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The Israelites were expected to “rejoice” in their relationship with the central altar and government. The law was the perfect “law of liberty” (James 2:12), by which the people could enjoy freedom. While the world confuses license with freedom, the divine law prohibits slavery to vice, for its goal is to liberate us from the house of bondage. Sin brings bondage; sinless living is freedom.
Unbelievers, of course, want to determine their own courses of action according to the desires of their flesh, not realizing that those desires always lead to bondage and death. For this reason, when they are constrained by the righteous laws of God, they may feel too restricted and may consider God’s law to be oppressive. Such people will chafe and not rejoice under Christ’s headship.
Therefore, righteous government is cause for rejoicing only among believers as well as those unbelievers who may have their eyes opened to see the benefits of Christ’s rule. For this reason, the Kingdom of God is antagonistic toward the desires of the flesh (Romans 7:23), and Paul also tells us that “those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:8).
Those who would murder and steal inevitably are restricted by the law of God and, unless they repent, they feel oppressed when called upon to pay restitution to their victims. Those who wish to commit sodomy or adultery will also feel restricted and will not rejoice in God’s government.
Even the church in the wilderness grumbled and complained, for their level of faith was insufficient to restrain the desires of their flesh for the tasty food of Egypt. So also it is with much of the church today, which abhors the law of God, ignorantly considering it to be an oppressive drudgery instead of the ways of God. To disparage the law is to malign the character of God and to confess disagreement with the mind of Christ.
Much of such disagreement stems from a lack of understanding, brought about by the simple lack of teaching. Many Christians do not know that while God does not change, the law certainly changes to fit different circumstances. Prior to the report of the twelve spies, for example, the command of God was to enter the land of Canaan at the 50th Jubilee from Adam. After they refused, however, the command changed so that they had to wait until another 38 years had passed. Those who attempted to enter in the next day were as disobedient as when they had refused to enter the land the previous day.
Some significant changes in the law also took place when Israel left the wilderness and entered the Promised Land. They were to begin keeping their rest-year Sabbaths and Jubilees (Lev. 25:2). Those Sabbaths were not relevant while Israel was in the wilderness, for there they did no farming, and hence the land did not require its rest.
Another change was made to the law of sacrifice. As long as Israel remained in the wilderness, they were a tightly-knit camp on all sides of the tabernacle. As such, they were to bring blood from all slaughtered animals to the altar of sacrifice (Lev. 17:3-7). This changed when Israel went into the Promised Land, for many of the people then lived far away from the place where God had put His name (Shiloh). It was no longer possible for all of them to make such a journey three times a year, and certainly it was not feasible for them to bring the blood of animals that they slaughtered for food.
For this reason, Moses revealed a change in the law in Deuteronomy 12:20-22,
20 When the Lord your God extends your border as He has promised you, and you say, “I will eat meat,” because you desire to eat meat, then you may eat meat, whatever you desire. 21 If the place which the Lord your God chooses to put His name is too far from you, then you may slaughter of your herd and flock which the Lord has given you, as I have commanded you; and you may eat within your gates whatever you desire. 22 Just as a gazelle or a deer is eaten, so you shall eat it; the unclean and the clean alike may eat of it.
In other words, while Israel was in the wilderness, they were to consider all slaughter of animals to be a sacrifice to God. Lev. 17:7 says that these were regulated to prevent people from sacrificing to “devils” (KJV), or “goat demons” (NASB). The Hebrew word is sair (i.e., Seir, as in Edom).
Once Israel crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land, they were allowed to eat such animals within their gates. Instead of bringing the blood to the tabernacle, where the priests were to pour out the blood upon the ground, the people themselves were allowed to do this. So Moses continues in Deut. 12:23-25,
23 Only be sure not to eat the blood, for the blood is the life [nephesh, “soul”], and you shall not eat the life [soul] with the flesh. 24 You shall not eat it; you shall pour it out on the ground like water. 25 You shall not eat it, in order that it may be well with you and your sons after you, for you will be doing what is right in the sight of the Lord.
As with the Israelites, so also is it with us. The change that took place when they crossed into the Promised Land also speaks of a new priestly authority that is yet to be instituted after the Pentecostal Age has run its course and the Ark of God has come to its final place of rest. Essentially, this sheds light on the original intent of God to make Israel “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6). The Levitical priesthood was only a temporary accommodation during the period of spiritual growth that was necessary to create an entire nation of priests.
As we approach the end of the plan, we see in Revelation 20:6 that the overcomers “will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.” By extension, when the rest of the church is raised at the general resurrection (at the same time as the unbelievers, Luke 12:46), they too will be given immortal life as their reward, while the unbelievers will be in need of further judgment (John 5:28, 29).
We may assume that those believers will then be given priestly authority as well during that final age of judgment until Creation’s Jubilee brings that age to a close.
The prohibition against using blood for food began with Noah in Genesis 9:4, “you shall not eat flesh with its life [soul], that is, its blood.” Just as it predated Moses, so also did it extend into the New Covenant, for at the first church council in Acts 15:20 and 29, it was determined that the prohibition was still applicable.
Many translations render nephesh as “life” and “soul” interchangeably. This is because when God made Adam a “living soul,” life was placed in the realm of the soul. However, the very fact that the Hebrew phrase made Adam a “living soul” shows that they had to use both words to describe him fully. Before God breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, Adam was just a dead soul. It was the combination of spirit and soul that gave Adam life. Conversely, the separation of spirit and soul brings death (Psalm 31:5).
Eating blood is seen as a bloodthirsty act. It was the underlying motive of the Edomites, who are depicted in Scripture as the model of bloodthirstiness. Ezekiel 35:6 and 7 says of them, “since you have not hated blood, therefore blood will pursue you, and I will make Mount Seir a waste and a desolation.”
Seir means “goat,” and it is therefore linked to the worship of “devils” in Lev. 17:7. The Israelites were to pour the blood upon the ground and cover it with dust. Unlike sheep, goats were aggressive creatures. The law against eating blood means that we are not to be aggressive, nor use our worship to curse others, nor are we to identify with the old fleshly Adamic man who was made a living soul. The law must be taught in spirit and in truth and applied without being bloodthirsty.
In Lev. 17:11 the soul is said to reside in the blood. This verse also shows us God’s purpose for the soul:
11 For the life [nephesh] is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls [nephesh]; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.
When Adam sinned, sin entered his soul, cutting him off from the immortal life of God. Hence, “the soul that sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:20). The soul is held accountable for the sin of man, because he is that soul—insofar as he is identified with the “old man” of Romans 6:6. Therefore also we read of the “souls” under the altar of sacrifice in Revelation 6:9, who are martyrs that have been sacrificed to God. Their blood cries out for justice and expresses the desire to receive their inheritance.
For this reason, presenting the blood to God signifies the death of the old man in fulfillment of the sentence of death upon Adam. Moreover, when Isaiah prophesied of the Messiah’s death as the final sacrifice for sin, he described Him as a sacrificial lamb who “poured out of his soul unto death.” In other words, His blood was poured out under the altar of God.
The purpose of blood, then, was to house the soul and to represent the old man, Adam, who was made a living soul. Those who consume blood are not only bloodthirsty, but they identify with the old man, rather than allowing the old man to die and identifying with the New Creation Man under the New Covenant. By refraining from consuming blood, we testify that we are not identified with the old Adam, but are a New Creation in Christ.