"For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake" (I Pet. 1:18-20).
One of our very dear friends, Marvin Cope, has observed that the Bible is just one story from beginning to end, and I totally agree with him. This journal is dedicated to the recital of God's love for man, a love story written in blood, if you will, which begins with Gen. 1:1 and ends with Rev. 22:21. As I said in Part One of this discussion, I've always been squeamish about the blood sacrifices in the Old Testament and wondered what they really meant. Obviously, I'm not the only one who has felt that way. In fact, "Sixty Minutes" had a recent segment about an Episcopal Bishop, whose name escapes me now, who made the statement that he didn't know why God needed all that blood, or why Christ had to die for that matter. He looked straight into the camera and said, "Why couldn't God have just said, 'I forgive you?'" He's in deep septic water with his church, of course, and with some of the congregants as well. I thought, "Well, he's honest, but ignorant of God's plan for the ages."
Whatever this relationship we have with God entails, it is not casual, nor haphazard, and clearly, it has been sealed with blood. It was planned down to a gnat's eyelash, as they say here in Missouri, and was the mystery "which from the beginning of the world has been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ" (Eph. 3:9). Since discovering the history of the blood covenant ritual that God made with Abram, alluded to in Gen. 15: 9-12, I have finally understood at a cellular level what I knew had to be true, and that is that the blood was never for God's benefit, but was always for us. If you haven't yet read the first part of this discussion, entitled, "The Blood Covenant" (End Note A), you'll miss out on some of the details, which I don't want to repeat here. If you did read it, then you're ready to take the next step with me. I have been devouring the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy to try to "get a handle" on the significance of the blood sacrifices, and what God has shown me is the bedrock of our Christian experience, and the basis for our hope in the resurrection. The Lord reminded me that the story begins in Genesis, where the first account of the shedding of blood came after Adam and Eve's sin, when they realized that they were naked. The record states that "The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them" (Gen. 3:21). Did you realize that Adam and Eve were vegetarians before the fall? "Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food" (Gen. 1:29). So, the first example of spilling blood was done by God Himself, not for food, but in order to clothe His wayward children, who were naked and ashamed. I trust that none of you think this shame had anything to do with sex. Please, Lord, deliver us all from the Puritan belief that sex was the original sin. Reproduction was a command, after all. No, they were ashamed because before the fall, they had been clothed with His glory and majesty, but afterwards, they saw what pitiful empty containers they really were. It would be rather like receiving a gift in a magnificently wrapped package (before the fall) only to open it and find it contained a pair of faded and torn work jeans (after the fall).
The next time blood appears is in the account of Abel's sacrifice. The Hebrew writer says of Adam and Eve's second born, "By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead" (Heb. 11:4). Did you ever wonder how Abel knew to offer the firstfruits of his flock? Here's the account in Gen. 4: "In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast" (Gen. 4:3-5). Now the interesting thing to me here is that Abel's offering was exactly as prescribed in the book of Leviticus, one of the books of the law. The fellowship offering is described in Lev. 3:2-11, which explains how the fat was to be removed from the inner parts and even the fat from the tail, and burned as an offering made to the Lord by fire. God also had told Moses, "The first offspring of every womb belongs to me, including all the firstborn males of your livestock, whether from herd or flock" (Ex. 34:19). Now, I ask you again, since Abel was the son of the first man on earth, born centuries before the law was given, how did he know to offer the fat portions of the firstborn of his flock to the Lord? There are only three possibilities: 1) God had told both Cain and Abel what He expected from them; 2) Able was more spiritually aware than Cain and intuited it; or 3) it was just dumb luck on Abel's part. Since the Hebrew writer says that Abel offered a more perfect sacrifice by faith, I have to go with choice one. Also, consider God's counseling session with Cain, who was angry because his sacrifice was not acceptable: "Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it" (Gen. 4:6-7). If these two sons of Adam did not have a clue what to do, then Cain certainly would have been justified in his anger, but if they were told what to offer to God, and Cain disobeyed, then his wrath was not reasonable. By this question to him, God seems to be saying that Cain had no right to be angry, for He asks, "If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?" All things considered, it seems to me that Cain acted like a rebellious teenager who got called on the carpet for his sins, and instead of taking the opportunity to correct his behavior, to straighten up and fly right, his jealousy and rage caused him to kill his own brother.
Cain's response is a perfect picture of what Paul describes in Romans 7:23: "but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members." It is also an excellent example of how everything in the Bible points forward to Christ, "the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world" (Jn. 1:29). The Psalmist declared, "Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works in man's behalf!" (Ps. 66:5). Without using our spiritual eyes, it is often difficult to see what God has done for us, and to understand that "He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end" (Eccl. 3:11). God has always had a plan, and as James stated to the brethren in Jerusalem, "Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world" (Acts. 15:18). We tend to think that because we don't know what is going on, chaos reigns, but this is just not true. Nor is what the Fundamentalists preach true, i.e., that God needs our faith in order to carry out His plans. Lenny has many translations of the Bible, but lately, he has been reading from the Emphatic Diaglott (word for word Greek translation). Listen to this verse, "For what if some did not believe? Will their UNBELIEF annul the FIDELITY of God? By no means! but let God be true, though every man be false; even as it has been written, 'That thou mayest be justified in thy words, and mayest overcome in thy judgment'" (Rom. 3:3). God has had a plan since before the foundation of the world (I Sam. 2:8); He is working His plan; and nothing we do or don't do will ever deter Him from the works His hands have chosen to do. Since Paul told us that it was not Satan's wiles nor man's sinfulness, but it was God who consigned all men to disobedience (Rom. 11:32), then He had to have had a plan to deal with it or He would most certainly have been a negligent, truant parent who created children, put them at risk for Satan's lies, and then went away leaving them to fend for themselves. But since Paul tells us that the reason He consigned all men to disobedience was "that He may have mercy upon all" (RSV). No matter how black it looks sometimes, "We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to His purpose" (Rom. 8:28).
Before the fall, Adam knew that he was "joined at the hip" with God, who was supreme, but one of the results of eating of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is that he and the rest of mankind came to believe that God can never get the job done without his help. The truth is that "There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men" (I Cor.. 12:6). The sweet singer of Israel declared, "All mankind will fear; they will proclaim the works of God and ponder what he has done" (Ps. 64:9). Eating the fruit of that tree caused man to be driven from God's garden of rest and bounty, and put him on the endless treadmill of works: fear and poverty, physical, emotional, and spiritual.
Since the Holy Spirit was given to lead us into all truth (Jn. 16:13), then we need only ask and it shall be given us what we need to know. Or to put it another way, when God stirs up the questions in our consciousness, He provides the answers that we need. Until I began this study of the animal sacrifices, for example, I did not know that the person asking forgiveness was the one who cut the animal's throat, thinking that this was the priest's job. This is generally the way it was done: "He is to lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him. He is to slaughter the young bull before the LORD, and then Aaron's sons the priests shall bring the blood and sprinkle it against the altar on all sides at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting" (Lev. 1:4-5. See also Lev. 3: 6-8; 12-16; 4:27-31). By laying his hands on the animal's head, he expressed identification between himself and the animal. With this action, the offeror was symbolically laying his own guilt on the animal and acknowledging that according to the blood covenant God made with Abram, it should have been the sinner's blood which was shed, not the animal's. This was one way that God personally involved the worshipper.
Along these same lines, our guide for the trip we took through Israel asked us if we knew why God commanded the Israelites to carry out the "death by stoning" sentence, prescribed by law for certain sins. When none of us knew, he said, "So the person making the judgment would have to carry out the execution himself. There was no executioner hired for the job. If you decided that a person had committed a crime worthy of death, then you had to pick up a stone and hurl it yourself and continue doing so until the person was dead." If you had to hurl the stones or cut the animal's throat, you would be very aware of the consequences of sin. It makes the story of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery very poignant. She had committed an offense worthy of death, according to the law, but Jesus wrote in the dirt and then said to her accusers, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her" (Jn. 8:7). God's work of atonement is always very personal for each one of us who must stand before the judgment seat, and it has always involved the shedding of blood.
The blood used for the work of atonement was holy unto the Lord (Ex. 30:10), "For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life" (Lev. 17:11). The NIV study note on that verse explains, "Practically every sacrifice included the sprinkling or smearing of blood on the altar or within the tabernacle (v. 6: 1:5; 3:2; 4:6,25; 7:21) thus teaching that atonement involves the substitution of life for life. The blood of the OT sacrifice pointed forward to the blood of the Lamb of God, who obtained for His people 'eternal redemption' (Heb. 9:12). 'Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness' (Heb. 9:22)." Sometimes, we may think that there was no grace available for the Israelites under the Old Covenant, but this is most certainly not true. Every time a supplicant for forgiveness slit an animal's throat, he was reminded up close and personal by the blood flowing down the altar, that his own life was spared because of God's love and mercy available for him.
Now, if you are repulsed by the slaughter of so many animals, you may be comforted to know that except in the case of the burnt offering where the entire animal was consumed [with the exception of a bull's hide, which the priest could keep for himself (Lev. 7:8)], the meat of the sin offering and also the fellowship offering was the priest's portion for himself and his family. The next time you chow down on a steak dinner, or lamb chops, or any other meat dish, remind yourself that somewhere, an animal had it's throat cut so you could enjoy a tasty repast, and no sins were forgiven as a result of that slaughter either. Another study note offers this explanation: "The fellowship offering (Lev. 3; 7:11-34) was the only sacrifice of which the offeror might eat a part. Fellowship was involved because the offeror, on the basis of the sacrifice, had fellowship with God and with the priest, who also ate part of the offering (7:14-15, 31-34). This sacrifice, along with others, was offered by the thousands during the three annual festivals in Israel (See Ex. 23:14-17; Num. 29:39) because multitudes of people came to the temple to worship and share in a communal meal. During the monarchy, the animals offered by the people were usually supplemented by large numbers given by the king. At the dedication of the temple, Solomon offered 20,000 cattle and 120,000 sheep and goats as fellowship offerings over a period of 14 days (I Ki 8:63-35)" I feel sure that at times like that, and indeed, on Passover itself, where the communicants had to bring their Passover lamb to the tabernacle or temple to slaughter it (Ex. 29:11; Lev. 1:5; 3:2; 3:8, 13; 4:4; 17:5), that the whole courtyard and perhaps even the streets of the city of Jerusalem ran red with blood. As in the case of God and Abram walking through the blood between the pieces of the animals (Gen. 15: 9-12), the people participating in the sacrifices were reminded that it was the shed blood of the Passover lamb which took their place and gave its life that they might enjoy forgiveness and fellowship with God.
Jesus is our fellowship offering. He said to His followers, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever" (John 6:53-58). I believe that this difficult passage refers back to the fellowship offering, of which Jesus was the fulfillment, and points forward to the sacrifice of His blood which would restore man's fellowship with God, which had been broken since Adam's sin. Many left Him after He uttered these statements recorded in John 6. His listeners knew very well that a fellowship offering involved killing the sacrifice and they were not interested in a dead leader, but rather in a live one who would deliver them from their Roman oppressors. Moreover, they were strictly forbidden to eat blood. (See Lev. 3:17; 7:26; 17:14; 19:26; Deut. 12:16; 12:23; 12:24; 15:23; I Sam. 14:34). To them, what Jesus was saying flew in the face of the law and the tradition of the fathers. Unlike Christ, once an animal was slain, its usefulness was over, never to rise again. This is why Paul asserts that it was not the death of Christ, but His life, which saves us. "For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!" (Rom. 5:10). Peter refers to this amazing phenomenon on the Day of Pentecost: "This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him" (Acts 2:23-24). It was His resurrection from the dead that qualified Him to receive the praises of every creature under heaven, "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!" (Rev. 5:13)
Another thing to bear in mind when considering all these animal sacrifices, is that the Levites had no part in the inheritance of the land promised to Abram. When Joshua was supervising the dividing up of the land which they had conquered, he told the Israelites, "The Levites, however, do not get a portion among you, because the priestly service of the LORD is their inheritance" (Josh. 18:7). Read the whole chapter of Num. 18 for God's explanation to Aaron on this, but here's a portion that makes it clear how God supplied the needs of the Levites: "Then the LORD said to Aaron, 'I myself have put you in charge of the offerings presented to me; all the holy offerings the Israelites give me I give to you and your sons as your portion and regular share. You are to have the part of the most holy offerings that is kept from the fire. From all the gifts they bring me as most holy offerings, whether grain or sin or guilt offerings, that part belongs to you and your sons. Eat it as something most holy; every male shall eat it. You must regard it as holy. 'This also is yours: whatever is set aside from the gifts of all the wave offerings of the Israelites. I give this to you and your sons and daughters as your regular share. Everyone in your household who is ceremonially clean may eat it. 'I give you all the finest olive oil and all the finest new wine and grain they give the LORD as the firstfruits of their harvest. All the land's firstfruits that they bring to the LORD will be yours. Everyone in your household who is ceremonially clean may eat it. 'Everything in Israel that is devoted to the LORD is yours'" (Num. 18:8-14). In Verses 21-29, we see that because the Levites had no inheritance in the land, they were to be given the tithes from the children of Israel as compensation for their service to the Lord, in the care of the Tabernacle and the daily ministrations of the priests with the sacrifices. They in turn, were to present to the Lord a tenth of all the best and holiest of the tithes which they received (vv. 26-28). That portion was to go to Aaron (v. 29), the high priest. He alone, as you know, could go once a year into the holy of holies to atone first for his sins and his sons' sins, and then for the sins of the people (Lev. 16:2-20). His sacred vestments, which he wore when he went into the most holy place, had bells sewn around the hem which could be heard when he walked (Ex. 28:33-34). "According to Jewish tradition, one end of a length of rope was tied to the high priest's ankle and the other end remained outside the tabernacle. IF the bells on his robe stopped tinkling while he was in the Holy Place, the assumption that he died could be tested by pulling gently on the rope." (NIV study note on Ex. 28:35). Thus we understand that the high priest had a most sacred obligation to the children of Israel, and one which if done improperly, could cost him his life.
I said at the beginning of this journal that the Bible is a love story written in blood. The more I understand about the types and shadows of the Old Testament, and how they were all fulfilled in Christ, I see that the Bible is also like a quilt. My mother is an excellent quilter, having produced many gorgeous creations. If you've never seen this done, you would be amazed at how the tiny pieces of fabric are carefully and painstakingly sewn together in such a way that order springs out of chaos (the quilt pieces lying in a heap often don't look like anything but scraps waiting to be tossed out). When she is finished piecing them together, and quilting the entire covering, the assembled pieces create a beautiful finished picture. Only after the final stitch has been sewn can you grasp the beauty of the whole quilt. From any vantage point, front, back or sideways, you can see the pattern worked throughout the quilt and it's a tremendous example of how the whole becomes greater than sum of its parts. So it is with the Bible. The parts often seem disjointed, each story appearing different from the last, but when the Lord calls you to the third floor, Elwin Roach's expression which refers to being caught up in the Spirit, you begin to see the pattern which is laid out everywhere in Scripture. That pattern which runs from Genesis to Revelation, spells out the unconditional love of God for His creation. He is totally in charge of all aspects of our lives, which flow together into a seamless whole, reflecting His glory.
You may be interested or repulsed by the history of the blood sacrifices, but mostly, you may be wondering what it has to do with us today, in the year 2,000. I think the fact that we don't understand it, causes questions like the Episcopal Bishop asked, "Why can't God just say He forgives us?" In actual fact, that is exactly what He has been saying from the beginning of time if our spiritual eyes were only opened to see. Do you remember the two disciples who were walking on the Emmaeus Road the day of Jesus' resurrection? (Lk. 24:13-27). The passage relates that they were walking along discussing the tremendous events of the past few days, when Jesus caught up to them and began walking with them. He asked them what they were discussing, and not recognizing Him, they began to tell Him about how their Lord, whom they had hoped would redeem Israel, politically speaking, was taken by the chief priests and rulers and crucified. They related how the women who went to the tomb that very morning reported that His body was gone and that "a vision of angels" (v. 23) had verified that He was alive. They said that some of their companions had gone to see for themselves, and sure enough, He was gone but they didn't see Him. At this point, Jesus reprimanded them saying, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself" (Lk. 24:25-27). How I would have loved to have been on that walk with those three. I have been hot on the trail of "what was said in all the Scriptures" concerning the Christ for many years, and God has been showing me a little at a time. It's a treasure hunt, one clue after another, opening up the richness of the written Word to me, and that's why I'm so grateful to my sister Mary Blattner for sending us the Video Tapes produced by Focus on the Family (End Note B). They have opened the door further for me to see some things that history has recorded which dovetail with what I knew of scriptures.
Concerning the daily sacrifices, Moses told them "This is what you are to offer on the altar regularly each day: two lambs a year old. Offer one in the morning and the other at twilight. With the first lamb offer a tenth of an ephah of fine flour mixed with a quarter of a hin of oil from pressed olives, and a quarter of a hin of wine as a drink offering. Sacrifice the other lamb at twilight with the same grain offering and its drink offering as in the morning, a pleasing aroma, an offering made to the LORD by fire. 'For the generations to come this burnt offering is to be made regularly at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting before the LORD. There I will meet you and speak to you; there also I will meet with the Israelites, and the place will be consecrated by my glory'" (Ex. 29:3843). (See also Num. 28:3-4; I Chr. 16:40.) Between the time of Moses' commandments and Jesus' life, about 1500 years, the rabbis and scholars had sorted, sifted, qualified, quantified and amended the original instructions so that by AD 30, there were three daily sacrifices. At 3:00 PM, every afternoon, the priest slit the throat of the lamb as a burnt offering for the people. And at that very moment, the ninth hour (Mk. 15:34), as Jesus hung on the cross, He spoke His last, "It is finished" (Jn. 19:30) and gave up the ghost. Also, at that moment, the power of Almighty God fell upon the City and the Jewish law took it's first hit. Listen to Matthew's account: "At that moment (of Jesus' death) the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus' resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, 'Surely he was the Son of God!'" (Matt. 27:51-54). Anyone with his or her spiritual eyes open realizes that when the veil covering the Most Holy place was torn, it was the beginning of the end of the age. (The final blow fell in AD 70, when the Roman General Titus destroyed the temple and everything in it). Prior to that, once a year, only the High Priest could enter behind the veil, and then only with blood for himself and for the people. When you begin to study the typology of Christ's sacrifice and how it completely fulfilled and surpassed all that was portrayed in the Tabernacle and later, the temple sacrifices, you realize what the Hebrew writer was saying in Chapter 9: "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. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!" (Heb. 9:12-14). He goes on to say that the gifts and sacrifices offered under the old Covenant "were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper" (v. 9) for the simple reason that the law was only a shadow of the good things to come, rather than the reality (Heb. 10:1). Sadly, too many Christians today are still operating under Old Covenant principals because they hang on to their sins and the accompanying guilt, having failed to see that their iniquities past, present and future, were truly nailed to the cross, to be remembered no more. God gave the Old Covenant to show us that we cannot keep the law, perfect though the psalmist declared it to be (Ps. 19:7), but even if we could, Paul said, it could never make us perfect (Heb. 7:19). The Hebrew writer expands on this by saying, "For this reason it (the law) can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins" (Heb. 10:1-4). Clearly, guilt comes from unforgiveness. If your sins are forgiven, as they most surely are, then why are you still carrying the guilt? To me, carrying guilt around is an affront to the power of God to remove sins.
In the process of removing our guilt, Christ was the fulfillment of the scapegoat pictured in Lev. 16: 8-10, where the priest laid his hands on the goat's head, symbolically transferring the sins of the people of Israel to the animal, and then it was led out into the wilderness. On Christ, was laid all the sins of the world. "But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isa. 53:5-6). Listen to this glorious statement made by John the Beloved, "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world" (I Jn. 2:2). Think of it. Every time a sacrifice was made, from God killing an animal in order to clothe Adam, and Eve, to His blood covenant with Abram, (Gen. 15: 9-12), to the blood of the Passover Lamb brushed over the tops and sides of the doors to keep the angel of death from killing the first born of the children of Israel who were in Egypt (Ex. 12:21-23), the blood has been a sign to us all of God's provision for forgiveness until the time when He would wipe away all the sins of the entire world with the blood of the perfect Passover Lamb.
I didn't know until we watched the videos, that the day Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Matt. 21:4-9; Mk. 11:7-10), was the very day when the lamb was selected for the Passover meal. This is another example of how Jesus' life was perfectly scripted by God to fulfill all the law and teachings of the prophets. God has been saying to us from the beginning that He understood our humanness, our sinfulness, our rebellion, and by His actions, He was pointing forward to the time when He would reconcile the whole world back to Himself. Paul's statement in II Corinthians always thrills me. He asserts "that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God" (II Cor. 5:19-20). Notice who is being reconciled to whom. Like so many truths, the professing church has it backwards, telling us that the death of Christ was to reconcile God to us. No, that's topsy turvy. The truth is that God has always been reconciled to us, but our sins have hidden His face from us, even as the sins of the world hid the face of God from Christ, causing Him to cry out from the cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me" (Matt. 27:46; Mk. 15:34). Now, if God was in Christ on that cross, as Paul says He was, then not only did He not forsake Christ, but He was right there on the cross suffering along with Him! So, why would Christ feel forsaken? Isaiah gives us the reason: "But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear" (Isa. 59:2). Though perfect in every way, Christ was weighted down with the sins of the entire world, and thus, could not see His father's face at that moment in the same way that our sins have hidden God's love from us until, at last, we "got it" in our spirits that they were paid for by the blood of God's Passover Lamb; they were blotted out; they are no more! This study has caused me to rejoice in the careful provision of our Father, who before time, knew that His only son would have to die for us (Rev. 13:8). It also has grieved me to know that much of Christendom believes that God is not much better than pagan deities, who demanded blood to satisfy their wrath. Again, to say it one more time, the blood was NOT for God's benefit. The blood was for us, a visual symbol of His provision and grace for us when our sins would otherwise have separated us from Him. Surviving our sins by sacrificing animals, we were carried forward until the time came for the love of God to take on flesh and dwell among us (Jn. 1:14). At this point in this writing, I would encourage you to read a very short piece by our dear friend Harry Fox, entitled, "Why did Christ Have to Die?" (See link at end). Harry has expressed a profound truth in short, simple language, which I believe will bless you as it did us.
I was talking to the Lord about this journal, which I have felt impressed to write. Lenny and I only write when we feel moved on by the Spirit, and that means that we don't have a regular schedule for mailing or web publishing. We have no interest in cluttering up your mailbox or your computer screen with trivia. So, I asked God, "What's the point of this journal?" He said this to me, "In times past, I revealed my mercy and grace in the blood of animals, until the time when I revealed myself in my only Son." The Christ is the Alpha and the Omega (Rev. 1:8; 21:6; 22:13). His beginning was before the foundation of the world, and His "ending" (or final mission) will set the entire creation free to bless and serve the Lord God Almighty from everlasting to everlasting. I like the Phillip's Translation of Rom. 11:33-34, 36: "Frankly, I stand amazed at the unfathomable complexity of God's wisdom and God's knowledge. How could man ever understand his reasons for action, or explain His methods of working? For of him, and through him, and to him are all things, to whom be glory for ever. Amen." Jesus is the express image of the Father (II Cor. 4:4, 6), sent in the last days to usher in the kingdom of heaven on earth (Matt. 12:28). In one of His encounters with God, Moses pled with Him not to abandon His wicked and disobedient children. God replied that He would go with them to the promised land. Moses then expressed a sentiment that all of us share: "If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?" And the LORD said to Moses, "I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name" (Ex. 33:15-17). Take heart, dear ones, for God goes with us whenever we take the next step. He is pleased with us and He knows us by name. As it is written, so let it be done in our lives.
To be continued, the Lord willing.
Jan Austin Antonsson
Post Script: I e-mailed this journal to John Gavazzoni for his comments, editing suggestions, etc., and his response touched me so deeply that I felt led to add it here because it perfectly compliments this study of the blood. John wrote,
"The heart of the matter (the blood sacrifice of Christ) has to do with our hostility toward God and the propitiation of the blood answering that. Our hostility goes back to Adam's and Eve's answer to the Lord's question, "Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" (Gen. 3:11). A careful reading of their response reveals an underlying accusation of God as responsible for what had happened. And of course, they were right; He was responsible, but they were not right in making it a matter of blame, accusation and alienation. It is this petulant resentment that the blood addresses. This alienation (death) has been passed on to us (notice that Paul says that it was death that was passed on to us [I. Cor. 15: 32], not sin, and out of that, death/alienation, we rebel/sin). We are in prison, in bondage to this condition and a price must be paid to redeem us from it. The blood is not a payment to God and certainly not to the devil. It is paid to us as that which we need to free us from the chains of our alienation. On one hand, we are angry at God (those who dare admit it) and on the other hand, we feel horribly guilty about that anger. So, God has set us up. He now has the perfect context in which to show the depth of His love and commitment to us to fulfill His purpose in us. In effect, Father says, "You're angry aren't you? You think I'm the one who should be suffering instead of you? You want blood, don't you? (I'm literally weeping at this point). Go ahead, take out all your anger, do what you really want to do to me." And they did. The fulness of time converged at that point and the totality of all human hostility was unleashed upon Christ, not God's anger, but man's anger, and as they shed His blood, He revealed the depth of the Father's love, which could only be fully understood when given expression at man's worst moment. When we hear, "Father forgive them for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34), the very spirit of our alienation and hostility is broken and we are healed. As I've written before, Christ's prayer was not an attempt to convince God to forgive, but rather was the Son's agreement with the forgiveness that already flowed from the heart of the Father and that flow could not be interrupted even in the face of such infamy." End Quote.
End Note A: Write to us for a copy or
Part I, "The Blood Covenant."
Part III, From Glory to Glory.
End Note B: For information on the video series entitled, "That the World May Know," you may contact Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, CO 80995 or call them at (719) 531-5181.
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail mail)
"Behold the Lamb"
The Glory Road
We'd enjoy hearing from you!
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