The Sacrifice

I finished Revelation last month and started again in the book of Genesis on my repeat reading through the whole of Scripture. I’m up to the 30 something chapter of Exodus. God has met with Moses on the mountain and has given him the Law. He’s promised to keep these people as His own possession if they keep His commandments. They already don’t have a great track record, having abandoned God when Moses was gone for forty days, making a golden calf to worship and to offer sacrifices saying “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” Ex 34:4

But God being God has forgiven them as He will for the next several hundred years, just as He does with us daily.

There are some things I don’t understand in Scripture, particularly about the whole sacrifice thing. I do understand the concept of “without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” of sin (Hebrews 9:22) in that it takes the sacrifice of the perfect unblemished man, the Son of God, Jesus Christ, to abolish the penalty of death and bridge the chasm between God and man. But the Old Testament daily offering of bulls and goats, and the sprinkling of their blood on the alter, to 21st century ears it seems so harsh, so unmerciful. I know that in Western culture only a generation or so ago the daily killing of animals was something many families counted on for sustenance, for the feeding of their families. Today the slaughter of animals is so antiseptic to most of us. We get out meat prepackaged from the grocer or on a plate in a restaurant, and don’t soil our own hands with the ending of a life in order to eat. To a certain degree we’ve become anesthetized to such bloodletting and slaughter that takes place in buildings away from view.

But in the Old Testament, the occasion of sin was to result in taking an offering to the Temple for atonement. The hands had to be laid on the animal and then it had to be slaughtered there. Many Biblical detractors view this as barbaric and hardly worthy of an entity that requires to be worshipped. With great disdain they look upon this blood-thirsty God and are repulsed.

The only thing I can think of is that maybe repulsion was the intended response from a human being. If I had to do the deed myself with knife in hand and end an animals life in such a visceral way I hope I’d feel some revulsion. Maybe that was desired by God. If sin is the horrible thing God tells us it is, that even one sin would still have resulted in the only mitigation, that of Jesus’ death on the cross, if sins was that reprehensible that you had to witness first hand the bloodletting of an animal, maybe it would make you pause before you’d do much sinning. It was repulsive enough to make you think that disobedience was not worth such an act.

I don’t know. There are many things in Scripture I don’t understand, even though very many things I do. I mean, really, who can comprehend the act of God becoming man, coming down to Earth and living among us, and trying to teach us about who we really are and from where we’ve come, and where we should be wanting to go and how to get there. And then being rejected and nailed to a cross, all because He loved us enough to die in our place! If it weren’t for the illumination of the holy Spirit in my own heart that would surely be incomprehensible! And still, even though I understand it now, it still seems overwhelmingly incomprehensible.

But I guess if the omnipotence of God who designed all creation, from the subatomic particles and up building all of creation into a visible universe, how could such a One be fully comprehensible to mere mortals. But like the Scripture says, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law. Deut 29:29

For me, I’m just glad that He has revealed all the wonderful things He has to us all. The Bible is one phenomenally awesome read.

[Scriptures taken from the New American Standard Bible © 1995]

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