THE JUST FOR THE UNJUST - The Warrior's Journey®


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“The first offspring of every womb, both human and animal, that is offered to the Lord is yours (Aaron’s and the priests’). But you must redeem every firstborn son and every firstborn male of unclean animals. When they are a month old, you must redeem them at the redemption price set at five shekels of silver….But you must not redeem the firstborn of a cow, a sheep or a goat; they are holy. Splash their blood against the altar and burn their fat as a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord” (Numbers 18:15-17).


How interesting that the firstborn of unclean animals was redeemed and spared from being slaughtered and consumed by fire upon the altar. Yet the firstborn of clean animals was condemned to death and the flames of God’s consuming fire. It just doesn’t seem fair or just – that the reward for being “clean” was to suffer death. Yet this correlates perfectly to the greater things to come.

Clean and unclean animals – what’s the difference? Clean animals were both ceremonially fit for human consumption and for offering as sacrifices to God. They were the “good” animals. Unclean animals were those which were ceremonially unfit for food or for offering as sacrifices. They were the “bad” animals.

Note that, when God commanded Noah to build the ark He also instructed him to take one pair of every unclean animal (Genesis 6:19-20), but seven pair of every clean animal (Genesis 7:2-3). So, clearly, the “clean” animals would be looked upon as “good,” and the unclean animals as “bad.”

Now, the standard for what was “clean” was later defined as any animal which “has a divided hoof and chews the cud” (Leviticus 11:2-3). Therefore, although the Israelites were permitted to keep and use such unclean animals as donkeys, horses, and camels, they were prohibited from eating them and offering them to God as sacrifices (Leviticus 11:4).

But, although the ceremonially clean animals were definitely the good ones, it was the firstborn males of the unclean which God ordered to be redeemed (Numbers 18:15). The firstborn males of clean animals could not be redeemed. God ordered them to be slaughtered, their blood poured out before the altar, and their fat offered up in fire to the Lord.

Thus, the reward for being “clean” is to die upon the altar. In contrast, it is the “unclean” who are redeemed. In a very real sense, the ceremonially clean and undefiled would die in place of the unclean and defiled.

By ordering this, God is setting forth a pattern here which would be employed with Someone far more righteous and precious in the sight of God. Scripture declares Jesus Christ to be “the Righteous One” (Acts 3:14; 7:52; 22:14; 1 John 2:1). And although He was tempted in every way as we are, yet He never sinned (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15). Yet, this was precisely what made Jesus perfect as a sacrifice to God. He was a lamb without spot or blemish (1 Peter 1:19). And it was the will of God that the righteous should die for the unrighteous, the clean for the unclean (1 Peter 3:18).

No, it wasn’t fair – that the One guilty of nothing, should suffer the judgments which belonged to those guilty of everything. It wasn’t fair that the best and greatest human being should die for the very worst – and that these very worst should be redeemed while the very best should be slaughtered. It wasn’t fair that Jesus’ reward for being clean, undefiled, and pure was to die upon the ultimate altar – the cross. Yet God’s love for the unclean and defiled required it.

But, this pattern not only applied to Jesus. It applies to His disciples as well (John 15:18-21). Peter told us, “If you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. For you have been called to this very purpose, that as Christ suffered for you, He left you an example that you should follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:20-21). He also said, “since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves for the same purpose” (1 Peter 4:1). Yes, Peter is telling us that – in this world – our reward for living a pure and holy lives and being Christ-like, will be to suffer persecution and martyrdom. As Paul stated, “all who live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).

Yet this is God’s strategy. It will be through our blood-stained witness that redemption will come to others. Through our death God will save sinners. This is why Stephen prayed for his murderers while dying, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60). He didn’t want his own witness tainted by a cry for revenge. Nor did Stephen want his death to be a cause for God judging his murderers. “May my death bring people to salvation in Jesus Christ,” was Stephen’s attitude.

May it be our attitude, also! God grant us the grace and the Christ-like attitude so that, when persecuted for living righteously, we do not cry out, “May the Lord see and avenge” (2 Chronicles 24:22). Rather, may God so strengthen us that we pray for our persecutors and pray that our unjust suffering be the instrument of their salvation! May our prayer be, “Lord Jesus, make my unjust death a witness for You! Grant that it will lead people to Jesus, rather than bring judgment upon them.”


PRAYER:  Dear Father in heaven, I confess my weakness and frailty to You. I am so easily provoked to anger by the slights and injuries of others against me. How can I ever hope to be an effective witness for Jesus under persecution? So Lord, I pray for Your grace and strength. Please, dear Father, carry me above my limitations. May Your Spirit rest upon me and empower me to be a faithful and true witness for Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ holy name I ask this, Amen.

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