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The Sanctity of the Blood
Leviticus 17:4.—And bringeth it not unto the door of the tabernacle. A captious mind will ask. Why is not sacrifice acceptable to God wherever offered? Surely it is in the spirit of the offerer, rather than in the circumstances of the offering, that piety consists. Wherefore, then, this insistance on mere conditions, and importance attached to the place of sacrifice? But God meets such contention of thought with absolute interdict; He is the authority in human life and sacred regulations; and “who art thou that repliest against God?” Even when “your ways are not my ways” (Isaiah 55:8), the LORD must be obeyed, and His terms of dealing with sinful creatures be observed as absolute Yet more. There was wisdom in those requirements; for the Israelites had been so trained to superstitious and heathenish ideas in Egypt as to need this fencing about in order to restrain them from lapsing, all but unconsciously, into the snares of familiar idolatrous practices. Our God is gracious in all His ways; His commandments are not grievous; but, knowing our tendencies to err, He arrests us at the first symptoms of erring, and shows us the path of safety, the plan of acceptance.
Leviticus 17:5.—The sacrifices which they offer in the open field. [See Addenda to chap., Sacrifices unto devils.] They had learned this from the Egyptians, who peopled the scenes of nature with deities (Leviticus 17:7), and Israel continually fell into this old habit, and sacrificed in groves and on high places; it was the snare of their whole after history. We may be redeemed from our spiritual bondage, and become pilgrims to Canaan, yet all the journey through the power of old habits pursues us, and would reassert itself upon us. Therefore the urgency with which God’s Word prohibits any and every concession to “the former lusts in our ignorance.” We must shun lurking perils.
Leviticus 17:8.—Whatsoever men there be. It was an inflexible regulation, binding upon “the house of Israel,” and also upon “strangers that sojourn among you.” For evil may be introduced by the society we entertain, the guests who visit us. And hospitality was to be restricted by divine laws. How ensnaring often becomes the courtesy which we think due to “strangers”! There is a tendency to relax from steadfast principles of righteousness and lofty habits of piety at such times as guests are staying in our homes. This is to lower God’s standard in accommodation to men. It must not be; strangers in godly homes must conform to the godly laws which are there supreme; the children of God must never yield to unhallowed customs of their guests; hospitality must be no excuse for impiety.
Leviticus 17:10.—I will set my face against that soul that eateth blood. God claimed the blood as being “the life” of the creature. He has ownership in all His creatures, and we should acknowledge Him therein. But this law has emphasized the value of blood as the symbol also of atonement (Leviticus 17:11). And He would have every act, even of eating and drinking, testify of the atonement required by sinners. The table could not be spread for “strangers” (Leviticus 17:12), nor could any one, Israelite or stranger, seek recreation and pleasure in “hunting” even, but the significance and sacredness of “the blood” must be recognised. We have reason, indeed, to regard as most suggestive and precious the blood of atonement. It leads our thoughts to Him whose death has gathered into itself all virtue for redemption. How dreadful the consequences of counting that “blood of the covenant an unholy thing!” (Hebrews 10:29).
Topic: THE SOLEMNITY OF SACRIFICE PUBLICLY RECOGNISED (Leviticus 17:1-3.17.10)
Jehovah’s concern for solemnity and purity in apparently trifling things revealed His intense hatred for sin, His supreme love for holiness. The demand for purity extended to private individual acts no less than to public national observances. The blood of all beasts slain for food or sacrifice was to be presented at the door of the tabernacle, to check the people from wanton destruction of animal life; to remind them that all life is from the Lord; its destruction under His cognizance. This injunction would—
I. PREVENT IDOLATRY. The idolatrous practices of the Egyptians, among whom Israel had lived, would have implanted a tendency in the people to relapse into heathenish superstitions during their encampment in the wilderness. The Egyptians sacrificed to the goats, or field devils—supposed to inhabit the wilderness—to avert their wrath, and secure their favour. To ensure that no idolatrous sacrifice should be offered in the camp the blood of every slain animal was to be presented before the Lord, as an acknowledgement that Jehovah was the sovereign King in Israel. God is the proprietor of all life, to Him all ought to be solemnly dedicated.
II. STIMULATE OBEDIENCE. Probably the Hebrews could not see the reason for so rigid a command, it was for them to render unquestioning obedience believing in the wisdom of their great Lawgiver, in the righteousness of His precepts. When enactments seemed meaningless, and ceremonies superfluous, the human was always and in every case to be subordinated to the divine will. Thus the discipline of the Jewish economy educated loyal and implicit surrender of all the faculties of heart and mind. Under the gospel dispensation we are saved by faith, which is the gift of God; yet, “faith without works is dead.” Faith and love must prove their existence and genuineness by obedience to the commands of Christ.
III. PERPETUATE ALLEGIANCE. These arrangements were to continue in force through succeeding generations. In coming constantly to the door of the tabernacle, and making its services the constant theme of attention, the Israelites would be carrying out the first great injunction of the decalogue, “Thou shalt have none other gods but me.” Identifying the tabernacle with the domestic acts of life, with acts performed to provide material food, would tend to keep in vivid remembrance the fact that everything was to be done to the glory of God. It is still so; every meal should become a sacrament, all we do should be done devoutly and heartily as unto the Lord.
IV. AWAKEN GRATITUDE. Coming so frequently to the door of the tabernacle with the blood of animals slain for food or sacrifice would remind the Hebrews how constantly they were indebted to Jehovah for all the temporal and spiritual blessings they enjoyed. They would thus trace their mercies to the Source from which all good and perfect gifts flow to man.
V. PROMOTE HOLINESS. Such constant reference to the tabernacle would keep the Lord perpetually before the people, and act as a solemn restraint upon their conduct. In common as well as sacred meals, in the tent as well as in the tabernacle, “Holiness to the Lord” was to be inscribed above all. As the Israelites presented the blood at the door of the tabernacle they would be reminded of the sacredness of life; have suggested to their minds the necessity of complete self-surrender to Jehovah The New Testament has no diviner injunction than this, “Be ye holy, for I am holy.”
VI. BEGET REVERENCE. As the people drew nigh to the door of the tabernacle they would be reminded of the august authority of God in demanding such obedience and annexing such penalties to disobedience The justice and jealousy of God would fill every devout worshipper with profound religious awe. In all Christian worship godly fear should have its place, “for our God is a consuming fire.”
VII. INDICATE RECONCILIATION. The fact that the people were permitted thus frequently to approach the tabernacle proved that Jehovah was propitious, and delighted in mercy. He had come to dwell with men because He delighted in their company and fellowship. If those who drew near to God only fulfilled the conditions He saw fit to lay down, there was no need for slavish fear or apprehensions of disapproval. That God expects us to live in His favour and fear denotes the fact that He is reconciled to us, and that the only thing that hinders our bliss here and hereafter is unwillingness to be reconciled to Him.—F. W. B.
Topic: THE PLACE OF SACRIFICE (Leviticus 17:8-3.17.9)
1. God has a right to say where and how He will be worshipped, and He has exercised the right. He has told us the way in which He will be approached.
2. The way to life may be narrow, but there is no one, with the Word of Truth in his hand, who may not discover it and follow it.
3. Of old God gave minute and ample instruction to His people; they were to approach Him by sacrifice, and that sacrifice was to be offered on the altar of burnt offering: “there shalt thou offer” (Deuteronomy 12:13-5.12.14). It mattered not in what the offering consisted, expiatory or eucharistic, the requirements as to the place of presentation was the same—the place which the Lord had chosen and made His habitation.
“Even those animals which were slain for food in the wilderness were brought to the door of the tabernacle, and there killed, and their blood sprinkled on the altar. If an Israelite did not bring the animal which he intended for food to the door of the tabernacle, but killed it elsewhere, God declared that blood should be imputed to him” (Bonar on Leviticus, chap 17).
A. WHAT ADMONITORY PURPOSE WAS THEREBY SERVED.
1. The people were indellibly impressed with their need of atonement. Every time an intelligent Israelite took away life he must have felt his own life was forfeited to God, and that by the blood of sacrifice only could it be redeemed. The very preparation of his food impressed him with the truth that life is the gift of God. But if this is Old Testament truth, it is New Testament truth also (see John 6:51; John 3:36).
ii. Idolatry was the root sin of the ancient nations; and the head of every family, as priest in his own house, might sacrifice to whatever god he pleased. To correct this in Israel was one of the admonitory purposes of this enactment that all sacrifices should be offered at the house of God.
B. WHAT SACRED AND EVANGELICAL DOCTRINE UNDERLAYS THIS REGULATION.
i. The tabernacle was a type of the Lord Jesus; and just as the Israelite could only worship God by sacrifice at His own dwelling, so we can only present our offerings to Him through Christ. “By Him, therefore, let us offer the sacrifice of praise continually,” etc. (Hebrews 13:15; Colossians 3:17).
ii. The altar of brass was the place of sacrifice (Leviticus 17:6), on which burned the inextinguishable fire, symbol of divine holiness and endless propitiation. It stood between the door of the tabernacle and the Skekinah within the veil. An interposing sacrificial altar, the Cross of Jesus stands between the human offerer and the Holy God. Had not Christ, our Atonement, put Himself between us and what we deserved wrath had fallen upon us.
C. WHAT PRACTICAL OBLIGATION THIS RESTRICTED SCENE OF SACRIFICE ENJOINS ON US NOW.
i. The altar was the one way of approach; even so, Christ is the one way to the Father (John 14:6).
ii. Excellencies in the offerer or the offering could not neutralize the necessity for coming in this only way to God. The Jew’s sacrifice might be, in itself, all that was required, but offered elsewhere than at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation it was refused. Though we be generous in disposition, upright in walk, reverent in manner, not for these, but for Christ’s sake, can we be accepted.
iii. But contact with that altar imparted sanctity. Whatsoever toucheth the altar shall be holy (Exodus 29:37). The first touch of Christ by faith delivers from guilt.
iv. At the cross God is to be found and enjoyed. Only at the cross will He be merciful to our unrighteousness, and only in Christ meet us in grace. [Comp., The Gospel in Leviticus.—J. FLEMING, D.D.].
Topic: BLOOD PROHIBITED AS FOOD (Leviticus 17:10-3.17.12)
This divine enactment forbidding blood as food was much older than the tabernacle ordinances: was given to Noah directly after the flood (Genesis 9:4). Reiterated now to the Israelites (Leviticus 3:17; Leviticus 7:26); and the reason for the statute is now assigned: “the blood is the life of the flesh, and is given to man to make an atonement for his soul.” [See Addenda to chap., Life in the Blood.]
I. BLOOD SACREDNESS: solemnly appointed by God for a most gracious purpose. Instances from the Old Testament:
Abel’s offering of “the firstlings of his flock” (Genesis 4:3-1.4.5), securing emphatic approbation over Cain’s fruits of the ground.
Noah’s altar sacrifices after the flood (Genesis 8:20-1.8.21).
Job’s patriarchial offerings of sacrifices for propitiation and thanksgiving (Job 1:5).
Moses’ entire system was atoning and sacrificial by means of blood. “No remission of sins without the shedding of blood.”
The blood was to be used for no other purpose.
The New Testament testimony.
Prophecy had foretold that Messiah would “redeem Israel” (Psalms 130:8), and “make an end of sins” (Daniel 9:24); and it should be done by blood: “wounded for our transgressions” (Isaiah 53:5; Isaiah 53:10).
At the Eucharistic Supper Jesus took the cup and said, “This is my blood of the New Testament which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28).
The apostles testify to the same truth: “We have redemption through his blood” (Colossians 1:14; Colossians 1:20).
The cry of the Church on earth and in heaven tells the sacred truth, “Unto him that loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood” (Revelation 1:5; Revelation 5:9).
God has “given to us the blood for the atonement of the soul.”
II. BLOOD APPROPRIATION: emphatically restricted by God for this one sacred purpose.
It is refused for food, and its mal-appropriation protected by penalties of a very appalling nature.
1. It would lower the dignity and defile the sanctity of blood if allowed for common uses. All serious regard for the “atonement” virtue which lay in the blood would have left their minds had it not been thus exclusively reserved. There is no less danger of irreverent minds “counting the blood of the covenant an unholy thing and doing despite to the Spirit of grace” (Hebrews 10:29). In this prohibition of a familiar use of solemn things God sought to fence His people from a sin easily besetting them. God would have us touch sanctities with awe.
2. It would perpetuate in their thoughts their need of “atonement” to have blood thus interdicted for all other purposes. “Atonement” would confront them as their daily necessity, even at their meals. And it should be “ever before us” that we are sinners needing the atonement of Christ; it is gracious for God to make us daily see and realise our case and the urgency of our need of that “precious blood of Christ.”
3. It would lead on their hopes to the effectual and final sacrifice which Messiah would present. The very weariness of this continual presentation of blood in sacrifice would deepen the longing for Messiah’s sacrifice; which should end all provisional offerings. A tired traveller hails sight of each sign-post as it tells him home is near.
All the ancient types pointed men onwards: God would concentrate human desire on the promised Saviour.
Now He makes all teaching and experience of man point human hope and faith backwards, on the finished work of redemption, on the One Sacrifice of Jesus—“Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation for sin through faith in his blood” (Romans 3:25).
A WARNING: Christ must be used as an Atonement. His “blood” must be recognised as of infinite urgency and value for sinful men. Whoso dares take Christ as his food, refusing His sacrificial work, seeking to appropriate and enjoy Jesus as a Teacher, Example, Friend, but repudiating him as a Sin Offering, a Redeemer of the ruined soul, he falls under the menaces of these words of God, Christ’s blood must be realised as a supreme necessity for man, as an “atonement for his soul.”
Topic: HOLY BLOOD (Leviticus 17:10-3.17.11)
With stern command God sets a fence around all blood. All reverence enshrines it. An awful sanctity exempts it from the food of man.
What if offence occur, if rash hands bring it to the board for food? Then penalty frowns terribly, wrath darkens, excluding judgments follow.
But why is blood thus sanctified?
I. IS NOT BLOOD THE ALTAR’S FOOD?
Yes: there is its constant flow: it is the stream from expiring victims. It reminds of death as the desert of sin, and bears witness that remission of sin is prepared. Then it is linked with expiating grace. Thus:
II. IT POINTS TO CALVARY’S CROSS
It shadows forth the wrath-sustaining death of God’s co-equal Son. It introduces Jesus bleeding that souls may live. It is the symbol of redemption’s price; emblem of the one atoning Lamb.
Hence till Jesus came the same forbidding voice was heard: Touch not the blood! It is devoted to God. It is most holy unto Him. It pictures out redeeming suffering. It is “atonement for the soul.”
We live in gospel light; the wondrous death is no more veiled in mystic types. We gaze with open vision on the blood-stained cross; may approach the fountain opened in the Saviour’s side; may there wash our every sin away.
Shall we, thus privileged, fall short in reverence? Think of the grand antitype, Christ’s blood; ponder its worth, its use, its mighty power, its unspeakable results.
i. Its glorious worth. Enter the Garden. The Sufferer seems a lowly man. Man verily He is, or He could possess no human blood. But in that lowly body Deity dwells. He is the Mighty God. It is the “blood of God” (Acts 20:28).
ii. Its gracious use. The sinner is justly sentenced to woe. Nothing but boundless substitution can release. Jesus is God, and He brings blood divinely efficacious. He is an able Saviour, for blood flows in the channel of omnipotence.
iii. Its effectual power. It is the ransom price of all the saved Their number baffles number. Each was defiled with darkest stains of guilt. But now behold them. Robes white; not one stain spoils; penalties all paid. The blood has saved.
iv. Its precious results.
1. It is the peace of all believing souls. The day of awakened conscience was one of bitter woe. The thundering law denounced, the wrath of God menaced. But the Spirit led the trembler to the cross. Faith heard the assurance, “Though your sins,” etc. (Isaiah 1:18); faith gazed, and found full repose.
2. It is the source of sanctifying grace. He must flee sin whose eye is fixed on the blood. Can he love that which gave those wounds to Christ? The sight of calvary slays the love of sin.
(a) Make it your study. For every thought here is food. Angels gaze and they adore. But they glean no advantage from it. To you it is salvation’s price; the gate of heaven.
(b) Love it. It is proof of God’s love, that Jesus loves you better than Himself. That mind is rock which is not melted by such flame.
(c) Praise it. All lips commend the charms of beauty and heroic deeds. But what so beauteous as grace leading Jesus to the cross? Where is noble act like His surrender of Himself for you?
(d) Use it. Every hour, when temptation’s darts are flying round; it will “quench the fiery darts.” When you seek light from scripture’s pages; those lines are brightest in which blood is seen. Use it in prayer; it is the plea of pleas. In sanctuary rites: the service is cast out which is not hallowed with blood. Use it in all holy work for God: it consecrates the motive, way, end; and harvests grow from seeds sown in blood. And when death draws near use it: it ensures heaven, where it may be the eternal theme.—DEAN LAW.
Topic: A DIVINE PROHIBITION (Leviticus 17:10-3.17.16)
Of all the sacrifices offered in the Tabernacle, the expiatory were the most important; that offered on the Day of Atonement the climax of all. The virtue and worth of the offering were symbolised in the blood of the victims; to it, therefore, peculiar solemnity and sanctity were attached. Noah and his descendants were forbidden to partake of flesh with the blood: thus, the way was prepared for the strict prohibition of this chapter. In putting a guard around the seat of animal life Jehovah taught the Hebrews—
I. THAT BLOOD WAS TO BE REGARDED AS A SACRED THING. Not because it was unwholesome, or unclean, or repulsive, was blood not to be partaken of, but because by it atonement was made for the sins of the soul. From the earliest history of our race God had taught that life must be given for life; and that without shedding of blood there could be no remission of sins. Thus blood became—
(a) The means of expiation.
(b) The symbol of reconciliation.
(c) The type of the one great vicarious sacrifice; by virtue of which all the Mosaic offerings were efficacious and accepted.
There was nothing so precious on earth, in the estimation of God, as life; upon it, therefore, He set His most solemn seal; to it He attached rigid regulations; and around it He erected His righteous restraint.
II. THAT, BEING A SACRED THING, BLOOD WAS NOT TO BE SHED HEEDLESSLY; or to be, under any circumstances, partaken of.
Acting under such prohibitions, Israel would be distinguished from the heathen nations, who recklessly shed blood, and who not only offered it to their gods but partook of it themselves. Jehovah, as the sovereign Lord of all life, reserved the symbol of it to Himself; it was to be in no way degraded, not left anywhere carelessly exposed, but treated with profound deference. A check was thus put upon indiscriminate slaughter, and in every creature slain for food, or sacrifice, the operator, by the divine restriction he was under, would be reminded of the absolute sovereignty of the Lord.
III. THAT DISREGARD TO THESE PROHIBITIONS WOULD INCUR THE RIGHTEOUS DISPLEASURE OF THE PROPRIETOR OF ALL LIFE.
Disobedience would not only displease God but incur excommunication from His presence. The enactments may seem severe, but they were needed under the circumstances of the wilderness, and taught lessons of circumspection and moral purity, calculated to lift the people from depraved and degrading practices. The guilt of taking life could only be atoned for by the sacrifice of life. Thus, in the fulness of time, Christ, by shedding His precious blood, by offering His divine infinite life a ransom for the souls of men, satisfied the claims of divine justice, opened the way to heaven for every man. Figuratively, and by faith, we are to eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of God, but care must be taken that the acts are not performed unworthily, nor must the blood of the covenant be trampled under foot and counted an unholy thing. Those who persist in abusing or despising the precious blood of Christ will wonder and perish in the day when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed.—F. W. B.
ILLUSTRATIVE ADDENDA TO CHAPTER 17
SACRIFICES UNTO DEVILS (Leviticus 17:7)
The word Seirim, here translated “devils,” literally means hairy or shaggy goats, and then goat-like deities, or demons.
The Egyptians, and other nations of antiquity, worshipped goats as gods. Not only was there a celebrated temple in Thmuis, the capital of the Mendesian Nomos in Lower Egypt, dedicated to the goat image Pan, whom they called Mendes, and worshipped as an oracle and as the fertilising principle in nature, but they erected statues to him everywhere. Hence the Pan Silenus, satyrs, fawns, and woodland gods found among the Greeks and Romans; and hence, too, the goat-like forms of the devil, with a tail, horns, and cloven feet, which obtain in Medieval Christianity, and which may still be seen in some European cities.
The terror in which the devil, appearing in this Pan-like form, created in those who were thought to have seen him, has given rise to our expression panic.—Ellicott’s Commentary.
LIFE IN THE BLOOD
This statement (Leviticus 17:14) that “the life of the flesh is in the blood” had stood in the Mosaic Scriptures for 3,600 years before philosophers, scientists and anatomists had found their way to this physical truism.
That the blood holds the vitality of the entire bodily structure is given here as a fact of revelation; and it lay in the Bible for nearly 4,000 years before anatomists discovered the fact by their research. Now it is acknowledged as a principle confirmed by elaborate and accurate experiments.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Leviticus 17". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany