Posted in , , ,

A Covenant Parable

25 August 2011 by Neil

They had walked more than ten dusty leagues from Megiddo to get here, but this was not what he had imagined.   Crowds surged.  Irritating gadflies buzzed.  Somewhere, a terrified animal screamed.  Men with firewood sledges cursed their way past him.   And the stink, it was way too interesting: a cocktail of sweat, tacky blood, roasting grain, rendered flesh, smoke, feces, perfume, and death.  He retched.  His father was sympathetic.  Their town teemed with pagan Canaanites (Judges 1:27) and hardly anyone there even cared about the Law of Moses, but he and his wife had done their best to teach their son what they could.  Yet this was so different from the heroic Passover stories that they had told the boy during the annual celebration feast, tales of burning bushes and parted waters and safety from wrath.  Now, for the first time, the boy was in the middle of something really ugly.

Now, for the first time, he was in Shiloh (Joshua 18:1).

It had been a huge effort and cost to provision and transport their best stock, but here they were, and in good shape. They had brought two animals: a bull for a burnt offering (Leviticus 1:3-9), and a female goat for a peace offering (Leviticus 3:1, 12-16). They also had finely milled flour from their own fields, which they had just mixed with oil and frankincense to be presented as a grain offering (Leviticus 2:1-2). The boy had helped mill the flour and was looking forward to giving it to the priests. These weren't mandatory offerings but his family wanted to give them, and had worked hard to prepare.

The boy was a sponge; he wanted to know all about these sacrifices.  His father had explained things the best he could, but had trouble answering his son's fundamental question of "Why?".  Even though the father did not really understand it himself, he told the boy that something about these offerings pleased God, and that this was all necessary because of sin. He told his son that his sins were offensive to God, and that God wanted the best offering possible.  It was clear to the boy that his father was determined to give it.

They reached the front of the queue.  Without a thanks or a wink, the grim priest snatched the grain offering from the boy and handed his father a knife.  The father placed his free hand on the forehead of the bull, held contact with its eyes, and slashed. Those eyes bulged wide in pain and terror as blood gushed from the carotid into the basin held ready by the priest's assistant.  There is a lot of blood in a bull, and some got on the boy.  His father set to dismembering the animal while the priests washed the innards and carried away body parts.  Then the father instructed his son to lead the goat forward.  Feeling woozy, the disheartened child had had quite enough of this whole affair, but he had no ruby slippers.  This bloody day would haunt his dreams for the rest of his life.

Camping on the road that night, the boy wept for the bull and the goat, and he wept for himself.  He recoiled from the abyss of his own sins and the death that flowed from them.  He was at a complete loss: he did not know what to do.  Even though he didn't have the whole Law of Moses memorized, he did know the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 5:1-33) and the Sh'ma (Deuteronomy 6:4-6).  By these standards he could never please God, no matter how many bulls and goats he killed.

Broken and desolate, and he cried out for mercy to the awful I AM (John 8:58), the God of Abraham, Moses, and the Passover. 

He recalled it all as his own son now milled the flour, and asked him why these things were necessary.