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Sunday, December 28, 2014

God's Reactions to Man's Defections # 21

The Altar, the House, the Name (continued)

The Altar and the Blood (continued)

This is God's new work in reaction. We have not gathered in every instance, but only enough to indicate, and perhaps establish a recognition of, the principle. We leave the matter of the altar there for the time being, while we consider the essential element in the altar, which is the Blood.

The testimony of the altar is the testimony of the Blood. As we approach this sacred thing, may we urge our readers to give it the most careful heed? Here we touch the heart of everything. There has been nothing so assailed as the testimony of the Blood: by ridicule, by a sneer, by intellectual superiority, from one direction; by an ignorant and false refinement which pretends to be shocked, from another; by a merely rationalistic and philosophical interpretation, which sees no more than a crude system of ritual and rite by which a universal religious instinct expresses itself - a form and idea which belongs to times of immaturity and unenlightenment - from yet a third; these and many other modes of assault from its opponents. Then from its would-be friends it suffers in numerous ways, ranging from the ritualistic and sacerdotal debasement, which has names and forms without life and power, to the other swing of the pendulum, marked by a superficial, cheap, frivolous, noisy, jazz-chorus singing about the most holy and sacred thing - "The precious Blood."

There is nothing in the universe more bitterly hated and more terribly feared by the adversary than the Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ! But if it is to be a mighty operative factor in life and service, faith must have as intelligent a basis concerning it as possible; and we are especially concerned with the vocation of the people of God here! Let us then see what the Blood stands for.

The Meaning of the Blood

There are two aspects of this whole matter of the Blood. One (concerning which we have already said something) is that a death has taken place, and in that death one whole kind of humanity has, in the mind of God, been set aside. This relates to "him Who knew no sin ... made ... sin on our behalf" ("in our stead") (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The other, about which we shall now speak more particularly, is that which sets forth the inherently incorruptible life of God's Son made flesh. If all that is said about the Blood relates only to death, then its sacredness cannot be understood, but becomes a supreme problem. We have dealt with this aspect in the book entitled "The Centrality and Universality of the Cross", but we will point out the essential elements here:

Firstly, let us note the sacredness of life as in the blood. We are now familiar with the scriptural teaching that "the life ... is in the blood" (Lev. 17:11), and "the blood is the life". There is a tremendous emphasis in Scripture upon the sacredness of blood. Indeed the word "soul" is often used interchangeably with both "blood" and "life", and all the characteristics and values of the soul are associated in the same way with the "blood" and the "life". But the blood as the life is related in a peculiar way to God as representing His specific prerogatives. Thus the whole matter is gathered up in a reservation and a provision as laid down in Leviticus and in John's gospel.

In Leviticus the Lord repeatedly stresses that blood is not to be drunk. This rule would be broken under a penalty of death (Lev. 7:26-27; 17:10-12). The law concerning blood and its sacredness was carried so far that if a man went hunting and killed a quarry, he was to pour out the blood on the ground and cover it over with dust (Lev. 17:13). He was not to leave the blood exposed, but honor it, show it the same reverence, as he would the body of a fallen man.

Now does it not strike you with a great force of significance that, when we have repeatedly read: "Ye shall eat no manner of blood ... Whosoever eateth any blood ... shall be cut off", then we turn and read in John 6:53: "Except ye drink the blood of the Son of Man, ye have no life"? Surely the very first thing which this implies is that the whole question of life has been shut up by God to the Person and Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the life of the Person, and gives to the  Person a uniqueness and distinctiveness which no other in history has ever had. Then it gives to the Cross of the Lord Jesus a unique and supreme meaning and value, in that it was there that He shed His Blood and poured forth His life; releasing that life to be received by all who believed on the Person and accepted the meaning of His Cross.

The spiritually blind Jewish religious leaders of John 6 would naturally be very scandalized at His words about drinking blood, and would revert to the tradition of the Letter of Leviticus. This would be because on the one hand they did not realize the meaning of that reservation, and on the other hand they did not recognize Who Jesus was. To recognize the Lord Jesus is to be lifted above law into life.

The thought of the sacredness of the Blood as the life is that of the Divine relationship of it: that is, that it is bound up with the Lord and no man can touch it. All of a piece with this is - 

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 22 - (The Holiness of the Blood)

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