Understanding Jehovah’s Commands
Bible Study with Jairus – Leviticus 17
Leviticus 17 talks about Jehovah’s command against consuming blood. Our discussion focuses on why God does not allow blood to be consumed. Of course, in addition to health and hygiene considerations, there are also spiritual considerations.
I was contemplating this question while I watched Sid Roth, an American Christian TV host, inviting Michael Brown, who is Jewish and a doctor of theology, to debate with a Jewish rabbi on his show. This man who had his doctorate in Christian studies tried to prove to the rabbi that Jesus Christ is the Messiah. He tried to prove Jesus was sacrificed on the cross once, and He forever satisfied God’s request so we can receive eternal salvation in Him. But the way that this Jewish rabbi understood the Old Testament was different from this man with a doctorate in Christian studies. The Jewish rabbi said that in the Old Testament, Jehovah repeatedly emphasized that one’s own son should not be sacrificed to the idols, and when Abraham was about to sacrifice Isaac, Jehovah personally stopped him. This shows that Jehovah was very opposed to the sacrifice of sons. Therefore, he believed that the statement that God has sacrificed his son Jesus Christ was unacceptable. This is not what he believes Jehovah would do.
We certainly did not agree with this Jewish rabbi, but we did have to think about why Jehovah had repeatedly warned the Israelites not to sacrifice their children to Molek, but He had offered His Son as a sacrifice. We also had to consider why Jehovah prohibited anyone from consuming the blood of any creature, but He prepared the blood of His Son for us to consume. In the New Testament, the Lord Jesus clearly stated that “You will eat my flesh and drink my blood” (John 6:54).
Our guess is that it involves not only the Israelites and God but also the idols and the evil spirits attached to them. We can see the sins of the Israelites, but the spiritual forces of evil are invisible and are of the Devil. They often counterfeit God’s work. In other words, they mock the work of God and behind this type of action is a mocking spirit.
For example, God’s eternal purpose is to dwell with mankind and for God and mankind to become united. But before God came to earth in human form, there was a mingling of evil spirits and daughters of men, which produced giants. This story is recorded during Noah’s time. This may be the main reason why God wanted to wipe out the human race at that time. Mankind had been corrupted by mixing with evil spirits. The act of evil spirits becoming flesh stems from the work of a mocking spirit.
In the same way, God also prepared His Son for eternal salvation. Thus the evil spirits also imitated this and tempted the Israelites to offer their children to Molek. This may simply look like idolatry, But the purpose behind it was to mock God’s plans. Therefore, God hated them and prohibited the Israelites from participating in this ritual.
Current Cultural Applications
This is also true when we consider the situation of the church today. For example, everyone discussed that the animals slaughtered in the United States are reportedly killed before their blood is released, so because of this, did everyone unknowingly consume blood? Although the kosher meats sold by the Jewish may have their blood released before they are killed, it is expensive to purchase this type of meat. This type of meat is not mainstream, and not everyone can afford it.
Some Chinese people consume duck blood or duck blood curd etc., when they eat a dish called hotpot. If that’s the case, does it mean that many Chinese people have violated God’s commandments? When you encounter a Chinese believer doing this, what attitude should you have if the two of you talk about it? Should you tell them that what they are doing is prohibited by the law? How can we explain that Leviticus asks people not to consume blood or pork, but now most Christians believe that everything is cleansed by God and everything can be eaten? Why do most Christians now eat pork?
A woman who shared at the beginning of our study specifically mentioned that churches that are more legalistic still believe that blood should never be eaten, but Christian groups who hold more liberal views believe that everything is clean and can be eaten. What do you think of this conflict?
Our attitude is that you have the right to do anything, but not everything is beneficial. First of all, it is not beneficial to our health. Second, In the Old Testament, God did not allow us to consume it, so if it is avoidable, you should not eat it.
But if we treat this as a strict law, we can see that many Americans, even Christians, have unknowingly consumed blood. Many Chinese who were not aware of the gospel have also consumed blood, but we didn’t see any evidence of God getting angry.
Spiritual Implications Behind Consuming Blood
Therefore, the first thing to consider is the situation faced by the Israelites at that time. Perhaps they realized there was a connection between consuming blood and idolatry. This was the intention of the evil spirits behind it to mock God’s work, so they were hated passionately by God. Among the Chinese, there are some common ways that people consume blood that we attribute mostly to ignorance and food issues; they may or may not involve idolatry. Practices in Chinese culture such as sacrificing chickens to a banner and blood alliances may all involve idolatry. If evil spirits are behind something, or if they intend to mock God’s work, this is something that God hates very much. In the Bible, Jehovah has some harsh words concerning these issues.
The mocking spirit is just one aspect of the work of the evil spirits. Another aspect of the work of the evil spirits is the religious spirit. Paul made it clear that some people were unworthy of eating the Lord’s bread and drinking the Lord’s cup, so they were punished. There were even situations where people became sick and died. Instances such as these make some churches very religious when considering the bread. Although I believe partaking of the bread is a serious matter, I have heard some American Christian leaders testify of situations that could be better handled. For instance, many young people in American Christianity, who were not yet baptized, had participated in communion without knowing during a church meeting and they were severely reprimanded and excluded, which lead to them falling away from Christ and leaving the church. In the case of the Corinthian church, there may have been some people who had inappropriate attitudes. What they did would be considered blaspheming the Holy Spirit. They were therefore disciplined by God. But the youth in these American Christian churches did this unknowingly, and they were severely condemned. This was the work of a religious spirit.
I was saved in the Local Church Movement. Later, God led me to an American Charismatic meeting to learn the truths they teach. I observed a phenomenon, which was that many charismatic members had come out of many other American denominations that were more legalistic. They told me that many churches pay too much attention to the rules and regulations, which causes trouble. I personally realized on a deep level that the religious spirit has caused some churches to focus on absolutes, extremes, and dogmatic approaches to God’s law which has brought harm to some believers.
Understanding the Spiritual Depth of God’s Word
We have now analyzed two methods commonly used by the evil spirits here. One is to imitate and mock the work of God. This is a mocking evil spirit. The other is to take God’s laws, words, and teachings to the extreme and destroy His work. This is the work of a religious spirit.
The church needs to make a lot of progress in recognizing and overcoming the works of the evil spirits. Many times, the church may be led around by the nose by the evil spirits. First, the church may not recognize the work of evil spirits. Second, they have no way to overcome them because they were not even aware of their existence. God has given the church power and authority over the evil spirits. We must strive to grow spiritually and discern the gifts of the spirit that are meant to go hand in hand with life. Many churches ignore the teaching of spiritual gifts, evil spirits, and angels, which may be one of the reasons why the church does not grow well in this area. These things are not only meant for the Charismatic church. They are well documented in the Bible and are prepared for all of the children of God. When we read the Bible, we must read not only about the characters in the foreground but also the struggle between God and the evil spirits in the background. Only then can we understand the spiritual depth of God’s Word.
For example, at the beginning of Leviticus 17, it mentions that the Israelites must not kill the sacrifices themselves and that they should not shed blood. If they shed blood, they will be cut off from the people (17:4). Probably because of this rule, both Judaism and Islam have specialized priests that will kill the sacrifices. What is the reason for this? The reason is clearly recorded in verses 5-7. Verse 5 (ESV) says: “This is to the end that the people of Israel may bring their sacrifices that they sacrifice in the open field, that they may bring them to the Lord, to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and sacrifice them as sacrifices of peace offerings to the Lord.” What is a peace offering? In the peace offering, the blood and fat are given to God, while the meat is given to the priest. Verse 6 (NIV) says: “The priest is to sprinkle the blood against the altar of the LORD at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and burn the fat as an aroma pleasing to the LORD.” The blood is for atonement, and the burning of fat is to satisfy God. We know that when Noah offered a clean sacrifice after the flood, Jehovah also felt satisfied with the “pleasing aroma.” Why does animal sacrifice satisfy God in these instances?
The answer to this question seems like a mystery. In reference to this, David wrote in Psalm 51 that God was not pleased with the burnt offerings but rather pleased with a “broken spirit, and a broken and contrite heart” (NIV, Psalm 51:17). David also said in Psalm 51:16 (NIV), “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.” So God is not a carnivore, nor a bloodthirsty figure who would be satisfied the moment He smelled the aroma of meat or blood. Rather, God’s satisfaction comes from the worship that people bring through sacrifice. Because although it is the animal sacrifice that satisfies God, the ones who offer the sacrifices are human. In fact, it is human actions (in this case, the act is to offer animal sacrifice) that satisfy God.
God Desires Worship
What God wants is for His people to worship Him. What Satan and the evil spirits are stealing from God is not the sacrifice itself but people’s worship behind the sacrifice. Thus Leviticus 17:7 (NIV) says, “They must no longer offer any of their sacrifices to the goat idols to whom they prostitute themselves. This is to be a lasting ordinance for them and for the generations to come.” The reason why God stipulated that people couldn’t offer sacrifices outside the tabernacle was not because of the issue of whether the sacrifice was slaughtered in the tabernacle or in the field, but whether the sacrifice was dedicated to God or the idols and the evil spirits. Satan used the idols, such as the goat idols mentioned, to try to steal people’s worship from God. This was the crux of the matter. It was not about the format that was used to worship God. Worshipping God with our hearts is the key. Therefore, when the Lord Jesus came, His way of worshiping God was different from that of the Israelites. For example, when He healed the sick on the Sabbath and ate ears of grain, he was attacked by the Israelites. This was where Satan attacked Jesus through a religious spirit, as I mentioned earlier. Satan often tries to twist the meaning of words. What God cares about is “who do you worship?” but Satan twists the question into “what ways of worship do you use?”. One method that Satan often uses today is to take a legalistic and religious approach to past teachings or commands of God.
In the conversation between the Lord and the Samaritan woman in John 4, the Samaritan woman said, “Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” (NIV, John 4:20). But the Lord Jesus’ answer was, “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (NIV, John 4:21-24).
In other words, the Samaritan woman was talking about the correct way and place to worship, but Jesus was talking about “who are you worshipping?” or “how are you worshipping?”. Worshipping in spirit and in truth is not just a method; it’s also about worshipping God (who is the spirit) from our heart. The correct way to worship is the natural unity of “objects of worship/God” and “ways of worship/in spirit and truth or in Jerusalem.” I’m not saying that we should trivialize the various ways of worship. The different ways of worship are very important. In the Old Testament, animal sacrifices were indeed ordained by God, and there were many details. We cannot separate the ways of worship from the objects of worship, nor can we exalt the ways of worship over the objects of worship. An example of this in today’s church could be habits of over-exalting a certain religion (a form of worship) while ignoring our objects of worship and hurting people who also worship one God using different ways of worship. When the Catholic Church burned the Protestant heretics to death because of their way of worship, were they the same as the Jews persecuting the Lord Jesus Christ?
Forms and Ways of Worship
The enemy has two tricks. The first is to imitate, counterfeit, and steal your worship. This comes from the mocking spirit we mentioned earlier, and the goat idols in this chapter are an example of this. The second is to idolize, use religion, dogma, and legalistic approaches to the ways of worship you value so that you feel when others violate your customary ways of worship, they are violating the God you worship. This is certainly not true.
The same is true for consuming blood. The reason why people can’t consume blood is very clear. It is because the life of a creature is in its blood; it is the blood that atones for one’s life (NIV, Leviticus 17:11). It is similar to the relationship between the “ways of worship” and the “objects of worship” we mentioned earlier. The two we are discussing here are “can’t consume blood” and “make atonement. ” “Can’t consume blood” is the “way of worship.” Of course, we must respect the way of worship set by God. But the “ways of worship” cannot replace or be exalted over the “objects of worship.” The key here is to “make atonement” before God. When the Lord Jesus comes, the ways of worship will change, but the objects of worship will not change.
Hebrews 9:12-14 (NIV) says: “He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtainingeternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!”
Blood is a representation, a form, and a way of worship. In the Old Testament, the way of worship and the object of worship were not the same. But in the New Testament, the way of worship and the object of worship have become one, which is the Lord Jesus Himself. He is our way of worship, because there is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, the man Christ Jesus (NIV, 1 Timothy 2:5); He is also our object of worship, because “worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise” (NIV, Revelation 5:12).
Unifying the Form and Content of Worship
Hebrews 10:5-8 (NIV) says,
So when Christ came to Earth, He said, “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—I have come to do your will, my God.’” First, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law.”
When the Jews were opposed to Jesus changing the ways of worship, it was actually Satan who opposed the unity of the ways of worship and objects of worship through a religious spirit. The ways of worship can be seen as a form, and the object of worship can be seen as the content. The form and content need to be unified. But if the form and content cannot be unified, we need to exalt the content, not the form.
Paul said: “When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.” (NIV, 1 Corinthians 14:26). The hymn, word of instruction, revelation, tongue, and interpretation mentioned here are all forms of worship. The content and objects of worship are God and Christ Himself. When Christians quarreled about whether to speak in tongues and use other ways of worship, they were completely misguided because they were already deceived by the enemy through the religious spirit, transferring their attention from the content and objects of worship to the “ways of worship.” Paul said very clearly at the end of this sentence, “Everything must be done so that the church may be built up,” which is the content.
As for consuming blood or not, that also falls under the ways of worship. Paul made it clear in 1 Corinthians 10:23 that we have the right to do anything, but not everything is beneficial; we have the right to do anything, but not everything is constructive (NIV). The Word of God does not say whether we can consume blood or not in the New Testament. But I choose not to consume blood because it violates the form of worship ordained by God in the Old Testament. However, I will not try to impose this conviction on others because it does not conform to the commandment “love your neighbor as yourself” in the New Testament.
I hope we can all see the light and achieve the natural unity of the form and content of worship. Remember not to exalt any form of worship over the object and the content of worship. The method of worship may often change, but the object and content of worship will never change. We must allow some freedom in the way others worship, as long as we worship the one true God. God is great! He created every snowflake to be unique. He is also pleased when people use different methods of worship to worship Him.