There are certain portions of scripture that just make me question the veracity of the word. Yeah, that’s right, there I times when I question the book. Let me give a prime example. Moses, in Leviticus, is laying out the Law of God regarding the sacrifices and it just happens that the really good meat is not going to be burned up entirely, but instead it just gets nicely roasted, and lo, Moses’ brother Aaron and Aaron’s family is supposed to eat it. The cynic in me finds that to be an awfully convenient law for Aaron. I mean, here you have all the people of Israel bringing their best animals to be BBQ’d for Aaron and his people to eat, and it is a law that they must do it. Hey, why don’t I come down from a mountain and tell my people they need to bring ribs to sacrifice and they must be soaked with Sweet Baby Ray’s sauce, and yeah, why not bring a drink offering too, Coca-Cola Classic would be ideal. Does that not seem just a touch sketchy? Certainly I am not the only person that has taken issue with this text?
Something I have come to realize though, is that the Old Testament only finds its true meaning in light of the New Testament, specifically in Christ’s work on our behalf. In other words, if indeed the Aaronic Priests were supposed to eat this sacrifice and it really was the command of God for them to do so, this command can only make sense to me in light of Christ’s fulfillment of that command. So before I go dismissing the early parts of Leviticus as Moses trying to make sure his family eats well I must deal with it light of the Gospel.
So let me walk you through my thinking as I came to this portion of Leviticus with my skepticism yet again in my bible reading.
Aaron is commanded to eat the sacrifices, the priesthood so to speak is required to eat the ‘perfect’ sacrifice in the sight of God. Hebrews reminds us that in light of the Gospel we are a kingdom of priests, and that all who are the redeemed are priests before God. In other words the Aaronic priesthood has been fulfilled, there is no longer a set group of priests called to consume the sacrifice, but all believers now enter into that role of priest. Moreover, we know there is no longer sacrifice for sin, other than the perfect sacrifice which has been offered, that is the Christ himself. Moreover Christ has stated:
John 6:53 (ESV)
53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.
In light of Christ’s words contained in John’s Gospel we see a new picture arising. This hard command of Christ, that we must eat his flesh and his blood begins to make a little more sense. Moreover as we consider the Passover, when each family was to kill a lamb and leave none of it until the morning, begins to make sense, when you consider Christ as the Passover Lamb. The idea of consuming the sacrifice finds it’s full meaning in the fulfilled work of Christ and more specifically in the institution of the Lord’s Supper.
Needless to say, the command for the Aaronic priesthood to eat the sacrifice no longer bothers me at all, in fact it informs my doctrine of the Lord’s Supper and grounds it in the Old Testament sacrificial system and gives me a more robust understanding of what Christ meant by His hard teaching in John 6. This new reading further bolsters my belief that the sacrament is far more than a mere memorial meal that calls us to remember the Gospel, but that the sacrament in some sense is a part of the Gospel itself. Look, this does not make the case for transubstantiation, or some modern priesthood that must drink the portion of the sacrament not consumed by the people. Not at all, at the same time it does insert some healthy mystery into the Supper, and reminds me that in some sense we truly partake of the Lord as we receive the sacrament. This understanding of the consumption of the sacrifice leaves me thoroughly non-baptist with regards to the meal.
Was it wrong of me to question the veracity of the Law or to at least be a little skeptical of it? It would have been wrong if I had no intent of squaring it up with the New Testament, however if I allow my skepticism to drive me to answers, answers that I know must be founded in the Gospel, that initial skepticism proves to be a vehicle that drives me to greater faith and understanding of deeply profound truths.
Studying the scriptures should be a fascinating and enjoyable process, but it ceases to be that if you never let yourself be disturbed by the truths that you cannot seem to square up. Often we want to say something like “well it is in the Bible so I am just going to believe it” without realizing that we are refusing to step on the mat with a God who is calling us out to wrestle. Unfortunately we are far too content to simply come up with trite clichés to answer deep questions that really disturb us.
I suppose this post is a small treatise for a healthy skepticism, but a skepticism that trusts that real truth can withstand our petty doubts.