By His Blood
Reading through certain parts of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers has always been a bit of a challenge for me. I start off with good intentions. But before long, the page-after-page requirements for the Tent of Meeting’s construction, the guidelines for making priestly garb, and explicit details of how Israel was to approach their previously formidable God, leaves me hoping the next page turned will be my last.
Obviously, greater revelation still awaits me.
This time, however, was different. Today, instead of hurriedly skimming over the blood and carnage in Leviticus, I purposefully took my time and let it sink in. By chapter 4, I’d already worked my way through several of the different rituals of animal sacrifices and their purposes, (with a brief interlude of grain-offerings in the middle that gave me a slight breather). These rituals involved selecting unblemished animals to sacrifice, the splashing of their blood against the altar, cutting carcasses into pieces, washing internal organs and legs, singling out kidneys and sections of livers, wringing heads off of fowl and plucking feathers. Many of these details were painstakingly executed by priests before the sacrifice was then burned on the altar as a sweet and satisfying odor to the Lord. According to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.[i] It was the only way unholy people—defiled by sin yet chosen by God—could approach their holy God without dying.
My mind was swimming in graphic visuals of what that might’ve looked like at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting where all this occurred. The structure itself and its contents were crafted with the finest quality of materials, much of it overlaid with gold.[ii] Priests dressed in garments of fine linen, scarlet, purple, and blue trimmed with onyx, topaz, sapphires, diamonds and other precious gems set in gold filigree had their sleeves rolled up, working feverishly in all that blood and guts. What a grim sight it must’ve been. Day after day, week after week, sacrifices were made not for the few, but for the masses. Many modern-day readers would find that offensive. Animal rights activists would no doubt be up in arms.
I caught myself wondering about all that blood splashed against the altar, splattered on holy garb and curtains, dripping from elbows and hands, poured onto the ground. Blood is sticky. It smells. It draws flies. Were there pools of it by the end of the day? or did they dig holes and bury it? Did it attract predators looking for their next meal? Who cleaned everything up? Was cleanup even possible?
So many details to factor in. Am I the only one who thinks about these things? I’m still longer on questions than I am on revelation.
But my takeaway at this point is this:
How despicably deplorable our sin must be in the eyes of God—the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy, whose very presence invokes continual worship and reverence throughout the halls of heaven—that He would go to such extreme measures as implementing the old covenant rituals of sacrificing animals so that the contamination of sin in mortals could be covered and forgiven—and that only as a temporary fix. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.[iii]
As bloody and gruesome as all that was, the deep-seated decay of sin in hearts remained. The consequences of sin also remained—death. So, to eradicate it, God took the most drastic measure possible. Under the new covenant— (of which those OT rituals were a foreshadow)—He, Himself, provided the sacrificial Lamb. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.[iv]
Like a lamb to the slaughter, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God willingly made the ultimate sacrifice. He went to the cross for us. He bore our griefs, carried our sorrows. He took upon Himself our filthy sins and suffered the most severe ill-treatment and punishment by death that should have been ours.[v]
He was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities . . .[vi]
[For many the Servant of God became an object of horror; many were astonished at Him.] His face and His whole appearance were marred more than any man’s, and His form beyond that of the sons of men . . . [vii]
In case someone missed that, we’re talking about the fullness of man’s sin, Satan’s rage, and God’s just punishment reducing a man to a bloody pulp. Jesus poured out His very soul, His precious life’s blood once for all, . . . the Righteous for the unrighteous (the Just for the unjust, the Innocent for the guilty), that He might bring us to God. Those who were utterly and hopelessly far off because of sin’s power could now come into everlasting covenant with Him.[viii]
If your imagination still needs more than words to paint a believable picture of the awfulness of sin and the profound love of God, try making it through the 2004 movie, The Passion. I suggest you keep a box of tissues handy. You’ll probably need them.[ix]
[i] Hebrews 9:22 [ii] Exodus 28–40 [iii] Isaiah 57:15; Revelation 4:8; Hebrews 9:13 [iv] Romans 6:23; Genesis 22:1–19; John 3:16 [v] 1 Peter 1:19 [vi] Isaiah 53 [vii] Isaiah 52:14 (AMP) [viii] Isaiah 53:12; Matthew 26:28; 1 Peter 3:18; Genesis 22:1–19; Hebrews 9:12; Hebrews 9:26; Ephesians 2:12–13 [ix]The Passion, 2004; Director: Mel Gibson