Beckett: Pastoral Thoughts – Reminder: God Requires Blood (Leviticus 17:11, 14)

“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life… For the life of every creature is its blood: its blood is its life. Therefore, I have said to the people of Israel: You shall not eat the blood of any creature, for the life of every creature is its blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off.”

Leviticus 17:11, 14

If you were to suddenly lose all your blood, you would die. Even when you “lose too much blood” and still have some left in your body, you die. Thus, what God tells the Israelites here is even scientifically accurate (no surprise there, seeing as He is the Creator). Blood is necessary and essential to human life. But more importantly, life is in the blood spiritually as well.

This is in the immediate context of God forbidding the Israelites to eat blood. This does not mean they were forbidden from eating rare meat. The red liquid you see coming out of a steak cooked rare, for example, is not blood but a chemical reaction when water is combined with a protein called myoglobin. By “eating blood,” God literally means drinking the blood of animals, which was the practice of pagan religions around Israel.

This is also in the wider context of Genesis 9:5-6, which I wrote about here. There, God said to Noah, “And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in His own image.” We could say this is the law of the universe: God requires the blood of every beast, because they are also corrupted by sin. Even worse, God requires the blood of man whenever we shed man’s blood since humans are created in God’s image. It is no wonder, then, why we keep seeing violence against one another, because we keep shedding each other’s blood.

This law has not changed by the time the Israelites become God’s people. The only difference is: God is providing sacrifices in their place. Instead of God personally shedding their blood as they deserve, He instead provides sacrifices whose blood will be shed in their place. When life is taken, life needs to be paid with life. To ensure that His people would live, God provides sacrifices as a propitiation for their sins—as redemption for their lives.

Of course, we find the fulfilment of this law in Christ whose pure, righteous blood made atonement once for all (Romans 6:10). The Good News is that the blood God requires has been spilled in Jesus. “In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Saint Paul best summarises the requirement of this law and its fulfilment in Christ:

For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in His divine forbearance He had passed over former sins.

Romans 3:22b-25

A propitiation is a thing that appeases, or satisfies—atones. Christ’s sacrifice—the outpouring of His blood—appeased God as the sacrifice once for all to atone for your sins from now and into eternity. Thanks be to God!

Theology Terms Used

  • Atonement: the act of removing a wrong to be reconciled to God.
  • Propitiation: a thing that appeases; satisfies, atones.
Categories Pastoral Thoughts, SeriesTags , , , , , , , ,

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