God addresses the sin offering in our reading today. If the sacrificial system were still in place today we would be in trouble!
Something I noticed right away in reading this whole section is that the offerings were for sins that were “unintentional.” Some of the examples given confuse me as to how the person didn’t know what they were doing was a sin. God gets into some specifics in chapter 5 that are intended to clarify some of the situations that may arise.
In the first example the He provides He speaks of someone being called to testify to things that he has knowledge about, either by direct witness or learning about the matter later. The person used in this example chooses not to share what he knows. God says that that person is not forgiven this sin. It was a willful choice and not covered under the “unintentional” auspices.
The second example given is touching a carcass of “an unclean” animal of some kind BUT not knowing that you had done this. I’m curious how this happens. Somehow the person didn’t see the dead thing lying there and unintentionally came into contact with it. Once he realizes what has happened he is to atone for it through a sin offering.
I can understand the “human uncleanness” unintentional contact easier than the last example. There were many different instances where a person was considered unclean. A woman during her menstrual flow was “unclean” and ANYONE who touched her was too. Anyone touching a dead body was unclean. So anyone touching a person who touched a person who touched… would become unclean. The last person in the chain, or even the middle one, might not know of their state until informed by one higher in the order. So once the “guilt” was discovered a sin offering had to be made.
This next example I would question if it is “unintentional” or not. When you speak it is an intentional act. The person here has made “a rash oath to do evil or to do good, any sort of rash oath that people swear” (verse 4b). He promised to do or not do something without thinking it through. I understand that portion very well but how could it be “hidden from him”? Does this mean that the person didn’t realize he wouldn’t be able to keep the promise until later or that the promise made went against God’s word? An example of that would be when Israel made an agreement with the people of Gibeon thinking they were from a far distant land. Israel didn’t investigate the claims better and made a rash promise. Later they realized the guilt they suffered because of that promise; it went directly against what God had called them to do.
ALL of these sins required a sacrifice. There were different levels of sacrifice according to whom the sin was accounted to. When the priests or the whole congregation sinned it affected everyone and everything. There had to be a full atonement and cleansing made. The sin offering involved taking the blood of the offering into the Tabernacle and sprinkling it in God’s presence and placing it on His altar. To me, this speaks of a recommitment to God. The sacrifice was also COMPLETELY burned up. God received His customary portion of the sacrifice and then the rest was taken outside the camp and incinerated. NO ONE was worthy of eating of this flesh as ALL had partaken in the sin. With the priest’s sin, the whole camp hadn’t sinned but he was their covering and his sin passed his status of unclean onto them.
The leader of the people and the common man brought individual sacrifices for their own sins. Their acts did not affect the whole people so the blood of their sacrifices didn’t need to be brought into the Tabernacle. Instead, their offering began and concluded at the brazen altar. The remaining meat of their sacrifice, after the Lord’s portion was extracted, was given to the priests to eat in the courtyard. (Leviticus 6:24-30). The priests were still holy and therefore could partake of the holy meal. But even the pots that the sacrifice was cooked in had to be dealt with in a special manner. This was because they were holy because of being touched by the sacrifice. They were no longer common items and required special care because of their service.
God didn’t want anyone to be precluded from receiving forgiveness from unintentional sin. He cared about even the poorest of the people and He made provisions for them. For anyone who could not afford the required animal for the offering He gave alternatives. These alternatives were NOT to be used as an alternative for someone who could afford the more expensive sacrifice but didn’t want to part with that much loss. Whatever was brought was fully forfeit. None of it returned to the one bringing the sacrifice.
But the gain of the sacrifice was SO MUCH MORE than what was lost. What was gained was right relationship with God; forgiveness from sin. To God, there was no price too high for this. He paid the ultimate price with the blood of His own Son. Nothing the people could bring would ever compare to what He paid. They didn’t know of the coming sacrifice from God though and had to judge in their own hearts the value of what they were surrendering against what they were gaining. This was a personal choice each person was required to make.
Something else we have that they didn’t at that time is forgiveness for willful sins too. Not a continual willfully sinful life but for sins that we can’t honestly say “I didn’t know it was sin” or “I didn’t realize what I was doing.” Jesus showed us this new level of forgiveness many times over but the one that sticks out most in my mind is the woman who was caught in the act of adultery. There is NO WAY you can convince me she didn’t know what she was doing was sin. She was guilty of willful sin but Jesus didn’t condemn her. He forgave her and changed her life. She would never be the same after that encounter.
I wonder if those who recognized that they were operating in willful sin gave up on themselves because they felt unforgivable and therefore felt trapped in their sin. Did they continue to sin in even more areas because they felt unforgivable? “I’m trash already so I have nothing more to lose.” My heart breaks for those who believed this.
There are those today who still hold this estimation of themselves. I feel compelled to address those broken people today. There is NOTHING you can do that will make God stop loving you. He loved you SO MUCH that HE made the ultimate sacrifice in order to bring you back into relationship with Him. You are NOT trash! You are His TREASURE! Let Him show you how special you really are.
I know because He showed me too. No. I haven’t been to the lowest places imaginable but I have been the willful one who would not have been included in the first covenant sacrificial covering. And HE showed me He still loves me. HE reached down into my darkest places and brought me back to Him. He held me even when I was dirty. He restored my soul and He fills me with His Holy Spirit daily until my heart overflows with love for Him and for those He loves. Yes, I have cracks in my surface from what I walked willfully into but those cracks make me able to water your flowers too, even if you think your field is just weeds. As my good buddy Eeyore says, “Weeds are flowers too once you get to know them.”
Father God, today’s reading was so hard for me. I felt condemned from the beginning and kept that feeling far too long. The fact that the sin offering was only for “unintentional” sins made me feel as if I would have been beyond help if I lived under the old covenant. I know my life has been filled with sins of willfulness, especially stubbornness (as my parents pointed out so often to me while growing up). But You didn’t leave me or the rest of us there. You made a way to reach even my willful heart. You sent me Your Son to bring forgiveness where I had earned or deserved none. THANK YOU!!!
Something that kept going through my head too was the adage “It is easier to get forgiveness than permission.” Under the law that was WAY WRONG because this speaks of doing what you know is questionable and expecting there to be forgiveness waiting no matter what. This is still wrong after Jesus’ sacrifice because it impacts our relationship. If I think it is questionable then BECAUSE I love You and don’t want to hurt You, I MUST walk away. “Obedience is better than sacrifice.” Doing what I know You want me to do is better than saying “I’m sorry and I’ll make it up to You somehow.” Help me to live in obedience instead of a state of constantly needing grace. I KNOW I won’t be perfect in that endeavor but I also know I will be welcome back on Your lap when I do repent. For that I am MORE than grateful! Help me renew this direction of obedience every day and right after every time I fail in it. “It is the first day of my new commitment” EVERY TIME! And it is still honored and welcomed. Thank You Father for my next “second chance.”