Deuteronomy 12:1-32 (Part 4) – A Tale of Blood and Grits

Posted: January 29, 2017 in Book of Deuteronomy
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Deuteronomy 12:1-32 (Part 4 of 4)
The Lord’s Chosen Place of Worship

As you guys know, I am a Southern boy and I celebrate all things Southern. Everything except grits that is. Grits are a truly Southern food. Grits are eaten elsewhere in the country but it is not a staple of the breakfast foods elsewhere as it is in the South. Grits are like a given for breakfast in the South. You normally have to specifically request that it be replaced in your meal for breakfast. Mom’s like it because it’s simple and it’s easy to prepare. It’s nutritious. As my dad, with his ever-present sayings, would say, “Grits stick to your ribs!” That means they will fill you up and you will feel full until your next meal. It’s not like Mexican food where you fill bloated for about an hour but then you are hungry again in less than 3 hours. Grits are thus a hearty food. Grits even spent time atop the chic food world when New Yorkers learned that shrimp and grits was something to be savored.

However, for me, even though I am a true Southern boy, I hate grits. I loathe them. I can’t get ‘em down. I think that part of the problem with grits for me was that my dad had to have grits with his breakfast every day. Every day without fail. I didn’t like grits for personal reasons but I also did not like them because of the whole familiarity breeds contempt thing. My dad loved his grits. He was about grits like I am about eggs. To me, a breakfast without scrambled eggs is not a breakfast. You can temporarily divert me with a plate of fluffy pancakes and syrup every now and then, but, eggs are the required part of a daily breakfast. I love eggs because they have flavor by themselves. I love eggs because they go well with ketchup on them or salsa or hot sauce. Eggs I love. Grits I hate. I even hate the texture of grits. Those fine little grits. Even if your brush your teeth vigorously there’s a possibility that you will spit a grit out about an hour after a meal. That mealy taste of grits! Ugggh! And then there’s the fact that when you leave grits sitting on a plate for an extended period of time, you can actually lift up the serving of grits as this congealed mass that sticks together. That is just so weird and disconcerting. It’s almost like cement. It hardens and congeals and sticks together over time. You are eating cement!

Besides the fact that my dad wanted grits all the time for breakfast, they have this mealy texture, and the fact that they harden like cement when left unattended for a period of time, I do not like grits because they have no flavor in and of themselves. Grits are something that you have to doctor up to make them taste good. You add stuff into grits as you sit at the table to make them more palatable. The most popular addition of course is lots of butter. Other things that you can add include ham gravy, shrimp, and a myriad of other add-ons. But for the basic home and the basic breakfast, it is always at least a lot of butter. A big ol’ chunk of butter lopped off the bar of butter and dropped right in the middle of the grits. As the butter melts into the warm grits, you then kind of stir the grits up so that the butter will be intertwined with the grits. But that’s the point to me. Why is that people love grits but you have to doctor it up to make it palatable. To me, a food should be basically good in and of itself. You should not have to doctor it up to make it taste good. Food should be good by itself. Although I love steak sauce on my steak, I could eat steak with no flavor additives. I love ketchup on my French fries but I could eat them straight with no ketchup if requested. Grits. No way. No way can you eat them straight up with spitting them out of your mouth as being completely tasteless and bland.

The other day, though, a friend of mine, Freddy Coan, explained it to me. When I went on my diatribe about how you have “doctor up” grits to make them taste worthy of your palate, he told me that I had it all wrong. He said you cannot think of grits as a food by themselves. You cannot measure grits in this way. He said grits were simply “flavor carriers!” The point of grits, he said, is to be the base, the background flavor of what you add to the grits. He said if you are thinking grits as a food by itself, then, you really don’t appreciate grits. You have to look at grits as flavor carriers.

When I read in chapter 12 of Deuteronomy, where God again prohibits the eating of animal meat when there is blood still in the meat, I begin to flash back to what Freddy said about grits as to why possibly that God had prohibited the Israelites from eating meat without first having drained the blood of the animal out of the body. Let’s focus on those verses this morning as we re-read chapter 12 for the final time before we move on to the next passage:

12 These are the decrees and laws you must be careful to follow in the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given you to possess—as long as you live in the land. 2 Destroy completely all the places on the high mountains, on the hills and under every spreading tree, where the nations you are dispossessing worship their gods. 3 Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and burn their Asherah poles in the fire; cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places.

4 You must not worship the Lord your God in their way. 5 But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; 6 there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. 7 There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you.

8 You are not to do as we do here today, everyone doing as they see fit, 9 since you have not yet reached the resting place and the inheritance the Lord your God is giving you. 10 But you will cross the Jordan and settle in the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, and he will give you rest from all your enemies around you so that you will live in safety. 11 Then to the place the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name—there you are to bring everything I command you: your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, and all the choice possessions you have vowed to the Lord. 12 And there rejoice before the Lord your God—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites from your towns who have no allotment or inheritance of their own. 13 Be careful not to sacrifice your burnt offerings anywhere you please. 14 Offer them only at the place the Lord will choose in one of your tribes, and there observe everything I command you.

15 Nevertheless, you may slaughter your animals in any of your towns and eat as much of the meat as you want, as if it were gazelle or deer, according to the blessing the Lord your God gives you. Both the ceremonially unclean and the clean may eat it. 16 But you must not eat the blood; pour it out on the ground like water. 17 You must not eat in your own towns the tithe of your grain and new wine and olive oil, or the firstborn of your herds and flocks, or whatever you have vowed to give, or your freewill offerings or special gifts. 18 Instead, you are to eat them in the presence of the Lord your God at the place the Lord your God will choose—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites from your towns—and you are to rejoice before the Lord your God in everything you put your hand to. 19 Be careful not to neglect the Levites as long as you live in your land.

20 When the Lord your God has enlarged your territory as he promised you, and you crave meat and say, “I would like some meat,” then you may eat as much of it as you want. 21 If the place where the Lord your God chooses to put his Name is too far away from you, you may slaughter animals from the herds and flocks the Lord has given you, as I have commanded you, and in your own towns you may eat as much of them as you want. 22 Eat them as you would gazelle or deer. Both the ceremonially unclean and the clean may eat. 23 But be sure you do not eat the blood, because the blood is the life, and you must not eat the life with the meat. 24 You must not eat the blood; pour it out on the ground like water. 25 Do not eat it, so that it may go well with you and your children after you, because you will be doing what is right in the eyes of the Lord.

26 But take your consecrated things and whatever you have vowed to give, and go to the place the Lord will choose. 27 Present your burnt offerings on the altar of the Lord your God, both the meat and the blood. The blood of your sacrifices must be poured beside the altar of the Lord your God, but you may eat the meat. 28 Be careful to obey all these regulations I am giving you, so that it may always go well with you and your children after you, because you will be doing what is good and right in the eyes of the Lord your God.

29 The Lord your God will cut off before you the nations you are about to invade and dispossess. But when you have driven them out and settled in their land, 30 and after they have been destroyed before you, be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, “How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same.” 31 You must not worship the Lord your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the Lord hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods.

32 See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it.[a]

Here, we see God preventing the consumption of the blood of animals. Why was that? In Genesis 9 Noah receives a covenant from the Lord. Part of the covenant removed the prior restrictions against eating meat, allowing Noah and his family to kill animals for food. However, the allowance came with this proviso: “But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it” (verse 4).

One reason God prohibited the consumption of animal blood in the Old Testament was to teach respect for the sacredness of life. Blood is viewed as a symbol of life throughout the Bible. It may have been for health reasons as back in these days the world was a much filthier place than it is now and disease was everywhere. Animals often carried diseases in their blood. Another reason too could be that God wanted his people to be different from the nations around them who had pagan sacrifices of animals, drinking their blood, and sometimes even doing the same with human sacrifices. Warriors of pagan nations would often drink the blood of their conquered foes as a symbol of victory and virility. I think God, too, wanted the Israelites to learn to treat animals in a humane way and this may have been another reason why God told Noah not to eat meat with the blood still in it. God did not want mankind to act like the carnivorous animals, who caught their prey and began eating it immediately. Instead, they were to drain the blood from the carcass and thus ensure the animal was dead before it was consumed.

Another reason and the biggest one I think though is the fact that God wanted them to understand and respect the live giving nature of blood. It is the life giver. It is the life force. It carries oxygen and other necessary nutrients to all the organs of the body. It takes away waste particles used up by the organs. It is the necessary force of life. Without it our bodies poison and suffocates itself. Without the life giving, life carrying nature of blood, we die. Blood is like grits in that way. Blood is the life carrier just as grits are the flavor carrier. Because of this life giving nature of blood it has always been part of the symbolism of God’s sacrificial system. Blood was the only atonement for sin (2 Chronicles 29:24; Hebrews 9:22); therefore, blood was seen as a sacred thing. Without the spilling of blood, there was not forgiveness of sin. God wanted to ensure that the blood of the sacrifices was always considered precious. To preserve the people’s appreciation of the sacrifices, God could not allow blood to become a common food.

The sacrificial system came to an end with the spilling of Jesus’ blood on the cross. He was the once and final, permanent sacrifice for sin. It was through the shedding of his blood that we are saved. God says that Jesus’ death on the cross was the final sacrifice for your and my sin nature and the sins that we have committed. On the cross, God tells us, Jesus suffered the wrath of God against sin (as He hates sin and the imperfections that it brings) on the cross. He took the punishment for our sin that we deserved. His blood was spilled. It was His spilled blood that gives us new life. We were dead in our sins condemned to a hell that you would not wish on your worst enemy in the absence of His spilled blood on the cross and our belief that He died there for us. In this way, Jesus’ blood is life giving. Without His sacrifice, we are dead and we are condemned. His blood gives us life anew. He restores us to good health spiritually through His blood. It is the life carrier; Jesus’ blood is.

Grits are flavor carriers. Blood is a life carrier in a very practical sense. The blood of Jesus is a life carrier, a life restorer, a new life giver. We are reborn in Jesus blood. We die to our old life and find new life in the transfusion of Jesus’ blood for ours. Blood is the life carrier. Jesus’ blood is the life restorer to a body that is dying and suffocating itself because of sin. Jesus’ blood saves us from eternal death. Jesus is our life carrier.
Amen and Amen.

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