Monthly Archives: August 2013

OT Atonement for Unintentional and Deliberate Sins

Leviticus 4 begins the Lord’s instructions to Moses concerning the law of the sin offerings. Verse 2: “Speak to the sons of Israel saying ‘if a person sins unintentionally in any of the things which the Lord has commanded not to be done . . . ‘ The chapter then continues by a specifying particular types of sacrifices offered and ceremonies performed for different types of people who commit sins, always with the understanding that these are unintentional. Verse 3ff. refers to the case where the anointed priest is the one who sins. Verse 13ff. has the discussion of the case where the whole congregation of Israel commits unintentional sin. Verse 22ff. discusses where a non-priestly leader of the people sins. Then finally in verse 27ff. we find a paragraph a common person’s sin. Always these are unintentional sins that are discovered after the fact and must be atoned for so that a holy God may reside with an unholy people.

Although Leviticus 5 introduces a new topic, guilt offerings, it seems to carry on the theme of sacrifices for unintentional sins. For example, verses 2 and 3 the case of a man who unknowingly touches something unclean, though it is “hidden from him” he is unclean and must make his offering as soon as he becomes aware of it. Or, verse 4 describes someone who “swears thoughtlessly from his lips” and his oath is “hidden from him.” Verse 14 says, “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘If a person acts unfaithfully and sins unintentionally against the Lord’s holy things, then he shall bring his guilt offering to the Lord.’”

So what about deliberate sins? Does the Lord prescribe offerings for deliberate, known, willful sins? Leviticus 6:1ff. specifies the guilt offering in the case of theft, robbery, extortion, lying, and swearing falsely. Verses 3 and 7 broaden the application of this guilt offering: “so that he sins in regard to any one of the things a man may do” (3) . . . “and the priest shall make atonement for him before the Lord, and he will be forgiven for any one of the things which he may have done to incur guilt” (7).  Even though the focus in chapters 4 and 5 is on unintentional sins there is an atonement, forgiveness, for deliberate sins too.

Leviticus 6:1ff. teaches us that in the OT:

1)      Deliberate sin can be atoned for and forgiven.

2)      The sinner who follows the Lord’s instructions remains a member of the covenant community.

3)      Restitution is still required though the guilt offering obtains atonement and forgiveness.

4)      The guilt offering in this case, 6:1ff., is very costly, a male ram, though it seems to vary with the severity of the sin.

  1. At least one male is needed to maintain a flock; sacrificing a male may severely limit the potential for economic growth
  2. In the prior cases on unintentional sins, the guilt offering may be a female, or even a grain offering

Th OT sacrifices are the types of which Christ’s sacrifice is the antitype. Studying OT detail leads to NT comfort.

Comments Off on OT Atonement for Unintentional and Deliberate Sins

Filed under Uncategorized

A Brief Meditation on Obedience and Sacrifice

What right did Samuel have to indict Saul with the declaration, “To obey is better than sacrifice?” That may seem like a very odd question: the context clearly says that the word of the LORD descended upon Samuel; he spoke with the authority of the LORD. But the Law itself, in Deuteronomy, states that prophecies must be tested. Even if a “prophet” predicts an event that comes true if he then attempts to draw people away from the Lord then he is a false prophet. A true prophecy must be consistent with previous precedent. Where then can the precedent for Samuel’s jarring statement be found? Does Samuel’s indictment minimize the God-ordained system of worship, the sacrificial system that permits a holy God to reside with an unholy people?

The clearest precedent for Samuel’s prophecy, I believe, is found in the Levitical laws for the peace offering in Leviticus 7:11-18. There are three types of peace offerings: the thanksgiving offering, the votive offering in fulfillment of a vow, and the freewill offering. The last, the freewill offering, is occasioned by the worshiper’s desire to share a fellowship meal with his LORD. He is under no obligation to make this offering. It is motivated simply by a desire to express love to God. The regulations for the freewill offering detail which portions of the meal belong to the worshiper and which to the LORD. The meal may last two days; whatever is left on the third day must be roasted with fire. “So if any of the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings should be eaten on the third day, he who offers it will not be accepted, it will not be reckoned to him. It shall be an offensive thing, and the person who eats of it will bear his iniquity” (18).

So, even a well-motivated, worshipful  sacrifice becomes sin if the law for that sacrifice is not obeyed. Sacrifice can be a sin if not shaped by obedience. Obedience is the priority. Thus, the precedence for Samuel’s prophetic claim, “To obey is better than sacrifice,” is found in the laws of sacrifice.

This is just one (relatively obscure) example of the beauty of Scripture, its internal consistency and coherence. And, it provides an example for our method in reading the Scriptures: looking in later parts for references or allusions to earlier ones. This is especially important for those of us who profess to be Christians. We must see how Christ fulfills the Old Testament scriptures in detail.

Comments Off on A Brief Meditation on Obedience and Sacrifice

Filed under Uncategorized