Hebrews 9:12-14. 12 [Christ] entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
“There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel’s veins. And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.”
These are the lyrics to a great hymn of the faith that has been sung innumerable times in churches for decades. You’ve probably sung it many times yourself. But have you ever thought about how strange, or even gruesome, this song must sound to someone who is not a Christian? Doesn’t it just affirm what many people believe about God – that he is a bloodthirsty deity demanding his pound of flesh? And if you read the Old Testament without the lens of Christ it can sure look this way.
Is God bloodthirsty? Why does he have to demand death? Why did Jesus have to shed his blood and die? Can’t God just choose to forgive us without something or someone having to die?
The short answer is NO.
The long answer is because sin is two things: it is a debt that demands a payment, and it is a defilement that demands a cleansing. When we sin we have recorded a debt against God that demands to be paid, or else we stand condemned forever in his presence. Beyond this, sin is a filth that corrupts our inner being. So sin is both the breaking of God’s law, and it is a violation of our personhood. Sin is cosmic treason and a cosmic disease. Both requiring death (“blood”) as the solution.
Is God bloodthirsty? No. He is just and he is loving. And all of the Hebrew scriptures point to this glorious truth: Yes, God’s justice demands our very lives, but God’s great love will accept a representative sacrifice in our place. And that representative is himself – Jesus the Son of God.
Hebrews 9:12. By means of his own blood Christ secured our eternal redemption.
Is God bloodthirsty? No. A bloodthirsty God wouldn’t rest until he saw every sinner put to death for their crimes. A bloodthirsty God would never do what God did – turn the knife on himself. Shed his own blood. Give his own life for our redemption.
In Exodus 13, in the middle of the Passover instructions, God reminds the nation of Israel that they owe their lives to him because of their sin. Yet, in his mercy, he will spare them from death, and he will free them from slavery. He will wipe away their guilt and he will restore their personhood. But then, to remind them of what he has done for them, they will owe him their firstborn sons. Each firstborn son, as the representative of the whole family, would be sacrificed to God.
Exodus 13:1-2. The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Consecrate to me all the firstborn. Whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine.”
But is God bloodthirsty? Will he require that these baby boys be slaughtered to appease his wrath? No. Our rescuing God would instruct the Hebrews of old to offer a lamb in their son’s place as a redeeming sacrifice.
Exodus 13:15. Therefore I sacrifice to the Lord all the males that first open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.
And so for the next 1500 years, lamb after lamb was slain for the redemption of the firstborn sons, the representatives of the entire family. Even baby boy Jesus was redeemed with two doves. But does each dead lamb (or bird) point to a bloodthirsty God? Or to a God that would one day become the Lamb in our place?
This is the Christ event – Jesus is born, he lives, he dies, he rises, he ascends, he is glorified. But what happened between death and resurrection? Hebrews gives us the answer: Through the eternal Spirit [he] offered himself without blemish to God…he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption…[and] purifying our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
This is the result of the Christ event – all who are in Christ are will live every day, forever, in the glory of Christ’s once-for-all-time redemption. We will live every day, forever, with a clear conscience, knowing we are freed from all the guilt of our dead works and freed unto all the true humanity of serving the living God. We will spend every day, forever, in “to live is Christ.”
Do you see God as bloodthirsty or as your blood sacrifice?
You in Christ
How does being in Christ cleanse our conscience?
Christ in you
We are redeemed to “serve the living God.” How might you serve God today from freedom and not guilt (dead works)?
Playlist: Blood of Christ