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A View from the Altar / Bloodshed
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Bloodshed

It would have been ugly to watch the religion of Moses being practiced.  Animals were sacrificed for all sorts of purposes, lambs and rams slaughtered, blood sprinkled here and there, daubed on the priests ear and toe, critter kidneys burned, doves killed, a cow beheaded….  When Solomon’s temple was dedicated, the Bible says 22,000 oxen were killed and 120,000 sheep.  Allowing two gallons of blood per cow and a half gallon per sheep, that’s just over 100,000 gallons of blood.  That would fill up a dozen 18-wheeler tank trailers with blood, which is a lot of blood.

What gives with all the blood?  The writer of Hebrews explains: without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins.  (Heb 9:22)  And yet he also reminds us that it’s not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.  (Heb 10:4)

Maybe Solomon offered such an abundant sacrifice because he was a great king and wanted to inaugurate the temple in a big way.  Maybe.  Probably?  Hard to say.

There’s another possibility, which is that Solomon was doing the best he could do by way of sacrifice.  Maybe he was throwing on the altar the most gigantic thing he could think of because he felt the fundamental inadequacy of offering animals to God on behalf of man.  How could killing something lower than man atone for the sins of man?  Maybe by offering a gi-normous quantity of it?

Who knows?  And to be fair, this is speculation and not exegesis.  To return to exegetical space, however, note that all this prefigured the coming of the perfect Lamb.  Blood must be shed for sin, so said the law.  Even the covenants before Moses showed this when God spilled blood before man ever left Eden, and he commanded Noah that life must be given for life. (Gen 9:5)

So Christ died, and it was not the quantity of his blood that mattered, but the bare fact that he died.  The Son of God, infinitely worthy and innocent before God, gave his life on behalf of the world.  No amount of other sacrifices will ever contribute anything to that.  Solomon’s error lay in thinking that a great and mighty thing would satisfy God and put aside the rod of divine justice.  But God designed that the rod of divine justice should strike down his Son instead of us.  So it was not by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.

otherbrothersteve@gmail.com

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