If we’re honest we have to face the fact that sometimes there are events and practices in the Scriptures that are a little weird to our 21rst Century sensibilities. In this new occasional series we’re going to look at some of these weird things and try to understand them a little better.
Let’s start with something that most find weird: animal sacrifice.
Most think of sacrifices in the Scriptures like this:
We mess up and tick God off so he runs from us.
You then get your poop in a group, grab a sheep and head to the temple.
Offer said sheep and hope God forgives you after you kill it and comes near again.
That’s common thinking but the trouble is in this scenario we are trying to find God and not the other way around and since we don’t use sacrifices anymore it only makes putting things right between us and God even more difficult.
Let’s see if we can’t clear up this muddy water a bit…
In biblical times sacrifice was everywhere regardless of religion or region.
In particular, animal sacrifice was universal and often at the center of a community’s celebration. The people were appreciative for the sacrifice of the animal’s life as if to say “life is gift.”
And the right response to that sacrifice is gratitude.
The animals weren’t sacrificed and then thrown in a bloody dumpster.
The people ate the meat. For the Israelites, that meat often fed those who worked in the temple and community celebrations.
In fact, we are far more likely to throw food away than those in ancient cultures ever were.
We still kill animals for food but the difference is today we don’t appreciate the life that was given for us to enjoy. There’s a strong disconnect because we can go to a store or restaurant and never see the animal. We get shrink wrapped chicken or steaks on a sizzling platter.
We never see the unsanitary conditions the animals are raised in.
If anything, I’d say we are far more barbaric than those ancients who gave thanks before partaking of the sacrificial meals.
We’ve lost sight that life is gift.
The best way to realize this is that we must receive life to have life.
The majority of Israel’s sacrifices in the Old Testament were ways of expressing thanks or sorrow.
The sacrifices weren’t a thing you did to impress God and earn his favor but a response to the favor he already had for you.
It’s true that Jesus is the reason we no longer sacrifice. As Christianity spread, Constantine put an end to the killing of both Christians and animals as sacrifices because of the one time sacrifice of Jesus.
We didn’t stop because we became enlightened, but because of Jesus.
It wasn’t because sacrifice was bad it just became unnecessary.
As John declared “Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”