Leviticus – part four

This week we’re going through the various sacrifices prescribed in Leviticus 1-10, and seeing how they were fulfilled in Christ. Monday was an overview, which you might like to look at first.

The Purification Offering

The third offering we’re looking at is the purification offering. This is different from the burnt offering. The burnt offering focused on turning away God’s anger at our sin in general. The purification offering dealt with the uncleanness that resulted from our sin. Not just in general, but specific sins. Leviticus 5 lists a few such sins for which purification offerings must be made:

5:1-4 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—

Two broad categories of sins are listed: sins against God’s purity laws, and sins against one another. These made a person unclean. They made the nation unclean. And by extension they made the land unclean. Even the tabernacle – where God lived – was under threat of being polluted by sin. Which would mean God couldn’t keep living among them. So a purification offering must be made:

5:5-6 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.

The worshipper is forgiven, and the stain of sin is dealt with – a stain that otherwise would be a barrier to God living among his people. How does it work? There are two parts to the instruction: confession and sacrifice. The person – or sometimes, the whole nation – confesses their sin. And a penalty is paid – the life of an animal in their place.

Now half of this instruction is still in effect. I’ll give you a clue – it’s the bit that doesn’t involve the goat. Because Jesus was sacrificed in our place. He paid the penalty for us once-and-for-all. As well as turning away wrath, the offering of Jesus in our place cleansed us from impurity. So we no longer have to offer an animal.

The bit that’s still in effect is the confession part. Confessing our sin to God. Naming it. Saying how we have sinned; and then claiming Jesus’ sacrifice in our place. The apostle John linked Jesus with this purification offering, in one of his most famous lines:

1 Jn 1:9  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Do you confess your sins to God? Do you do it as specifically as you can? Because confession is how we take hold of the cleansing offered through the cross. It’s how we remove day-by-day the barrier that sin puts between us and God. It’s how we’re purified – how we’re cleansed – so that God can continue to dwell in his temple.

The Guilt Offering

The purification offering dealt with the effect of our sin in making us unclean before God. But there was also another offering – called the guilt offering, or ‘restitution offering’ which deals with the effect of our sin on others. Firstly, the effect of our sin on God:

5:15-16 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.

And secondly, the effect of sin on other people:

6:2-5 If anyone sins and is unfaithful to the LORD by deceiving a neighbor about something entrusted to them or left in their care or about something stolen, or if they cheat their neighbor, 3 or if they find lost property and lie about it, or if they swear falsely about any such sin that people may commit— 4 when they sin in any of these ways and realize their guilt, they must return what they have stolen or taken by extortion, or what was entrusted to them, or the lost property they found, 5 or whatever it was they swore falsely about. They must make restitution in full, add a fifth of the value to it and give it all to the owner on the day they present their guilt offering.

Whether we have wronged God or others, the principle is the same. Bring a guilt offering – and make restitution. Give back what was taken, plus one-fifth more.

Now we no longer make animal sacrifices – Jesus was our guilt offering. But this still reminds us that our sin affects others. More than that, right relationships are a prerequisite for worship. Right relationships with God; right relationships with others. Which is why Jesus said:

Matt 5:23-24 Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

Is there something you’ve done that has wronged someone else? Something you said you’d do, but didn’t follow through? Hurtful words, or careless gossip? Face-saving lies? Or even money you owe that you’re not being up-front about?

If we took Jesus completely seriously, we should head off right now and deal with it. That might not be practical if you’re reading this at 11pm, but the point is, don’t let it drag on. Because it doesn’t just affect your relationship with the other person. It also impacts your relationship with God.

To do

Spend some time in confession, and taking hold of the promised cleansing offered through Jesus.

If you’re wanting to read all of Leviticus 1-10 this week, read all of chapters 7 and 8 now to stay on schedule. 

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