In the beginning of this chapter, the Lord commanded the Israelites that any animal that they killed for food must be brought to the Tabernacle. It seems that this restriction was only in effect while the people were in the wilderness, and that it was lifted when they reached the land of Canaan (Deut. 12:13-16). But the main purpose of this law was to prevent idolatry. Heathen nations would often take the blood of animals and pour it into a hole or trench in the earth, imagining that they were offering it as food for their false gods (Ps. 16:4). However, a law like this one would ensure that the blood of an animal would not be used in such an abominable manner. The people were to bring the animal to the door of the Tabernacle – the place where God revealed Himself. There they were to leave the blood as an offering to Him, and then return home to their tent to feast. How solemn and how sweet this would be to a true Israelite! He would bring his food to the Lord and see His majesty; he would acknowledge himself worthy to die, but redeemed by atoning blood; and then he would go back to his tent and eat his meat with gladness and joy! In this way, all their meat became a “peace offering,” so to speak (verse 5); for the meat that they killed was to be presented to the Lord through the priest, and then given back to the offeror, as was done in the case of peace offerings.
The law that was given in verses 8 and 9 is different from the foregoing requirement. It refers to animals offered in sacrifice, and not merely killed for meat. All sacrifices were to be offered “at the door of the tabernacle” – that is, in the presence of Jehovah, and to Him alone. Some people might have tried to evade the law in the earlier verses of this chapter – concerning animals killed for food – by pretending that they killed their animals for sacrifice; then they might feel that they were free to pour out the blood at the spot where they “offered their sacrifice.” Therefore, the Lord commanded all sacrifices to be offered at one spot – namely, His own presence. Our God is full and sincere in all that He enjoins; He never leaves a mystery in His demands, for His name is glorious. We can trust His heart, for He tells us plainly all that He means. No less true than these laws are His promises of life – that is, His life-giving offers made to poor sinners in the Gospel!
The spiritual sacrifices that we are now to offer are not confined to any one place. Christ is our Altar and our true Tabernacle; for in Him, God dwells among men. It is in Him alone that our sacrifices are acceptable to the Lord. To set up other mediators, other altars, or other expiatory sacrifices is, in effect, the same as setting up idols. Let us pray that in addition to our public worship in the Church, our God may graciously accept our personal devotions and our family worship.
In verses 10-14, a former law is re-instituted (see chapter 3:17; 7:26). The people were to guard against pouring out the blood of an animal to idols; but they were to equally guard against using it for themselves in the haste of hunger, as Saul’s soldiers did in 1 Samuel 14:32. The great reason for this command about the use of the blood was this: “The blood is the life.” When it was poured out, it represented atonement; for it was a picture of life being taken for sin. To the eyes of an unconverted sinner, nothing should be more awful than the picture or thought of their own life being required as the penalty for their iniquities. And to the eyes of our God, nothing is more solemnly glorious than the blood of His own Son! When the spear pierced the heart of our Savior on the cross, the blood was poured out from the very seat of life (John 19:34). Jesus poured forth His whole soul; all His affections, feelings, and powers were laid down in suffering obedience to His Father. The law took out its penalty from the very source of life. But why was it necessary for life to be taken? Why was death required? Because the essence of sin is an attack on God’s holy throne and His very existence. Therefore, the Lord repels it by crushing the life out of the sinner – and Jesus endured even this for us! It was our own sins that killed the Prince of Life! And think of how astounding our Lord’s words must have been to the Jews when He said, “Except ye … drink the blood of the Son of Man, ye have no life in you” (John 6:53). Jesus abrogated the law concerning the pouring out of the blood because He fulfilled the picture that was represented thereby. We must live by blood now! We are to drink the poured-out life of the Son of Man.
The reason why the Israelites were not to eat the meat of an animal if it died on its own or was killed by a predator (verses 15, 16) was because the blood of such an animal would not have been poured out, according to God’s law. The person who violated this law – even ignorantly – was guilty. He had to wash himself with water, and he would be unclean until evening. Being set apart for a whole day would leave its indelible impression upon the person, causing them to be always careful afterward to walk with their eyes solemnly resting upon atoning blood.
Blessed Jesus! Help us to be continually bringing all our spiritual offerings unto You so that they may be presented with acceptance to our Father. We bless You that we are not under a covenant of works, but of grace; but we pray for grace that we may still have respect unto all Your commandments. Amen.
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