Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Blood: The Cleansing Agent

The law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Hebrews 9:22 NIV
Blood, the life force of a person or a creature (the life of a creature is in the blood.... Leviticus 17:11 NIV), is a very important part of the Bible. Cain killed his brother Abel because God accepted Abel’s gift of blood (through the killing of a lamb) but not his gift of fruit and grain. Blood brushed onto the doorways of their homes saved the eldest sons of the Israelites when God’s angel came and killed the first born of man and beast. When the tabernacle (and later the temple) and priesthood were established, blood was sprinkled on all the furnishings, on all the priests and on their clothes.

Can you imagine coming to church and seeing splotches of blood all over the pastor as he gets up to preach? The blood wasn’t offensive as it would be to us. The blood was used to make things and people clean and pure, not dirty and contaminated as we would think. When someone sinned, it was blood that erased the sin. Blood was the cleansing agent and without blood, no one could come into the presence of God—not even the high priest who, on entering the Most Holy Place of the tabernacle or temple, sprinkled blood on the very ark of God—the throne of his presence on earth.

“[Jesus] is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2 NIV) How and why? The why is because he loves us (John 3:16); the how is by relinquishing his life blood by being nailed to a cross. God himself poured out his life, his blood, to redeem, forgive and cleanse us. Oswald Chambers says “The Cross is the expression of the very heart of God...it cost him everything.”*

Christians talk so easily about the blood of Christ. We forget or minimize the cost. We mourn the death of each soldier who dies because of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. We grieve our loss of them and sometimes wonder about the seeming senselessness of it all. Their deaths are not senseless. They are giving their lives willingly to protect us, our allies and even the civilians of the countries in which they fight, from terrorism. Because of them, we live in peace.

How much more powerful is the death and blood of God! The peace his death provides is incomparable. Do I care? Does it matter to me? Do I brush it off as an ancient act that holds some spiritual symbolism? Or am I in awe? How grateful am I? How often do I stop and consider the enormity of his death? How often do I ponder the significance? Not often enough.

God, forgive me for the cavalier way I often treat your gift of cleansing and life. You gave up everything and yet, instead of doing the same, I cling to the very things that keep me from you. Forgive me, Lord! Forgive me and cleanse me from all unrighteousness.

*”The Fundamental Offence” in “Biblical Ethics” in The Complete Works of Oswald Chambers, page 109.

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