Last time we talked about Reality A and Reality B, the reality of separation from God and the reality of Israel’s future union with God. The reality of separation is Israel standing outside the tent sanctuary while God’s presence, not God in person, dwells inside behind the tent and behind a veil. The reality of separation is further enhanced by the fact that blood must cleanse the altar morning and evening through the perpetual offering (tamid). The reality of union with God is described in Deuteronomy 30 as a day when all Israel will have circumcised hearts and love God perfectly.
Between Reality A and Reality B there is a great gulf. The separation is explained in the Torah as uncleanness, impurity. The impurity separating man and God is described as coming from sins and certain conditions that cause impurity which are not sin (bleeding, loss of semen, contact with a corpse, etc.). The burnt offering is described as necessary to “make a cleansing on his behalf” (Lev. 1:4). The cleansing is needed because the sins and impurities of the people defiles God’s dwelling place (Lev. 15:31). The blood cleanses not the person but the dwelling place of God from the people’s impurities (Lev. 16:16). In order for God to remain present amongst the people, even behind a tent and a veil and with only his presence, not his actual person, this cleansing must be constant.
But the reality of union with God is much more glorious. At a future time, after Israel has experienced blessing and curse, after Israel has been scattered to the nations, outcast to the uttermost parts of heaven, then Israel will be regathered and experience union. Israel will obey the Torah once again and this will lead God to circumcise the hearts of the people so that they will love perfectly.
It is important to realize that having a circumcised heart is not something man has ever achieved. No one in the Torah or the prophets is said to have a circumcised heart. Moses commands the people to circumcise their hearts in Deuteronomy 10:16 as does Jeremiah in 4:4. Yet the reality is that God does the circumcising at the end of the age and that is the only time when heart circumcision is actually accomplished (Deut. 30:6). Moses and Jeremiah command it in the general sense, like saying “soften your heart.” God accomplishes it in the ultimate sense, with not just softened hearts but hearts that perfectly love HaShem.
So the situation in the Torah is separation and the inability of the people to approach God. But the reality of the Age to Come will be union with God and no separation. In case this implication of Deuteronomy 30 is doubted, the prophets make it abundantly clear. Jeremiah says the whole Torah will be written on the heart and everyone will know God (31:31-34). Ezekiel says Israel will be sprinkled clean, receiving new hearts and the Spirit of God (36:25-26). In the great temple of the Age to Come, God says he will dwell in the midst of Israel forever and Israel will never again defile his presence (Ezekiel 43:7-9).
But how will Israel come to this point where God dwells with the nation and there is no more defilement? Something must happen in between. That something which must happen should be consistent with the way God has worked in the Torah.
The first principle of God’s cleansing and transforming work is that blood, because of life, is required. This principle is stated in Leviticus 17:11, but is also made clear in the entire system of sacrifices and in the history of the patriarchs:
For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have assigned it to you for making expiation for your lives upon the altar; it is the blood, as life, that effects expiation. (JPS Tanakh)
For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.’ (New American Standard)
That blood was required for Israel to approach God is undeniable. Sometimes critics of Yeshua look for exceptions, such as the burnt offering of grain. But these approached depend on the Torah-ignorance of the audience to make them believable. Anyone who knows Torah knows that every morning and evening a lamb was offered as a burnt offering–the first and last sacrifice of each day. These lambs, known as the tamid or perpetual offering, have their blood dashed against the altar (Num. 28:1-8; Lev. 1:5). These two lambs and their blood made the entire temple worship possible.
The Torah formula is simple: the people are unclean because of sin and impurity, God is holy and will not allow himself to be defiled, the sins of the people defile the altar and the sanctuary, and the blood of animals cleanses the altar and sanctuary so God’s presence can dwell in the holy tent. No blood, no cleansing. No blood, no presence of God in the midst of Israel. Blood is indispensable. The blood cleanses because of the life, as Leviticus 17:11 declares.
The second Torah principle is substitution. The blood of an animal cleanses because of the life. That life is a substitute for the life of the worshiper. When Abraham was restrained from sacrificing Isaac, he did not simply walk away from the altar. God arranged a miracle–a ram caught in a thicket. The purpose of God’s miracle was to provide a substitute to die in Isaac’s place. When Israel was freed from the tenth plague in Egypt, the price of redemption was a lamb–a lamb in place of the firstborn of Israel.
Blood cleansing and substitutionary sacrifice are the way of the Torah. They are also the way of Yeshua. If we are asking the question, “Is Yeshua the Messiah?” one part of that question is this: is his action to redeem Israel consistent with the Torah? Note that we are not saying by this that Yeshua is thereby proven to be the Messiah. We are merely asking if his action to redeem Israel was consistent with the Torah.
The answer is yes. Yeshua’s act to redeem Israel (and the nations) was a blood sacrifice intended as a substitution. As he himself put it:
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45).
A ransom is a payment substituting one thing–Yeshua’s life–for another–the punishment Israel and the nations deserve.
In the principles of blood cleansing and substitution in the Torah, we see that Yeshua’s sacrifice is consistent. We also see that Yeshua’s sacrifice could possibly be the action with takes Israel from Reality A to Reality B. Since Reality B–the reality of Israel’s union with God–is not yet here, this case is not yet proven. There are many more things to consider.
Next time: The root of the Messiah concept and the Davidic King.