A Bloody Religion (Thabiti Anyabwile)
In our study of Ezra 3, we learned that worship is centered on the altar. The center of Christian worship is the altar of the cross, where God dealt with our sin by sacrificing Jesus Christ. That cross was the culmination of many altars and thousands upon thousands of sacrifices. To help us understand the significance of the sacrifcial system and the final sacrifice of Christ on the cross, I encourage you to read this article written by Thabiti Anyabwile.
A BLOODY RELIGION
1And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2“Speak to the people of Israel, saying, If anyone sins unintentionally in any of the LORD’s commandments about things not to be done, and does any one of them, 3if it is the anointed priest who sins, thus bringing guilt on the people, then he shall offer for the sin that he has committed a bull from the herd without blemish to the LORD for a sin offering. 4He shall bring the bull to the entrance of the tent of meeting before the LORD and lay his hand on the head of the bull and kill the bull before the LORD. 5And the anointed priest shall take some of the blood of the bull and bring it into the tent of meeting, 6and the priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle part of the blood seven times before the LORD in front of the veil of the sanctuary. 7And the priest shall put some of the blood on the horns of the altar of fragrant incense before the LORD that is in the tent of meeting, and all the rest of the blood of the bull he shall pour out at the base of the altar of burnt offering that is at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 8And all the fat of the bull of the sin offering he shall remove from it, the fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails 9 and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins and the long lobe of the liver that he shall remove with the kidneys 10(just as these are taken from the ox of the sacrifice of the peace offerings); and the priest shall burn them on the altar of burnt offering. 11But the skin of the bull and all its flesh, with its head, its legs, its entrails, and its dung—12all the rest of the bull—he shall carry outside the camp to a clean place, to the ash heap, and shall burn it up on a fire of wood. On the ash heap it shall be burned up. (Lev. 4:1-9)
Try to imagine the scene. Day after day. Week after week. Sinner after sinner. Progresses before the altar to offer bulls, goats, lambs, pigeons to God as an atonement for sin. The prescription for slaughter is precise. Instruction for removal of organs and fat detailed. With your hands. All day long. Breaking open animal bodies. Removing organs. Separating fat. Awash in blood. Sprinkling blood on the altar. Rubbing it on the horns of the altar. Watching it drain into the basin of the altar. All the while, the constant smell of burning flesh, charred to ashes.
That’s the Old Testament sacrificial system. It’s bloody.
But do we imagine Christianity to be an less bloody? Do we imagine the fulfillment of those patterns and prophesies to bring a more sanitary, sterile, cleaner religion? If we do, we’ve lost sight of significant realities.
Is not our salvation purchased with blood? The blood of the Son of God still flows. It flows to the chief of sinners. It still washes and cleanses. It doesn’t drain into a basin, but reaches the nations. And without the shedding of His blood, there is no remission of sins.
What about you Christian? Are not our lives living sacrifices? All day long, are you not counted as sheep for the slaughter? Our gathering is not a country club, but a slaughter house. Your life is not dry and clean; it must be bloody.
What about you, pastor? Does not our continuing ministry require blood? Do your daily ministrations involve less blood than the blood Old Testament priests once put their hands in? If so, you’re doing it wrong. Are our people any less broken by sin? Do they need repentance less? Can they leave off confession and forget to seek a good conscience? Certainly not. But how will they be comforted? How will they be assured of their forgiveness? What will they do with their guilt? Do we not return them to that precious fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel’s veins? Do we not stand awash in blood and with our hands of counsel rub blood–not on an altar–but on our people? And are they not cleansed of all unrighteousness when they’re taught to confess, repent, and return to a faithful and just God who is pleased at the sight of His Son’s blood? We remind them that atonement has been made, which is to remind them of blood–Jesus’ blood.
Ours is a bloody religion.