“Because God has made us for Himself, our hearts are restless until they rest in Him.” St. Augustine’s words tell of our deep yearning for God’s love. But we are caught between our longing for him and our powerful compulsion to be our own masters of the universe.
We are like the child who angrily runs away from home and fears that the door he slammed behind him is closed forever. We are lost and frightened and desperate for love. We need a way back, and God himself has supplied the doorway, as we see in the Letter to the Hebrews.
“Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb. 9:22). Why is that? Sin means hurt to one another and to God’s creation, and rejection of God himself. The only possible result is death: living without God is hell on earth and hell after death.
God gave his people the law to show his perfect will for them to live in communion with God and with one another. Being rebellious sorts, we fell away from God’s law from the first, preferring to put ourselves above all others and to live a life without trust in God.
By his mercy, we continue to yearn for God, and thanks to the law, not to mention the obvious consequences, we may recognize our sin. And by his mercy God has provided a way to return, to draw near to him and receive lives of peace, comfort, and purpose.
How? Our sin brings about death; we require new life; and the life is in the blood. A transfusion of fresh unsullied blood is needed to bring us new life.
God gave his people directions for how to sacrifice their very best animals to atone for their sins and gain his presence. He instructed them how to build first a tabernacle, later a temple, where sacrifices were to take place and where he would meet them. Thus God made it very clear that the shedding of blood provides a doorway back to his presence.
But the blood of bulls and goats cannot avail for sin once and for all; it must be offered again and again. Bulls and goats are not our selves—they may be our very best possessions but they are not our whole hearts; they are not the death that sin exacts. Sacrificing animals became an obligation, not an act of love.
It took the blood of God’s own Son to be the sacrifice for all time. When Jesus was crucified, he gave himself in perfect love for mankind. The missing element in our animal sacrifices is perfect love. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16), or as the poet said, “Love is the opening door… no one could offer you more.”
In former times the high priest met God, on behalf of the people, in a hidden room in the center of the temple; now “we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain” (Heb. 10:19-20). The curtain has been torn open, and the Holy Spirit has moved into the hearts of all believers, allowing us to be always in God’s presence, forever to be filled with his love. No temple is needed, and no more blood; it has been done once and for all eternity. We are his, praise the Lord!