Saturday, February 17, 2018

No Defence Cuts It When It Comes to Desecrating What God Has Called Holy

Leviticus 5:14-19:
14 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 
15 “If a person acts unfaithfully and sins unintentionally against the Lord’s holy things, then he shall bring his guilt offering to the Lord: a ram without defect from the flock, according to your valuation in silver by shekels, in terms of the shekel of the sanctuary, for a guilt offering. 
16 He shall make restitution for that which he has sinned against the holy thing, and shall add to it a fifth part of it and give it to the priest. The priest shall then make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering, and it will be forgiven him.
17 “Now if a person sins and does any of the things [a]which the Lord has commanded not to be done, though he was unaware, still he is guilty and shall bear his punishment. 
18 He is then to bring to the priest a ram without defect from the flock, according to your valuation, for a guilt offering. So the priest shall make atonement for him concerning his error in which he sinned unintentionally and did not know it, and it will be forgiven him. 
19 It is a guilt offering; he was certainly guilty before the Lord.”
Thoughts on the Passage

Before we jump into this current passage, I wanted to add a note on the issue of why the Jews do not sacrifice animals today.  We also need to remember that the temple in Jerusalem was (once the Tabernacle, that was the precursor of the Temple, had served them in the desert) the only place that God dwelt.   And when it was destroyed by the Romans in the first century, there could be no more sacrifices.  Synagogues were the place for sacrifices.  And that’s another reason the Jews want the Temple rebuilt in Jerusalem – so that they can offer their sacrifices to God.

Now, let’s study The Guilt Offering as described in our current passage.

David Guzik offers that the guilt offering was used when someone had sinned in regard to the holy things. Perhaps with respect to some type of desecration of the tabernacle or its associated items. In this case a mere sin offering was not enough.  Guzik says restitution was also required, paying back what was lost plus twenty percent (see verse 16).  Interesting that in these cases, not only was the wrong to be put right, but an additional one-fifth had to be added. That’s twice the amount suggested for tithing elsewhere in scripture. That’s how seriously God’s perspective on this kind of sin was.
What comes to mind for me is all the desecration that is going on around the world these days – of churches and synagogues. Surely God does not look lightly upon these things.

Here also we have the situation that even when a person does not know he has sinned in regard to the holy things, a guilt offering is still required for otherwise the person is still guilty and will bear his punishment (verse 17). “I didn’t know” did not cut it.  Just like “I didn’t know the speed limit was only 50 m.p.h. here” does not cut when one is stopped for speeding by an officer today. Or put another way, ignorance is no excuse of the law.

Matthew Henry reminds us that sin-offerings and trespass-offerings were one and the same. The first part of Chapter 5 deals with trespasses against others. Our current passage deals with, as we mentioned above, trespasses against holy things.

One way this would happen was if a man took anything dedicated to God or set aside for the priests and used it for himself or for his own purposes. This was a trespass. But again, it was to be that the offender did not do it intentionally. Henry reminds us that where the offender did do it presumptuously and in contempt of the law, he was put to death without mercy in accordance with Hebrews 10:28 and its associated references.

Robert Jamieson suggests the kind of other sins covered here would include not paying the full due of tithes, or offering sufficient first-fruits, etc.

The bottom is that the desecration of things that are holy is an abominable sin in God’s eyes. We can’t just say that was the Old Testament Law and we need not worry about it.  As I have said elsewhere, the principles on which those Old Testament laws were based often do apply to us today.  I again believe this is one case in point.

Now I understand that today’s “Church” is not the building or the furniture of the place wherein we worship. No argument there. But still it is often a place where we do worship – were believers gather together and expect the Holy Spirit to speak to them there. In fact, we invite Him to such a place as a congregation. If that’s true, then we owe it to ourselves to stop and assess our actions in such environments. If we are making something holy unholy, we are guilty of what God was talking to the Hebrews about in this chapter.

If we are involved in that, then we need to admit, confess, repent, and change our ways. If others are, we are to speak up. If they listen, all fine and good.  If they don’t, perhaps it is time for us to move on – but not give up.

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Friday, February 16, 2018

It's Easy to say "I Am a Sinner." Much Harder to say, "This is How I have Sinned."

Telling the Truth and Keeping Promises
Leviticus 5:1-13:
‘Now if a person sins after he hears a public adjuration to testify when he is a witness, whether he has seen or otherwise known, if he does not tell it, then he will bear his guilt. 
Or if a person touches any unclean thing, whether a carcass of an unclean beast or the carcass of unclean cattle or a carcass of unclean swarming things, though it is hidden from him and he is unclean, then he will be guilty.
Or if he touches human uncleanness, of whatever sort his uncleanness may be with which he becomes unclean, and it is hidden from him, and then he comes to know it, he will be guilty. 
Or if a person swears thoughtlessly with his lips to do evil or to do good, in whatever matter a man may speak thoughtlessly with an oath, and it is hidden from him, and then he comes to know it, he will be guilty in one of these. 
So it shall be when he becomes guilty in one of these, that he shall confess that in which he has sinned. 
He shall also bring his guilt offering to the Lord for his sin which he has committed, a female from the flock, a lamb or a goat as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement on his behalf for his sin.
‘But if he cannot afford a lamb, then he shall bring to the Lord his guilt offering for that in which he has sinned, two turtledoves or two young pigeons, one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. 
He shall bring them to the priest, who shall offer first that which is for the sin offering and shall nip its head at the front of its neck, but he shall not sever it. 
He shall also sprinkle some of the blood of the sin offering on the side of the altar, while the rest of the blood shall be drained out at the base of the altar: it is a sin offering. 
10 The second he shall then prepare as a burnt offering according to the ordinance. So the priest shall make atonement on his behalf for his sin which he has committed, and it will be forgiven him.
11 ‘But if his means are insufficient for two turtledoves or two young pigeons, then for his offering for that which he has sinned, he shall bring the tenth of an ephah of fine flour for a sin offering; he shall not put oil on it or place incense on it, for it is a sin offering.
12 He shall bring it to the priest, and the priest shall take his handful of it as its memorial portion and offer it up in smoke on the altar, [i]with the offerings of the Lord by fire: it is a sin offering. 
13 So the priest shall make atonement for him concerning his sin which he has [j]committed from one of these, and it will be forgiven him; then the rest shall become the priest’s, like the grain offering.’”

Thoughts on the Passage

It would be prudent for us to stop here for a moment and try to get a better orientation to where we are in the book of Leviticus, as things can start to get quite complex.

Let me give you a high level perspective of the book:

·      Part One (the first 17 chapters) describe the Laws of Acceptable APPROACH to God or Sacrifice
·      Part Two (the last 17 chapters) describe the Laws of Acceptable WALK with God or Sanctification

Now let us look closer at Part One.
·      Part One
o   In chapters 1 to 3, we have described for us the Laws of Approach to God when a person is IN FELLOWSHIP
§  The Burnt Offering – 1:1 –1:17
§  The Meal Offering – 2:1–2:16
§  The Peace Offering – 3:1–3:17,   and that is followed by
o   In chapters 4:1 – 6:7, a description for us of the Laws of Approach to God when a peson is OUT OF FELLOWSHIP
§  The Sin Offering – 4:1—5:13
§  The Guilt Offering – 5:14—6:7
o   And that is then followed by a section on the laws for Administering these Five Offerings (6:8—7:38)

Right now, we are studying the highlighted portion above – The Sin Offering for when out of fellowship with God.

Chuck Smith boils guilt down to being aware or being made aware of you doing something that is wrong in God’s eyes.  And when that happens, we need to confess such sin. And a sacrifice without confession is not sufficient. God can’t deal with sin in our life as long as we do not confess it, or even if we still want to hold on to parts of it or make excuses for it.  Our confessed sin allows God to be faithful and forgive us and cleanse us from it.

Verses one to five talk about the need for confession of the sin. Then the sin offering can be offered, and it requires either a female lamb, or a kid goat. And if neither of those are affordable, then two turtle doves, or two young pigeons.

David Guzik focuses on the need for the Israelites to be truthful witnesses to what they see, with respect to others committing sin or crime. With all the FakeNews going around these days, people have lost the sense of what truth is and why it is important.

For Guzik, the text seems to indicate that it isn’t enough to merely not tell lies. God also requires His people to make the truth known. Several thoughts come to my mind when I read this.  First, while we can claim much of the Torah’s Laws are not applicable to us today, there are many principles on which those laws are based that do apply to us today. This is just one example.

Secondly, what does this principle say to us about ‘speaking up’ when we know wrong has been done?  I believe there is a role for Christians in this today – be it in the injustices that take place globally, or nationally, or locally, or in our churches, or in our families. But we do it with love.
Matthew Henry says that we need to tell the truth in such cases, even though we may fear offending a friend or possibly an enemy who may harm us. Not doing so, he says, makes us a partner with the sinner.

And thirdly, we need to be aware that the world has abandoned the idea of “telling the truth” being an absolute value. You see people lying all the time – even in court or elsewhere under oath and then getting caught and asking for forgiveness, really regretting only that they got caught.
And the text says, if we don’t tell the truth that is hidden, we ourselves bear the guilt. One commentator (Harris) says, “In Israel all the people were to be involved in seeing that justice was done. Not to witness was a sin.”  What a difference it would make to the church as a whole, and thus to the world, if we all believed that today.  So many Christians would “rather just not be involved”.  If so, there is no way of getting around it – they bear the guilt, the Bible says. And Guzik applies that to our giving witness of our own relationship with Jesus Christ.  Don’t share Him when the opportunity arises, and you risk bearing the guilt associated with that.

The cleansing associated with the sin offering was also necessary when someone in the camp became ceremoniously unclean by touching anything that was unclean (either a carcass of an unclean animal or any human uncleanness). This was particularly important before someone was to come near or to enter the court of the Tabernacle.

Verse 4 addresses something that I think should be read over and over.  Guzik says it implies that “A careless promise was still a promise before the Lord and had to be observed. If the promise was not kept it had to be atoned for by a sin offering. . .. When we are aware of our broken vows we must repent of them.” Examples include saying we will pursue more time in prayer; more prayer for others; more time in the word; more unashamed witnessing; more faithful giving; more patience with our children; more love to our spouse; and more purity in mind, word, and deed.  Time to confess.
While this may seem like it refers to promises we make to God and then break (which are done often by all of us, especially when we are going through difficult times), I believe it also applies to when we break the promises we make to others – for I do not believe God would have us treat our fellow Christians and others differently.  And surprisingly, and sadly, I have found in my long career and association with both business people and clergy, that it is the clergy that often fail miserably in this regard.  They fail to keep their promises and are many times too proud to even admit it.
Vows and promises are good and sometimes a sign that the Holy Spirit is working in us. But if not kept, they become a sin in need of confession and repentance.  Henry says this also applies to “rash swearing” or rash promises – especially a promise that would cause the promiser to break a law or to otherwise sin. By not doing so, he is discharged from the sin he would have committed, but he still needs to atone for the broken promise that he made.

Verse 5 indicates that the confession needs to happen at the time the person realizes his guilt. That’s when he confesses, meaning he agrees with God that the action taken was a sin or thus wrong.
Guzik also raises the question many of us may not have thought of before. He says, “When we see how strongly the principle of atonement by sacrifice is emphasized in the Old Testament, many people wonder why the Jewish people today no longer make sacrifice. The answer is that they believe their good works will substitute for animal sacrifice.”  Harris backs him up by saying, “Indeed, when the second temple fell, the rabbis, denied an altar in Jerusalem, came to the conclusion that gifts and prayers were as acceptable as animal sacrifice.” While that is a possibility, I would rather hear from a Jew on this issue. So, I turned to this site and found out that Guzik is on the right track. The only exception being that Orthodox Jews would like to see this practice return.

Matthew Henry adds more insights to this passage.  First that based on verses 5 and 6, the offering could not occur until the confession was made. Second, that the confession must be specific (see the end of verse 5). That is backed up in the case of Achan described later in Joshua 7:20 who said, “I have sinned against the Lord…and this is what I did.”

It is easy for someone to say, “I am a sinner.” It is much harder to say, “This is how I have sinned.”  And yet that’s what God requires of us all.

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