Although I grew up in Wisconsin, I am not a farm girl. I grew up on a lake and lived in a resort setting. I realized this all the more as I traveled to the southern part of Chile a few years back. We were met at a small airport by a man in a Jeep. He was going to take us to meet with the indigenous people of that area that he had been working with for years.
In just a matter of minutes I went from the hi-tech world of flying to jeeping in the unmarked fields of the Chilean outback. We turned off a paved road and literally bounced along a tree lined field until the trees eventually led us to a river bank. Baffled by what we would do to cross a rather wide river in a Jeep, I was surprised to see us pull up on some logs that were strung tightly together. We got out and pulled on a rope that was attached to other side of the river to another tree. Some sort of pulley system pulled our logs with the Jeep on it to the other side. We got back in, as if that were an everyday occurrence, and continued our bouncing along a rutty path up the side of the Andes Mountains.
We came to an old gate, swung it around, and followed an even smaller path to a house-like sort of hovel. The wood and mud held itself together somehow in an non-engineered sort of way. There was a dirt floor, some crude furniture, a window and a fire inside. An open door allowed the animals to freely roam. We sat at the table - thrilled to be guests in their home, but also just a bit in a cultural twilight zone. It was like opening a National Geographic and stepping into a photo. The smell of dirt, fire, and animals made it pungently real. There was a pile of dirty dishes across the room that a cat was licking that bore every indication they would be used as our dishes next. Our hosts were not even five feet tall, and they wore clothes that were obviously their only ones and had been worn for a lengthy period of time. They were extremely kind and smiley. I hurt for them as their smiles revealed their desperate need for dentistry.
The woman was tending the fire and preparing unidentifiable food. There was a chicken under the table that was pecking at my red toenail polish. I about turned the table over in surprise at the first peck. I tried to resume my position graciously as they laughed over my awkwardness. Continuing my gaze around the room, I was amused to see Coke bottles and a small TV that was hooked by wires to a car battery. My eyes wanted to check every detail of the room, but my brain kept telling me to refrain, as the more I saw, the more I recoiled.
My dilemma to continue my investigation was interrupted as the woman who carried the hen out from under the table urged me to follow her. I stepped out of the “house” and rounded the corner just in time to see her take this chicken by the neck and whip it around and around up over head. What on earth was this? She then lowered the hen and cut off its head and turned it upside down before I could even process the scene in order to look away. The strong mountain wind whipped the blood all over her legs and skirt and down onto her socks and into shoes. Somehow my appetite left me and I followed her back into the house where she plucked it and put it in the pot with the other things I couldn’t quite make out. The cat jumped down and made a feast of the new pile of entrails she had just made on the floor next to her. It was my first experience with freshly prepared chicken. The greenish white frothiness that gathered on the top of the pot was ladled off and thrown into a dirty dishwater barrel in which just minutes later, she washed the dishes and set them before us on the table. It was an unforgettable meal.
Now, as I read through Leviticus, I can’t help but think how thankful I am that we no longer offer sacrifices for our atonement with God. It seems as though it would be a bit raw. It’s so ugly, bloody, smelly and offensive. The result---forgiveness, must have far outweighed the process.
There would be a lot of questions around such belief as well. Depending on who you were and what you had done, you had to figure out what kind of sacrifice you were to bring: goat, bull, lamb, turtle dove, pigeons, sheep or rams; male or female. The questions of what to cut, what to remove, what to burn, where to put the blood, where to sprinkle, or when to pour it, all had significance and meaning. Then there’s the question of what if you had no animal and you had to bring a measure of fine flour, how much flour, oil or no oil, to pour the oil on it, or mix the oil in it, with or without incense, fat or no fat? How about the lobe of the liver and kidneys, the fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails, is it offered up in smoke on the altar as food or by fire for a soothing aroma? Does this sound a bit confusing? For sure, it sounds disgusting and gory.
And how often was this, daily for some things and yearly for others? And this just covered their sins but could not remove their sins. It had to be brought to just the right person who was dressed in just the right clothes, offered on just the right altar, built of just the right materials, at just the right place, at just the right time. How does that sit with your busy schedule? Sound convenient and welcoming? Every part of it sounds appalling.
And how about the aspect of it being in public? Everyone saw what you were bringing and knew what sin that covered, (oooh, did you see what so and so did today?). They saw how often you brought it, (No way. That sin again?). And everyone would see what you could or couldn’t afford, (I think they have more than what they admit). Talk about humiliating. Perhaps for some that would be good for us, but because of Jesus we have atonement without all of this cost, confusion, or carnage.
Just like we hate the thought of the blood, the death, the gore of a sacrifice and find it so offensive, so God also is appalled at our sin and finds it offensive. It is needful to remember that just because there is none of this cost, confusion, or carnage to us that there was all of that to Jesus Christ. As a matter of fact, that is the beauty of it! He became sin for us who knew no sin. The cost was of the ultimate price as He laid down His life for us. The confusion as we read, as to who to bring it to, what to bring and how to bring it, or even where to bring it or when, is settled in and at the cross. He is our sacrifice. We bring our brokenness and sin to Him and exchange it for His healing and His righteousness. We bring it just as we are - no special clothes or place or time - just to the foot of the cross we come. The carnage was no longer the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood that He makes peace with God on our behalf. It’s not the daily slaughter of animals but His one time death requires our one time trust in Him to not only cover but to remove all our sins—past, present and future.
We have the privilege and convenience to go boldly to the throne of God. He says that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
I am so thankful we live in the times since the cross. We can come privately without anyone seeing how often we need to go to God, what our sin was, or the ghastly procedure of mutilating an animal. It’s quite amazing that He laid down His life for me so that I can receive eternal life. It was an unforgettable grace.