When I grew up, it was common to have a ‘blood-brother’ – Two people would cut themselves and use their own blood to mingle with another’s to swear allegiance to their friendship. Likewise, we understand that if we sign something in blood, it is taking a solemn vow. In the Old Testament we see the death of sacrificial animals to consolidate covenant agreements. This would show that the covenant agreement was inviolable until death! Just as we traditionally say ‘til death do us part,’ at a wedding, a blood covenant was permanent until one or the other person died. How did all this begin? Why is blood a factor in covenants? Why is atonement made in blood?
Someone said the other day that animal sacrifice was instituted as a lesson, and a place-holder for the people. It is a shadow-picture, and an object lesson for us. It was instituted for atonement and as a temporary covering for our sins that separate us from God. It is a constant reminder that the penalty for sin is death. It puts in place the concept of a substitute for our owed death to cover sin. Let’s look at the history behind the sacrifice of animals to cover YHVH’s people.
ADAM AND EVE
When Adam and Eve chose to disobey YHVH’s instructions not to eat of the Tree of Good and Evil, they stepped out of His Will. They decided, with a little help from the Adversary, that they could decide for themselves what to do and what to consume. Because of this rejection of YHVH’s sovereignty, they were ejected from the presence of the Creator, and no longer had access to the Tree of Life.
They were told they would surely die if they ate of the forbidden fruit, and that the curse of death would fall on all future generations to come. But, YHVH had a plan to redeem His family back to Himself. It began with an animal sacrifice. What sacrifice, you may ask? After they fell, “The LORD God fashioned garments from animal skins for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.” (Gen 3:21 )
We are so used to seeing this account, that we rarely stop to contemplate what is being said here. If Adam and Eve were clothed with animal skins, it must mean that YHVH killed an animal in order to cover them. Animals are part of His creation as well as mankind. Everything was in place to continue without interruption or death! It shows that he valued them above the rest of His creation, but oh, how it must have grieved Him to sacrifice one of his creatures in order to ‘cover’ Adam and Eve!
That is exactly what YHVH did, and continues to do! It was as if He said, “I got you covered,” but I am getting ahead of the story.
The first sin was ‘covered’ by the shedding of innocent blood. Sin (rebellion against YHVH) had entered the world, and with it came death and disorder. Separation from YHVH!
The Bible doesn’t say what kind of animal skin was provided to cover Adam and Eve’s sin-state. But, I like to imagine that it was a male lamb of the first year. I believe He is a God of order, and this kind of symmetry just makes sense to me. In any case, it only matters that it was innocent blood. The animal that died so that YHVH could provide clothes for Adam and Eve did nothing wrong. Presumably, the Lamb was the first death, since the sins of Adam and Eve brought death into the world.
There is symmetry here as well. Remember, Yeshua is the beginning and the end: the first and the last, the Aleph and Tau. In Revelation He is described as the one who holds the “Book of Life belonging to the lamb that was slaughtered from the foundation of the world. “ (Rev 13:8)
What if our Savior Yeshua made that sacrifice? What if ‘from the foundation of the world,’ He agreed to ‘cover’ Adam and Eve? Was it then that He placed Himself as a substitute for His people? Has he always been standing in the breach for us?
CAIN AND ABEL
We know that some kind of sacrificial system was in place since the ejection of Mankind from the Garden of Eden. Cain and Abel were making sacrifices. It led to the first murder when Cain became jealous of Abel. Because Abel did the right thing, it pleased YHVH, but that just made Cain bitter and angry. It was another incidence where someone decided for himself what to do instead of following the instructions (Torah) of YHVH.
“The LORD looked favorably upon Abel and his offering, but he did not look favorably upon Cain and his offering.
When Cain became very upset and depressed, the LORD asked Cain, “Why are you so upset? Why are you depressed? If you do what is appropriate, you’ll be accepted, won’t you? But if you don’t do what is appropriate, sin is crouching near your doorway, turning toward you. However, you must take dominion over it.” (Gen 4:4-7)
But, as the story goes, instead of taking dominion over sin, Cain killed his brother! When the full account of this event is studied, it is clear that Abel provided an appropriate sacrifice with his offering. He understood that the blood sacrifice was a temporary sin covering and reminder of the covering that had been provided to Adam and Eve!
Abraham entered into a blood covenant with YHVH while he was asleep! Although Abraham did not pass through the blood himself, YHVH took it upon Himself to secure the blood covenant, standing in for Abraham so that He would accept the death penalty if the covenant was broken.
Gen 15:10 So Abram brought him all these animals and cut each of them in half, down the middle, placing the pieces opposite each other, but he did not cut the birds in half.
Gen 15:11 When birds of prey swooped down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.
Gen 15:12 As the sun began to set, Abram was overcome with deep sleep, and suddenly a frightening and terrifying darkness descended on him.
Gen 15:13 Then the LORD told Abram, “You can be certain about this: Your descendants will be foreigners in a land that isn’t theirs. They will be slaves there and will be oppressed for 400 years.
Gen 15:14 However, I will judge the nation that they serve, and later they will leave there with many possessions.
Gen 15:15 Now as for you, you’ll die peacefully, join your ancestors, and be buried at a good old age.
Gen 15:16 Your descendants will return here in the fourth generation, since the iniquity of the Amorites has not yet run its course.”
Gen 15:17 When the sun had fully set and it was dark, a smoking fire pot and a fiery torch passed between the animal pieces.
Gen 15:18 That very day the LORD made this covenant with Abram: “I’m giving this land to your descendants, from the river of Egypt to the great Euphrates River—
During the Exodus out from Egypt, Moses was instructed to sacrifice a lamb and place its blood on the doorposts of their homes. The blood covering allowed the Israelites to escape the curse of the death of the first born that fell upon Egypt. Just as Adam and Eve were the ‘first born’ in the garden, the sons of Israel had their ‘first born sons’ saved alive before the Exodus. It was a sign of obedience to YHVH’s instruction, and recognition of the saving grace (covenant) of the blood covering.
Later, when Moses came down from Mt. Sinai with the covenant agreement (Torah) from YHVH, he sacrificed animals and used their blood to sprinkle upon both the Book of the Law and all the Israelites! This time, they themselves were sprinkled with blood to bind the covenant! If they broke the covenant with YHVH, they would die!
YESHUA THE LAMB OF GOD
Everyone today seems to believe that the blood covenant was ended with the death and resurrection of Yeshua. But, if He made a covenant with us, it will never die because he is eternally alive!
Why did He have to suffer on a cross for me? I used to struggle with this a lot! If He’s God, why did He have to die such a horrible death? Why couldn’t He just forgive us and make us all like Him? Why does He put up with evil – even to His own tortured death on a cross?
And then one day it made sense. How else could He show us how much He loves us? Doesn’t the Bible say, “Greater love has no man than he who lays down his life for his friends?” If it didn’t cost anything, what is it worth? For our sakes, even while we were still sinners, it cost Him everything! He didn’t have to share our mortality and pain! But, it was a way for us to relate to Him, because we know that He understands our condition! We can imagine and empathize with His death on a cross. To know He didn’t have to do it if He didn’t WANT to, is humbling, and worthy of all our heart, mind and soul.
Why did He do it? Because He LOVES us and made a covenant with us! He cannot break His word. He is a promise keeper! That is why we can have Faith in Him. It doesn’t come from us…it comes from knowing we can absolutely trust Him. He is faithful to us; so we can have faith.
Consider the blood covering that is provided in a covenant agreement. It is serious! It is Life and Death! It means, “if I break this covenant, may I be as dead as the animal whose blood was shed.”
How truly blessed we are that our covenant was established and renewed in the blood of the Lamb of God who will never die! We are covered by the Living Blood of the One Who is ALIVE and will be for eternity! An unbreakable covenant! HalleluYah!