This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered [by the priests in the tabernacle] were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order. Hebrews 9:9-10 (NIV)
Here the writer (assumed to be Paul) is talking about the tabernacle that was constructed in the wilderness by the Israelites per God’s instruction to Moses, along with the regulations for sacrifices and offerings to atone for sin.
Under this system, the gifts and sacrifices can’t really get to the heart of the matter; they can’t assuage the conscious of the people, and are limited to matters of ritual and behavior. It is essentially a temporary arrangement until a complete overhaul could be made.
The people brought their sacrifices to the tabernacle, and later to the temple, for the priest to offer atonement for their sins day after day, year after year, until all the meaning had been stripped away. It became something they did by rote and even the priests were unaffected. There was no emotion and no sorrow for sins, only an empty ritual that fails to both create sorrow for transgressions, or desire not to sin. Jesus died so that we can come boldly to the throne, bringing our confessions to Him Who is able to pardon. No man can pardon because he, like the Old Testament priests, is sinful himself.
Any who formerly participated in the Old Testament ritual were separated from even remorse because the ritual became meaningless. Today Jesus, living in us as our High Priest, pardons us with no middleman. We come to God in the Holy of Holies in our hearts to ask for, and receive His pardon. He alone can save.