Friday, September 16, 2011

Blood and Remission

For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives. Therefore not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God has commanded you.” Then likewise he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry. And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission. (Hebrews 09:16-22, NKJV).

Death and blood are mentioned more than a 1000 times in the Old and New Testaments. The Bible is a blood-soaked book precisely because it deals frankly with human history, human nature, sin, and salvation. It could be no other way, and this offends many people.

It was meant to.

Jesus Himself said that the gospel is an offense to the Gentiles and a stumbling-block to the Jews.

Gentiles (those not Jewish by birth or culture) are offended largely as a matter of pride. How dare God deem that His displeasure toward us can only be remedied with the shedding of blood. How dare He judge our behavior as worthy of death. In short, how dare He pronounce any judgment whatsoever upon vaunted humanity. Who does He think He is?

To the Jews, more acclimated to the idea of blood sacrifice as propitiation for God's righteous wrath against sin, the gospel was offensive because it took this divine condemnation an infinitely greater step forward, declaring that not only was sin blood-worthy, but for it to paid for once and for all, God Himself had to die.

This too was intended by God from the beginning, a fact made clear by the dual pervasive messages proclaimed in the Old Testament regarding God being the only Savior, and blood being the only currency of salvation.

As a rebellious race of created beings, we humans are indescribably arrogant in our self-centeredness and delusions of worth. We are born with the default potential and tendency to believe that we are something apart from God. It is part of our inheritance through our fallen forefather, Adam.

We don't want to agree with God about much of anything, but especially with His evaluation of who and what we really are, and with what needed to be done in order to make us acceptable in His sight.

Everything about the gospel of Christ shouts to us that we are helpless and hopeless and condemned. It is a fire of humiliation meant to stoke us into repentance, or burn us in Hell. It announces our inability and disability for the whole Universe to see, and then casts us even further into abject shame, because while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Repeatedly, God revealed to His Chosen People that the life in the the blood. Since He is the creator of all life, the blood is His, and without that life's blood being shed, there is no remission of sin. This is true because the soul that sins must die, for the wages of sin is death.

That word remission has such a profound connotation, especially in regard to an otherwise fatal affliction, and that too is intentional.

How parochial! How regressive! How indomitably primitive! How utterly ridiculous that some "sky god" would make such a pronouncement, and how unbelievable that any thinking person would swallow the premise whole!

That is the unregenerate human reaction, in itself a declaration of war against God. In itself, another fatal self-indictment.

Nevertheless, there is something unavoidably compelling about bloodshed. Deep in our inherent makeup we know beyond doubt that it is powerfully significant. 

Most of us are repulsed by the sight, some to the point of sickness or fainting. Others are revoltingly fascinated by it, experiencing something akin to a twisted and perverse passion. And yet, over time and repeated exposure, still others condition themselves against any strong reaction at all, but by doing so they develop callouses on their souls.

God, in His infinite wisdom and compassion, has painted the picture of both our depravity and our salvation on a sweeping canvass depicting a raging sea of deep red blood, impossible to ignore.

He meant to.

Even the ancient ritual of sprinkling the blood of innocent animals using scarlet wool and hyssop foreshadowed the horridly compelling and momentous murder of God's Son on the Cross.

All for one purpose: to lead us from the blackness of darkness forever into the wondrous light of the Kingdom of His love.

God is a consuming fire unless we are purified with blood - the blood of our Magnificent Savior that washes us from all unrighteousness.

Offense is what it was designed to be, so we would take notice.

Offense is what it was designed to be, so that by taking notice we would choose, much like Adam and Eve had to choose, to either humbly accept and embrace the offense by an act of repentant faith, or go pridefully, and screaming our arrogant defiance, into the deepest pit of Hell.

For without shedding of blood there is no remission.