Why all the blood?

When you first wade into the Bible, you realize you are quickly in deep water. Adam and Eve are clothed with the skins of innocent animals to cover their nakedness. In the very next story, Abel is murdered because God was pleased with his offering, which was from the best of his flocks.

Noah offers sacrifices as soon as he disembarks the Ark. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all build altars and offer blood sacrifices. And the worship of Israel revolves around the sacrifice of lambs, goats, oxen, and doves.

For sensitive readers in our culture, all of this bloodletting is too much. Why would God allow this, never mind, command it? Why are innocent animals suffering and dying because of their owners’ sins? What does it all mean or imply? Why does the Bible river seem to be a river of blood?

At the risk of oversimplifying things, I’m going to suggest that any truth-seeking reader can deduce three key ideas from all of the bloody sacrifices. The first is the awfulness of sin.

At the very least, as we read of the deaths of thousands upon thousands of animals, we begin to understand how God is dealing with the effects of sin in humankind. After all, He promised death to Adam, but it is now clear that animals are dying, signifying the terrifying effects of Adam’s transgression.

God’s law has been violated. God’s honor as a truth-teller has been trampled. God’s will has been ignored and His specific instruction spurned. Adam has treated God as a liar, since the serpent’s argument was that God had somehow withheld the best for Himself.

These are not small things, for they put us at cross-purposes with our Maker, a God whose righteous nature demands justice. It should make us tremble. Watching the death of an innocent animal is grotesque and horrifying, shocking our sensibilities. It was meant to be and do just that.

“Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.”
Romans 5:12

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