Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Why the Blood? {Part One}

Here I am thinking out loud again. Not paying attention to what theology or orthodoxy says but only to what the word of God is saying to me personally through the knowledge of His son Jesus.

I was spending some more time on why the cross was needed to save us. To a non Christian it seems silly that God would in a sense need to kill himself to satisfy his own wrath. I came across this comment on a YouTube video...

"I'm not going to worship a god who had to sacrifice himself to himself in order to appease himself."

This is an honest concern. So I started doing a little research into the Levitical law about sacrifice and what the Jewish community thought. It was interesting that on almost every Jewish website or blog they seemed to have the same concern. But from a more biblical perspective. I think just about every site had disagreement the Jesus was the Messiah and that He is the only forgiveness of sins based on this verse.

"And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission." Hebrews 9:22

I was happy to see that so many of our Jewish brothers were reading the New Testament and thinking about a book that really was addressed to them. But it also challenged me to look a little further into how to explain WHY we need the blood of Christ to be forgiven. Because we most certainly do. Now the problem that the Jewish community is that this verse in Hebrews does not gel with what their Torah says, namely the book of Leviticus. Leviticus is the book on sacrifice and the goings on of the Old Testament tabernacle. Here is the verse they use to nullify {in their minds that blood is needed for forgiveness}. From the book of Leviticus specifically talking about the "sin-offering".

"If, however, he cannot afford two doves or two young pigeons, he is to bring as an offering for his sin a tenth of an ephah of fine flour for a sin offering. He must not put oil or incense on it, because it is a sin offering." Lev 5:11

So according to the Old Testament law people could have remission of sin without blood sacrifice. To top that off there are several verses in the Old Testament that God himself says he does not want blood sacrifice.

But Samuel replied: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. 1 Sam 15:22

Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; My ears You have opened. Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require. Ps 40:6

For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart-- These, O God, You will not despise. Ps 51:16-17

To do righteousness and justice Is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice. Prov 21:3

"The multitude of your sacrifices-- what are they to me?" says the Lord. "I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. Is 1:11

For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. Hos 6:6

Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:7-8

So in this sense I think it is good to see that God was NOT a blood thirsty God that needed to be appeased by blood sacrifice. The rule of being to offer choice flour instead of blood was made for the poor. So that people how could not afford an animal would not be excluded from atonement for their sins. But this still begs the question...why did Jesus have to shed his blood? I came across an interesting article by David Wilkerson who made the distinction that Jesus' blood was not only shed it was also sprinkled. Which lead me a little further in the book of Leviticus to the ritual of the Day of Atonement.

The Day of Atonement was the the day that the high priest would make atonement corporately for the whole nation of Israel. It was only done once a year. This was the one time in the year that the high priest was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle. The Holy of Holies held the ark of the covenant. Inside the ark of the covenant were the ten commandments, a gold bowl of manna, and Aaron's rod that had budded. The covering over these things was called the mercy seat and was guarded by the cherubim. This was the place that God would appear to commune with the priest on behalf of the people.

Read Leviticus 16 to learn of all the procedures on this ritual day. After the high priest had made his own personal sacrifice and made himself ritually clean he proceeded with the sacrifice for all the people. Two goats were chosen and lots were cast. One goat was for the Lord and the other had the Hebrew proper name of Azazel. The goat for the Lord was sacrificed and the high priest would boldly bring its blood and sprinkle it on the ark of the covenant on behalf of the people. The goat of Azazel was keep alive and released into the wilderness{welter and waste} after the priests hand laid their hands on him to symbolically transfer the sins of the people on his head.

Now after reading several rabbinical commentaries on this most holy of days a few things stuck out to me. If the priest had done all he was suppose to do he could boldly approach the Holy of Holies. The blood with its purgative power gave him authorization to come near to God. When the act was unauthorized ie. the proper blood ritual had not taken place, the implication was always that of encroachment or attack. Also that the Israelites didn't only see this day as atonement for their sins as a people but they saw it as a sort of an annual "spring cleaning" of the tabernacle. Purifying the place of communion with God to ensure he was able to continue to dwell with them. Before the tabernacle was built God displayed his relationship with a pillar of fire and a pillar of cloud. He pursued his people. With the tabernacle an attitude is instituted of how now the people will pursue relationship with God. To keep a holy dwelling for him. To keep holy as people so they may relate to him. That is where the sprinkling of the blood on the Ark of the covenant had such significance.

"For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul." Lev 17:11

The Hebrew word for atonement is kaphar which literally means to cover. Remember before Adam and Eve left the garden they were covered by skins from animals the Lord had sacrificed. God didn't kill the animals to take out the aggression he had for Adam and Eve. He covered them because he loved them and wanted them to be protected. Also that he wanted to remain in relationship with them. So in this sense the sacrifices of the Old Testament weren't only because something had to die in the place of sin, it was that the life was in the blood. It wasn't that God required death it was that we required life!

So the blood was a covering of life and a bringer of reconciliation to one that had entered into sin and death. So it seems the blood sprinkled on the ark of the covenant was not for God's benefit alone or to appease him. It was sprinkled on the ark that held the law a symbol of justice and righteousness, the manna a symbol of God's provision and the rod of Aaron a symbol of God's authority through the priesthood. This was God's promise to the people that was sealed and renewed with the life of the blood of atonement each year.  This is why it was protected in the way that it was.  That no man or power would encroach on the promise between God and his people.

Next we will take a look at the book of Hebrews and Jesus' fulfillment of this day...

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