One of the things about the Old Testament that has always offended my sensibilities is the liberal use of blood. When I read about the sacrifices offered in the Tabernacle, I can't help but instinctually think to myself, "Ew." And subsequently, "I can't even imagine how that smells." Because God's people went through all of this trouble to make all of these ornate things precisely according to His holy direction, and then drained, splattered, dipped, and brushed blood all over it all.
This was true of the priests, too, which is an even harder pill to swallow as a woman beginning my journey into ministry work. (Well, official ministry work.) Skilled craftsmen made elaborate garb for the priests, particularly for the chief priest. Robes. Tunics. Ephod. Breastplate. Jewels set in extravagant settings. A turban. Holy underwear. The priests had to wear holy underwear so that everything on their bodies was "clean," in the ceremonial sense of the word. And the first thing Moses does when the men actually become priests...is to take "..."some of the blood that was on the altar, sprinkled it on Aaron and his clothes and on his sons and their clothes." (Leviticus 8:30)
It just seems so foreign to me. They spend all this attention to detail getting things just right, getting them absolutely perfect, everything is spectacularly new, and they sprinkle blood all over it. They throw blood against the sides of the altar. They put some on the horns of the altar and let it just run down. The Tabernacle hasn't even been used yet, and it's covered in blood!
And I, in the Lord's presence, am always trying to clean up...
What my mind says is that I should go before the Lord without blemish. Without stain. That if I've got some kind of mess on me, it's best to clean it up before I get to the altar. That if I'm planning on doing good work, I better look the part - I better look like the Lord's immaculate servant if I'm about to be so bold as to do His work among the people. His people. I spend much of my life trying to look like I can take care of myself, trying to look like I can take care of this holy thing God's given me. That is, if God has made me these holy clothes and called me to wear them, I want to keep them looking as pure as the day He gave them to me. I want to do justice to the Crafstmanship that has gone into this preparation.
Yet through the story of Aaron, I see that this is simply not the way. For a long while before this moment in Leviticus 8, God has made it clear that He has chosen Aaron to serve as priest. He's minced no words about the calling He's created in Aaron's life. Aaron will be His priest. But it is not until this moment, until the blood has been sprinkled, that Aaron is acceptable to serve in the presence of the Lord. And as the years go by, the holy clothes he wears will only continue to show blood as he works in the Tabernacle, as he offers the sacrifices of the people, as he comes before the Lord. More and more as the years go by, Aaron will be covered in blood.
If you've done much laundry in your life, you know there comes a point when blood just doesn't wash out. There will come a day when the holy robes are more blood than linen. And as much as I cringe at the thought of looking so impure, at the very idea of "ruining" this holy thing, I kind of hope the same is true for me.
It's not until I get a little blood on me, the sacrificial blood of the Lamb, that I am acceptable to do the Lord's work. He can put as much of a calling on my life as He wants, but until Jesus covers me, I am nothing. I am not worthy to be in His presence. And as time goes by, as I begin the work of the Lord, as I serve in the community in which He has placed me, that splatter is only going to get worse. I hope. I hope that the more I work for the glory of His name, the more I come into contact with the blood of the Lamb and the more it gets all over me until one day, I look up and discover I'm more blood than linen, more Christ than flesh. I think that's the mark of a tremendous ministry.
So I don't worry about going before the Lord without blemish; blood is no blemish. It's a mark of honor. It just depends on whose blood you're wearing. Are you wearing the blood of your own diligent work? Are you wearing the blood of others you've wounded along the way? Or are you wearing the sacrificial blood of the lamb that makes you worthy, in God's eyes, to serve? Have you got some kind of mess on you? If so, is it a mess you'd better clean up before coming to the altar or is it the kind of holy mess that qualifies you to be there in the first place?
The story of the Tabernacle still makes me cringe. I want things to be clean and crisp and pure. I like the idea of the lampstands and the altar and the table; they're harder to conceptualize as holy with blood all over the place. Yet it has always been God's plan that the blood is what makes them holy. Apart from the blood, they could only ever be beautiful.
The same is true today. It is the blood, and only the blood, that makes us more than beautiful. It is the freely-given, poured-out, love-laced blood of the Lamb that makes us holy. And if that's what it is, splatter that blood all over this place.