By Shawn Tomlin
Structure determines function. That is a fundamental rule when it comes to studying proteins in the human body. The blueprint for each of these proteins is found in our DNA. When more of a certain protein is needed, the body “unzips” the DNA and through the linking of an amino acid chain, and builds that specific protein. What determines the shape are the positive and negative charges associated with each amino acid, how they are attracted to each other and how they repel each other, like magnets. If just one amino acid is out of place or missing, the protein simply won’t function the way it should. This doesn’t happen by accident as some believe.
Look at blood. It’s considered a tissue even though it is liquid. It’s quite complex, in that it contains several parts and plays a role in many bodily systems including the respiratory, circulatory, digestive, immune, and endocrine systems. It’s made up of plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. All serve a different purpose and all are necessary. Blood is crucial to life. Leviticus 17:11 says, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood…” but physical life isn’t the only thing blood was intended for. God has another purpose for it as verse 11 continues “and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.” Our DNA doesn’t just carry the blueprints for the components of our body, including our blood, but it also carries with it the corruption of sin. We are by nature sinners. We sinners who have faith in Christ hold to a bloody religion. As we break down Leviticus 17:11, we will see why blood, lifeblood, is so key to our faith.
We sinners who have faith in Christ hold to a bloody religion
The verse starts with “For the life of the flesh is in the blood.” Scientifically, that is true. Everyone can agree to that at face value. What happens when someone bleeds out? They die. Blood is crucial to many bodily systems as I have already stated. Blood serves a much greater purpose in Scripture. As we know from Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death…” A just God cannot be unjust, therefore something must die for the sin committed. In the Old Testament, God was in a covenant relationship with Israel, and since He made promises to these people, which went all the way back to the “seed of the woman” in Genesis 3:15, He gave them the sacrificial system. This system, with its many laws, allowed the people to shed the blood of animals and that spilling of blood would atone, albeit temporarily, for their sin. Hebrews 9:22 says, “And according to the Law, one may almost say all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” Although sinful, God’s chosen people were preserved by the shedding of the lifeblood of these animals. This system was not put in place permanently, but served as the type of the perfect Lamb, spilling His blood for us.
The next part of Leviticus 17:11 is “I have given it to you.” The LORD gave them the way out of the punishment of sin, by transferring that punishment to something else, in this case an animal. As a reminder of their perpetual depravity the sacrificial system called for continuous offerings of lambs every morning and evening. Blood was to be spilled constantly. We must see here that God remembered His covenant people and gave them a way out of their punishment for their continuous sin in order to preserve them. This wasn’t something new, God always provided the sacrifice to cover sin, even as far back as Genesis 3:21 where it says, “The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.” God provided a way to cover their shame. Genesis 22:8 reflects the idea that God would always “provide the lamb for the burnt offering” and of course all this pointed forward to Christ when in Hebrews 9:13-14 speaks of “how more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”
The Word made flesh, the Word present with the Father at Creation, spilled His blood, His life, on the dust of the earth while He hung on that filthy Roman cross. Now we creatures of the dust can be justified before the Holy and living God
That brings us to the next part of Leviticus 17:11, “on the altar to make atonement for your souls…” In the Old Covenant penal substitutionary atonement was placed on the animals, but in the New Covenant it all is placed on Christ. What I mean by penal substitutionary atonement is the penalty of sin was placed on someone else rather than the one who committed the sin. Christ didn’t suffer for the sin within Himself, for He was without sin, but He suffered for the sin of His elect, to make atonement for their sin. In the Old Testament the blood was poured out on the altar. In the death of that animal, at least temporarily, atonement was made. In Christ our atonement is eternal. When Christ shed His blood it was infinitely more powerful than any bull, ram, or lamb. The Word made flesh, the Word present with the Father at Creation, spilled His blood, His life, on the dust of the earth while He hung on that filthy Roman cross. Now we creatures of the dust can be justified before the Holy and living God.
The last part of the verse says, “for it is blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.” Think about that for a second. “By reason of the life.” Israel just didn’t realize one day that lamb blood was magical and could be sprinkled on the altar, tabernacle, the curtain, and the mercy seat and it would give God amnesia when it came to their sin. The fact is when blood is drained, that means death. That’s what sin deserves, death. God, in His grace and mercy, allowed Israel a way to atone. He preserved them as was His covenant promise. Christ was the fulfillment of the sacrificial system. Hebrews 9:11-12 says, “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.”
The Father gave us the way out of His just and holy judgement. He didn’t say He wouldn’t punish us and turn a blind eye to our sin. He sent His only begotten Son to be our substitute. Christ’s life was one of perfect fulfillment of the Law... for us. Christ poured out His lifeblood to atone for our sin and died to take the punishment we deserved… for us. His resurrection was for us to show us that death had been defeated and eternal life awaits all who believe in Christ. All for us. The blood of bulls, rams, and lambs was the type and shadow of what God’s people had waited so long for, Christ’s blood.
“The LORD bless you, and keep you;
The LORD make His face shine on you,
And be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance on you,
And give you peace.”