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.
Leviticus 17 is a chapter all about the blood of animals. The Israelites were commanded not to eat any meat with the blood still in it, but to drain the blood out of the meat and to bring their sacrifices to the temple. Multiple reasons are given for these commands.
First, God wants the people to bring their sacrifices because He wants them to be faithful to Him. He is not telling them to be vegetarian or any such thing. He is saying that they should bring their sacrifices to the tabernacle so they can make peace offerings to Him and the whole exercise can be one of increasing fellowship and improving relationship with Him.
Second, God points out that the life of the thing is in its blood. There are some ancient cultures that believed in consuming various internal organs or drinking the blood of an animal in order to take on one or more of its attributes. God says that the life of the animal is in its blood and the blood. He then explains that it is the life itself that makes atonement.
Both of these reasons point forward to Jesus.
The prohibition against any surrogates for the sacrifices that would generate fellowship and communion with God was a reminder that God establishes the way we come to Him. We cannot create our own way and expect it to be effective, since God has not sanctioned that way. When Jesus spoke with His disciples, He said that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). He is the only Way that God accepts and no other may be employed.
The statement about the life being in the blood points forward to the perfect life that would be lived by Jesus and that very same perfection would be poured out at the cross, just as the blood of the sacrifices was poured out at the foot of the altar. The priest was to sprinkle the blood on the horns of the altar and Christ, in His crucifixion, applied His own blood to the four points of the cross. My High Priest applying His own sinless life blood to the four corners of the altar on which He was sacrificed to cleanse me from my sin.
But that idea of the life being in the blood goes a step further, as Jesus told His disciples that the cup passed around at the Lord’s Supper, a.k.a. Communion, was a symbolic stand-in for His blood in which He was making a new covenant. He instructed His disciples to drink the cup in remembrance of Him until He returned. Believers are to drink in the life of Christ, to take in that life and make it part and parcel of who we are.
Is the life of Christ a part of me? Is it impacting the life I live? The life is in the blood and I am reminded of the blood every time I come to The Lord’s Table. Do I live out what Christ puts in? If no, then I need to work out my salvation with fear and trembling. If yes, then I should stay the course and grow in that.
Father, thank You for the blood of Christ; the sinless life that was given for me. Thank You that this law regarding blood points forward to a still better sacrifice and a still more innocent and perfect life that would be laid down for the sins of the world. Please work that life into me and teach me to live it out.