The Lord said to Moses: When anyone is unfaithful to the Lord by sinning unintentionally in regard to any of the Lord’s holy things, they are to bring to the Lord as a penalty a ram from the flock, one without defect and of the proper value in silver, according to the sanctuary shekel. It is a guilt offering.
A distinction of the sin offering is that often the sin was said to be unintentional. It is dealing not with acts of deliberate evil, which all of us commit from time to time, but it is dealing with the nature which prompts those acts, and which takes us by surprise.
Haven’t you noticed that? Most of us, if we were asked our private opinion, would have to say that we are pretty nice people. Most of us have a fairly good opinion of ourselves. We acknowledge that we do still have a few minor problems, yes, a few peccadillos which, if we merely had the proper motivation, could be taken care of with but slight effort on our part. That is true, isn’t it?
But every now and then something happens which surprises us, and we act in a way we didn’t expect. Some situation catches us unaware and all of a sudden we do the very thing that we never thought we’d do. Does that ever happen to you? We come to the sudden and shattering realization that there is evil in us deeper than we had realized. That is what the sin offering is talking about — that kind of evil, embedded in us, part of our nature, which takes us by surprise because we may fancy that we had gotten rid of it, or did not even possess it.
Dostoevski, in The Brothers Karamazov, tells a fable about a wicked woman who died. The devils took her to hell and threw her into the lake of fire. Her guardian angel was very puzzled as to how he might do something to help her. So he thought through her whole life to see if he could find at least one good thing that she had done which he might present before God. Finally he went to God and said, Once a beggar came by when she was weeding her garden, and she pulled an onion out and gave it to him to eat. God said to the angel, All right, then you go down and get that onion and hold it out to her in the lake of fire. Tell her to take hold of it, and if you can pull her out with that onion she can come to Paradise. So the angel took the onion, went down to the lake of fire, and held it out to the woman. She grabbed hold and he began to pull. He pulled and pulled and, sure enough, he began to pull her right up out of the lake. She was almost completely free when some other sinners around her grabbed hold of her ankles so as to be pulled out with her. At first the onion held, and they too began to be pulled out. But the woman became very angry and cried, This is my onion, and you’re not going to go out with me! And, as she kicked them loose, the onion broke and she fell back in and she is burning there to this day.
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That is a graphic illustration of the very thing which this offering addresses. Even in moments of triumph there is that taint of selfishness, that evil, in every human heart. That is what the sin offering is dealing with.
Father, how thoroughly you understand me! You know what can lurk in my life, hidden away, keeping me from knowing the full measure of your grace. Thank you that you have made provision for all my sins, even those I am not aware of.
As we encounter the surprise, often shock, of our sinfulness, does it increase our awe at the astounding sacrifice paid for our forgiveness? Do we respond with life-changing gratitude and worship?