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Year 1, Week 12, Day 5

I have a brief observation for today’s reading of Leviticus 5.

Today’s reading continues explaining the various kinds of sacrifices that the Israelites were commanded to offer at the Tabernacle. Leviticus 1-3 pertained to the routine or ordinary sacrifices. Today’s reading of Leviticus 5, along with Leviticus 4 from the previous day’s reading, and part of the subsequent day’s reading of Leviticus. 6-7 describe the occasional sacrifices, which were offered as needed to atone for Israel’s sin (Leviticus 4:1-5:13) and guilt (Leviticus 5:14-6:7). Approaching a Holy God required pardon, where sin was present or purification, where uncleanness was present. Both pardon and purification required a sacrifice, that is the shed blood of an animal who would provide a substitutionary atonement. This section covering the sin and guilt offerings gives us some insight as to how sinners can come near to the LORD as He resided at the Tabernacle.

What struck me in today’s reading is the details that the LORD provides so that His people can come into His presence even as they were in need of pardon and purification: “But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.” (Psalm 130:4). The sin offering was made available to Israelites who had committed unintentional sins: "If anyone sins unintentionally in any of the LORD'S commandments about things not to be done, and does any one of them, if it is the anointed priest who sins, thus bringing guilt on the people, then he shall offer for the sin that he has committed a bull from the herd without blemish to the LORD for a sin offering.” (Leviticus 4:2-3). It is important to have a sense of what is an unintentional sin. An unintentional sin can, first of all be understood, by its opposite-an intentional sin. An intentional sin is a sin that one commits with a posture of open defiance against the LORD: "But the person who does anything with a high hand, whether he is native or a sojourner, reviles the LORD, and that person shall be cut off from among his people. Because he has despised the word of the LORD and has broken his commandment, that person shall be utterly cut off; his iniquity shall be on him.” (Numbers 15:30-31). In contrast, an unintentional sin is not rooted in high handedness, but for reasons consisting of ignorance, inattentiveness, or weakness. These factors are mentioned in regard to Christ’s saving work: “For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.” (Hebrews 5:1-2). While one is still responsible for unintentional sin, there is a means of pardon through confession and sacrifice: “And the priest shall make atonement for him for the sin which he has committed, and he shall be forgiven.” (Leviticus 4:35b).

In an interesting play on words, sin is pardoned by a sin offering. The word that Moses used for sin and sin offering is the same. What this suggests is that sin is de-sinned by the appropriate sacrifice. The object offered in the sacrifice received the justice that would have remained on the one who had sinned. But a transfer was made: “He shall bring the bull to the entrance of the tent of meeting before the LORD and lay his hand on the head of the bull and kill the bull before the LORD.” (Leviticus 4:4). And the blood from the animal would be sprinkled: “He shall bring the bull to the entrance of the tent of meeting before the LORD and lay his hand on the head of the bull and kill the bull before the LORD.” (Leviticus 4:5). The sprinkled blood would provide cleansing. But these Old Covenant sacrifices merely provided ceremonial pardon and purification as they pointed forward to the lasting solution: “For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” (Hebrews 9:13-14).

So these sin and guilt offerings help us to understand what Jesus has done. Our sin has been atoned by Jesus: “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin” (Romans 8:3). Jesus came for sin, that is, He came to be a sin offering. Jesus has de-sinned sin for us, by receiving the justice that would have remained on us had God not been pleased to transfer our sin onto Jesus: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21). In light of the far greater atonement that Jesus has obtained, how much greater should our sensitivity be against any notion of intentional sins: "How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?” (Hebrews 10:29). 

What struck you in today’s reading? What questions were prompted from today’s reading?

Pastor Joe