year the pile grew bigger and bigger. At least when I do the laundry, I know a shirt that I washed and ironed will not be back in the hamper until it has once again been worn. Imagine if everything you ever washed got dirty again the next week just because clean would not stay clean!
The first century Jewish Christians surely appreciated the blessing of forgiveness far better than we can. They had been waiting for that promise to be fulfilled for hundreds of years. Behold the days come, says Jehovah, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hands to bring them out of the land of Egypt…But this is the covenant that I will make…says Jehovah: I will put my law in their inward parts and in their heart will I write it, and I will be their God and they shall be my people, and they shall teach no more every man his neighbor and every man his brother saying, Know Jehovah, for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, says Jehovah; for I will forgive their iniquity and their sins will I remember no more, Jer 31:31-34.
A high priest was coming who would offer himself, a perfect sacrifice that would cleanse each sin forever. That pile of guilt would no longer build up on each one, becoming heavier and heavier, needing yet another sacrifice every year. Think what that must have meant to a people who through the years had seen oceans of blood pouring down that manmade altar, knowing that next year, the same thing must happen again, not only for new sins, but for exactly the same old ones as well. What a relief.
And what a relief for us to know that God forgives and forgets, and that because of that wonderful blessing we can enjoy another “Never-Ending Story” that will remind us of a blessing, instead of a burden.
And they indeed have been made priests many in number because by death they are hindered from continuing; but he, because he abides forever, has his priesthood unchangeable. Wherefore also he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, seeing he ever lives to make intercession for them. For such a high priest became us, holy, guileless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and made higher than the heavens, who needs not daily, like those high priests to offer up sacrifices, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people, for this he did once for all, when he offered up himself,. Heb 7:23-27.