The most obvious thing in today’s chapters is a lot more instructions for sacrifices. It’s easy to be put off by the gory details and skim over the whole section, but within this there’s quite a bit of down to earth realism and practical sense about how we approach God, guilt and worship.
Not all sin is the same – but it all matters
There’s quite a bit about how the Israelites should deal with a situation where someone sins without meaning, or even without knowing at the time. When the sin comes to light, then there’s an important principle to observe, which works in two directions. First, an unintentional sin is not as serious as a deliberate one – different sacrifices are set, and less guilt is attached. On the other hand, even a sin which is only recognised as sin later does need to be dealt with by sacrifice. It isn’t just brushed under the carpet as not mattering.
If we’re serious about holiness, we should deal with our sins even when they’re accidental, but shouldn’t accuse ourselves overly – we should learn from experience, put right what we can and bring the rest to God for forgiveness.
You’re never too poor to be forgiven – or to need forgiveness
Within the system of sacrifices, there’s a sliding scale of sacrifices based not just on what you’re sacrificing for, but on what you can afford to sacrifice. If you can afford a sheep, offer that – but if not, then offer two doves – and if you can’t afford doves, offer some flour. So no-one is let off forgiveness, but it comes at a cost relative to each individual’s circumstances.
For us, the sacrifice has already been offered, but the principle surely remains that God asks for what we are able to give – neither more nor less.
Priests need forgiveness too
Lastly I was struck by the fact that the priests are allowed to eat from the offerings for sacrifice. As a full-time priest, I’m glad that there’s an early recognition that priests need to eat like everyone else!
But there’s an exception. When priests offer sacrifice for their own sins, then they’re in just the same boat as everyone else, and they can’t eat from that offering.
I need God’s forgiveness just like everyone else. And in asking his forgiveness I have no special privilege because of my dog-collar. But at the same time, I know that I can be forgiven in just the same way as everyone else.
I’m glad of that.