I recently re-read the Ten Commandments and a long section of levitical laws concerning sin, punishment, sacrifices, atonement, and the like. Perhaps a strange choice, but I felt compelled to take in the whole message of scripture, not just the stuff I like. Even though I’ve read these passages many times in the past, and grappled with the tough language and realities theologically, I found myself once again disliking the whole thing.
How could a good God make things so hard? So harsh? So prescriptive and restricted?
With a small bit of faith, I prayed and asked God to show me the arc behind it all. To reveal His heart to me. To let me see how Jesus fit into it all. I was skeptical.
God has standards that are incredibly high – unattainable really. He calls us into obedience to these standards. They’re for our good, though we don’t always see it. The payment He demands for punishment is very often immediate death, and always ultimate death. I wanted to stop there, be angry at this mean god, put the Bible down and walk away in the face of the harshness.
Then I was drawn back to the sacrifices read them again. And again. I realized that even before the laws were given, back to Abraham, God was showing a pattern. Ever since the beginning, because of His amazing love for us, he makes a way for this punishment not to kill us or destroy us.
With Abraham, instead of having to kill Isaac to show his obedience, God provided a ram. With the people of Israel, He demanded the punishment of death for many sins – but offered a way through sacrifices of atonement – the burnt offering and sin offering specifically, to be restored to right relationship with Him.
“So no,” God reminded me, “I’ve not harshly left you alone and destroyed. Though I am holy, and demand holiness, I have made a way for you.” This drew me straight to Jesus. The ultimate sacrifice for all our sins. It became so fresh and so real to me, all over again. It’s not just theoretical. God is holy. Our sin is real. It demands payment. And yet, “behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
Thanks be to God, who has made a way for us all.
Grace and Peace,