Therefore I said unto the children of Israel, No soul of you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger that sojourneth among you eat blood. – Leviticus 17:12
Meditation: Today’s discussion comes from a rather unusual place in Leviticus. Normally, we do not spend much time as Christians considering the details of the Law, but here is a good case for contemplation. Much of the Law provides moral guidance and constraints for godly living. As Jesus said, He came not to destroy the law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17-18). Such is the case with this passage concerning the handling of blood.
Of all the Old Testament provisions governing everything from devotion to diet, this is one of few things that are continued explicitly in the New Testament. Of all the specific dietary restrictions in the Mosaic Law, only this one along with abstaining from meat offered to idols are communicated to the new Gentile converts by the assembled Church leaders in Jerusalem (Acts 15:13-31). Why is eating blood a problem?
As described in the rest of Leviticus 17, blood is the source of life. Indeed, we know today that this assertion is true. Blood sustains our flesh, and life without this life giving fluid is not possible. It transports nutrients and oxygen to each cell of the body, and it carries away the waste of those same cells in a wonderfully sophisticated process through the circulatory system. As such, blood is a reflection of the life giving power of God, and it bears the breath of life within each of us.
Furthermore, blood played an explicit part of Old Testament worship. Blood was used to sprinkle the altar among other things, and it was used elsewhere as part of the Passover and other ceremonial rites foreshadowing the ultimate sacrifice of the Messiah. To sully the sacrifice and pollute the worship of God by consuming that which reflects His power was unseemly at least and abominable at worst.
In the Gospels, Christ’s blood is described as washing away our sins and the essence of the New Testament (Revelation 1:4-6). You might say the Gospels are written in the blood of Jesus. In fact, the Lord instituted an ordinance at the Last Supper using bread and wine as symbols of His holy body and blood, establishing a memorial of His atonement on Calvary the next day where His body would be broken and His blood would be shed once for all time (Luke 22:15-20). To consume blood even symbolically in worship is idolatry, another forbidden practice in both Old and New Testaments. Only the communion meal as ordained by Christ is acceptable, and it is important to note that Jesus did not command them disciples to drink actual blood but wine as a representation.
Call to Action: The Apostle Paul in writing to the Corinthians was determined to correct their behavior especially in terms of worship. They had polluted the Communion meal and thereby polluted the Church and ruined their worahip due to a lack of reverence and sincerity. Read 1 Corinthians 11:23-31. Do you take the sacrifice of Christ seriously? Do you consider communion with Him worthy of consecration and holiness? If not, I encourage you to listen to the words of the hymn, Were you there when they crucified my Lord?