Read Leviticus 5
5 “‘If anyone sins because they do not speak up when they hear a public charge to testify regarding something they have seen or learned about, they will be held responsible.
2 “‘If anyone becomes aware that they are guilty—if they unwittingly touch anything ceremonially unclean (whether the carcass of an unclean animal, wild or domestic, or of any unclean creature that moves along the ground)and they are unaware that they have become unclean, but then they come to realize their guilt; 3 or if they touch human uncleanness (anything that would make them unclean) even though they are unaware of it, but then they learn of it and realize their guilt; 4 or if anyone thoughtlessly takes an oath to do anything, whether good or evil (in any matter one might carelessly swear about) even though they are unaware of it, but then they learn of it and realize their guilt— 5 when anyone becomes aware that they are guilty in any of these matters, they must confess in what way they have sinned. 6 As a penalty for the sin they have committed, they must bring to the Lord a female lamb or goat from the flock as a sin offering;and the priest shall make atonement for them for their sin.
7 “‘Anyone who cannot afford a lamb is to bring two doves or two young pigeons to the Lord as a penalty for their sin—one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. 8 They are to bring them to the priest, who shall first offer the one for the sin offering. He is to wring its head from its neck, not dividing it completely, 9 and is to splash some of the blood of the sin offering against the side of the altar; the rest of the blood must be drained out at the base of the altar. It is a sin offering. 10 The priest shall then offer the other as a burnt offering in the prescribed way and make atonement for them for the sin they have committed, and they will be forgiven.
11 “‘If, however, they cannot afford two doves or two young pigeons, they are to bring as an offering for their sin a tenth of an ephah of the finest flour for a sin offering. They must not put olive oil or incense on it, because it is a sin offering. 12 They are to bring it to the priest, who shall take a handful of it as a memorial portion and burn it on the altar on top of the food offerings presented to the Lord. It is a sin offering. 13 In this way the priest will make atonement for them for any of these sins they have committed, and they will be forgiven. The rest of the offering will belong to the priest, as in the case of the grain offering.’”
The Guilt Offering
14 The Lord said to Moses: 15 “When anyone is unfaithful to the Lord by sinning unintentionally in regard to any of the Lord’s holy things, they are to bring to the Lord as a penalty a ram from the flock, one without defect and of the proper value in silver, according to the sanctuary shekel. It is a guilt offering. 16 They must make restitution for what they have failed to do in regard to the holy things, pay an additional penalty of a fifth of its value and give it all to the priest. The priest will make atonement for them with the ram as a guilt offering, and they will be forgiven.
17 “If anyone sins and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord’s commands, even though they do not know it, they are guilty and will be held responsible. 18 They are to bring to the priest as a guilt offering a ram from the flock, one without defect and of the proper value. In this way the priest will make atonement for them for the wrong they have committed unintentionally, and they will be forgiven. 19 It is a guilt offering; they have been guilty of wrongdoing against the Lord.”
In Leviticus 5, the Lord continues with the instructions for laws of sin offerings and the steps required for the Israelites to receive atonement for their sins. It’s important to note that the phrase “and he is unaware of it” appears multiple times within these instructions. Unintentional sins are still sin and require sacrifice and atonement.
Leviticus 5:1 specifies that someone who withholds evidence from a public hearing and they fail to come forward with truth about the matter has sinned. This teaches us that sins of omission require the same sacrifice as sins of commission. A sin of omission is failing to do what we are supposed to do (i.e. turning a blind eye to someone in need). A sin of commission is when you do something God has ordered you not to do (i.e. lying/cheating/vulgar language). In God’s eyes, it is just as sinful to avoid doing the right thing, as it is to pursue doing what is wrong.
It’s easy to read through these laws and think that they are pointless or unreasonable. Just a long list of “don’ts” from a God telling the Israelites what they can and can’t do. God’s desire, though, is to return mankind to the perfection that he created in the Garden of Eden and each of these warnings were for man’s benefit. By following these laws and sacrificing when they disobeyed them, the Israelites were removing the unclean parts of their lives and thus removing the distance between them and God. It is out of God’s loving kindness that he graciously gave each of these laws so that the Israelites could be protected from disease, from harm, and from their own sinful nature.
God continues to display his love and grace in the fact that he also details out substitutes for the various sacrifices. In verses 7-13 we see that God meets his people where they are. If they couldn’t afford an unblemished lamb, they could bring two pigeons or turtledoves. If they couldn’t afford two turtledoves or pigeons, then they could bring flour. God cared more about the Israelites’ obedience than about what they had to offer.
Now when we recognize our sin against God, we can turn directly to him, acknowledge that sin and ask for his cleansing. Just like God showed his grace and kindness to the Israelites, he displays that same grace and kindness in his provision of the ultimate sacrifice he provided for us in Jesus. He meets us where we are and all he asks for in return is our obedience.
- God doesn’t differentiate between unintentional and intentional sin. Do you? Why or why not?
- Spend some time contemplating the difference between sins of omission and sins of commission. Is there one that you think you struggle with more?
- God provides substitutes for the various sacrifices for those that couldn’t afford them. What does this tell us about the character of God?
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