Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Life Is InThe Blood

Blood is amazing stuff. The life giving qualities of blood have been realized by modern medicine. For example, blood transfusions are familiar, blood tests routine. Stem cells derived from blood are regularly used to treat diseases like leukemia that were formerly untreatable. And research into blood may lead to other cures, or slow down aging. There are entire medical journals published about blood.

Blood Rites

But modern science isn't the first to recognize the importance of blood. For example, bathing in blood was once thought to be a cure for leprosy - Wonders and Marvels [1]. In 1898, Henry Clay Trumbull wrote The Blood Covenant [2], abbreviated BC below, documenting rituals and beliefs about blood from cultures around the world - many of the facts here came directly from Trumbull. It seems every culture has some superstitious beliefs about blood. The question arises whether other cultures influenced ancient Biblical culture or vice versa. Since all mankind sprang from Noah, it seems reasonable to assume that understanding the importance of blood came from Noah. In Genesis 9:4, God told Noah "Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood". And Noah no doubt heard the story of Adam and Eve being clothed with animal skins by God after being evicted from the Garden. Blood had to be shed to "cover" Adam and Eve. Blood was called life right from the beginning.

People of many many tribes throughout history have used blood in making covenants - with regional variations. Two people would enter a covenant by cutting themselves and exchanging blood - Syrians by literally drinking from each others veins - BC p6;  Scythians mixed their blood with wine first (called vinum assiratum, covenant wine) - BC p44; Dayaks and Kayans of Borneo mixed their blood with water first - BC p36-37; the Bangala of Africa by letting their bloods mingle by pressing their cuts together BC p25; the Norse by mingling their blood on the ground BC p30; Indians and  Persians would use the blood of a substitutionary animal - BC p120; Fijians, Indians, Chibchas of Central America, Scots and more would use a substitutionary liquid like wine (or whisky) to represent the blood of the participants - BC pp136,137,139,141. Trumbull documents many more rites like these from all over the world. All these rituals were intended to make the two parties closer than brothers for life, hence the term blood brothers. So close that one blood brother could not marry the second blood brother's sister, it was considered incest. Blood brothers were considered closer than husband and wife. Blood Is Thicker Than Water

What this really means is the blood of a covenant is thicker than the water of the womb. Which means we've actually got it backward -- the "water of the womb," or our family relationships, is not as strong as the "blood of the covenant." - Misused Proverbs [3]

Why the need for such rituals? They are bizarre and savage from our point of view. It's a question of trust. There were no policemen to turn to in ancient times. Anyone who saw the scar from a blood covenant knew he was messing with two, not one, it was protection. A blood brother had your back no matter what. He would fight along side you, and avenge your death. He would care for your family if needed. Anyone who betrayed a blood covenant had essentially agreed to die a bloody death, so you had to really trust the one you covenanted with.  Mingling blood is more serious than a handshake, or a signature, or even pinky swearing.

Blood Covenants

Abraham appears to have made covenants with his neighbors. In Genesis 14:13, it says "Mamre and his relatives, Eshcol and Aner, were Abram's allies." The Hebrew here implies more, "they were masters of the covenant with Abram". They had "cut" a covenant, sacrificing animals and walking between their slaughtered halves. We also see Abraham make a covenant with Abimelech in Genesis 21:27.

People also saw blood as a vehicle to join with the divine. Making yourself bleed over a dead person was thought to put you into union with "the other side".

Those who give some of their blood to the ghost of a man just dead and lingering near (and of course, the principle is the same when the offering of blood is to the gods, thereby) effect with it a union, which on the one side implies submission, and on the other side friendliness.”  H. C. Trumbull quoting Herbert Spencer, The Blood Covenant [2]

But can humans initiate union with God? Isn't it more accurate to say He initiates union with us, including the when and the how? So how does God cut a covenant with man? That is what happened between God and Abraham (and eventually all mankind). God initiated the covenant using sacrificial animals to cut a covenant with Abraham. In Genesis 15, God tells Abraham to cut a heifer, a goat, and a lamb. This meant cutting them in two, down the middle. Abraham laid the halves opposite each other. God passed betwen the halves alone appearing as a torch and an oven (light and heat),  but Abraham did not pass between the halves. God was going to keep the covenant forever unconditionally, Abraham would eventually die so he could not.
Gen 15:18 To your descendants I have given this land,
From the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates
When humans cut a covenant, they write two copies of it, cut animals, walk between the pieces, then exchange blood, names, property, and even sons - Beth Tikkun [4]. We see how lopsided it is to covenant with God, and it is tempting to think He did it all for me, I don't have to do anything. How did these exchanges take place between Abraham and God?
  • Blood - The sign of the Abrahamic covenant is circumcision. Jesus also shed His blood for us.
  • Names - God took part of His name YHVH and gave the H to Abram (Exalted Father), making his name Abraham (Father of Many). This happened in Gen 17. Jesus reveals God as Father (Abba) in the New Testament (Ab in Hebrew means Father). 
  • Property - Verse 18 above shows the property God promised to Abraham's descendants. Abraham gave a tenth of all to Melchizedek.
  • Sons - Abraham offered up his son Isaac, though God stopped him. God the Father gave His son Jesus to Abraham and all those under the covenant.
The Abrahamic covenant is originally given in Gen 12, expanded in Gen 15 and 17, and expanded again in Gen 21. It is extended to Abraham's son Isaac in Gen 26 and extended again to Jacob in Gen 28. God extended the covenant to all Israel at mount Sinai. It is known as the Old Covenant, and recorded in Exodus 24:6-8.

6 Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and the other half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. 7 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 be obedient!” 8 So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

All the promises to Abraham are part of the Old Covenant ratified in Exodus 24. Ancient Israel did possess the land promised to Abraham, but the Abrahamic Covenant will see its ultimate fulfillment when Messiah returns - Got Questions [5].

Abrahamic, Mosaic, and New Covenants

Does this Abrahamic blood covenant even apply to "New Covenant" Christians today?  Yes, it does.
The importance of understanding the Blood Covenant is found in the fact that the basis of Christianity is rooted in a Blood Covenant - Faith Writers [6].
The New Covenant is a blood covenant. And yes, it involves a responding action on the part of the Bride. The Christian faith is ultimately a continuation and an unfolding of the Abrahamic Covenant. It is a two way agreement between YHVH-God and His covenant people, the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
He will use the New Covenant he makes within human hearts to fulfill the Old Covenant He made with the Nation of Israel. End Time Pilgrim [7]

In Galation 3:29, we see this.
And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring (seed), heirs according to the promise.
This does not mean that the Christian church, whoever that is, is entitled to the physical land of Israel. Indeed, "The Abrahamic covenant is remarkably inclusive, containing promises to the natural descendants of Abraham, to his spiritual sons and daughters, and indeed to Christ as well." - ICEJ [8]. Pay attention to what is promised to whom.

The promises are like the spring harvest pictured by the Feast of First Fruits and the main fall harvest pictured by the Feast of Tabernacles. Physical Israel is the spring harvest, the church is the fall harvest.

Drink My Blood

Where is the blood in the New Covenant? Jesus bled to death on the cross, but what do we do? Many are repulsed reading about drinking each others blood when making a covenant, but that's what Jesus asked us to do. And this repulsed His hearers as well.
John 6:53 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
John 6:66 As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” 68 Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. "

We learn later that Jesus was referring to a substitute, the bread and wine of the Passover ceremony. The Passover wine is a metaphor for the blood that seals our covenant with God Himself. Let's remember Peter's words "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. " Let's also remember the seriousness of a blood covenant. I certainly didn't realize the gravity of the commitment I made when I entered into a blood covenant with God. In America, we simply don't learn much about blood covenants. I entered into it with the wrong motives. Only now, 35 years later, am I beginning to understand. Am I willing to do whatever He asks to keep my end of the covenant? We have pledged our lives in this New Covenant, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service." Romans 12:1