Daily Devotion 27 March 2021

Create a peaceful space to pause, and allow yourself to feel God’s presence alongside you, as near to you as your own breath. In following the reflection below, as a church we will draw closer to God and to one another as we grow in faith and deepen our sense of belonging to God.

Leviticus 4: 1-3, 22-23, 27-28, 32, 35 ‘Sin Offerings Without Blemish’

1 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 Speak to the people of Israel, saying: When anyone sins unintentionally in any of the Lord’s commandments about things not to be done, and does any one of them: 3 If it is the anointed priest who sins, thus bringing guilt on the people, he shall offer for the sin that he has committed a bull of the herd without blemish as a sin-offering to the Lord…

22 When a ruler sins… he shall bring as his offering a male goat without blemish. 27 If anyone of the ordinary people among you sins unintentionally in doing any one of the things that by the Lord’s commandments ought not to be done, and incurs guilt, 28 when the sin that you have committed is made known to you, you shall bring a female goat without blemish as your offering, for the sin that you have committed… 32 If the offering you bring as a sin-offering is a sheep, you shall bring a female without blemish… 35 Thus the priest shall make atonement on your behalf for the sin that you have committed, and you shall be forgiven.

What’s your threshold for returning damaged goods? Is it fairly low – so if you bought a vase with a slight crack, you’d take it back immediately? Or is it fairly high? For example, if you bought a coffee table with a scratch on one of the legs which was less visible, you’d just live with it? We’re all different in this regard, and our breaking point of tolerance might depend on the object, how much we care for it, how much we spent on it and so on.

In Leviticus, there are chapters upon chapters concerning the worship of the people. Sacrifice was a major part of worship, and food, incense, grain, oil, and animals could all be offered – sometimes by being burnt, sometimes poured, sometimes slaughtered with blood spread of sprinkled. As the above selection of verses makes very clear, offerings to God when a sin had been committed were very particular: “WITHOUT BLEMISH” is stipulated again and again. Animals as a sin-offering couldn’t be any old goat with a gammy leg well past being any use to the owner… but must be a perfect specimen.

We might initially struggle with the cultural dissonance here, but actually we needn’t feel as if we have to work too hard. Whether you’re worshipping in 750BC or the year 2021, we’d all recognize sin as being a serious business. Human thoughtlessness, stupidity, selfishness, maltreatment of one another – why should anyone of any era take this lightly? We might not carve up a live sheep to show it today (and the squeamish among you will be grateful I missed out the gruesome verses of what happened to the fat and entrails) but we most certainly pray deeply to God as we collectively confess sins, pray for mercy, and give thanks for God’s assurance for forgiveness.

Of course, Christianity’s roots in Judaism have significantly informed our theology of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross – that only a perfect, unblemished sacrifice could deal with human sin once and for all. How I wish I fully understood this! As Holy Week nears, may we reflect not only on our own sinfulness, but God’s act of saving grace to purify us all, and draw us closer to him.

Prayer:

Perfect, loving God, we thank you for your perfect, loving Son.
May we receive what you have already given: grace, mercy, and promise of eternal life. Amen.

Reflection and Prayer © 2021 Paul Tabraham.
Image freely available online.

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