Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Tabernacle and Blood

I seem to be asking questions that no one else is asking.

Although I had always read the OT, God taught me to love the Torah (as commanded in Psalm 119) when I was engaged in developing a political theology. Once I loved the law, I had to work out which parts were fulfilled and no longer mandatory, and which were still relevant. Clearly the tabernacle and related sacrifices are fulfilled by Jesus, so are no longer applicable, but I felt that if I loved the law, I needed to understand the purpose of the bits that are fulfilled.

You cannot really love something that does not make sense. So even if a Toral command is no longer binding, I need to understand its purpose and how it was actually fulfilled. Most Christians have been content to ignore the parts of the Torah that they don’t like or don’t understand (this pick and mix approach works quite well in a pragmatic sense, but it does not work for me).

God seems to be ambivalent about the tabernacle sacrifices. In some passages, he says that he did not require them (see Hebrews 10:1-18). I was struck with the contrast between the Holy of Holies where beautiful incenses were offered on a golden altar and the bronze altar which was all blood, gore and smoke. They didn’t seem to be for the same God.

Although I am truly saved, I have never been able to understand the blood. The songs say it is beautiful, but I grew up on a sheep farm and encountered real blood. My father would sometimes slaughter two or three sheep to provide food for the family and to feed the working dogs on the farm. He would cut the sheep’s throat to drain the blood out of the carcass. Blood is awful stuff. It stains everything that it comes into contact with. If left in the hot sun, it stinks. It would stink even more if it was burnt, so why would God want that.

We sometimes burnt the carcasses of ewes that had died during the lambing season on a metal frame, using a bit of kerosene, until the fat started to melt and keep the fire burning. It was a stinking, rotten smelly smoking job. It was hard to see how God would enjoy it. Only someone with a warped mind would enjoy it. It then occurred to me that being with the most warped minds are the spiritual powers of evil.

Another question I wondered about was why the tabernacle was such a dangerous place for people. Surely God was not capricious. I wondered if it was the spiritual powers of evil that made it dangerous.

God did not need the tabernacle sacrifices to visit the Israelites and rescue them from slavery. He led them through the Red Sea and into the wilderness. He rescued them and provided bread from heaven before the tabernacle was established. So why was it needed? Then it occurred to me that it was for the spiritual powers of evil, everything fell into place (see Tabernacle).

I love the Old Testament, as Jesus did, and try to understand it by looking backwards in the light of the understanding of the spiritual/cosmic warfare revealed by Jesus and the Holy Spirit who was sent to reveal all truth. The Israelites were in a season of intense spiritual struggle between good and evil (without fully realising it) when the evil powers were proportionately stronger, because there were fewer humans on earth. Seeing the tabernacle sacrifices as a weapon given by God to restrain them prior to their defeat of the cross is the only explanation that I know of that makes sense.

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