Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Bloody Mess

"They offered at the dedication of this house of God 100 bulls, 400 lambs, and as a sin offering for all Israel 12 male goates, according to the number of the tribes of Israel." - Ezra 6:17.

Gross! Can you imagine the stinky, slimy, stomach-turning, bloody mess it would be to be part of slaughtering 100 bulls, 400 lambs and 12 goats! 12 goats wouldn't be so bad. That's just 12 bleeting necks to slice, plus goats are really annoying. But 400 lambs! They're so cute and cuddly. It'd be like killing 400 chocolate lab puppies. And 100 bulls, that would just be plain scary.

I don't get animal sacrifice real well. Perhaps, because the closest I've come is the 1/2 of a cow I've killed in a life-time of eating McDonalds. Which is a major reason I'm writing right now. I find that picture of Ronald McDonald so offensively annoying that I have to have another post to look at. So forgive me if I write a bunch of garbled, meaningless fluff about sacrifice. I just want to not look at Ronald McDonald anymore. And I would choose such an easy topic as biblical sacrifice.

But my cousin was asking me the other night why God chose sacrifice. In particular why God chose to sacrifice Jesus. It's just so offensive. Clearing my throught, girding up my Ancient Near Eastern loins and putting on immense ammounts of humility I went on to explain that God chose sacrifice because our sin has to be carried and paid for. And that the cross wasn't so much about sacrifice as it was about ruptured relationship. I was trying to help her see how it wasn't so offensive. Silly me.

Now that I think about it, destroying God's creatures in sacrifice is supposed to be an offensive thing. Offensive enough for us as humans to reflect authentically on the repugnant nature of our sin. For example, can you imagine being there to see 400 bulls slaughtered? And that just to dedicate God's house, and that's just for dedication. I won't touch the 1000's (I think) that were slaughtered in Solomon's dedication of the original temple.

I think as I watched something like that I would begin to get a sense that since in God's good creation murdering animals wasn't a part of God's reality, that all this slaughtering had something to do with me. I might even feel a slight twinge of guilt. Actually, I could slaughter goats all day and not feel guilt. I really hate goats.

But I think that's a point being made by God in all this sacrifice stuff. He is other. He is good. We are filthy, rotten and broken. We have taken his good world and made it a sham. A place where it takes a lot of blood to cover our sinfulness.

So I've written all this and I still don't really get it. And perhaps I'm not supposed to. But the reality is God required it of his people and therefore it's to be searched out not brushed asside as God just trying to speak the pagan language of OT times. There is great realities and meaning behind all of God's actions. And sacrifice is a big deal.

So when we come to the cross, God's ultimate sacrifice, I think if we have a fully orbed (whatever that means) understanding of sacrifice, it can help us to understand what in fact God was doing. If we simply say, as I did, that it had to do with Jesus carrying our sins and a ruptured relationship, I believe we're getting the gist. But are we getting the offensive depth of the payment our sin/relationship-we-ruptured requires.

And when we add up all the sacrifices in scripture it adds up to millions of annoying bleeting goats, cute little lambs and tons of really mean bulls. And I am not about to chalk it up to "Oh they lived in a primitive, uncivilized culture, where people were stupid and didn't where deodarant and stuff." We're the primitive ones, we're the uncivilized ones and we're the stupid ones when it comes to understanding the depth of offense that is our sin.

Now I can not look at that picture of Ronald McDonald anymore. Thanks for bearing with me.

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