I was reading this morning in Leviticus Chapter 1. It is one of those chapters in a Bible reading plan that you just suffer through. It is an incredibly detailed description of God's instructions for burnt offerings. It is a bloody chapter. It is full of the names of body parts, and duties, and honestly just not a pleasant read, but as always the Holy Spirit speaks.
I was picturing the gruesome scene; a bloody altar, a sharp knife, a frightened animal. The crowd and the smoke and the noise, and then I notice what it says. "When any man of you brings an offering to the Lord". Any man of you, hmmm. I don't know why, but the personal nature of the sacrifices of the Old Testament has never occurred to me. My mind traveled backward in the story line of this "any man". A man, a husband, a father, not unlike myself, wakes up in his bed one morning. Perhaps a child wakes him, as they often do.
"Daddy we are going to the tabernacle today?" the little boy asks. His father winces but tries to hide his face from the boy.
"yes son today is the day we take an offering to the Lord" the man hopes his son will drop it there, but knows that he won't. His son, like every little boy, has boundless curiosity.
"What is the offering Daddy?" As usual He goes directly the hardest question to answer.
"Well we are taking some flour, and some honey, and... the young lamb son" He says softly
"What does that mean Daddy? What will we do with the lamb?" His son asks with a suspicious and frightened look in his brown eyes. The farmer and his family have many livestock, but the young ones are always precious to the little boy.
"It means we will sacrifice him to the Lord as a burnt offering" It is exceedingly difficult to look into the boys eyes now.
"Daddy I don't WANT you to burn my lamb!" the boy is more shocked than indignant.
"I don't want to burn him either son, but with his life we honor the Lord and the Lord will forgive our sins".
I can see the discussion continuing all the way to the tabernacle. I can see both the boy and the man distraught in what is about to happen. The young boy will have to say goodbye to both his father and the lamb at the gate to the outer court because children are not permitted further. I am sure it was a tearful moment. A moment he will not forget.
In that moment two things would have been very obvious to that little boy.
1. The Cost of sin
2. His Father's devotion to God
Let me be clear. I am NOT advocating for a return to the sacrificial system, but I am left wondering. How often do my children have a moment that demonstrates, with this level of tangibility, key understandings of who God is and what it means to be His.
I can only think of one in my recent history when we had to tell our kids that we were moving from the only town they have ever known to a new town and a new school and a new church, all because that is what God told us to do. Apart from that one incident, which was VERY emotional, and VERY tangible, I don't know that there has been another.
I will be thinking about this... a lot in the days to come. I think God built the sacrificial system, the tabernacle, the entirety of the Old Covenant in this way to give untouchable, invisible things some substance, and I don't think it was a bad idea.
What does it look like to do the same in the here and now?