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Leviticus 17

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Book of Leviticus Chapter Seventeen
Commentary by Pastor Ron Beckham

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The Way Of Blood

The Lord, our Creator, is the "way" to become right with God. In John 14:6, Jesus called out—"I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." Those of ancient Israel were both real people and a parable. Through that historical nation, God has presented visual, auditory and written prophesies that point us all to the then-future Messiah, Jesus Christ. We are to find the beautiful reality that "You who once were far off have been made near by the blood of Christ" (Ephesians 2:13). This chapter in Leviticus reminds Israel of the responsibility to accurately portray the role assigned to them by Almighty God. They didn't understand, but like everybody else, they were and are encouraged to have the faith to obey.

In Verses 1-4, "Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 Speak to Aaron and to his sons and to all the sons of Israel and say to them, 'This is what the Lord has commanded, saying, 3 Any man from the house of Israel who slaughters an ox or a lamb or a goat in the camp, or who slaughters it outside the camp, 4 and has not brought it to the doorway of the tent of meeting to present it as an offering to the Lord before the tabernacle of the Lord, bloodguiltiness is to be reckoned to that man. He has shed blood and that man shall be cut off from among his people." These verses do not speak of animals killed for food, but instead refer to animals slain for sacrifice. No longer was the patriarch or another family member to kill "an ox or a lamb or a goat" or some other creature "outside the camp" in an attempt to appease God Himself or one or more of the pagan "gods" brought out of their slavery in Egypt, as in Verse 5: "The reason is so that the sons of Israel may bring their sacrifices which they were sacrificing in the open field, that they may bring them in to the Lord, at the doorway of the tent of meeting to the priest, and sacrifice them as sacrifices of peace offerings to the Lord." Can you imagine the logistical problems created by God's command to bring sacrificial animals to the tabernacle? There were at least six hundred thousand men in Israel at that time, plus women, plus children. There would have been an almost never ending-line of pastoral animals, brought by their masters to the place of sacrifice.

The levitical priests assigned to the tabernacle would have been exhausted. In Verse 6, we find that "The priest shall sprinkle the blood on the altar of the Lord at the doorway of the tent of meeting, and offer up the fat in smoke as a soothing aroma to the Lord." But this wouldn't have been just one animal, it was thousands at the time, and millions through the centuries, revealing God's message to humanity that we are all sinners in need of the Lord.

Do you notice in Verse 7, God's complete awareness of our sinful ways? He knew that this nation of shepherds was filled with individuals who were out there in the wilderness, looking over their shoulders in concern as they sacrificed individual animals in their own herds to "goat demons." Here's Verse 7: "They shall no longer sacrifice their sacrifices to the goat demons with which they play the harlot. This shall be a permanent statute to them throughout their generations." He knows what you are doing when the door closes and you think you're alone. And see that He did not exterminate those idolators, instead offering them, like us, the opportunity for repentance and salvation.

There are religions all over the world, presenting differing, competing ways for people to attempt to please God. We can learn from these verses in Leviticus that God has a very specific way for us, and we are to seek Him for the answer, rather than merely sifting through and selecting various religious practices. In Verses 8-9, Moses is told by the Lord: "Then you shall say to them, 'Any man from the house of Israel, or from the aliens who sojourn among them, who offers a burnt offering or sacrifice, 9 and does not bring it to the doorway of the tent of meeting to offer it to the Lord, that man also shall be cut off from his people." The words "cut off" here, can mean alienation from Israel, or alternatively, being killed. In an early sermon, the Apostle Peter spoke of Jesus Christ in this way: "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). We must consider the evidence and understand that to not make a choice is a choice in itself. Look to the Lord and choose His Way.

Tons of blood were shed in the tabernacle of ancient Israel. All of it was collectively like a huge signpost pointing ahead to the crucified Messiah who was to die for our sins. As it says in Ephesians 1:7, "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His grace." Leviticus is a book full of blood, and Israel was forbidden to eat the blood that was shed, one of the many prohibitions that looked to the future Messiah. Verses 10-11: "And any man from the house of Israel, or from the aliens who sojourn among them, who eats any blood, I will set My face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from among his people. 11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement." Jesus, Yeshua, would shed His "blood" (which is to say, give His "life") for us.

We saw this prohibition against eating blood in Genesis 9:4, when Noah and his family were allowed to eat meat, but God continued, "You shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood." Has God told you something, yet you do not understand? That was the case with most people in Israel. Their lives were just as real as ours, but they were also not unlike actors and actresses on a stage, entering on cue, speaking lines assigned to them and then retreating to the wings. We are like that, as well. God loves us and is showing us our need. Through the fabric of the universe, through His Holy Word, He is continually pointing us to His Son, tenderly leading us to salvation from sin and death.

When our earliest ancestors ate of that "tree of knowledge of good and evil" in Genesis 3, an intense thirst entered the genetic structure of humanity—we want to know and understand—everything. The antidote given for this never satisified thirst is through God the Son, and is called, "faith." We don't have to always understand, we instead accept and trust. So here is God, telling His people to refrain from eating blood without fully revealing why not. If they somehow were offered something like the "blood pudding" so popular in Britain and Ireland today, they were to politely refuse. In Verses 12-14, "Therefore I said to the sons of Israel, 'No person among you may eat blood, nor may any alien who sojourns among you eat blood.' 13 So when any man from the sons of Israel, or from the aliens who sojourn among them, in hunting catches a beast or a bird which may be eaten, he shall pour out its blood and cover it with earth. 14 For as for the life of all flesh, its blood is identified with its life. Therefore I said to the sons of Israel, 'You are not to eat the blood of any flesh, for the life of all flesh is its blood; whoever eats it shall be cut off.'"

Death to the one who eats the forbidden substance. They did not need to know why, just accept in faith that the Lord is good and what He commands is best for us. We are to trust in Him and in His character. Later generations were to meet the Messiah, in life or in His Book, the Bible, discovering these verses in Leviticus about Him. Israel's function was like it is for everybody else: We are to trust the Lord and respond to the leading of His Holy Spirit.

Death is a sad event for the survivors, but we often don't understand that death is infinitely sad for God. In the beginning there was no death (Genesis 2:17), which was His beautiful will for creation. A blade of grass, a tree, a lion or a chipmunk would last forever. Death in the world was God's plan B, taking effect when Adam and Eve believed the lie and disobeyed by eating of that tree in a vain attempt to become "like God" (Genesis 3:5). Death is necessary: Without a fear of death, the ending of all our earthly hopes and dreams, we might stubbornly live on forever in our sin.

Jesus would die to save us from sin and death, the Holy Sacrifice acceptable to the Father. He gave His blood for you and me, foretold in this chapter, as continued in Verses 15-16: "When any person eats an animal which dies or is torn by beasts, whether he is a native or an alien, he shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and remain unclean until evening; then he will become clean. 16 But if he does not wash them or bathe his body, then he shall bear his guilt." Have you thought about baptism?

Jesus was dead, murdered, and yet at the same time, sacrificed for our sins by the Father. His bloody corpse was taken away, cleansed and prepared by a rich man and a pharisee. At just the right time He came alive and the heavy stone of His tomb was rolled away by the power of God. He lives! This is the picture presented in baptism. We can't live under water, representing Jesus' death, and we are brought back up where we can breathe once more, signifying His life. Acting out this parable is our expression of faith to others. Jesus shed His blood, He died and is alive. So are we, when we trust in Him.

Lord, You shed Your blood, sacrificing Your life in payment for my sins. You are eternal life and I give You my sins, washed away by Your Holy Act. I place my faith in You. I am Yours. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries

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"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)
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