Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What A Torn Body Can Mean

“If his offering to the LORD is a burnt offering of birds, then he shall bring his offering of turtledoves or pigeons. And the priest shall bring it to the altar and wring off its head and burn it on the altar. Its blood shall be drained out on the side of the altar. He shall remove its crop with its contents and cast it beside the altar on the east side, in the place for ashes. He shall tear it open by its wings, but shall not sever it completely. And the priest shall burn it on the altar, on the wood that is on the fire. It is a burnt offering, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD" (Leviticus 1:14-17).
I can have so small a view of my sin and God's holiness. When I read this passage in Leviticus, or other passages describing the slaughter of a bull or a goat as a sin offering, my understanding can be trite and shallow. "Tear it open by its wings..."; ugh, but okay, whatever.  (Can't we secretly harbor a view of God, and of the times, as brutal and ancient... appallingly, embarrassingly violent, an offense to our sanctimonious sensitivities?)

But then this.

  "Who has believed what he has heard from us?
        And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
    For he grew up before him like a young plant,
        and like a root out of dry ground;
    he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
        and no beauty that we should desire him.

 "He was despised and rejected by men;
        a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
    and as one from whom men hide their faces
        he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
    Surely he has borne our griefs
        and carried our sorrows;
    yet we esteemed him stricken,
        smitten by God, and afflicted.
"But he was pierced for our transgressions;
        he was crushed for our iniquities;
    upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
        and with his wounds we are healed.
    All we like sheep have gone astray;
        we have turned, every one, to his own way;
    and the LORD has laid on him
        the iniquity of us all."
(Isaiah 53:1-6 )

Stricken, smitten and afflicted; pierced and crushed for MY iniquity. For MY lawlessness. For MY arrogance, and my sanctimonious sensitivities. The Son of God must be stretched and fastened with nails to a crucifix of wood because of my unholy insistence on my own, deficient righteousness.
Simeon with Christ in the temple (Luke 2:25-35).
The Bible is silent in Genesis on the abhorrence of God as he slaughters a good and innocent beast (the first physical death of his creation) to provide a covering for my first parents for the first arrogant transgression (Genesis 3:21).

The Bible is silent in Leviticus on the revulsion and horror that must have been felt by many, or most, or all of the priests when they learned they must tear apart the body of a bird by its outstretched wings; again, for the iniquity of my first parents.

The Bible is silent in Isaiah on the unfathomable depths of the Father's heart as he crushes and bruises his only Son, the true Scapegoat sent to bear the iniquity "of us all".

Yet the Bible so clearly reveals, throughout, the horror of man's rebellion, God's love for his good creation and his holy rules, his anger and wrath against the transgression that brought death and ruin, and his mercy and justice in sending his own Son to redeem all back. We may infer from all this that the tearing open of a living bird and the spilled blood of beast after beast after beast was never meant to be taken as normal-for-the-times. It was always unnatural, always abhorrent, always horrible.

And that gives me a much more sober view of my sin, and God's holiness, and what he accomplished in the death of his Son on the cross.

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