Published on
October 3, 2023

Leviticus 17

“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls...”

Author Photo
Steve Wiggins
Author Photo
Steve Wiggins
Read Time
4 minutes
Leviticus 17
“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul. Therefore, I said to the children of Israel, ‘none of you shall eat blood, nor shall any stranger who dwells among you eat blood.’” Leviticus 17: 11-12

If you ever travel to Israel, one thing you’ll find out quickly is how awful the beef tastes! Why? It has been drained of all its blood and stripped of most of its fat. It must be so to be certified “kosher” by the rabbis who inspect the meat processing plants and restaurants.

Unlike the laws of clean & unclean animals (Acts 10:9-15), the command to “not eat blood” has never even been suggested to have been repealed by the Lord. At least, Scripture does not indicate such. Perhaps this poses a challenge to us: How rare can we get that steak before it’s considered “eating blood”?

As a young follower of Jesus, I wondered, “What’s the deal with all of the talk and focus on the ‘Blood’ of Jesus?” I understood suffering, and I get how He paid the penalty we deserve. I understood resurrection, proving the power and will of God to do miracles. But the blood…?

In today’s passage, we find some clarity. The practice of shedding animal blood for sin atonement was given to Israel by God. Why? Perhaps the best explanation is that “blood sacrifice” provides a vivid picture of the serious deadliness of sin observed by the individual worshipping. It lets them consider how their sin looks to God and the punishment awaiting them if their sin is not atoned for.

Almost everyone thinks their children are saints compared to everyone else’s kids. We justify our sin to ourselves but condemn others. Sometimes, it is good to separate from ourselves and get a detached, elevated, and objective view of our lives...a view from God’s perspective of how we measure up to His standard.

In what seems like cruel performance art, God shows Israel (and now us) that sin sheds blood. And it is OUR blood that sin sheds. By choosing to sin, we are literally killing ourselves. Apart from Messiah, we work toward sinful goals, and the wages of that labor are death.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Messiah Jesus, our Lord.” Romans 6:23

In His gracious mercy, God allows us to view sin as He sees it through the commandment of the blood sacrifice. He has given life in blood. Because Jesus is eternal, through Jesus’ blood, we are offered eternal life. When we consider the Roman cross on which Jesus died, we see what WE deserved yet were spared through Jesus’ atonement. And we understand the urgency of sharing the gospel with non-believers!

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