Shemot (Exodus) 21:1–24:18
Our weekly Scripture portion (parasha) opens with Exodus 21:1, an important verse that connects to last week’s reading, that consisted of the Ten Commandments and the other instructions that God gave Israel:
And these are the ordinances (statutes) [המשפטים] that you shall set before them.
—Shemot (Exodus) 21:1
I devoted last year’s blog on this weekly portion Parashat Mishpatim (Ordinance or Statute) to the issue of God’s ordinances (statutes), which I highly recommend you to read in full. But as a quick summary, I wrote that the statutes of the Lord are good; we know that they ultimately point to Yeshua, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that no one can come to the Father (or enter the Kingdom) unless it is through Him.
In Exodus 24, we read two accounts when Moses came to the Children of Israel and read to them the ordinances (statutes) of the Lord:
Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the LORD and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice, and said, “All the words which the LORD has spoken we will do!
—Shemot (Exodus) 24:3
Then he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will hear (obey)!”
—Shemot (Exodus) 24:7
Immediately, the Children of Israel responded that they would follow and obey the Lord’s statutes. After that, Moses does something very interesting:
So Moses took the blood and threw it on the people, and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD has cut (made or formed) with you in accordance with all these words.”
—Shemot (Exodus) 24:8
When one looks at the Hebrew text, one sees that Moses did not just “sprinkle” the blood on the people, but actually “threw” the blood on them. This is an act that, in our day and age, would be considered horrifying – even barbaric – but let’s consider what this really meant.
First of all, the ancient Israelites understood that blood was connected to atonement, a cleansing of sin, and therefore, I am convinced that they would not have been horrified, but actually rather excited by it, understanding that it represented the covenant between God and Israel. Not only that, they would have understood that the blood was cleansing and they were “clean” before the Almighty.
As followers of Messiah, it’s important that we understand the sacrificial system in light of Messiah’s ultimate final sacrifice, and His role as the Mediator of a New Covenant. Chapter 9 of the Book of Hebrews gives us incredible insight into our weekly portion, showing us how the statutes given in the Hebrew Scriptures connect to Messiah Yeshua. In Hebrews 9:18-22, we find a direct reference to Exodus 24:8:
Therefore even the first covenant was not inaugurated without blood. For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses to all the people according to the Law, he took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “THIS IS THE BLOOD OF THE COVENANT WHICH GOD COMMANDED YOU.” And in the same way he sprinkled both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry with the blood. And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
The shedding of blood was not something humans made up to receive a clear conscience; it was God’s condition that He set in place in order for us to receive atonement. Why blood? Because “the life…is in the blood” (Leviticus 17:11a). We can now better understand the significance of Yeshua shedding His own blood as an everlasting atonement for all who would accept it.
As a closing thought, I’d like to point out an interesting shift from Exodus to Hebrews 9. Only after the Children of Israel said that they would “do and obey,” did Moses throw the blood on them. In the New Covenant, we must first acknowledge the blood that was shed for us through Messiah, and then we are able to live obediently for Him who died and rose again on our behalf! His atonement enables us to “do and obey.”
Freedom in Yeshua is not lawlessness! If we love Him, we will obey Him and His statutes. And we will know true freedom.
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