Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Livin' It, Old (Testament) Style: Sacrifices

The Old Testament encourages and inspires me.  Though I am not bound by many of its laws or customs any more, there's a lot of beauty and timelessness in some of these ancient ways that teach me how to live under the new covenant.  So I wanted to take a few days, and then however these come up, to share some of these with you.  Starting with...


Thank God (no, really.  Stop to thank Him.  Ok, now back to me.) we don't have to offer sacrifices any more.  Not ritualistically, bloodily, gorily as the people in Israel did.  I would say the smell alone  - of dried-out blood, laid-aside fat and organs, left-behind remnants, and of course, the burning flesh and hair - would be prohibitive, particularly once the tabernacle was settled.  At least in the days of the wilderness, they could have at some point left the stench behind and moved on to a bit more sanitary area.

There were a lot of rules for sacrifices, and I probably would have messed that up, too.  In general, it kind of ran like this: slaughter the animal.  Throw its blood against the altar / pour out its blood at the base of the altar.  Drained?  Good.  Remove the fat from every organ, both kidneys, and a little piece of liver.  Burn part of the fat as a fellowship offering.  Take whatever remains of the animal and burn it on the altar.  To ashes.  That's it.  One recipe for a ritual sacrifice.  Serves One.

Priests were also to set aside a portion of specific sacrifices as their own food, but the rules were equally as clear: pour out the blood first.  Cut out the fat.  Never eat or burn meat with a drop of blood in it.  Always burn the fat separate from the body.

We won't even get into all the rules for what constitutes an offering for what purpose and on what budget - rams, bulls, goats without defect, nothing speckled, nothing spotted, doves if you can't afford anything more, a vat of olive oil, the best of the wine, a loaf or two of bread for sin, guilt, fellowship, peace, freewill, and festival offerings to the Lord.  There's a lot to get buried in...but by the way, never bury a sacrifice.

These were the rules right up to the final sacrifice, a Father's Son, a sinless Lamb, a male with no defects.  He was brought to this altar where life would be altered, nails pierced through His hands and feet, and a spear driven through His side, where blood poured out at the foot of the cross.  The earth could not swallow this Man until every last bit of His blood drained out.  (And you thought the spear was Roman custom.  No, my friends...that was the sacrifice.)

Today, God tells us, we are the sacrifice.  Living sacrifices.  And we kind of struggle with what that looks like, with what that means, with how we're supposed to pull that off and live sacrificed.  I know that for me, I often confuse it with living surrendered, turning every moment back to God and letting Him ordain it as it needs to be.  That's an important part of a holy life, but living surrendered is not living sacrificed.  If we're to live sacrificed, we need to know the Levitical law and the Golgotha guidepost and embrace what that really means.

It means we pour out our blood at the base of the altar, at the foot of the cross.  Our blood is our passion.  It is that which courses through our veins and delivers to every fingertip, every toe, every nook and cranny, every tiny recess of our being the nourishment that fuels us, feeds us.  As a sacrifice, we pour that out before Him and give Him every drop of our passion surrendered.

It means we cut out the fat, taking the excess out of our lives.  Removing from every vital organ whatever we've wrapped ourselves in that's just padding our lives.  Cutting away our retentioned comfort and stripping down to bare bones and meat before the fire.  In the Old Testament, God made the fat a fellowship offering - an offering designed to honor the coming together of God and His people.  Our excess today becomes that as well - by cutting out our fat, we're able to draw closer to Him and He to us.  We honor that in this stage of sacrifice.

And it means we submit our flesh to the fire.  Whatever's left - when we've poured out our passion and trimmed away our excess and it's just bare bones us with a little meat and flesh - we lay out on the altar and give over to His holy and consuming fire.  Purifying fire and a pleasing aroma.  

This is our sacrifice.  This is what it looks like.  One recipe for a living sacrifice.  Serves One.

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