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From the Garden to the Desert … and on to the Cross - Part 4

From: Tempted, Tested, True

By: Arnie Cole & Michael Ross



And So We Wander Through the Desert …

One morning during devotions, I opened my Bible to Leviticus. Do I dare read this book? I asked myself. Is there anything in here that actually applies to my life? Surprisingly—yes.


Even though you and I—and every human—yearn for the garden, our sin has left us in a hostile desert. Cleansing the earth with a flood was a shocking way to get our attention: mankind’s inner corruption must be destroyed; holiness must be lived (see Genesis 5-9). Yet the Ten Commandments God laid down in Exodus were (and still are) continually broken, and His once freshly scrubbed creation has become stained again, polluted by the same flaws that had earned Lucifer a place in hell: anger, envy, gluttony, sloth, pride, lust, greed.


Leviticus shows us that the Lord still isn’t giving up mankind.

God enthroned Himself right in their midst—confined behind four layers of curtains and a screened courtyard. Without the barriers, His holy presence would have disintegrated anyone who came near Him. Sin and holiness are like gasoline and fire—they simply cannot come in contact with each other.

He longed to wander among His children as He had done in Eden, to once again look into their eyes, face to face. He wanted them to be holy with Him—set apart from the world order that years of the Serpent’s influence had perverted. So He had to use some more shocking methods to teach some shocking truths.


Daily, endless blood sacrifices had to be brought to the Lord. (To modern ears this sounds like senseless waste and cruelty, but Yahweh demanded it to make a point: Evil costs dearly.)

So whenever someone offered an animal, he laid his hands on it to identify himself with it. When he watched it butchered and burnt, he knew that Yahweh was accepting its death in his place.[1]

Imagine being a priest. You’d spend your day butchering bulls and goats and lambs, removing their hides, separating their organs and fat, cutting them into pieces—wringing dove heads and tearing off their wings—and constantly sprinkling blood everywhere: on altars and toes and the earlobes of other priests.

Imagine the stench—the sight of all that blood, the flies, the mess. And imagine, most of all, that it never stops. A priest just finishes with one bull, and some guy comes up with another one and says, “Would you please do it to El Toro here? I just messed up—but didn’t even realize I was sinning.”

Imagine the misery. The people would keep on sinning and priests would keep on cutting into warm flesh.


Why all this graphic slaughter of innocent victims? What did a human’s personal life have to do with an innocent animal? Everything. If people were going to go free, someone had to pay—someone innocent of the crime they had just committed. You would think this would be a deterrent to sin, and yet the rest of the Old Testament indicates differently. The people apparently went on sinning and the priests just kept on butchering. Humans have a way of making routine that which should be graphic in our lives. We are, after all, the sons of Adam who, like our father repeatedly rebelled against his Lord no matter how hard he tried not to. Yahweh’s holiness demanded that a price be paid for treason, and the price for treason was death. But knowing that His people were incapable of living up to perfection, He accepted an animal to substitute for the human. [2]


Sin, confession, and forgiveness are all bloody and painful, and yet painfully joyful. But we have a tendency to make all this safe. As a hymn says, “On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross. …”

We keep the reality of Christ’s death, and our own sin, too distant—too far away, too safe. But sin, the cross—the path to salvation—is anything but safe.

[1] See Hinckley, 68.

[2] See Hinckley, 68.

From Tempted, Tested, True


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