Animal sacrifices are found in many cultures and many belief systems. Which begs the question, where did this idea that blood was necessary to atone for sins originate?
Glad you asked. It originated from the beginning.
Look at our Lesson today in Genesis 3:21-4:7:
And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins, and clothed them. Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever”- therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.
Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.” And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is couching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.”
The human mind is constantly tempted by delusion, and a major delusion has always been the temptation to believe the lie the snake told Eve in the Garden. At the heart of that lie was the false notion that God wasn’t good; that God was hiding something from us. This lie shows up in millions of ways through human history and it is always (and I mean ALWAYS) destructive. And the end result of this destructive lie is death. Always. Death in all its forms physical AND spiritual.
Of course God turns death on its ear and uses it as a blessing to bring an end to our sin AND to provide a startling icon of the costs of disconnection from Him Who IS life Himself.
So, our story today tells the tale of the cost of that disconnectedness from God, and it ain’t pretty!
First, Adam and Eve are inadequate to cover their “nakedness.” The fig leaves they sewed together didn’t get the job done! So, God Himself, the Author of Life, provides adequate “clothing” to cover their nakedness. He performs the first animal sacrifice to cover the results of humanity’s sin! He will enter into death again in the Person of His Son on the Cross one final time, but that’s for later!
Next, Adam and Eve are sent out of the Garden, NOT AS PUNISHMENT, but as an act of a Loving Father protecting His children. Oh, to be sure, Adam and Eve experienced this as punishment, but, there again, they were still under the delusion of the snake! No, God sends them out of the Garden to keep them from taking fruit from the Tree of Life and living forever in a broken relationship with Him. That would have made death eternal, and God had other plans for death!
Finally, Adam and Eve have children outside the Garden, and the poison from the snake pollutes them as well. Cain and Abel have different giftings and each brings their offering to God. God accepts Abel’s gift but not Cain’s. And the poison from the snake makes Cain feel it’s unfair! Wrong! Of course this poison will be the reason for the first murder but that’s for later as well.
Today, the delusion of the evil one is always trying to get you to question God’s motives and His intentions. This lie is meant to keep you distant from God, Who Loves you more than you, yourself, know how to love. And this distance always results in death in some form or fashion. But God turns death upside down and empties it of its power, so why should you continue to act as if death isn’t defeated? Our Lenten journey is meant to help us confront all the places in our life where we are still deluded. So, press into this season with your whole heart and be Orthodox on Purpose!