Is God Bloodthirsty?
Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
Regarding blood sacrifice, has God ever needed blood in order to be appeased? I would argue, no, God has never needed blood to satisfy or placate Him. Yet I certainly do believe that the death of Jesus, and the shedding of his blood, were absolutely necessary to save us.
The Scriptures say, “For the life of a creature is in the blood.” Lev. 17:11. So we can confidently conclude the life of Jesus Christ is in his blood. In fact, Jesus says,
Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. John 6:54-55.
Jesus is described as “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” Rev. 13:8. Although we all agree the sacrifice of Jesus was necessary to save us, I would further argue that his was the one and ONLY sacrifice that was ever necessary to save us. And that it was not made to appease the Father, but rather because our gift of divine life is in his blood. We needed that precious blood made available to us; so, God and His Son made it available.
Our redemption is in stages. Christ’s Death, and Christ’s Blood are two sides of the same coin. I would suggest some distinctions between these two aspects of redemption:
-Christ’s DEATH ransomed us, and freed us from our captivity to death, under the author of death…that great legalist…SATAN. Matt. 20:28, Hebrews 2:14. Christ’s death was the price paid to redeem us from the devil. Christ had to die to break the power of death, and to regain the title deed to the earth. (For more on the title deed, please see “Is God Violent, Or Nonviolent.") As Jeremy Myers has pointed out, *“In His death, Jesus put to death the religious requirement of death.” —Satan being the religionist.
-However, Christ’s BLOOD gives us life. The blood continues the redemption process in order to heal our souls and bodies from the effects of sin. It was not shed to satisfy either our heavenly Father, or Satan, either (bloodthirsty devil though he is). Christ’s Blood was shed exclusively to meet our need for the divine LIFE contained in it. Lev. 17:11, John 6:54.
Titus 2:14 says, “Who gave Himself for us, that He might  redeem us from every lawless deed and  purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” I would argue that it is the legalist Satan who penalizes people for their “lawless deeds,” not God. In life, by sickness, guilt, and other bad things; in death, by imprisoning them in hell. The Death of Christ sets people free from captivity to Satan (at least, those who take and use their “Get Out of Jail Free” card by receiving Christ and being born again); the Blood of Christ then purifies their guilty consciences, heals their bodies and souls, and re-harmonizes them to their true identity as the children of God.
There are many Bible verses about the efficacy of the redeeming Blood of Christ, which are traditionally interpreted to mean that an angry, offended, legalistic God had finally been satisfied. So, He won’t destroy people smart enough to hide from Him under that Blood. But thankfully, more often than not, there are good, alternative interpretations for those hard verses—the verses which seem to paint God in an “un-Daddy-like” color.
For example, Hebrews 9:22 says, “Without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” However, the Greek word translated there as “forgiveness,” aphesis (ä’-fë-sēs), is alternatively defined as “release from bondage or imprisonment.” This preferred definition is in keeping with our argument that the sacrifice of Christ was not to appease an angry, offended God, but in order for a loving heavenly Daddy 1) to release us from captivity through His Son’s death, and 2) to provide us a life-giving blood transfusion!
The standard argument supporting the idea that our God has always needed blood sacrifice to appease His wrath, is basically: God is holy and just; is deeply offended by sin; for His divine justice to be satisfied requires blood payment for sin; all in order to ‘balance His books.’
Support for this argument usually begins with Genesis, where we are reminded that God Himself sacrificed innocent animal(s) in order to clothe Adam and Eve after they sinned in the Garden. However, some scholars argue that Adam and Eve were originally clothed in divine light, and that after they sinned, they needed to be clothed in human skin, since they were losing their glorious light covering.
Psalm 104:2 says, “The LORD wraps himself in light as with a garment.” (Note: the Hebrew word for “light” in this verse is pronounced ‘owr, like “this OR that.”) And Genesis 1:26 tells us, “Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness….”
So, made in the image of God, Adam and Eve were likewise originally clothed in light, or so the argument goes.
Rabbinical scholars note that the Hebrew word for “light” is a homonym for the Hebrew word for “skin.” In Genesis 3:21, we read that God made for Adam and Eve garments of skin to replace the fig leaves with which they had wrapped themselves. The Hebrew word for “skin” in this verse is likewise pronounced ‘owr.
אוֹר ‘owr Strong’s H216 – light
עור ‘owr Strong’s H5785 – skin
So possibly Adam and Eve went from being clothed in ‘owr (light) to being clothed in ‘owr (skin/human skin). Because of sin, they lost a nature of light and gained a nature of flesh. (If so, then ‘owr would seem to be a play on words.)
The next supporting example for the argument of an offended God needing to be appeased by blood is the case of righteous (and, like everyone at that point, vegetarian) Abel. He brought to God *“the female firstlings of his flock, even from their fat ones.” *[Gen. 4:4, Young’s Literal Translation.] But the biblical account doesn’t actually state the animals were killed.
(It should be noted that angry Cain was promised prophetically, “If thou dost not well, at the opening a sin-offering is crouching…” [Gen. 4:7, YLT] —possibly pointing to that humble future lamb, Christ, who, from the foundation of the world, gave his life for everyone, including Cain. He did this both 1) to free us from our captivity to death—through his death, and 2) to provide us the gift of divine life—through his blood.)
The first indisputable blood sacrifice to God was by Noah, after The Flood (Gen. 8:20). But perhaps by then, blood sacrifices to appease the gods were already customary throughout Noah’s fallen, pagan world?
The Bible shows a progressively increasing revelation of the goodness of God. So, then, what about that whole sacrificial system instituted by Moses? Professor C.S. Cowles points out that,
In progressive revelation what we see is…reflective of the human mediators’ growing understanding of his [God’s] character, will, and gracious saving purposes in Scripture. Isaiah, for instance, saw into the mind and heart of God more clearly than Moses when he virtually dismisses the whole sacrificial system that Moses believed to have been instituted by God, instructions that are given in great detail in Exodus and Leviticus. In contradistinction to Israel’s entire temple-cult and priestly system, Isaiah asserts that God does not require “burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals,” and that he took “no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.” What the prophet sees anticipates the dramatically clearer revelation of God fleshed out in Jesus: namely, that God is not impressed by outward ritual but rather inward holiness of heart and life (see Isa. 1:11-18)….
I might add that the whole Mosaic system seems to be an unfortunate interruption in the unilateral, everlasting, Abrahamic covenant of grace for Abraham and his descendants (Gen. 17:19). And we should remember that being in Christ means we are numbered among the descendants of Abraham! Romans 4, Galatians 3, Hebrews 7.
[Regarding “Unilateral”–one-sided, it was so because it was only God making a promise; and the promise was between God and himself (Christ). It was [i]not[/size] a bilateral pact, between God and us, with both sides making promises. Everything we need is found in the faithful Christ, alone.
We recall the self-maledictory oath of God in Genesis 15:5-21 (and examined in Hebrews 6:13-20). This was a type of oath, back in that day and culture, which Abraham could understand. And the fact that Abraham was asleep and didn’t walk between the cuttings himself indicated that the covenant held no obligation for Abraham.
We can see the promise from the Father to Christ in these words: *“The Lord said to my Lord: Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet,” *e.g., Matt. 22:44. Again, in John 3:16, on the part of the Father, we read “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son….” On the part of the Son, there had to be an agreement that he would come into the world and live as a man under the Mosaic law, and die to free us from captivity, and to give us the divine life found in his blood. We see his full agreement when Jesus said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law….“Here I am, I have come to do your will.” Heb. 10:8-9.]
Jesus rescued us from that terrible Mosaic “hiccup.” Joseph Prince highlights that horrendous exchange of covenants by the Jews in Destined To Reign:
Regarding the self-sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, The Christus Victor Theory of the Atonement holds that it was actually SATAN’S wrath being poured out on Christ at the cross, not God’s. Because, after all, “God was IN Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not counting people’s sins against them.” 2 Cor. 5:19. This position is in stark contrast to the Penal Substitution Theory of what happened on the cross.
Author, theologian, and criminal defense attorney Richard K. Murray makes clear that “Jesus’ shed blood is not about punishment FOR sin. It’s about deliverance FROM sin.” He writes:
“…The beloved. In whom we have redemption [Strongs: a releasing effected by payment of ransom] through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” Eph. 1:6b-7.
Christ’s sacrifice was necessary, both to ransom us, by his own death—to destroy Satan’s legalistic captivity of DEATH, and also to provide us his own BLOOD—which contains his divine LIFE. But neither Christ’s death nor his blood were in any way to appease an angry Creator.
Christ is ‘the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world’ (John 1:29). The blood of the lambs sacrificed by the Israelites at the first Passover foreshadowed the blood of Christ. The lambs’ blood was applied by the obedient Israelites to the tops and sides of their doors, to turn away the destroyer, the angel of death, Satan. That fallen angel Lucifer is the one with the power of death, not God (Heb. 2:14). He, the devil, is the legalist who seeks the chance to destroy people in punishment for their sins, not God.
Who was Jesus sacrificed to? An “angry” God, or an angry devil?
And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. Eph. 5:2.
Jesus was the perfect sacrifice to God, honoring God by his obedience, by cooperating to give his life for our sakes. But I repudiate the idea that God was angry at us, or needed to be placated by blood.
Again, our freedom and healing is a two step process provided by the death of the lamb of God: to both release us from the devil, and also to provide to us the very life of God, found in His Blood.
Through the sacrifice of Christ, we receive freedom from the legalistic devil and his opportunistic attacks afforded to him by our sins (but Satan’s legal dogma weapons were nailed to the cross, Col. 2:14-15); and we receive healing through the life found in God-the-Son’s blood and flesh:
Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you….For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.” Jn. 6:53, 55.
We are to continue to feed on the bread of life, Christ our Passover lamb (Mark 14:22, 1 Cor. 5:7, 11:23-25), and to apply his blood to our consciences (Heb. 9:14), just as the Israelites were to apply a lamb’s blood to their doors, and eat its flesh (Ex. 12:7-8). Today we actively do this both to be protected from the mind games of an angry, condemning devil, and to receive more of the very life of a loving, giving God.
(Last edited 22 Sept. 2018.
Note: I was going to add the above discussion to the “For Further Consideration” section of “Is God Violent, Or Nonviolent?”, but it just got too long to be a postscript anymore )