Saturday, February 7, 2009

Bloody Rules

I'll begin today by saying that if you've ever wondered about the origin of the term "scapegoat," you should read Leviticus chapter 16. There, you'll learn that referring to someone who takes all the blame for bad things as a scapegoat, has its origin in scripture.

Chapters 16 through 18 deal with the day of atonement, prohibitions against eating blood, and forbidden sexual practices--and each of these chapters are quite worthy of mention individually.

For that reason, I am going to write about the subject of blood today and sex tomorrow, so stay tuned.

In my lifetime, I've heard criticisms of the Bible and specifically the Old Testament and sometimes even God because of the bloody sacrifices that were prescribed as atonement for sin. These chapters give us a glimpse into the why's and what for's of God's means and methods, and they are revelatory as these practices are the forerunner of God's ultimate plan for the salvation of mankind in the death of Jesus Christ.

As the Israelite's journey in the wilderness continued, God instituted these Levitical laws for several reasons. In Egypt where they had lived, many pagan, ungodly practices were common--and they had been very influenced by what they'd seen. In Canaan, where they were going, wicked religious practices were accepted as normal. God communicated clearly his prohibition against such evils, knowing that because of where they'd lived and would live, the temptation to follow suit would be in their faces. We discover in chapter 17, that there was another very logical reason for all this talk about bloody rules--blood was the cleansing agent that God prescribed for the atonement (or payment) for sin.

Leviticus 17:
10 “And if any native Israelite or foreigner living among you eats or drinks blood in any form, I will turn against that person and cut him off from the community of your people, 11 for the life of the body is in its blood. I have given you the blood on the altar to purify you, making you right with the Lord. It is the blood, given in exchange for a life, that makes purification possible. 12 That is why I have said to the people of Israel, ‘You must never eat or drink blood—neither you nor the foreigners living among you.’

In Old Testament times, the blood that was shed for the purification of God's people was a temporary band-aid of sorts. They had to continually repeat the process because an animal sacrifice was not a permanent remedy to their sin problem. The "Old Covenant" way allowed the Israelites to be forgiven and to have their fellowship with God restored, but the practice had to be repeated over and over again.

The "New Covenant" replaced the rigid and regulatory rule-following requirements with an open invitation for every person to experience God's forgiveness if they simply acknowledge the tremendous sacrifice that was made for us when Jesus willingly died (shedding his once and for all perfect blood) in our place.

Tonight, I heard this story at church and it bears repeating here because I believe it's an appropriate way to think of exactly what God has done for us.

Imagine this scenario if you will:
While driving your car, you carelessly take your eyes off the road for a few seconds, during which time you hit and kill a precious child. You are charged with vehicular homicide, a crime for which the penalty is death. At your trial, the judge listens to your case not only as the one who will decide your fate, but also as the father of the child you killed. After pronouncing you guilty as charged however, he leaves the bench, removes his robe, approaches and then embraces you and sets you free, offering to serve your sentence (die) in your place.

That, my children, is what God did for you and for me when he allowed Jesus to pay the price for our sins. He did indeed die a bloody death, but his precious life blood is the blood given in exchange for your life that makes your purification possible.

It's such a beautiful thing to see the consistency of the Bible and to understand the amazing redeeming plan that God offers through Jesus. Thank you Father.

"What can wash away my sin, nothing but the blood of Jesus. What can make me whole again, nothing but the blood of Jesus."

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