By Ben Reed
In my Bible reading plan right now, I’m reading through the book of Leviticus. Which is usually the graveyard of well-intentioned Bible reading plans, right? How many times have you made it to Leviticus, gaining momentum every day you read, utterly inspired and broken by the Scriptures, only to get stopped dead in your tracks with Leviticus 1, verse 4?
So basically, Leviticus is like a State Trooper that parks on the side of the interstate behind a tree, ready to get you when you least expect it.
What I’ve found throughout the book, though, is that it’s bloody and nasty. There’s a lot of talk about blood entrails, and death. And there’s one reason for that: sin.
Your sin needed to be paid for by a sacrifice. In other words, your sin deserved death…either yours or something else’s. Because of this, there was a constant reminder of the nastiness and bloodiness and destructive nature of your sin.
Sneaking Some Sin In
When we ‘get away’ with a sin, we’re lulled into thinking that our sin isn’t that big of a deal. When you cheat a little and don’t get caught, you can think everything is ok. When you have a lustful thought, and nobody knows, you begin to devalue the powerful stranglehold that sin can have. You forget its potential for destruction.
Not so in the Old Testament system.
If you present a goat as your offering, bring it to the LORD, lay your hand on its head, and slaughter it in front of the Tabernacle. Aaron’s sons will then splatter the goat’s blood against all sides of the altar. – Leviticus 3:12-13, NLT
I have a 4 year old son. I can’t even imagine what kind of an impact witnessing an event like this would have on his life. It would absolutely scar him. Think of how violent this would be. The sights, the sounds (most animals don’t go “silently into the night”), the smells. The stench of death in the air that would hang around like a late-morning fog. The stain of blood on the hands and face of the priest. The residual stain of months, and years, of sacrifices made on the same altar. These sensory experiences don’t go in one ear and out the other. They stick with you, and mark you for life.
Loads of Hope
Reading through the Old Testament jogs us back to our senses about the weight of our sin. Sin destroys. And our sin deserves death. Every. Single. Time. Whether we’re caught or not. Whether we think we’ve slipped one through the cracks. Whether we see the path of burned trees we leave in our wake or not.
The flip side of that is even more true, for “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” (Romans 5:20)
The grace of God is beautiful. Not free. Not neat or clean. It is bought with blood and sweat and tears and pain. And it is gloriously beautiful.
Jesus paid our cost. His death leads to “justification and life for all men.” (Romans 5:18) That’s a reason to rejoice. And it’s worth saying again. Rejoice! (Re: Philippians 4:4) Jesus’ death pays for your sin no matter how far you’ve run. No matter how deep you’ve dug your hole. No matter how many people you’ve hurt or times you’ve fallen.
Be reminded of your stench. And the sweet smell of grace.
Ben Reed is a husband, father and pastor at Grace Community Church. Ben is passionate about "helping people apply the Word of God to their lives, right in the middle of life's biggest questions and heartaches." Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.