Monday, August 1, 2011

RESPONSE: Has anyone ever stopped and asked...

Comment from Original Post:

       Anonymous said...

YES!!! I've asked that question to the point where it's caused me great anxiety! Why would Jesus have to die and how does that save me? I mean, this is the very core of our faith, isn't it? This is the first time I've had it explained to me this way and it was quite encouraging and thought-provoking. So, thank you!

I still have a lingering question or two. For example, who wrote the rule/law that there must be a sacrifice made or that the consequence of sin is death? Why did Abraham and his people have to be perfect to be blessed?

Thanks again!
Hello, there "Anonymous." :) Thank you for your words.. and your questions. I am going to attempt this, but please understand that I am in no way claiming to "have it figured out..." I ask a lot of questions, too--and when I start digging around and exploring the context of the Text, I sometimes end up with a few "ideas," but I normally find myself in a mountain of entirely new questions. So I completely relate.  

As for your questions... I don't know that there is a "law," per se, that requires a death sacrifice (that is, before the covenant with Abraham), but the blood covenant I refer to in this post is a cultural tradition that still exists in Bedouin culture today. The blood covenant is most often associated with the marital customs, but there are also times when a business deal or land dispute would necessitate a blood covenant. The greater party would be the groom's father and the lesser would be the bride's father (or grandfather). If the bride did not keep her promises--she wasn't a virgin, she didn't stay faithful, etc.--you would more than likely find her father or grandfather dead in a wadi, with bloody footprints dancing over the ground of his blood. Same scenario with the groom--if he did not provide for his bride, treat her well, provide the promised dowry--you would be sure to find the groom's father's body slung out in the desert, again with the mark of bare feet in his blood. This was simply the nature of the covenant.  

Now, in reading Genesis 15, God has promised Abram some very wonderful blessings. Abram is a righteous man of faith, and he tries to call God's bluff. Abram asks for some sign that he would know that God intended to keep his promise.  

Then, God commands Abram to go get a few very specific animals. (Later in the Hebrew Bible, these become the acceptable animals of an atonement sacrifice.)  

And next verse, Abram cuts the animals in half and lays them across from each other... This seems bizarre. There is no recording of God instructing Abram to do anything specific with the animals; God simply says, "Go get them." But God seems to be pleased, or at least not surprised, by Abram's actions, so it seems that God has approved of this ceremony or was expecting it. And to be fair-- perhaps God did instruct Abram to do this, and the Bible just has not recorded God's directions.  

But I believe there is another possibility.  

To me, when God asks Abram to gather the animals, and Abram knows exactly what to do with them, suggest that there must have already existed a custom in Abram's day that involved these specific animals. I grab my dog's leash and she runs to the door, wagging her tail in frenzied expectation. She knows what is coming, and I believe that at this point in Genesis 15, Abram knows exactly what is coming, as well.  

Thus, in the Covenant, the terms were not, "Abram--I give you all the heirs, a land to serve me, and and the blessing of the Messiah. So I will die for you to keep my promise." The covenant was, "Abram, I bless you with all these things, and in exchange, you and your offspring must be blameless." The CONSEQUENCE for not following through with a covenant--by default of EITHER party--would call for the blood of the transgressor. The covenant would then be null and void, and neither party would have any obligation to the other.  

And now, the incredible pictures in this story begin to unfold... God, the greater party, passes through the bloodpath first, sealing His promise to Abram. Next up would traditionally be Abram, being the lesser party. But if Abram steps one teeny-tiny toe into the blood, he essentially voids the transaction and will pay with his life.  

In this moment, I imagine Abram-- about to sentence himself to death--and God throws His strong, gentle arm in Abram's beating chest, and with the sage gravity of a martyr says, "No, my son. I've got this."  

And the terms all of a sudden change.  

God still says, "Abram--I give you all the heirs, a land to serve me, and and the blessing of the Messiah," as well as, "Abram, I bless you with all these things, and in exchange, you and your offspring must be blameless." But the difference is that God walked through the bloodpath path twice. Therefore, God ultimately says," If you, Abram, and your offspring are not perfect, YOU may do this to ME."  

And this is actually what I view as the necessity for God/Christ's death. He had to fall at our hands. And with His death, a new covenant is made. Hebrews 7 refers to this, "For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second." Abram and his offspring failed, as we fail. We have sinned, and our sin sentenced Jesus to death on the cross. But this was God's gift to us. And in the completion of the Old Covenant, we can rejoice in the New Promise. '

So, this was long, but I was good for me to review all of this, as well. If you had these questions, I am sure others did, as well--even if they have not expressed or even fully formulated them. Thanks again...  

And as always, be encouraged.  
Stay dusty, 


  1. Thank you for taking the time to respond to my questions in such detail and with such passion. You seem to have a unique understanding and thought process. It's both refreshing and encouraging. Again, thank you!

  2. you are only anonymous by name. :) you are welcome, indeed. thanks for making me dig a bit.