The Graduated Scale

Speak to the sons of Israel, saying “If a person sins unintentionally in any of the things which the Lord has commanded not to be done, and commits any of them…
-Leviticus 4:2

The entire fourth chapter of Leviticus deals with the consequences of unintentional sin. Unintentional sin – an offense unknowingly committed, a line crossed unawares. Intentional sin is dealt with severely, but in the Law of God there is exceptional grace for the unplanned transgression. God has been sinned against, but in His mercy He provides for avenues of atonement that both testify to the nature of human sinfulness and the lengths to which God will go to demonstrate His love for us.

Of interest in this chapter is the graduated scale of sacrifice needed to atone for these sins, a range which is based upon the standing of a member in a community. Going in reverse order, a “common person” is to offer a female goat or lamb without defect. (Lev. 4:27 – 35) A leader of the people would sacrifice a male goat, again without defect. (Lev. 4:22 – 26) If the community as a whole has unintentionally sinned against God, they are to offer a bull of the herd. (Lev. 4:13 – 21) A priest who is found guilty is to offer a bull without defect. (Lev. 4:2 – 20) This graduated scale is based upon the impact of unintentional sin on the community, based on one’s standing in that community. A common person is to offer up a lamb – which will hurt, but not have far reaching consequences. A leader, by offering up a male goat without blemish, is also sacrificing some longer term benefits for his herd. The community as a whole is to offer up a bull, a symbol of strength and power, which will also have long term effects on that herd. A priest who brings guilt upon the people by his transgression is to offer a bull without defect – a sacrifice that will take a long time to overcome. Actions have consequences, and the greater one’s standing in the community, the greater and more far reaching those consequences become.

By the grace of Christ, we no longer have to offer up sacrifices. We still unintentionally, or often intentionally, sin against God’s Law. Here is what we must learn from this passage:

1. We must constantly be guarding our own hearts and ways. Are we daily seeking guidance from the Word of God, participating in His will through our prayers, and walking in His Law in our daily actions? In this lifetime we will never be free from sin, but are we trying our hardest to walk as people of grace? Do we actively go to God in a spirit of repentance, knowing that He will both discipline us in the long or short term, but also knowing that He does so out of love and forgiveness?

2. We must realize the enormous responsibility our political and religious leaders have. Are we praying for them – even if they did not receive our vote? Are we holding them accountable for their transgressions against God? If they repent of their sins, are we extending to them the same kind of grace that God has shown us?

3. As a community, do we understand that by straying from God’s law we have caused Him to withdraw many of His blessings from our nation? Are we willing to sacrifice our pride which demands that we go our own way, instead recognizing that Christ is the King of all nations? Will we work for revival in our churches and communities – praying that God will light an unquenchable fire in the hearts of all people – leaders and followers alike?

Where do we stand with the Law of God? Will we first seek the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness? Or will we continue to sin against the God of all love – whether knowingly or not – and thus bearing the consequences of His wrath.

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