Archive for December, 2013

No amount of study could thoroughly cover the subject matter of the early chapters of Genesis. Our book of Genesis is a copy of the oldest writings of Earth, and the scope of these chapters is infinite. If Noah’s ark were ever actually found, it might possibly contain some original pre-flood Genesis writings.

Genesis 8:15 through 9:19, is a condensed account of an interaction between God and the survivors of the flood. It doesn’t explain the Bible’s position on justice, fear, sacrifice, and mercy, for that would be impossible in the context, but those principles are present. They are explained in verses scattered throughout the Bible; primarily in the New Testament.¬†Over a period of time, I’ve written quite a bit about sacrifice, but I don’t have it well-organized. I’m going to try to work some ideas into this post from part one of “Sacrifice” (in my April 2011 archives). All posts in my March 2012 archives also touch upon this subject.

Upon leaving the ark, Noah built an altar where he sacrificed several “clean” animals. This happened long before laws recorded by Moses identified certain animals as clean for use as food by the Israelites. Basically, animals which do not feed on the flesh of other creatures, but on vegetation, and which also have a divided hoof, were considered clean. Moses went into detail, and listed other characteristics pertaining to fish, and to certain insects.

To most of us today the idea of such offerings seems primitive and crude, but take a closer look at the world of today. It isn’t as different as we like to think. Most of us in America purchase our meat in the grocery store, and we don’t personally witness their slaughter, but just think of all the animals that are sacrificed to feed us.

It’s a cruel world, and even if we manage to distance ourselves from that fact, it is still our hand that has brought about all the suffering (ref. “A Random World,” in my September 2010 archives, and other posts in my January 2012 archives). Our fellow creatures suffer along with us upon this fallen planet (Romans 8:22).

In the beginning Adam and Eve, and all their fellow creatures, obtained their food from plants, and death did not exist. By the time of Noah’s flood, the animals were preying upon each other, and violence was common among humans. After the flood, God suffered the slaughter of animals for food (Genesis 9:3).

I’m taking advantage of an old usage of the word “suffer” in the previous sentence, rather than saying that God allowed, or permitted, man to kill animals for food, for I don’t believe that God “allowed” this completely voluntarily. Many wandering tribes of people would have starved if they weren’t allowed to hunt, and yes, an overpopulation of animals is itself prone to starvation. God has suffered the lives of the animals to be sacrificed to save our’s.

In the minds of many people, the idea of religious “sacrifice,” is kept separate from the practical usage of the word. That’s the wrong way of thinking, because we’ll never understand the Bible without drawing all these things together. One reason for the ceremonial offerings of the Bible is to draw our attention to things that might otherwise be overlooked. We observe holidays (Holy Days), and other anniversaries, for the same reason.¬†Memorial Day for instance, acknowledges the sacrifices of those who came before us. The sacrifice soldiers and their families have been forced to make is beyond comprehension.

We live in a demanding world. Governing entities, whether secular or religious, aren’t always rational, or fair, and human beings are often treated as pawns. Pontius Pilate didn’t really want to order Jesus to be crucified (John 18:29-19:16, Note: “Jews,” in the context of those verses means many of the religious leaders of the day, and their supporters; not the Jewish race of people), but his fear of Caesar, along with other political pressures, outweighed his sense of justice.

People are often misguided by the beliefs instilled in them by their education and culture. Jesus warned his disciples that some people would think they were doing God a favor by persecuting and killing them (John 16:2). Yet, in all of this, God is with us, suffering the injustice with us (Matthew 25:40).

Whenever we are hurting, I think it’s helpful to remember the Lord dying on the cross. Jesus is Immanuel (Immanuel means “God with us,” (Isaiah 7:14, and Matthew 1:23), and all the ceremonial offerings of the Bible are symbolic of Christ in one way or another. They are a prophetic portrayal of the life he would live, the death he would die, and that which he would accomplish by his death.

God has suffered death to exist because there are some things that can be worse than death. You can look at some of the conditions that living things experience and understand that for yourself. In a manner of speaking, God himself has experienced death in the form of Jesus.

Jesus sacrificed himself for the good of humanity. The motives of the religious and political world of the day were totally contradictory to those of God however; they were so offended by Jesus that they crucified him. Simply killing him was not enough to satisfy them. Jesus does not “hate,” but he is hated (John 15:25).

Little does the world know, or perhaps sometimes just doesn’t care, that it is love in its perfect state that we are resisting. Yet, the sacrifice of Jesus draws and endears some of us to him, which is as he said it would be. That is a practical way of looking at it, even though there are elements of mystery involved in the atonement (at-one-ment), as there must be for our sake (more on this later).

We need to believe that the sacrifice of Jesus is enough to cover us, and it is. Lessons on morality, even Bible lessons, are not enough because we are not good enough; love must cover us (Proverbs 10:12). The love of God is the way forward; the way to rise above our past, above our caste, and the circumstances of life. The altar of Christ alters us, but never to the point that we no longer need him.

Christ may not be what everyone wants for Christmas, but he is what we need. Jesus is God, giving himself for us, reconciling the world unto himself by that supreme sacrificial act (2nd. Corinthians 5:19). Luke 2:14; “Peace on Earth, and goodwill toward men.” That is God’s desire for all human beings.

I wish everyone a Merry Christmas.

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