The priestly business was a bloody business. Exodus 29 begins to sound a little excessive, verging on morbid. Blood on the altar. Blood around the altar. Blood on the ear lobes, thumbs and toes. Even a little blood sprinkled on the garments. And all of this at the instruction of the Lord. Why?
First, God was implementing a system that would be a constant reminder of the gravity and severity of man’s sin. Today, if I lie to someone, all I have to do is repent to God and—if I’m motivated enough—the person I lied to. But under Israel’s sacrificial system, a little critter had to lose its life because of me. (I imagine the PETA of their day were in fits). As the writer of Hebrews described the Old Testament sacrificial system:
In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. – Hebrews 9:22
Second, the Old Testament system was meant to be a shadow of the perfect sacrifice to come—and that sacrifice was going to be bloody. Again, the writer of Hebrews speaks on this:
When Christ came as high priest…he did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. – Hebrews 9:11a, 12
Third, it was a constant reminder of the grace and mercy of a God who had every right to demand justice. It was a reminder of the provision that the Lord had made (and would make someday) so that a sinful people could dwell with a holy God.
Other than a nice little history lesson, what does this have to do with us? Believe it or not, there is still a similar system set up still today and you participate in it. It is a reminder of the gravity of our sin and the cost of forgiveness. It is a picture of the perfect, bloody sacrifice and a reminder of the provision of grace made by God for us sinners.
We call it communion. Let us never forget the great extent that God in Christ stooped to for us. Let us remember the merciful covering of blood that makes us right before God. So eat. Drink. Remember. For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Cor. 11:26)
1. What were/are some of your first responses at reading about the Jewish sacrificial system? What do you think about the comment in Hebrews that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness”?
2. In what ways were the animal sacrifices in the Old Testament and Jesus’ sacrifice in the New Testament similar? Different?
3. What reasons/benefits can you see in remembering or “proclaiming” the Lord’s death until he comes? Why might it be something we instructed to do in groups as community?