While driving down a two-lane road in rural northern Michigan, I looked in my rearview mirror only to see flashing red lights. When the police officer pulled me over, he asked if I knew why. I honestly did not. He informed me that the speed limit had lowered to 35 mph because the road was approaching a small town. Unfortunately, my ignorance did not get me off the hook.
Today’s reading describes the sin offering (see also Lev. 6:24–30). This offering was provided for two different situations, for unintentional sins or for ceremonial uncleanness (5:2–4). These laws reflect several important spiritual principles.
First, the more responsibility a person had, the greater the consequences of their sin for the community. This principle is reflected in the size of the required offering of a high priest or leader in the community compared with a common person. Leaders have a greater potential to lead others astray and so are held to a higher standard (James 3:1).
Second, the whole nation could be guilty of unintentional sin (Lev. 4:13). This may be difficult for those of us in a culture influenced by Western individualism to understand. But it is possible for a group of people to sin corporately, for example, Israel’s covenant with Gibeon without consulting the Lord (Josh. 9:14).
Third, everyone needed to have their sin atoned through sacrifice, not just the leaders. To make provision for this, God accepted smaller offerings from those who had less means (Lev. 5:11–13). It was never about the size of the offering, but what it represented. The ritual had three steps: laying one’s hands on the offering, which included confession of sin (4:29; 16:21); presentation of the sacrifice; and receiving forgiveness (4:31).
>> The same pattern holds true today. We can be forgiven if we confess our sins (1 John 1:9). The sacrifices in Leviticus point forward to Jesus, the once-for-all sacrifice for sin (Heb. 10:14). Spend time in confession today.
“The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—come not from [You] but from the world” (1 John 2:16). Father, forgive us for our sins whether deliberate or unintentional. Sanctify us, make us more like You!