The Israelites remained at Base Camp Sinai for a full year. During this time, God’s great concern for His people was that they learn how to worship. Leviticus is difficult reading for us so it warrants a mention that no book in the Bible contains more of the direct words of God than Leviticus. All the regulations related to the various sacrifices were simply God’s way of prescribing for His people how He was to be worshipped.
Chapter 5, verses 1-13, continues the instructions regarding the Sin Offering for unintentional sins. Four types of unintentional sins are listed though the list was not intended to be exhaustive: (1) The failure to appear in court as a witness; (2) Touching a dead animal; (3) Touching human uncleanness; (4) Making a rash oath (5:1-4). Whether or not an Israelite knew that they were sinning at the time of the offense did not alter their guilt. The Sin Offering was a reminder that they were judged, not by their sentience or feelings, but by God’s objective standard of holiness. If someone broke one of God’s commands and didn’t know it, he was still responsible. The normal requirement for the Sin Offering was a female goat or lamb. However, God made also provision for every member of the community to provide an offering for inadvertent sins, whether rich, poor, or impoverished (7-13).
The fifth offering was the Guilt Offering (5:14-19). It’s known by a variety of titles depending on the English translation (i.e. Trespass Offering, Satisfaction Offering). Since the Guilt Offering involved restitution and a financial penalty, it has also been called the Reparation Offering. The Guilt Offering covered two breaches of faith against the Lord. The first was the inadvertent transgression of a commandment (5:14-19). This covered sins committed by anyone against the holy things of the Lord, either by defrauding the Lord (14-16) or disobeying Him (17-19). Something was “amiss” (16), the most common Hebrew word for sin. While there was no malicious intent, the Lord took the transgression personally. The offenders’ ignorance was not a legitimate excuse. When a person discovered that he had defrauded the Lord, he was to offer an atoning sacrifice and pay a 20% fine to the priest. If he inadvertently broke a commandment, he was to sacrifice a ram in his place. The second breach of faith, also reckoned as against the Lord, was a violation against a neighbor (6:1-7). If someone was guilty of deceiving, lying, stealing, oppressing, extorting, or misleading a neighbor (2-3), and the person realized it and admitted their guilt, he must first return the stolen property along with a 20% surcharge as compensation to the owner (4-5). Secondly, he was to sacrifice a ram as an offering to the Lord (6). Because of the shedding of blood, there was forgiveness with God. The impact of all five offerings sent a powerful message about worship throughout the assembly. No one could come into the presence of the Lord without first dealing with their sin.
As it happened, the focus on the five offerings shifted from the responsibility of the worshipper to the obligations of the priests. As for the Burnt Offering, the priests were to dress specifically, maintain the altar’s fire perpetually, and sacrifice a lamb morning and night (in Hebrew the word is Tamid, “regularly”). The Burnt Offering was accompanied by grain and drink offerings that were pleasing to the Lord. The whole Burnt Offering belonged to God so that even its ashes were to be handled properly (8-13). As for the Grain Offering, the memorial portion (fine flour mixed with oil and frankincense) belonged to the Lord and therefore, it was burned on the altar. It was a pledge of devotion to God. The remainder of the flour was baked, without leaven, and eaten by consecrated priests in the courtyard (14-18). There was, by the way, an offering of grain that was not eaten by the priests. For instance, on the day a priest was newly installed, he was to give a cooked grain offering to the Lord (i.e. a Priestly Grain Offering). It was to be broken into pieces and then burned on the altar as a way of expressing his full devotion to God (19-23). As for the Sin Offering, it was to be killed before the Lord since it was a holy thing and eaten by the priests in the courtyard (24-27). If any of the blood was accidentally splattered on a garment of a priest, the garment had to be washed in the courtyard itself. If a clay pot or utensil was used and absorbed some of the blood, it was to be broken. If a bronze pot or utensil was used, it was to be scrubbed, washed, and used again (28-30). As for the Guilt Offering, it was to be offered in the same place as the Burnt Offering (7:1-2a). After directing the priest about what to do with the blood (2b), the fat, kidneys, and liver were to be offered to the Lord as a food offering. The priest could keep the skin or hide of the animal, which he could sell or use for himself. A Grain Offering could be eaten by the priest and shared with other priests (8-10). As for the Peace Offering, it was the only offering of which the worshipper could eat a portion of the sacrificed animal. It was a picture of communion between the individual and God. The Peace Offering was also divided into three types, based on the reason or motive behind offering it: a thanksgiving offering (11-15); a vow offering; or, a freewill offering (16-18). The final two sections of Chapter 7 cover the laws of the Peace Offering. First of all, there was the law regarding the fat and the blood, which belonged to the Lord because they were considered the best (22-27). Secondly, there was the law of the wave offering. The breast with fat was waved before the Lord. The fat was offered on the altar and the breast was eaten by the priest (28-31). The right thigh was also reserved for the priests as a means of their support from generation to generation.
Holy Father, You are a precise God. You directed Your people in ages past to worship You in a precise way. Today, I acknowledge that Jesus fulfilled all that You intended behind these various sacrifices. I also acknowledge that in fulfilling them, the way I am to worship is not any less precise but it is now focused like a laser on the One who gave Himself for me as an atoning sacrifice for every sin I’ve ever committed. Thank you, Lord. In Jesus’ Name, I pray, Amen.