Last night in my Bible study we were talking about blood and blood sacrifices, mainly because the reading for the past week has been in Leviticus. (Ever want to be really thankful for salvation by grace through faith? Read Leviticus. Just saying.)
In our modern world, we cringe at the thought of sacrificing animals, but in the ancient Israelite culture, it was part of their culture. It was the system that God set up as a picture for them of the seriousness of sin and what it costs Humanity.
Today’s verses are Hebrews 9:22-26.
In fact, according to the law of Moses, nearly everything was purified with blood. For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness. That is why the Tabernacle and everything in it, which were copies of things in heaven, had to be purified by the blood of animals. But the real things in heaven had to be purified with far better sacrifices than the blood of animals.
For Christ did not enter into a holy place made with human hands, which was only a copy of the true one in heaven. He entered into heaven itself to appear now before God on our behalf. And he did not enter heaven to offer himself again and again, like the high priest here on earth who enters the Most Holy Place year after year with the blood of an animal. If that had been necessary, Christ would have had to die again and again, ever since the world began. But now, once for all time, he has appeared at the end of the age to remove sin by his own death as a sacrifice.
From the beginning, the shedding of blood has always been a picture of forgiveness. Starting in Genesis 3, after Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden because of their sin, God made clothes for them out of animal skins (Gen. 3:21). The animals weren’t still alive after God used their skins for clothes. No, those animals had to die so Adam and Eve could have clothing to wear. Blood had to be shed.
And blood doesn’t wash away easily. It sort of hangs around. Whether you’re talking about human blood or animal blood, it’s all pretty much the same.
Every culture (nearly) grasps the importance of blood on some level. Even people living far back in the jungles understand the concept that if wrong is done, atonement is required–and it’s usually an atonement that has something to do with blood. What they don’t grasp is Who atonement should be made to–and that the most precious blood has already been shed.
See, that’s the point of the Book of Hebrews. The writer is comparing the Old Covenant God made with Israel to the New Covenant God made through Jesus Christ, stating that the New Covenant is better. It doesn’t make the Old Covenant obsolete by any stretch of the imagination, but faith in Jesus Christ’s blood for the payment of sins is better. Jesus’ sacrifice is once and for all.
It makes us cringe to talk about blood sacrifices. It did in our Bible study last night, especially the people who haven’t grown up in rural or agricultural areas. The concept of slaughtering an animal turns people’s stomachs. But I truly believe that’s something we need to get over, frankly.
Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness. Sin requires a sacrifice of atonement, and before Jesus came, the people who followed God were instructed to sacrifice bulls and goats. But the blood of bulls and goats only covers sin, like the clothing God made for Adam and Eve. It didn’t take sin away (Heb 10:4).
That’s why Jesus had to die. He became the sacrifice for us, shed His blood for us, so that we could be free of our sin forever.
Maybe it’s not comfortable to discuss sacrifices anymore. Maybe it makes us squirm to think about slaughtering a lamb or a bull or a goat. But I really think that’s because we’ve grown accustomed to sin. We don’t grasp what sin really costs. We take advantage of God’s grace because we don’t have to sacrifice anymore, so in our view the price of Jesus’ blood is cheapened.
Sorry to be somewhat morbid this morning, but I think it’s important to talk about the roots of what a Christ-follower believes. We’re so fortunate to live in this era where Jesus’ sacrifice has given us free access to God, especially with Easter approaching.
Don’t let our comfortable modern era and our comfortable New Covenant faith make you forget what our sin actually costs. The price is the same today as it was 10,000 years ago.