Rightly Value Your Gift of Life
“The blood of the Christ [will] cleanse our consciences from dead works that we may render sacred service to the living God.”—HEBREWS 9:14.
1. What evidence is there that we put a high value on life?
IF YOU were asked to put a value on your life, what would it be? We highly value life—our own and that of others. As evidence of that, we may go to a physician for care when we are sick or for regular checkups. We want to stay alive and healthy. Even most who are old or disabled do not want to die; they want to stay alive.
2 Your evaluation of life affects your relationships with others. For example, God’s Word directs: “Listen to your father who caused your birth, and do not despise your mother just because she has grown old.” (Proverbs 23:22) To “listen” means more than just to hear words; this proverb means to hear and then to obey. (Exodus 15:26; Deuteronomy 7:12; 13:18; 15:5; Joshua 22:2; Psalm 81:13) What reason does God’s Word give for listening? It is not just that your father and mother are older than you or have more experience. The reason given is that they “caused your birth.” Some versions render this verse: “Listen to your father who gave you life.” Understandably, if you value your life, you feel an obligation to the source of that life.
3 Of course, if you are a true Christian, you recognize Jehovah as the ultimate Source of your life. By him you “have life” itself; you can “move,” act as a sentient creature; and you now “exist” and can think about or plan for the future, including permanent life. (Acts 17:28; Psalm 36:9; Ecclesiastes 3:11) In line with Proverbs 23:22, it is right to “listen” to God obediently, desirous of grasping and acting on his view of life rather than preferring any other assessment of life.
Show Respect for Life
4. At an early point in man’s history, how did respect for life become an issue?
4 Early in man’s history, Jehovah made clear that he did not leave it up to humans to use (or abuse) life for whatever reason. Consumed with jealous rage, Cain snuffed out an innocent life, his brother Abel’s. Do you think that Cain had a right to make such a decision about life? God did not think so. He called Cain to account: “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground.” (Genesis 4:10) Note that Abel’s blood on the ground represented his life, which had been brutally cut short, and it cried out to God for vengeance.—Hebrews 12:24.
5. (a) What prohibition did God set in Noah’s day, and to whom did it apply? (b) In what sense was this prohibition an important step?
5 After the Flood, mankind started anew with just eight souls. In a declaration applying to all humans, God revealed more about his evaluation of life and blood. He said that humans could eat animal flesh, but he set this restriction: “Every moving animal that is alive may serve as food for you. As in the case of green vegetation, I do give it all to you. Only flesh with its soul—its blood—you must not eat.” (Genesis 9:3, 4) Some Jews interpret that to mean that humans were not to eat flesh or blood of an animal that was still alive. But time would clearly show that what God was here prohibiting was the consuming of blood to sustain life. Moreover, God’s decree through Noah was a major step forward in working out His elevated purpose involving blood—a purpose that would allow humans to gain everlasting life.
6. Through Noah, how did God emphasize His view of the value of life?
6 God continued: “Your blood of your souls shall I ask back. From the hand of every living creature shall I ask it back; and from the hand of man, from the hand of each one who is his brother, shall I ask back the soul of man. Anyone shedding man’s blood, by man will his own blood be shed, for in God’s image he made man.” (Genesis 9:5, 6) You can see from this declaration to the whole human family that God views a man’s blood as standing for his life. The Creator gives the person life, and no one should take that life, represented by blood. If, like Cain, someone does commit murder, the Creator has the right to “ask back” the murderer’s life.
7. Why should we be interested in God’s declaration to Noah about blood?
7 By his declaration, God was directing humans not to misuse blood. Have you ever wondered why? Yes, what was behind God’s view on blood? Actually, the answer involves one of the most important teachings in the Bible. It is at the very core of the Christian message, though many churches choose to ignore it. What is that teaching, and how are your life, decisions, and actions involved?
Blood—How Could It Be Used?
8. In the Law, what limitation did Jehovah put on the use of blood?
8 Jehovah provided more details about life and blood when he gave Israel the Law code. In the process, he took a further step in the outworking of his purpose. You probably know that the Law called for offerings to God, such as grain, oil, and wine. (Leviticus 2:1-4; 23:13; Numbers 15:1-5) There were also animal sacrifices. God said of these: “The soul of the flesh is in the blood, and I myself have put it upon the altar for you to make atonement for your souls, because it is the blood that makes atonement by the soul in it. That is why I have said to the sons of Israel: ‘No soul of you must eat blood.’” Jehovah added that if someone, such as a hunter or a farmer, killed an animal for food, he had to drain the blood and cover it with dust. The earth is God’s footstool, and by pouring the blood on the earth, the person acknowledged that the life was being returned to the Life-Giver.—Leviticus 17:11-13; Isaiah 66:1.
9. What was the sole use of blood outlined in the Law, and what was the purpose of this?
9 That law was not a mere religious ritual with no import for us. Did you notice why the Israelites were not to consume blood? God said: “That is why I have said to the sons of Israel: ‘No soul of you must eat blood.’” What was the reason? “I myself have put [blood] upon the altar for you to make atonement for your souls.” Do you see that this provides insight into why God told Noah that humans were not to eat blood? The Creator chose to view blood as having an elevated significance, reserving it for one special use that could save many lives. It was to play a vital role in covering sins (atonement). So under the Law, the only God-authorized use of blood was on the altar to make atonement for the lives of the Israelites, who were seeking Jehovah’s forgiveness.
10. Why could animal blood not lead to full forgiveness, but what reminder did the sacrifices under the Law provide?
10 This concept is not remote from Christianity. Referring to this divinely arranged feature of the Law, the Christian apostle Paul wrote: “Nearly all things are cleansed with blood according to the Law, and unless blood is poured out no forgiveness takes place.” (Hebrews 9:22) Paul made it clear that the required sacrifices did not turn the Israelites into perfect, sinless humans. He wrote: “By these sacrifices there is a reminding of sins from year to year, for it is not possible for the blood of bulls and of goats to take sins away.” (Hebrews 10:1-4) Still, such sacrifices were useful. They reminded the Israelites that they were sinful and needed something more in order to gain complete forgiveness. But if the blood that represented the lives of animals could not completely cover human sins, could any lifeblood do so?
The Life-Giver’s Solution
11. How do we know that sacrifices of animal blood were pointing to something?
11 The Law was actually pointing to something vastly more effective in accomplishing God’s will. Paul asked: “Why, then, the Law?” He answered: “It was added to make transgressions manifest, until the seed should arrive to whom the promise had been made; and it was transmitted through angels by the hand of a mediator [Moses].” (Galatians 3:19) Similarly, Paul wrote: “The Law has a shadow of the good things to come, but not the very substance of the things.”—Hebrews 10:1.
12. Regarding blood, how can we see the unfolding of God’s purpose?
12 In summary, recall that in Noah’s day God decreed that humans could eat animal meat to sustain life, but they could not take in blood. In time, God stated that “the soul of the flesh is in the blood.” Yes, he chose to view blood as standing for life and said: “I myself have put [blood] upon the altar for you to make atonement for your souls.” There was to be, however, a wonderful further unfolding of God’s purpose. The Law foreshadowed good things to come. What?
13. Why was Jesus’ death important?
13 The reality centered on the death of Jesus Christ. You know that Jesus was tortured and impaled. He died like a criminal. Paul wrote: “Christ, while we were yet weak, died for ungodly men at the appointed time. . . . God recommends his own love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6, 8) In dying for us, Christ provided a ransom to cover our sins. That ransom is at the core of the Christian message. (Matthew 20:28; John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 1 Timothy 2:6) What does this have to do with blood and life, and how is your life involved?
14 Some churches emphasize Jesus’ death, their adherents saying such things as “Jesus died for me.” Consider how some Bible translations render Ephesians 1:7: “It is in him and through his death we have deliverance, that is, the putting away of our offences.” (The American Bible, by Frank Scheil Ballentine, 1902) “By the death of Christ we are set free, and our sins are forgiven.” (Today’s English Version, 1966) “It is in and through Christ and the sacrifice of his life that we have been liberated, a liberation which means the forgiveness of sins.” (The New Testament, by William Barclay, 1969) “It is through Christ’s death that our sins are forgiven and we are set free.” (The Translator’s New Testament, 1973) You can see in such renderings an emphasis on Jesus’ death. ‘But,’ some may say, ‘Jesus’ death is truly important. So, what is lacking in these renderings?’
15 Really, if you had to depend on such translations, you might overlook a very important point, and this could limit your understanding of the Bible’s message. Such renderings obscure the fact that the original text of Ephesians 1:7 contains a Greek word that means “blood.” Thus, many Bibles, such as the New World Translation, come closer to the original: “By means of him we have the release by ransom through the blood of that one, yes, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his undeserved kindness.”
16. The rendering “the blood of that one” should convey what to our mind?
16 The rendering “the blood of that one” is rich in meaning and should convey much to our mind. More was needed than a death, even the death of the perfect man Jesus. He brought to fulfillment what was foreshadowed in the Law, particularly on the Day of Atonement. On that special day, designated animals were sacrificed. Then the high priest took some of their blood into the Most Holy compartment of the tabernacle or temple, there presenting it before God, as if in his presence.—Exodus 25:22; Leviticus 16:2-19.
17. How did Jesus fulfill what was foreshadowed by the Atonement Day?
17 Jesus fulfilled what was foreshadowed by the Atonement Day, as Paul explained. First, he mentioned that the high priest in Israel entered the Most Holy once a year with blood offered “for himself and for the sins of ignorance of the people.” (Hebrews 9:6, 7) True to that pattern, after being raised as a spirit, Jesus went to heaven itself. As a spirit, having no flesh-and-blood body, he could go before “the person of God for us.” What did he present to God? Not something physical but something very meaningful. Paul continued: “When Christ came as a high priest . . . , he entered, no, not with the blood of goats and of young bulls, but with his own blood, once for all time into the holy place and obtained an everlasting deliverance for us. For if the blood of goats and of bulls . . . sanctifies to the extent of cleanness of the flesh, how much more will the blood of the Christ, who through an everlasting spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works that we may render sacred service to the living God?” Yes, Jesus presented to God the value of his lifeblood.—Hebrews 9:11-14, 24, 28; 10:11-14; 1 Peter 3:18.
18. Why should the Bible’s statements about blood be important to Christians today?
18 This divine truth allows us to grasp the wondrous scope of what the Bible says about blood—why God views it as he does, what our view of it should be, and why we ought to respect the restrictions God set about the use of blood. When reading the books of the Christian Greek Scriptures, you will find numerous references to the blood of Christ. (See the box.) These make plain that each Christian should put faith “in his [Jesus’] blood.” (Romans 3:25) Our gaining forgiveness and having peace with God is possible only “through the blood he [Jesus] shed.” (Colossians 1:20) This is certainly true of those with whom Jesus made a special covenant to reign with him in heaven. (Luke 22:20, 28-30; 1 Corinthians 11:25; Hebrews 13:20) It is also true of the “great crowd” today, who will survive the coming “great tribulation” and enjoy life everlasting in an earthly paradise. Figuratively, they ‘wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb.’—Revelation 7:9, 14.
19, 20. (a) Why has God chosen to restrict the use of blood, and how should we feel about that? (b) What should we be interested in knowing?
19 Clearly, blood has a special meaning in God’s eyes. It should in ours too. The Creator, who is concerned about life, has a right to restrict what humans do with blood. In his great concern even about our life, he determined to reserve blood for use in one highly important way, the only way that makes everlasting life possible. That way involved Jesus’ precious blood. How thankful we can be that Jehovah God acted for our good by using blood—Jesus’ blood—in this lifesaving way! And how grateful we should be to Jesus for his sacrificially pouring out his blood for us! Truly, we can grasp the sentiments expressed by the apostle John: “To him that loves us and that loosed us from our sins by means of his own blood—and he made us to be a kingdom, priests to his God and Father—yes, to him be the glory and the might forever. Amen.”—Revelation 1:5, 6.
20 Our all-wise God and Life-Giver long had in mind this lifesaving role. We might ask, then, ‘What impact should this have on our decisions and actions?’ The following article will address this question.
How Would You Answer?
• What can we learn about God’s view of blood from the accounts involving Abel and Noah?
• In the Law, what limitation did God put on the use of blood, and why?
• How did Jesus fulfill what was foreshadowed by the Atonement Day?
• How can the blood of Jesus save our life?
[Box on page 18]
WHICH BLOOD SAVES LIVES?
“Pay attention to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the holy spirit has appointed you overseers, to shepherd the congregation of God, which he purchased with the blood of his own Son.”—Acts 20:28.
“Much more, therefore, since we have been declared righteous now by his blood, shall we be saved through him from wrath.”—Romans 5:9.
“You had no hope and were without God in the world. But now in union with Christ Jesus you who were once far off have come to be near by the blood of the Christ.”—Ephesians 2:12, 13.
“God saw good for all fullness to dwell in him, and through him to reconcile again to himself all other things by making peace through the blood he shed on the torture stake.”—Colossians 1:19, 20.
“Therefore, brothers, . . . we have boldness for the way of entry into the holy place by the blood of Jesus.”—Hebrews 10:19.
“It was not with corruptible things . . . that you were delivered from your fruitless form of conduct received by tradition from your forefathers. But it was with precious blood, like that of an unblemished and spotless lamb, even Christ’s.”—1 Peter 1:18, 19.
“If we are walking in the light as he himself is in the light, we do have a sharing with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”—1 John 1:7.
“You are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals, because you were slaughtered and with your blood you bought persons for God out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.”—Revelation 5:9.
“The accuser of our brothers has been hurled down . . . And they conquered him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their witnessing.”—Revelation 12:10, 11.
[Picture on page 16]
Through the Law, God made it clear that blood could serve a role in the forgiveness of sins
[Picture on page 17]
Through the blood of Jesus, many lives could be saved