Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Lord, Not Tyrant

As Noah and his family emerged from the Ark and after Noah had offered a burnt offering on the altar to God, He blessed this family, which would go on to re-populate the Earth.  God's gracious blessing has several key elements, which we will examine today.  They are found in Genesis 9:1-4 (BSB).

1And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. 2The fear and dread of you will fall on every living creature on the earth, every bird of the air, every creature that crawls on the ground, and all the fish of the sea. They are delivered into your hand. 3Everything that lives and moves will be food for you; just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you all things.4But you must not eat meat with its lifeblood still in it. 5

The first component is a grant of the land to the family, and it coupled with (sorry, could not resist the pun) the command to procreate and to re-populate the Earth.  No longer was the Earth "Paradise", but it was a far cry from Hell which, due to our sinful nature, is all we deserve.  Today, large families are sometimes criticized by modern American society.  However, this is a worldly attitude that has no basis in Scripture.  It is plain from this verse and others that God commends large families.  See also Psalm 127:4-5.

The second component of the blessing is a grant of rule over all the other living creatures of the Earth.  You may recall God made a similar grant to Adam (see Genesis 1:28), but with this one difference.  In his sinless state, Adam ruled in love, whereas fallen man (Noah et al) ruled by fear.  (This is why the mama bird in her nest this morning took one look at me behind the window and skedaddled.)

The third element concerns mankind's diet.  In Genesis 1:29, mankind was directed to eat only the plant life of the Earth.  However, the Great Flood changed the Earth in ways we will never know this side of Heaven, and maybe not even then.  It is possible that these changes provoked God to allow Noah and his descendants to eat the flesh of living things.

The one restriction God put on the eating of animal flesh was that it was to be cooked (vs. 4).  Due to the Fall of Man we see animals attack other animals and eat the meal immediately after, savagely consuming raw flesh.  Mankind was directed by God to not be so. An example of this being defied can be found in 1 Samuel 14:32.

31That day, after the Israelites had struck down the Philistines from Michmash to Aijalon, the people were very faint. 32So they rushed greedily to the plunder, taking sheep, cattle, and calves.They slaughtered them on the ground and ate meat with the blood still in it. 33Then someone reported to Saul: “Look, the troops are sinning against the LORD by eating meat with the blood still in it.” “You have broken faith,” said Saul.
1 Samuel 14:31-33 (BSB)

Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat.
Proverbs 23:20 (BSB)

We are to be lords over the animals of the Earth, but not tyrants.  We are given lordship to use animals for our benefit, but not to abuse them for our luxury.  There are also negative health repercussions for eating raw animal flesh.  Our "constitutions" are not designed for this type of food.

In the picture at the head of this post, you see my husband, an avid fisherman.  He caught that gorgeous 16-inch Rainbow trout this past weekend at one of his favorite "fishing holes".  However, we did not need or desire that fish for food.  So, after the photo op, that big boy was gently returned to the creek, to grow and flourish. 

Those who abuse animals demonstrate a marked lack of godliness, and often go on to abuse people in the worst sorts of ways.  There are also those who practically worship animals, going to great lengths to prevent even the God-sanctioned uses described in Genesis 9.  Both these extremes are ungodly; neither is in keeping with what God ordained.

One more point about diet - -
Many Jews today still practice dietary laws that prohibit the eating of some types of animal flesh.  These restrictions were put into place as part of the Mosaic law.  Continuing to adhere to these practices is a matter of personal conviction for the Christian.  In Acts 10:9-16, God gave permission for Peter to eat both clean and unclean animals.  Paul echoes this point when criticizing false teachers who sought to divide the faithful with false doctrines about abstaining from marriage and from certain foods:

1Now the Spirit expressly states that in later times some will abandon the faith to follow deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons, 2influenced by the hypocrisy of liars, whose consciences are seared with a hot iron.
3They will prohibit marriage and require abstinence from certain foods that God has created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4For every creation of God is good, and nothing that is received with thanksgiving should be rejected, 5because it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
1 Timothy 4:1-5 (BSB)

Within these parameters, let's follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, each individual operating according to how the Spirit leads.  Let's seek to honor God by what we feed both our souls and our bodies, the Word of God for the former and a wide variety of healthy foods for the latter. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Brave New World Burnt Offering

Image by Greg Montani, from Pixabay.com
At Genesis 8:20-22, we have now come to the end of the account of the Great Flood, historical science which conveys to us both the mercy and the judgment of God.  A number of extra-biblical sources could be cited in substantiation to this world-altering event.  Even the very constitution of the Earth bears witness to the upheaval experienced 5000 years ago.  What Intelligent Being, after all, would have created a world with such imperfection?  None.  The once-perfect creation now bears the marks of the most severe of judgments, fallen...and continuing to fall.

As his first act upon exiting the Ark, the great patriarch, Noah, builds an altar and offers a burnt offering on it from those he worked so hard to save.  Why?

20Then Noah built an altar to the LORD. Taking from every kind of clean animal and clean bird, he offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21When the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, He said in His heart, “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from his youth. And never again will I destroy all living creatures as I have done.
22As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
shall never cease.”
Genesis 8:20-22 (Berean Study Bible)

When I was a kid, I was diagnosed with severe allergies, one of which was to "animal dander".  Now, we never had a pet in the house, growing up.  Mother would not allow it.  But, we had a stray dog that had given birth to several puppies, which I adored.  Upon getting the verdict of my allergy to dog "dander", the parental units decided it would be best to rid the family of pets altogether.  So, Daddy boxed them up and took them "somewhere".  Let's not dig too deeply into that, shall we?  The point is, I had to say a very tearful goodbye to my furry, little friends.  I still remember the pain, over 50 years later.

The concept of animal sacrifice is so very foreign to us today, because it simply "is not done".  In fact, the idea of harming animals (except for food) is deeply frowned upon in our modern "1st World" society.

It was different in the Old Testament.  Animal sacrifice was instituted by God Himself, was central to Old Testament worship and was a multi-dimensional act.  It was right and appropriate that Noah acted as he did, upon leaving the Ark.

The Ark itself symbolizes Jesus Christ, in Whom we find rescue and shelter from God's judgment.  In the Old Testament, though, Messiah Jesus had not yet appeared.  His all-encompassing sacrifice had not been made.  His blood had not atoned for all the sins of those who believe in Him.  So, the sacrificial system was in play.

It began with Abel, who pleased God by bringing the second animal sacrifice.  "Wait," you exclaim, "what was the first?"  The first was made by God, in the Garden of Eden, when He sacrificed the life of an animal to make animal skin coverings for the nakedness of Adam and Eve.  While those skins covered their nakedness, they could not cover their sin.

Offering food to "gods" has happened since the days of the ancients, and still persists to this day.  Walk into some Buddhist businesses (nail salons come to mind) and you will frequently see fresh fruit offerings at a shrine, for example.  In India, where via Hinduism literally hundreds of gods are worshipped, shrines and altars are more plentiful than Starbucks and McDonalds outlets in America.
(The photo at the head of this post is one example.)
There were a couple of differences between pagan animal sacrifices and those made by the Israelites, the people of Yahweh God.1

First, the animal sacrifice was to be burnt (Exodus 29:18), as opposed to being offered as "food for the gods" in other religions.  Jewish tabernacles or temples contained no man-made idol to which food was given.  Burning the animal's flesh was entirely unique to the Jewish faith.

Second, the Jews were very deliberate in how they treated the blood of the animal, based on the instructions given to them by Yahweh God.  Leviticus 17:11-14 tells us (as the old hymn goes) "there is power in the blood".  The blood is the essence of physical and spiritual life.  Accordingly, long after Noah, when God set up the Levitical priesthood through Moses and Aaron, sacrificial blood took center stage.  It was considered the highest crime to eat or drink it, as well as to shed "innocent blood".

The design of animal sacrifice was two-fold:2

  • The forfeiture of the life of the animal represents the forfeiture of the life of the sinful human to God's divine justice.  
  • The fire of the burnt offering represents that the sinner is deserving of the fires of eternal death an damnation.

To study the meanings behind all of the O.T. sacrificial offerings, see Leviticus 7.

As the Ark was a "type", a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ, so was the burnt offering.  Today, as Jesus has made the ultimate, final, eternal sacrifice for our sins, we no longer must offer animal sacrifices on altars of stone.  What God requires from us who walk in the faith that flows from His Holy Spirit is continual sacrifice on the altars of our hearts, the sacrifice of self-denial, humility and obedience.  With such a faith-based walk, our God and Savior is honored and glorified.

He was pleased with the burnt offering given by Noah, and in response promised to never again destroy the Earth by cataclysmic flood.  This promise is named by theologians as The Noahic Covenant.  The one-of-a-kind, sacrificial death, burial and resurrection of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords grieved His heart deeply, but it pleased Him even more than all the burnt offerings of history combined; it pleased Him forever.  Jesus, The Last Sacrifice, "sealed the deal".

It is no accident Jesus Christ is pictured as a slain Lamb in Revelation 5.

8When He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp, and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9And they sang a new song:
“Worthy are You to take the scroll and open its seals,
because You were slain,
and by Your blood You purchased for God
those from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.
10You have made them into a kingdom,
priests to serve our God,
and they will reignb upon the earth.”
Revelation 5:8-10 (Berean Study Bible)


1   https://reformjudaism.org/role-sacrifice

2   https://biblehub.com/commentaries/clarke/genesis/8.htm