Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Q and A: About the Need for Blood

I've had a number of questions from readers on various things, from my books, to some of the blogs I've posted, to my opinions on various matters so I thought I'd start a new category, Q and A, to answer some of them. This question relates to one of my previous posts, The Need for Blood.

QUESTION "[I know] blood sacrifice is a key factor in the pre-Messianic covering of sin, but what about those in the Bible who weren't able to do the sacrifices? The best example would be Daniel. That would be a Mosaic Law example. But then there's the factor of all the pre-Mosaic Law people like Noah, Abraham and even Melchizedek. We know of blood sacrifices (you described Cain and Abel), but to what extent were there sacrifices? How much blood was there?"

ANSWER: Let me start with the pre-Mosaic law people, who were part of a patriarchal form of worship where the patriarch of the family served the priestly role by offering sacrifices for himself and his family. They were animal sacrifices. Like Abel who kept the flocks and offered the lamb/ram, so did all after him.

Noah was required to bring "every clean animal by sevens, a male and his female;" whereas the unclean were only to come by two, a male and his female. Sacrificial animals are definitely among the clean animals and Noah offered sacrifices after deliverance from the Flood in Gen 8:20. The specifics of his offering are not detailed beyond the fact he's offering animals and birds and they are burnt offerings.

Job, who was pre Abraham, offered burnt offerings for each of his 10 children after their feasting cycle, in case "my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts." He did this after every cycle or "continually" (Job 1:5) and we assume they were animals because til then that was the only sacrifice that had been described (God with his skins for Adam and the woman; Abel; Noah) At the end of Job, God tells Job's three "friends" that his wrath has been kindled against them and they need to "take for yourselves 7 bulls and 7 rams and go to My servant Job and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves..." (There were only three guys and they needed 14 animals: that's a lot of blood)

Abraham was a shepherd and he offered animal sacrifices numerous times during his journeys, but the most significant was when he and Isaac were traveling to Mt Moriah where he was to offer Isaac. Isaac noted the presence of the wood and the fire, but wondered "where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" Abraham said God would provide his own sacrifice, which He did in the form of the ram stuck in the bush. (Gen 22)

That incident, of course, is incredibly telling -- a total picture of the cross, and Christ, and how the lambs/rams that are being sacrificed represent his spiritual death on the the cross to come. Of course they didn't know it was to be on a cross because nobody did crucifixion until Roman times. They didn't know it would be a man in Abraham's day, either, just that God would provide the sacrifice. It wasn't until Isaiah that they began to realize the sacrifice would be a man (Is 53).

In Egypt, Moses asked Pharoah to let the people go so they could go offer sacrifices and burnt offerings to their God (which was why they needed to take their livestock with them --Ex 10:25,26). (And occurred before the giving of the Law.) Then on the first Passover as part of the ten plagues, a lamb was to be killed, its blood put in the points of a cross on the door posts and the death angel would pass over the house -- another picture of Christ.

As NT believers, having the completed canon of Scripture and the privilege of being able to look back and see the fulfullment of OT sacrifices in Christ we now know clearly that the Lamb was crucial in sacrifices and offerings. The references to the lamb are all over the word of God. And the connection between Christ and the Lamb, as well. That's no accident, and that's part of how we conclude that all those who came before the Law did indeed sacrifice animals, in particular, lambs. I suspect that it was sheepskins that God made for Adam and the woman.

Another factor to consider is the widespread practice in other cultures of offering animal sacrifices to pagan gods. Was that something they came up with on their own? I don't think so. I think it was perversion of the truth. From Cain on, it spread out, animals sacrificed to the wrong gods. Abram's father was priest to the moon goddess in Ur, where they offered sacrifices... what I'm saying is, the demon worship was a corruption of the sacrifices God had originally commanded.

Regarding Daniel and the other prisoners being unable to offer sacrifices... you have to remember that the temple had been destroyed, the country defeated, the shekinah glory was out of the temple long since. As a nation, the Jews were under discipline . But God is fair and knows the heart. If the heart understands the doctrine and desires to obey, then that is all that is needed. Conversely, sacrifices and offerings made without the right mental attitude are useless.

The Law was sent to show men they could not keep it. That they needed a savior. The Levitical offerings are all teaching aids and shadows of what would happen on the cross. Abraham believed God and it was credited to his account as Righteousness (Gen 15:6). The Law was never a means of salvation, only a picture of the need for it and the way God would provide it. Fulfilling the Law should have been an act of gratitude and recall of what man needed and what God would one day provide...

In His Grace,