What honors or dishonors the Lord is more important than our intentions. This directs our focus to be on the holiness of the Lord and not to justify our actions. This section of Leviticus drives the point home that even if you did something unintentionally, but it went against what God had commanded it had to be addressed. All of these commands were difficult to keep track of and it indicates the whole community needed to help each other and God has made provision for when the people inadvertently do not treat him as holy.
The challenge is that if the people sin against the Lord intentionally there is not a provision. If they have a defiant heart against God, they blaspheme Him and basically despise his word, they are to be cut off from the community. That is the consequence of begin called to be a kingdom of priests to represent God’s glory to the nations and if someone has no intention of doing that, there are significant consequences as the book of Numbers explains.
Numbers 15:27–31 –27 ‘Also if one person sins unintentionally, then he shall offer a one-year-old female goat for a sin offering. 28 ‘The priest shall make atonement before the Lord for the person who goes astray when he sins unintentionally, making atonement for him that he may be forgiven. 29 ‘You shall have one law for him who does anything unintentionally, for him who is native among the sons of Israel and for the alien who sojourns among them. 30 ‘But the person who does anything defiantly, whether he is native or an alien, that one is blaspheming the Lord; and that person shall be cut off from among his people. 31 ‘Because he has despised the word of the Lord and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt will be on him.’ ”
However, if a person does not obey what God commands, perhaps because they did not know the instruction, or they forgot or some reasons that was not pure rebellion against God there was a process.
Sin Offering – Lev. 4:1-35
Anyone can miss the mark, anyone can fall short of the honor, respect, and glory of God. The reality is we all fall short from the leaders and everyone else so there was a sin offering, that was designed to maintain the purity of the tabernacle so that God was honored even when the people fell short.
If the anointed priest sinned (4:3), he was to sacrifice a bull and sprinkle the blood before the veil, and on the horns of the altar of incense that is inside the tabernacle. If the whole congregation sinned (4:13) – The priest represented the people and did the same thing. Bull, sprinkle blood before the veil and on the horns. Notice this offense requires purification further inside the tabernacle. The blood was sprinkled seven times indicating a full and complete purification. If a tribal leader sinned (4:22) – then a male goat is sacrificed and blood is placed on the horns. If it was an Israelite (4:27) a female goat was sacrificed, and blood was placed on the horns.
This sacrifice was different than other sacrifices. This is mandatory whereas the other offerings are voluntarily done….and blood was brought inside the tabernacle to purify the area where the priests would go to perform their duties.
The animal sacrifice was not a whole burnt offering, rather a portion of the animal is to be taken outside the tabernacle and burned up. The meat can be eaten by the priest if it was offered for a triable leader or an Israelite, but not if it was offered for a priest or the whole community. Notice with the bull for the whole congregation… the priest represents the people to God so that someone can make purification on their behalf. The purpose of this is to maintain the purity of the tabernacle recognizing it is a holy place because the Lord dwells there. That is more important than if someone didn’t know something and made a mistake. God’s word is worthy of His people knowing it and having a reverence for Him.
Sometimes we excuse our sin for a great number of reasons. There is great hope when we say even if I made a mistake, even if the motives of my heart are mixed and a bit confusing, I want to first and foremost treat the Lord as Holy and address that offended him and not excuse my action. The Lord provides a way for those who will humble themselves and place God’s holiness and God honor above any excuses, blame-shifting, or man-centered justification.
This points us to Christ in a number of ways. Hebrews picks up on the sin offering having to be purged from the tabernacle and brought outside the camp. Hebrews picks this up and points to the sacrifice of Christ.
Hebrews 13:10–12 –10 We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. 11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin, are burned outside the camp. 12 Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate.
We are reminded that we fall short of the glory of God, we sin and we can’t approach God on our own terms…even when we try to do the right thing, we are not able to do things perfectly and we can’t meet God’s holy standard. Jesus paid the price outside the camp, so we can be inside the camp. He was willing to bear our sins, and make a way for ultimate sanctification to be made so that we can be close to God and continue to enjoy fellowship with God. This directs us to celebrate a greater high priest, a greater sacrifice….even if at times it means we bear the reproach of the world and feel like we are on the outside, we can delight in the intimacy with our Lord, made available in Christ.
Not only do we do things inadvertently that dishonor God, we also do things that dishonor other people in a way that impacts the whole community. Living in a community as God’s priests means his people were to value each other and not defraud each other…if they were guilty of defrauding someone else, they needed to make restitution with an offering that had monetary implications.
Guilt Offering – Lev 5:1-6:7
What honors the Lord is also more important than money or property. You could be guilty of misusing something that belongs to the Lord. Maybe you use something that has been dedicated to the tabernacle in a way it was not to be used, or you broke something that was dedicated to be used for the Lord. Maybe you ate something that was to be dedicated to the Lord…(cf Lev 22:14-16, Ex 13:1-2, 11-16). The bottom line is you were guilty of misusing something that belonged to the Lord and you needed to make restitution.
Perhaps you defrauded the community of justice by keeping quiet when you should have come forward to testify and help the community (5:1) Perhaps you touched something that makes you unclean (5:2-3), even if you did not know it you were still guilty. You could have made an oath for good or bad thoughtlessly (5:4) You may have deceived and extorted one of your countrymen with regard to money. (6:2-5)
The key is. a kingdom if priests are to value each other as priests of the most high God. The whole community is to recognize that whatever they do against each other, they ultimately do against God. Everything belongs to the Lord it is all His and when we try to take it to be our own through nefarious means, we are guilty and must address that.
The guilt offering then was to be a lamb, goat, or a ram in some cases. If the person was poor then it was two turtle doves or young pigeons. If a person was really poor it could be 1/10 an ephah of fine flour with nothing in it. An ephah is about a bushel and 1/10 of ephah is an omen which is ~2-4 pints. Even if it was a small amount a guilt offering needed to be made.
We again see God’s gracious provision even for the most needy…if you take from someone else you need to make restitution and not justify your actions it must be taken care of because God was dishonored. In addition to the sacrifice you also need to pay back the value of what you broke or took and add 20% which is 1/5 of the value. This was about recognizing the value in the community and not doing whatever you want.
This was also a public act, where you make a payment back to the person you defrauded when you are giving your sacrifice (6:5). The whole community was to take note that these acts were not to be ignored but addressed by making a sacrifice and making a repayment. This is how the community is to function with a Holy God living amongst them. We don’t steal from each other, but if we do, we make it right before the Lord in the way He determines.
I think this reminds us that we are not to hide our guilt that impacts others, but publicly address and forsake it because God is worthy of that kind of honor. And this also helps people not get bitter and not just take things they want from each other. If the people don’t address their guilt, they will just take more and more with greater and greater consequences and that will distract them and others from representing God as His chosen people.
When we live in community and at times sin against others, may we be easy to rebuke and quick to take responsibility for our actions and how they impact others and the whole community. May we resist the temptation to hide and instead seek to make things right and make restitution no matter what it costs because the honor of God is worth it.