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.
Leviticus 17:11 (ESV)
Some people get squeamish around blood but its importance cannot be overstated. It is the most vital substance to human life. While most of us go day to day without a thought about the blood in our bodies, it’s working to keep our entire system functioning. Thousands of years before modern science discovered the importance of blood, the Bible clearly outlined just how significant it is. Our blood is the foundation for how every cell in the human body gets the nutrients they need. All the ‘food’ that our cells need to grow, reproduce and repair is transported in the blood. Since our bodies also have multiple sophisticated organs they need the blood to transport and communicate between them.
Our blood provides and regulates the pH levels by supplying oxygen and filtering our CO2 and other wasteful things. It also carries essential vitamins and minerals. In terms of communication between organs, our blood carries regulatory messages through hormones. Blood also plays a major role in protecting our bodies. It is an integral component of the immune system involving antibodies and white blood cells. Our blood is highly sophisticated too. When cut, our blood initiates the clotting process to prevents its own loss. Our blood also tries to fight against internal clotting through thrombosis.
When people read statements like the one in Leviticus 17, they can figuratively scratch their heads out of not understanding the meaning, or they can discount it as gross or even weird. But the truth is, when the Bible speaks of blood, it speaks of life. Blood is powerful, amazing, and should be greatly valued. One of the easiest ways to give life-changing help to others is to donate blood and/or plasma. It is one of the most vital tools our hospitals have to keep people alive. It’s no wonder that God would choose blood as a life-giving source in a spiritual sense.
Leviticus isn’t the first place we see mention of the importance of blood. Back in Genesis chapter nine, following the flood, God told Noah two things about blood. One, don’t eat it, and two, the shedding of someone’s blood requires your blood being shed.
Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 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.”
Genesis 9:3-6 (ESV)
Some will be tempted to jump into a debate over the ‘eye for an eye’ issue and how the death penalty is inhumane. However, this concept is the fundamental reason behind the death penalty both in the Bible and in modern society. God values life, everyone’s life. When life is taken, life is required. No one’s life is more important than another. When man brings death a reckoning for life has to be wrought. Hence, the Levitical system of sacrifice. The blood of animals could never remove the sin from humanity but it could train people in dedication to God and increase awareness of their need for forgiveness. The sacrificial system created a method that would draw people towards God despite their frailty and imperfection. The Levitical system required personal sacrifice towards God. Sin always has a price to pay. Most importantly, the Old Testament system pointed toward the greater work of the Messiah.
And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you,for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
Matthew 26:27-28 (ESV)
In churches across America and the world, followers of Jesus take part in communion. This is a brief portion of the greater Passover meal that Jesus celebrated with His disciples the night before His crucifixion. In a previous post, I went in-depth about how relevant that meal is in pointing to Jesus and His mission as the Christ. One of the things Jesus did was to use a cup of wine to symbolize His blood which He would shed for humanity.
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Mark 10:45 (ESV)
The purpose of the Messiah is to be a ransom. A ransom is a payment for someone held captive. In this sense, those in captivity are humanity. The payment is the blood of Christ. Our captivity is spiritual death and the blood of Christ gives us life!
…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.It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Romans 3:23-26 (ESV)
To be justified means to be made right. Just like we’ve all tried to justify our actions in defense so that others may view that right. In this case, we needed to be made right with God because our actions can in no way justify us. When standing before a Holy God, nothing we’ve done can make us right or good. That’s where the blood of Jesus comes in. In shedding His blood for us we’ve been given new life, His life.
Christ’s Cleansing Power
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
1 John 1:7 (ESV)
Perhaps one of the most difficult things for me to wrap my brain around is the fact that I’m clean, as in holy and spotless. I make far too many mistakes, say too many things I shouldn’t, and think too many things to be considered ‘clean’. But that’s exactly what the life-giving blood of Jesus does. It doesn’t just bleach our stains, it completely removes them. To be cleansed with His blood is a very odd term for those outside the realm of Christianity. It doesn’t sound appealing at all until you understand the relevance of it. Once you do, there’s nothing greater.
Now that we are set right with God by means of this sacrificial death, the consummate blood sacrifice, there is no longer a question of being at odds with God in any way. If, when we were at our worst, we were put on friendly terms with God by the sacrificial death of his Son, now that we’re at our best, just think of how our lives will expand and deepen by means of his resurrection life! Now that we have actually received this amazing friendship with God, we are no longer content to simply say it in plodding prose. We sing and shout our praises to God through Jesus, the Messiah!
Eugene Peterson, The Message (Romans 5:9-11)
Don’t forget to sing today brothers and sisters