Forgiveness of Sin
“…and he shall be forgiven.“ – Leviticus 4:35 NASB
Reading through these chapters is always somewhat disconcerting to our western minds. We have a hard time relating to all the talk of animals being sacrificed, blood being poured out, fat and entrails being burned, and atonement being made. But the one thing we can all relate to is the need for forgiveness of sin – because we are all sinners. We were each born that way. We come out of the womb with sin natures, and we are born into a world filled with others just like us. Sin is a part of our natural habitat. It comes naturally to us – even at the earliest age. And no one knows that better than God. And when He called the descendants of Israel to be His chosen people, He called them to a life of holiness. They were to be set apart and distinct from the nations around them. They were to live lives marked by sin-less-ness, not sin-full-ness. But God knew that was an impossible task for them. He gave them rules and regulations to follow, fully knowing that they would not be able to do it in their own strength. So God devised a plan. Long before He had chosen them, God had a plan for their forgiveness in mind. Because God desires relationship. But sin makes fellowship with God impossible. Sin must be payed for. God wants to forgive sin, but He cannot simply overlook it. Sin is an affront to Him as a holy God and it must be either punished or paid for. What we read in chapter four of Leviticus is God’s plan for the unintentional sins committed by the people of Israel. Sin, even unintentional sins committed in weakness or carelessness, must be atoned for. So God came up with an elaborate system of offerings and sacrifices to make forgiveness possible.
The altar of burnt offering played a major role in this process. It was one of the most well-used, highly-significant vessels in the Tabernacle. Morning and evening, every day of the year, sacrifices were made there. Burnt offerings, grain offerings, peace offerings, sin offerings and guilt offerings were all made there. “No sin could be atoned for, no praise or thanksgiving could ascend to God, without the intervention of this all-important vessel” (Henry W. Soltau, The Holy Vessels and Furniture of the Tabernacle). Each week the Sabbath was ushered in at this altar. Every feast and festival was begun at this altar with a sacrifice to God. “In fact, the very existence of Israel as a nation, and the life and history of each individual amongst them were in a certain sense linked on with this holy vessel…” (Henry W. Soltau, The Holy Vessels and Furniture of the Tabernacle).
But while the altar of burnt offering was the place where thanksgiving and gratitude was expressed to God, it’s greatest significance was as the place where forgiveness of sin was received. Through the blood of an innocent, unblemished animal, the peoples’ sins were paid for and forgiven by God. The life of a substitute was accepted as payment for their sins. But this sacrifice was an ongoing, perpetual one, because they were going to sin again and again. Tens of thousands of animals would be slaughtered in order to pay for the sins of the people. Thousands upon thousands of gallons of blood would be poured out as payment for their sins. Because while their sins could be forgiven, their hearts remained unchanged. They remained slaves to sin. Their forgiveness was temporary.
But God had another plan. The day would come when the need for ongoing sacrifice would end. He would send His Son as the final sacrifice for sin. The innocent Lamb of God would offer His own life as payment for our sin – once for all. “And what God wants is for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all time” (Hebrews 10:10 NLT). Jesus paid for our sins. He was both the sacrifice and the High Priest – offering the perfect sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. “He is the kind of high priest we need because he is holy and blameless, unstained by sin. He has now been set apart from sinners, and he has been given the highest place of honor in heaven. He does not need to offer sacrifices every day like the other high priests. They did this for their own sins first and then for the sins of the people. But Jesus did this once for all when he sacrificed himself on the cross” (Hebrews 7:26-27 NLT).
Because of what Christ has done, we have forgiveness of sin – permanently and completely. But more than that, we have a new capacity NOT to sin. We have been set free from slavery to sin. It is no longer our master (Romans 6:6). Rather than a list of laws written on tablets of stone, God has placed His law on our hearts and in our minds.
This is the new covenant I will make with my people on that day, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts so they will understand them, and I will write them on their minds so they will obey them. Then he adds, “I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds.” Now when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices. And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. This is the new, life–giving way that Christ has opened up for us through the sacred curtain, by means of his death for us. – Hebrews 10:16-20 NLT
We have forgiveness for our sins. But we also have the capacity to live free from sin. There is no longer a need for sacrifice to be made. My sins have been paid for in full. No more blood must flow. No more fires must be stoked. No more innocents must die. “For he has rescued us from the one who rules in the kingdom of darkness, and he has brought us into the Kingdom of his dear Son. God has purchased our freedom with his blood and has forgiven all our sins” (Colossians 1:13-14 NLT).
Father, sin is serious to You. It always has been. Leviticus gives me a glimpse into the tremendous cost of sin and the price necessary for men to have a restored relationship with You. But the greatest price was the one Your Son paid. He gave His life as payment for the sins of all men – once and for all. He exchanged His righteousness for my sinfulness. He paid the price I could not pay. He experienced death so that I might have life. And forgiveness of all my sins – for all time. Thank You. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men