“Then the Lord spoke to Moses: ‘Tell the Israelites: When someone sins unintentionally against any of the Lord’s commands and does anything prohibited by them - …’” (Leviticus 4:1)
Leviticus 4 deals with sin offerings for “unintentional” sins. These offerings do not apply to sins of open defiance or premeditated sins, but rather to sins committed without thinking, reactively. What we see in this chapter is a measured response, based on a person’s status in the community.
These laws start with the priests. A priest who sins unintentionally has to bring an unblemished bull as an offering. The same offering is required if the whole community of Israel sins. A community leader has to bring an unblemished male goat. Individuals in the community who sin are to bring an unblemished female goat or an unblemished female lamb.
This shows us that greater consequences are placed on the basis of the relational status of an individual to the Tabernacle services. The greatest consequences fall on the priests and the community as a whole, on the priest because he of all people should know better, and on the community because it is the priest’s responsibility to educate them as a whole about the law. Next came community leaders and then individuals.
The idea is that, while sin is sin regardless of who commits it, there is a graduated cost or consequence for someone based on that person’s proximity to work of the Lord. Thus, the closer someone is to the Lord’s work, the greater the expectations the Lord has of that person. The idea is that “to whom much is entrusted, much is required.”
Some might then say, “Why should I try to get closer to the Lord, then, if it’s just going to cost me more if I sin against Him?” We do not make the determination to grow in our relationship with the Lord based on what sin might “cost.” In fact, God Himself has already paid the ultimate “cost” for our sins. Here is what this text is saying: the closer I am to the Lord, the more it hurts me when I sin against Him, because I have a better understanding of what the offense of sin does to God’s holiness. Thus, the closer we move toward the Lord, the greater our desire to not sin against Him. So, the call of God to us is to grow in our faith walk with Him.
Lord, Help us to grow more toward You today, and in our understanding of Your holiness and in our understanding of how You want us to live our lives. Amen.