I’ve surprised myself! Haha. I’ve read completely through the books of Genesis and Exodus. But I was definitely feeling burned out by the end of the 40 chapters of Exodus. Plus a lot of Exodus after the Israelites are freed, focuses on the food regulations and general life laws besides the Ten Commandments, and it’s hard to remember all of them. Things got a little dry. I wasn’t exactly itching to continue reading and studying the other day. So I took a day off. But after getting back at it today, I think God may have revealed something to me that I never really focused on before.
Chapters 1-4 of Leviticus specifically deal with animal sacrifice. I already knew that the Israelites routinely performed animal sacrifices as an offering for the cleansing of sin. But as I read the opening chapters of Leviticus, I had a thought: Animal sacrifices, while necessary to the Israelites of Moses’ day, are not a natural part of things. They are unnatural. And it all goes back to the beginning of Genesis. Death and sin were never part of the original plan God had for any of us.
In a perfect Earth, Adam and Eve would have obeyed God. They would have physically been able to continue talking with Him every day since they would’ve stayed in perfect harmony with Him. We would’ve been able to physically converse with God as well! Can you imagine physically hearing God’s voice on a daily basis?! There would’ve been no war, diseases, animals wouldn’t need to be used for food or sacrifices, and nobody would’ve died. God would have sustained everything and everyone.
But because of the first sin by Adam and Eve, our world entered its broken state we see today. And one of the things the Israelites had to do back in Moses’ day to cover for their sins, was to slaughter an innocent, blameless animal (usually a young lamb, goat or bull) in the prescribed way dictated to Moses by God. I’m not going to put those verses here, as they are pretty graphic. They can be found in Chapters 1-4 of Leviticus.
Animal Sacrifices vs. The Sacrifice
But the description of animal sacrifice opened my eyes a little bit. It kind of shocked me in its graphic nature. But knowing what we know about the Earth as it should have been, the deaths of young, innocent animals was never supposed to happen. Not one of God’s creations, human, animal or otherwise was ever supposed to die or be destroyed. But I think God showed how unnatural sin and death are through animal sacrifice in Leviticus.
But animal sacrifice was the way people atoned for sin in the days of Moses. They either had to sacrifice blameless animals, or suffer the wrath of God for all of their wrongdoings. God required a steep price. And, in the Christian view, it’s the same choice, except it’s either accept Jesus’ death on the Cross and believe he’s the Messiah, or suffer the wrath of God, as that is what humanity has earned by our sins.
I know what some of you may be thinking: Some ultimatum. God isn’t all loving if He’s going to force us into a situation like that. Here’s the thing though, He doesn’t force us into making that decision, and gets no glee out of punishing us if we choose to reject Him. He’s not sadistic or evil. All the traits people choose to understandably, but wrongly attribute to God are entirely human traits. They’re evil.
But God is not like us. Or rather we are not like Him. His holiness and goodness is at such a level, and our sinfulness is at such a level, that we cannot approach God in Heaven as we are now: filthy dirty in terms of being flawed and sinful. However, if we accept the one-time, all-encompassing sacrifice of Jesus, we are spared the fate we all deserve and eventually made perfect through Him.
Sunshine and Rainbows vs. Fire and Brimstone
This problem pops up when we start reading the Old Testament. And I think what God says and does confuses many people. It certainly has confused me at times. Most also struggle to strike a good balance between the qualities above. I still fail at it more than I’d like. But when believers only focus on one or the other, they both fall short. If someone purely focuses on preaching fire and brimstone, but not Jesus’ endless love for lost souls, they come across as cold, modern day Pharisees whom nobody listens to. On the flipside, when someone only shares the love of Jesus, but willfully ignores what the consequences of sin are for fear of offending people, they’re not telling the truth.
When sharing the Good News of Jesus, and when trying my best to love those in my life the way He would, I don’t often preach (or in this case write) fire and brimstone. And that’s not because I am afraid of offending people. Those who truly know me know that I am bluntly honest. If something really bothers me, I am as subtle as a sledgehammer about it!
I normally focus on sharing the love of Jesus because I want to be different from so-called “holy rollers” and “Bible thumpers.” Many seem too judgmental and fixated on the wrathful aspect of God to truly show His love to others. All they preach is fire and brimstone. They miss the point that God is both complete justice, and everlasting love. Not to mention the fire and brimstone aspect is also the main negative quality that many nonbelievers understandably associate with Christians. I want to be different from the stereotypical Christian, as someone who is more understanding, kind and approachable.
I want people to know who Jesus is, and how much He loves all of them. Which is why I try to be friendly, loving and have an understanding heart for those who talk to me, whether they are Christians or not. Plus I also freely admit and show my brokenness and flaws, and try to meet people on their level. After all, we’re all sinners. I want to love people in spite of their brokenness, since I have been loved by others in spite of MY brokenness.
But at the same time, and pardon my language here folks: I won’t feed people sugarcoated bullshit. I love them enough to tell them the truth. Without Jesus, we are in trouble. We all have the opportunity to accept His sacrifice as long as we’re alive. And His love is boundless. He patiently waits for all of us to go to Him.
But Jesus also loves us enough to allow us to say no. When we use our freedom of choice to say no, we are sending a message to God: “You know, God, your sacrifice sounds wonderful. But I don’t need it. I’m just fine on my own.” At that point, God leaves us alone just like we want. Even though it leads to nowhere good.
The beginning of Leviticus showed me the second major connection from the Old Testament to Jesus, but I first found Him in the story of Jacob’s son Joseph, which you can read here. He calls out to us from everywhere in Scripture. We just need to be willing to open the book, have the patience and humility to keep our hearts and minds open, and genuinely look for Him. For He is always there 🙂