I’m going over some material to prepare to teach Sunday school kiddos tomorrow, and I have a question. You know how people used to have to sacrifice animals to God to cover their sins? And when Jesus came, his body and his blood became the last sacrifice necessary?
I know that most of the time, Christian leaders interpret the blood as a symbol of what we as humans deserve, having fallen short of God’s commandments and abandoning the truth in following him. I know that understanding the nature of sacrifices as they were offered before Jesus’s death is deeply important to having the right perspective of human “goodness” and stature in reference to God.
But could it be possible that the God of Isaac and Abraham, who cares deeply about justice, cares deeply about his creation, and is completely justified in both anger and sadness may also use sacrifice to depict his grief?
Why couldn’t we just follow him? Why did we have to pursue death? Why couldn’t we just listen to instruction? God more than anyone else understands the grief and the suffering that was birthed through our sin. Above everyone else, God intimately knows and is witness to that cost. People dying with environmental pollution. People neglecting older relatives. Children killing children in gun violence, with parents who have likewise been murdered. I know for certain God didn’t want us to end up that way.
Maybe the sacrifice is also a reflection of God’s pain in watching us run far from him. Who can give him anything? Yet I wonder if he too isn’t grieved by our rejection. I wonder if the separation between Heaven and Hell and ultimately justice doesn’t just come as a result of him doing everything he possibly could to bring us back to him, and creating a place where the people and demons who legitimately don’t want to be around him are free not to be. If it comes down to God trying to save every scrap of faith and every good thing that was left from our disaster, and having to destroy the rest so it doesn’t destroy the people left standing. Does God have to save us from ourselves? Why else would Jesus become a sacrifice?
I’m sure that the Righteous Judge has the potential for wrath, but it seems to me that he saves any and all people who are willing to come to him. Through grace, I think he just wants to bring his family back together. In every place, high, low, and otherwise, there is God. His seeking spirit runs to us long before we run to him. He does his very best to protect us, but so often, we don’t listen. We don’t even notice his hand in our lives. And we wonder in utter ignorance “where is God” and “why do bad things happen”, never bearing the burden of truth that it is absolutely a result of our decisions that bad things happen. But even then, we are made in the image of God. And he still wants us.
How much grief must the Father have for those who will never truly love him. How much love he has for them still, and for all of us when we reject him.
I know that the Lord isn’t human. I don’t know for certain if any of this is really what God was trying to say all that time. I just feel like if he wanted to catch our attention and prepare us for the Savior through rituals in a way that didn’t involve blood and participatory atonement, he could do that. If the Lord wanted us to throw giant bonfires and burn a bunch of incense that ate people’s homes as a symbol of his forgiveness, he could do that. If he wanted us to go around and smash all the anthills around our cities as symbols of his power, he could do that too. But the Lord commands us in ways that are meant to get our attention, to tell us something about himself. The story of Isaac and Abraham is a great example, because Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son. Jesus was the son that never got rescued, in order that he would be the Rescuer. All of the bible runs together into a clamor of voices that confess Jesus as the son of God. And if the Lord wanted to weave the story in a different way, he could.
I think it’s definitely possible that God used sacrifices as a way of atonement serves many purposes. On the one hand, I think God might be trying to force us to recognize the intimate covenants we’ve made with death through sin and despising his commandments. At the same time, I believe that blood spilled might have effected our spiritual conditions in a supernatural way, because the sacrifice acknowledges the eventual death of Christ. Sacrifice shows God’s righteousness, because his justice remains the same, and the blood that was once required from us was eventually required from Jesus. Sacrifice demonstrates mercy (because we aren’t the ones who die). Sacrifice demonstrates grace, because we don’t deserve the mercy.
Combined with the promises of God about restoring his people and not leaving us to forever experience what we deserve, he is more than justified in requiring sacrifice (first through animals, now through Jesus, for all those willing to accept him). Without such a vivid reminder of death, how could we stay sober-minded long enough to acknowledge our sin and weakness? When it’s easy to hide from our sins, we reject God (which is one of many many reasons the Lord hates false idols). If any remnant of Israel was going to be saved, having a regular call to repentance for the people of God surely has achieved that purpose.
I really don’t believe that God wanted any of us to sin or experience all of the things that lead to death. Unfortunately, after the Fall, it was no longer his choice. After he gave us instructions to obey, it was no longer his choice. He gave us free will so we could actually enjoy being around him. But when we don’t want to be around him? WE deny him. WE made the decisions that it took to fall short. Sin was our mistake.
Calling God unrighteous because of the consequences of our actions contradicts his perfect love. He has done, is doing, and will do everything within his (unlimited) power to save us. But who will believe what we have heard from him? Who will be small enough to experience his great love? May the world call it insanity. But he was never the one to choose that.