Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The Spotless Lamb

I stumbled across Leviticus 4:32 this evening and it triggered an old, forgotten memory from my youth. The verse says, “If he brings a lamb as his sin offering, he is to bring a female without defect.”

At a very young age, I came across this passage (or one similar to it) and was very hurt, thinking that God was displeased with my deformities. Having a deformed face, I believed that maybe I wouldn’t be allowed into Heaven because God only approved of physical perfection. My heart sank as I realized that the God who had been eavesdropping on all of my prayers was just as shallow and critical of me as the strangers who stared at me in the grocery store. Then I wondered why God would even create me with deformities if he meant to condemn me because of them. Fortunately, I didn’t let my fears go unspoken for too long and I eventually talked to my mom about it. Truthfully, I don’t remember what she told me, but being as young as I was, I was easily comforted, even though the passage continued to perplex me. Yes, the passage didn’t mean that God didn’t love me, but it still didn’t answer the burning question.

Knowing what a verse doesn’t mean is a far cry from knowing what it does mean. I’ve thought about all of this through the years and have asked a few people about it, but still haven’t had many good explanations. But, I think something struck me tonight (it seems so obvious now)!

My answer here is in no way exhaustive, but just a few fresh, random thoughts.

I see now that my confusion as a child stemmed from a common problem – interpreting Scripture with the assumption that a verse is mainly something important that God has to say about me, rather than assuming it has something to say to me…about God.

The animal sacrifices of the Old Testament era was an analogous system set up to foreshadow Jesus Christ. The blood of lambs, sacrificed repeatedly, temporarily took away sin and this system paved a road of tradition and familiarity so that when the Lamb of God came into the world he would be recognized as the final sacrifice.

If I were to be superimposed into the Leviticus passage, I would not be playing the part of the lamb. I would be the man who had sinned. So, it is an unparallel analogy to say that God did not want deformed animals to be used as a sacrifice so that means he doesn’t value deformed human beings.

In order to be a perfect shadow of Christ, the lambs had to be spotless because the Lamb of God that would come to take away the sin of the world would be. If the traditions had allowed for any old filthy, tattered, sickly animal to atone for sin, then Christ’s deity, purity, sinlessness, and perfection could not be assumed. If his purity could not be assumed, he could not be recognized as the Son of God. If he was not the Son of God, his sacrifice would have been just as temporal as the sheep’s and goat’s. But because the Levitical law was explicit - that only perfect, unblemished lambs could be offered, it gives us the confidence that Jesus Christ was not a mere scapegoat, but indeed, the Spotless Lamb who came to take away the sin of the world.

And so I now finally realize that this passage has nothing to do with me and my imperfections at all, but everything to do with Christ and his perfections.

Labels: ,


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Praise God for the way He leads us by His Spirit into truth as we read His Word. :) I happened on your blog a couple of days ago while googling for a photo of Ken Tada - my husband is reading Joni's memoirs (as I type!) and wanted to see a picture of him. I've been thoroughly enjoying your (and your mum's) writing, and your theological and personal reflections. Thanks so much for sharing them for the edification of your brothers and sisters around the world!

I have recently read an article in 'The Briefing' about 'God and the Disabled', by Peter Avery. May I type out a brief section for you? It supports and expands on your realisation...

"6. Jesus is the perfect priest who brings us salvation:

But sin's hold on God's creatures can only be broken by a perfect priest who offers the perfect sacrifice. The passage I quoted earlier in Leviticus 21[:17-20] isn't mainly about the connection between disabilities and sin; it's about preventing the disabled sons of Aaron from serving as priests in the tabernacle / temple. Talk about discrimination! The Equal Opportunity Commission would have had a field day! But who is the one doing the discriminating? In vs 16, it is clear it's the Lord. It's bad enough that we live in a world where people are discriminated against all the time; why does God do it here in the Bible?

The answer is in vs 23: '...he shall not go through the veil or approach the altar, because he has a blemish, that he may not profane my sanctuaries, for I am the LORD who sanctifies them'. God discriminated against the disabled sons of Aaron so that our sins could be forgiven. God is holy and we are not. He cannot tolerate imperfection because of his holiness. In the Old Testament sacrificial system, God was teaching his people that we can only approach him through a perfect priest who offers a perfect sacrifice. That perfect priest could only be Jesus. So the Old Testament priests could not have any physical blemishes as they were fore-shadowing Jesus, the perfect priest. The writer of Hebrews says of him,

For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever. (Heb 7:26-28)

As the father of a disabled daughter, you can probably understand my dislike of discrimination. But I rejoice in and am glad about the fact that God discriminated against the disabled so that our sins could be forgiven and we could come into a relationship with him."

taken from Peter Avery, 'Then shall the lamb leap like a deer: God and the disabled', The Briefing Feb 2007, Issue 341, pg 15-18

So no, God's 'discrimination' against blemished animals and priests wasn't in an 'absolutist' sense, but because they were the fore-shadowing (or 'type') of the perfect lamb-sacrifice -and- perfect High Priest to come - our Lord Jesus. As always, there was purposefulness and wisdom to His actions that we creatures clamour sometimes to understand, but how cool when it all clicks, and we see His glory so much more.

thanks again for your great encouragement, kn. (Brisbane, Australia)

11:40 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home