It has struck me in this reading how costly, bloody-messy, and incessant the sacrificial system was. Only the best of the livestock, oil, and grain were material for sacrifice. Forgiveness of sin was costly. The core animal sacrifices required the worshipper placing hands on the animal's head and cutting the throat himself. The priests served as butchers, burned up most or all of the meat on the bronze altar, and often sprinkled or smeared some of the animal blood in specific places in the worship space or even on the worshipper herself. Forgiveness of sin was a bloody mess. Certain sacrifices occurred daily; others, according to the calendar; others, as needed. In a nation of millions of people (extrapolated from the approximately 600,000 adult Hebrew males listed in Exodus 12:37-38 and Numbers 2:32), sacrifices must have been continuous and incessant.
"Was all this necessary? What a waste of life and food!" This might be my first response as an American in the twenty-first century, but Leviticus answers that objection in the explanation of the dietary law against eating blood:
For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life (Lev. 17:11, ESV).The New Testament book of Hebrews says even more clearly, "Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins" (Hebrews 9:22, ESV). In other words, yes, it was necessary; forgiveness requires bloodshed. This is how ugly and costly sin, my sin, is. Another life must bear the cost for me to be released from paying it myself.
How thankful I am that these requirements are finished! That same chapter of Hebrews teaches that the Lord Jesus Christ is the once-for-all, final, sufficient sacrifice for sin. He is the consummation and fulfillment all those ancient sacrifices pointed toward.
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, . . . he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption (Hebrews 9:11-12, ESV).
He [Christ] has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself (Hebrews 9:26, ESV).Forgiveness of sin is a costly, bloody business and an endless need. Thanks be to God that Jesus the sin-bearer, whose very name means "Savior," paid the cost, shed His own blood for love of humankind, and did so sufficiently for my every need!
Ways I've experienced God's love this week (gratitude list #3857-70):
~A good time studying Leviticus this week (That's not something one writes every day!)
~Jesus' perfect sacrifice for us, for me
~Forgiveness of sin
~Our faithful High Priest granting access to the Holy Place
~Tasting in small ways "the hard eucharisteo" in the midst of discomfort, impatience, and frustration
~Stories and books that take me out of myself and my circumstances
~Parents on a mission trip
~Gift for them of a day's rest in transit because of flight delay and missed connection
~Talking to my grandmother and both sisters this week
~A surprise Valentine from a distant friend
~Two weeks without pre-scheduled medical appointments
~All the many medicines I need are playing nice with each other and not causing serious side effects.
~The last piece in the puzzle