When Christ Came into the World
Psalm 40 is a psalm of David, and 40:6-8 prophesies the coming of the Messiah. The Preacher uses that passage here and applies it to Christ. Since the blood of bulls and goats could not cleanse the conscience of the worshiper—proven by the fact that they had to be repeated every year—something more was needed. And the more which was needed was planned from the beginning, indeed, foreshadowed and anticipated in the very law which it eclipsed. And the passage is so beautiful, I cannot help but to repeat it here:
Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, “Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.”
The Preacher does not render the wording exactly like the psalm and that need not concern us. Perhaps he did not have ready access to a scroll and so wrote from memory. At any rate, his rendition is perfect. He takes “ear” in the psalm as representing the whole body, a literary technique called “synecdoche.” But the point of this Messianic passage is obvious: God never delighted in offerings and sacrifices. There are even times when God demands that they be taken away from him for the very reason that they had no effect on the person making the offering: “Bring no more vain offerings…I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly” (Isaiah 1:12-15).
But now comes the beauty of the psalm, of the prophecy: “A body you have prepared for me.” And was this not wonderfully fulfilled in the angel’s words to the Virgin: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God” (Luke 1:35)! And though we are accustomed to reading that the Father sent the Son, in this place we hear the Son say, “Behold, I have come to do your will, O God.” The Father delighted not in burnt offerings because He delights in His Son, and He delights in His Son because His Son delights to do His will. The sacrifices could never suffice as they were in anticipation of something far greater. And though we would never say that the Father “delighted” in the sacrifice of His only-begotten Son, He did delight in His Son’s obedience unto death—an obedience which was voluntarily and gladly given—love answering love. “Behold, I come to do your will, O God” meets “Behold the handmaid of the Lord.” Beautiful.