In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
She said, “You have a gory God!”
There was the sound of contempt in her voice mixed with a twinge of sadness. She said she believed in peace and love. She wondered how I could worship someone who is reported as having killed countless civilians when Israel left Egypt. Then, she pointed to the more than a thousand Assyrian soldiers under Sennacherib who were found lifeless outside of Jerusalem one morning.
She asked, “Wasn’t this the same God who claimed credit for each carnage?”
Had she known her Bible better, she might have listed more instances of when an encounter with the Lord God resulted in the death of humans.
And then, what about all the animals killed as offerings to the God of Israel?
As we gather in our clean and tidy church buildings, it’s difficult to envision what it was like for the Old Testament people as they brought offerings to be slaughtered as an act of worship.
Wasn’t this woman right in declaring, “You have a gory God!”?
There’s even more evidence, is there not? What about when the Lord God commanded Abraham to use a knife to kill his own son?
What are we to make of that?
In the end, Abraham’s son was spared. An animal substituted for him. But the mere threat can make us wonder if the almighty God might actually carry through with such a command at some point in time.
No need to wonder. History shows he did just that. The Bible covers this dreadful event in great detail. It is not a pretty picture.
It reveals the Father sacrificing his own Son. There is blood aplenty. A wreath made of thorns was jammed down onto his skull. Head wounds seem to bleed a lot.
He was whipped by soldiers. More blood.
Nails were pounded into hands and feet. Finally, a spear was stabbed into his side. Out came blood and water.
A gory sight!
This happened not by chance. It was premeditated. Not by Jewish leaders. Not by Roman soldiers.
It was planned and implemented by the Lord of creation.
Seven hundred years years before the horror took place, Isaiah described the victim in his prophecy, “His appearance,” he wrote, “was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness” (Isaiah 52:14).
If the Lord God caused this, is he not a gory God?
It seems so. Yet, the Bible makes something very clear. The Holy One did not cause the blood and gore. That’s on the humans. They are the ones who defied holy laws. They brought death and damnation upon themselves. Sin comes with a death penalty.
If they were to be spared, if they were to be rescued, someone innocent of sin would need to take their place. That someone would be punished by the holy God. That substitute someone would need to suffer a bloody, agonizing death.
That someone was Jesus, the Son of God.
The fist of divine judgment struck him instead of us. He bled and died because he was guilty of crimes deserving abandonment to the depths of hell. You see, our guilt had been piled onto his shoulders. That’s what the sacrifices of innocent birds and animals in the temple pointed to. That’s what the bleeding and dying were all about.
So, with what words would we describe the judge of heaven and earth, of life and death?
How about, “merciful”? How about, “loving”? How about, “my Savior?”
For generations, his worshipers have pictured him hanging on the cross as they sang, “O sacred head, now wounded.” The hymn continues, “Yet, though despised and gory, I joy to call you mine.”
So what would we say to that woman asking how we could worship such a one?
Don’t we need to answer, don’t we want to answer, “A gory God? Yes, he was!”?
Thank God, he was.
For us, he was made gory.
For her too!
What language shall I borrow to thank you dearest Friend,
For this, your dying sorrow, your pity without end?
Oh, make me yours forever, and keep me strong and true;
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love for you. Amen.
Christian Worship 429:5
Written by Rev. Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.