Thursday, June 4, 2009

Verse of the day--Leviticus 3:17

I had trouble picking a verse of the day today.

My reading was Leviticus 3-6. I was hoping to find a verse of the day in my Proverbs or my Psalms, but nothing jumped out. So I guess this is it:

"This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live: you must not eat any fat or any blood."
Leviticus 3:17

Admittedly, in reading about the sacrifices, I was not thinking deeply about the significance of each directive. I just read about them, and a couple of things jumped out at me.

(1) The parts of the animals that were set aside for God included the fat, the backbone, the tail portion, the kidneys along with the fat connected to them, and the liver and something called "its covering".

This does not appear to me to be the prime edible part of the animal. It reminds me of my grandma, my father's mother. During the Great Depression, she had her family convinced that her favorite part of the chicken was the wings, and she encouraged them always to set a wing aside for her. This, while making sure that her husband and children were fed the choice breast pieces and the meaty thighs and drumsticks.

I'm not completely sure, but it looks to me as though God commanded His people to give Him the portions that were not particularly good and healthy for humans, reserving the prime protein-packed servings for His people to eat. Something to think about...

(2) There was blood everywhere. After reading (in Exodus) about all the labor and attention to detail that went into making the Tabernacle and setting up God's dwelling, it seems odd to me the way they threw blood around everywhere while they sacrificed... God commanded them to sprinkle blood on all the sides of the altar, to pour blood out at the base of the altar, to take a finger and apply blood to the horns of the altar (and depending on the sacrifice, this could be the horns of the brass altar of sacrifice, or the horns of the golden altar of incense inside the Tabernacle).

Does this bother anyone besides me? There is a place where it gives instructions for cleaning blood that has been splattered on the priestly robes, but other than that, there are no cleaning instructions that I see. The Israelites donated their best gold, silver and brass and their purple, blue and scarlet thread, along with many other treasures. They spent time and care crafting the dwelling place of God exactly according to His instructions. And then they proceeded to muck it all up with blood.

Did all this blood dry into a sort of patina? Did it flake? Did it smell bad? Over days and weeks and months and years of sacrifice, there must have been tons of blood poured out at the base of the altar. Did it fertilize the ground? Did flowers grow?

I really cannot conceptualize this. We have our nice, tidy studies on the Tabernacle and we talk about the significance of the number of golden rings or the beauty of the weaving or the tinkling of the bells sewn along the hem of the high priest's gown. But if you were transported back in time to where you could walk into the courts of the Tabernacle, I think the thing that might overwhelm you most would be the shear volume of blood, and the cry of animals as they were slaughtered while sinners in need of forgiveness held their hands on the animals' heads.

It seems to me that God went to great lengths to demonstrate that blood must be shed in order for us to gain entrance into His presence. (Hebrews 9:22--without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins) How many nearly countless bulls, rams, sheep and goats were burned on the altar, their blood poured, sprinkled and smeared according to a myriad of instructions?

Hebrews 10:4 says, " is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins." But what it was impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to do, the blood of Jesus did, perfectly and completely. No more sacrifices will ever be needed, now that the blood of the precious Lamb of God has taken away the sin of the world.

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