Monday, December 7, 2009

Clean and Unclean Sacrifice {Part Two}

Click to read part one.

The book of Leviticus is a book of sacrifice and a book of clean and unclean. This is the first time that all the rules and regulations on these things were written down. As we discussed in the prior blog God instituted the need for sacrifice in the garden of Eden. We assume then that the oral tradition was passed down to people like Noah and Abraham.

The practice of blood sacrifice by the Israelites seems very archaic and primeval. To put it simply...yes it was. We are talking about a practice that took place 2000-4000 years ago. But by comparison to other pagan practices and sacrifice the Israelite practice was never savage or unclean. The book of Leviticus tells of the very strict rules and regulations concerning these practices. Why? Well to prevent the spread of disease, to respect creation and to respect God. The pureness and holiness was a prerequisite for having God involved. If God was going to dwell among the people there had to be an environment free of sin and evil. Then the presence of God could embed itself into the presence of man.

The whole concept of clean and unclean is born out of God's desire to be close to His people. Unclean simply meant effected by sin. God and sin do not mix. Think of how water and oil don't mix. Now also think of fire and ice. Individually they are elements in their own right. When they are keep apart there is no reaction. But put them together and fire will always melt the ice. God is the fire and sin or uncleanliness is the ice. When God is in the presence of sin there is a natural reaction. Holiness can not co-habitate with sin. What must become clear in your mind is that God reacts to the sin, not the person. Making it all the more important that the person in the camp have NOTHING to do with sin. Remember sin has the same "reaction" with man. Sin=death. But because our fire is not as holy as God's the ice melts more slowly. Does that make sense?

God being the most holy being in the universe will always evoke the essence of what He interfaces with. So when God interfaces with blatant sin, the essence of that sin is death. Likewise if God interfaces with the holiness of a people the essence of that holiness is intimacy, life and the protection of God. So the book of Leviticus(along with Deuteronomy and parts of Exodus) is God teaching His people how to be holy as God is holy. So that God can have the most positive interface with them. Remember it is all about relationship. God is teaching His people how to remove barriers in the way of relationship with Him.

Every aspect of the Israelite sacrifice had to be clean and holy. The animals, priests, the clothes, the utensils, the bowls, even the actual elements of fire, water, and oil. There is on instance in the book of Leviticus where two priest's sons use an "foreign fire sprinkled with incense" for a particular sacrifice. They were instantly consumed by the holy fire of God and died. Sounds pretty harsh. But they were sacrificing they way the pagans did and knew better not to do so. Remember fire and ice. When God interfaces with evil there is death. That is why everything in Leviticus is so particular. God wanted everyone to know exactly how to live so that He could always be with Him. And so they would stay alive in His presence.

You can almost assume that anything that was labeled unclean or detestable in the old testament was something that had was a sin or had been effected by sin. A lot of the things were practices of pagan people groups such as the Canaanites or Ammonites. People groups in ancient times were not as individualistic as we are in modern western culture. If you were a part of a particular people group it was a given that you were a part of their particular religion. There was no such thing as religious freedom. Pagan ritual and religion was the lifestyle of that people. Everyone was involved. God in the same wanted His people to have their beliefs and relationship with God as a part of their lifestyle. So God had to "set apart" a particular group of people from the pagan, demonic practices of the day.

That is what the word "holy" means...set apart. The word "consecrate" is the same idea. It means dedicated, fullness, complete. So when you see God over and over again in the Bible saying "Consecrate yourselves and be holy for I am holy". All He was saying was "be separate from sin and the demonic. If you don't I can't be with you." Moreover you will never be full or complete. Again it is all about relationship. God wanted to be able to dwell with His people; to be embedded in their spiritual and physical lives. He was not just a voice in the sky He dwelt with them. If you don't think that God was physically in the camp with the Israelites here is a great verse to prove otherwise.

Deuteronomy 23:12-14
12 "Designate a place outside the camp where you can go to relieve yourself. 13 As part of your equipment have something to dig with, and when you relieve yourself, dig a hole and cover up your excrement. 14 For the LORD your God moves about in your camp to protect you and to deliver your enemies to you. Your camp must be holy, so that he will not see among you anything indecent and turn away from you."

A little crude I know but they are God's words not mine. Do you see though? God was not like the other gods. He dwelt in the presence of His people. He came out Eden to be with us. He came down from heaven to be with us. God was a visible cloud by day and a visible pillar of fire by night over the Israelites. He could not be those things unless the camp was clean and free of sinful, pagan practices.

Pagan practices were demonic and unclean spiritually and physically. They involved both human and animal sacrifice. Human in some instances being children. The blood of sacrifice was sometimes bathed in or spread over the persons body. Sacrificial feasts were eaten over bowls of blood. Sexual deviance was involved in almost every sacrifice. Pagan ritual involved public nakedness, public orgies, public insect, pedophilia, zoophilia. Many rituals involved self-mutilation, shaving your head, a particular look of facial hair, tattoos, gaudy jewelry and on, and on, and on. God specifically says...

Leviticus 18:24
24 "Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled."

I hear it said a lot that God must have had a real problem with nakedness and sex because of how much of it was "unclean". NO. Everything that you see when you stand naked in front of the mirror God thought up and made. God thought up sex. But God also wanted these things to be special and private. Not flapping in the wind for the whole world to see. (more on this latter).

Other "unclean" things in that list have to do with a particular culture in a particular time in history. In 2009 you are NOT unclean or demonic if you shave your head, get a tattoo, or sport a goatee. My husband has two of the three things in that list. Bet you can't guess which ones. LOL. But if I were to tell you in 2009 if you visit the country of Botswalesia(not a real country) with your blue hair you would be identified as a male temple prostitute of that country; you would probably change your hair color before visiting that country. Is blue hair evil? NO. But the association with blue hair in that country is. Get it?

Finally many of the principles of the rules of the old testament still stand today. It is something discussed quite a bit in the new testament. Jesus both abolished and fulfilled the law. Click to read that blog.

So back to camp. Camp Israel that is. Well not really this camp had a population of about 2 million. But even so...It had to be CLEAN! Sacrifice had to be clean. Houses had to be clean. Food had to be clean. People had to be clean. Why? So God could have relationship and dwell with His people. Now as we well know the whole earth and all the people in it became unclean after the sin in the garden of Eden. God knows this. He was not looking for total perfection that is impossible in a fallen world. But He was trying to get His people back as close to perfection as He could by teaching them to be clean, accountable for sin and holy. Not because He is a control freak but because that is where we, as His created, are the most complete and the most effective in battle against the devil.

Disease or physical imperfection in the old testament made people unclean because it was a result of personal sin or the sin of humanity in general. Prior to sin our there was no disease, no malformation, no decay, no mutation, no death. I believe our pre-sin bodies were stronger than the post-sin body. If we never had sinned there would have been no such thing as a broken bone or a cut on your arm, a skin rash, eye problems, deformation and so on and so forth. These things made you unclean because they were effects of the sin on humanity in general. Remember fire and ice. Remember our sin/dominion formula? So people were separated to prevent an acute disease from spreading. If someone had a chronic disease they did NOT have to be separated. So in some instances being unclean did not mean you had sinned and required sacrifice. It only required segregation from others in the camp. Some diseases however did require an actual sin offering. Sexually transmitted disease is a good example. (Lev.15:2-15). You were unclean because of the personal sin you had committed and the disease you had incurred because of your sin.

Women were unclean during menstruation and childbirth due to the spilling of blood in both instances. This was a common practice of all ancient cultures. Women didn't have the modern conveniences of today. So the women were segregated from the others during their "unwellness" as it says in the Hebrew. Really not such a bad idea if you ask me. Seriously did not mean that women were "in sin". Think about all the blood borne diseases we know about today. It would have been dangerous to the woman and the child to not be separated from the general population. I do think that the loss of blood in both instances signifies the death because of sin in general on humanity. Remember in Eden God tells Eve that child birth will be harder and more painful than now because of sin. Death of a egg or seed in menstruation and spilling of blood or death to produce a life. I do not think this is the way God had originally intended it to be. There is no doubt that when a woman gives life to a child she gives up part of her body to do so. We are never the same physically. So the burnt offering and offense offering that a woman had to give was to cover the child. Not that babies are sinful in their own right but that the two people are a part of a sinful humanity in general. Besides this is nothing that Mary the mother of Jesus didn't do herself.

Luke 2:22-24
22 "Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy(consecrated) to the LORD”),24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, “A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons."

(I have seen several atheist blogs use the word "consecrate" in verses from Exodus 13 and Numbers 3 to say the Israelites practiced human sacrifice. The verses say to "consecrate your first born to Me(the Lord)." This new testament verse is referring to those same verses. This is NOT what that means. The first born sons were to be the first priests before the Levitical tribe became as such. Human sacrifice has been and will always be demonic...meaning NOT of God.)

So what were the types of blood sacrifice of the Israelites. Take a look below at my very simple graph. If you want a more in depth graph click here. The "red" is the dominion, "black" the type of offering, "aqua" what could be sacrificed. Leviticus chapters 1-5.

I am not going to go into great detail here. I came across a 3000 page book the other day just about Leviticus and the sacrifices. Way too much information! What I do want to point out is the love and grace of God. Again these sacrifices were not to appease a pissed off God. They were to express voluntary worship and thanks. They were to express unity as a community. The personal scarifies were to pacify the devil and pardon man from the death of his sin.

Creation had to be respected in every way through these sacrifices. A man could not kill an animal without bringing it to the tent of meeting first. Even if it was just for food. If it was just for food the blood had to be poured out onto the earth. Almost as a sacrifice for creation. If a man didn't do this it was considered murder to the animal and a sin.

Man had to be respected in these sacrifices. You will notice that with some of the sacrifices there are different options of animals or birds. This was so every family rich or poor could be included. If you were wealthy you may bring a bull. But if you were poor it was fine to bring birds. Notice the verse about Mary above. Jesus' family was not wealthy.

The priests had to be respected by the people and respectful of the people. There were extremely strict rules for the priests. It was very important to God that they treated the people honestly, gracefully and honorably. Once the sin was pardoned there was no record of wrong; by God or the priest.

First and foremost as we have seen God had to be respected in the sacrifices and in the camp. These sacrifices all had elements of blood, water, fire and oil. Who does that sound like? The Holy Spirit. God and the Holy Spirit were present at all times in the camp. That is why it had to be "clean". That is why the people had to be "clean". Not because God is a control freak or picky. Remember the whole need for sacrifice was due to our choice to sin. God wanted to be embedded into the lives of His people. He wanted His people to experience the fullness of His holiness and their own holiness when they were clean and free of sin. He wanted to protect them from the schemes of the devil. He wanted to protect them from the brokenness of sin. He wanted to show them how He had intended things to be. Just like Eden. Sacrifice was what brought us back into intimacy with God; back to the way things were suppose to be. Full of love and grace.

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