I’m glad we live in an ever-changing world. But I’m also glad some things stay the same.
For example, I am relieved that if I want to be right with God, I don’t have to make bloody sacrifices. But I am also pleased that God and his message remain unchanging:
- God created us for relationship
- He gifted us with free will
- We used our free will to step out of relationship by disobeying God; we sinned
- God cannot be where sin is
- The consequence of stepping away from the author of life, is death
- God established a way for us to return to life in/with Him.
If we sin, we die.
There is nothing we can do about it.
But not wanting us to die, God provided a way out.
This time reading through the book of Leviticus, I was struck by the amount of bloodshed in the first 7 chapters. But not just what seemed excessive slaughter, but rather ownership of the bloodshed.
The Israelites placed their hand on the head of an animal, thereby relating to it, and then it would be slaughtered. Yet, as savage as this seems, all the sacrifices and bloodshed were grounded within the parameters of God’s loving covenant:
- All sacrifices were given as gifts from the worshipper to their covenant God
- Most sacrifices symbolised communion/fellowship between covenant participants
- Sacrifice was part of the process of healing the split between the covenant partners.
- Through sin, a person was polluted and became unclean forcing them away from God
- Through holy sacrifice, a person was cleansed and became holy drawing them close to God
Yahweh–the covenant God, established a way for repentant children to request forgiveness. By offering up a substitute, the penalty of sin was paid, and relationship could be restored.
Death was never part of the plan, but relationship would always be paramount. God did not ask for holy sacrifice because He enjoyed it. He sanctioned it as a way to enable His children to return to Him and to teach them a valuable lesson:
Holy sacrifice was never meant to diminish the value of life. On the contrary, it was upon the shoulders of this precious gift, the value of relationship was elevated.
It really hit me reading Leviticus this time through, how I would struggle to do this. I couldn’t deny what my sin cost if I actually laid my hands on the innocent life that would be taken to pay the price. And not just once, but every … single … time.
But I do know it would be an effective lesson. The consequence of my sin; my personal, communal, intentional, unintentional, even-though-I-might-be-trying-really-hard-not-to-sin, sin, is death.
Every time we choose to step out of God’s good and perfect will, something innocent and perfect dies.
I guess in the beginning, that innocent and perfect thing was our relationship with God.
But in His love and desire to restore that bond, God taught His people through the sacrificial system that sin is serious and He was providing a way back to right relationship.
We have the extreme blessing of coming to this book from the other side of Christ. But the heart of the matter is still the same. Every time we sin, the consequence is death; something perfect and innocent dies.
And He did.
Hands were laid upon our Lord before He was slaughtered on our behalf. And even though it wasn’t my hand upon his brow, it was my sin that required His death.
My fear is the distance caused by time and culture dims the reality of Christ’s holy sacrifice and it loses its impact.
It’s not a matter of which is worse: a continual stream of innocent animals, or the once for all, holy sacrifice of the perfect Son of God. The fact remains; sin results in death.
But the most significant fact of all is that our loving, holy God has worked a way for us to return home to Him. And He was willing to be the perfect, holy sacrifice in order to establish a new covenant.
Next time we share communion, perhaps we could reflect on chapters 1-7 of Leviticus and give thanks for the things that have changed and those that haven’t. But most importantly we can reflect on the consummate, holy sacrifice provided by our loving, holy God.
- Can you see a link between the covenant of fellowship and holy sacrifice?
- Do you believe we can have a genuine understanding of God’s Holiness in our time and culture?
- How can we better understand the gravity of Christ’s holy sacrifice made on our behalf?