Sin comes to the forefront here – unintentional sins and, perhaps, little sins.
Is it possible to sin without intending to sin? I suppose so. The other day, I found myself driving way over the speed limit, and I had no intention of speeding like that. “Well,” you might say, “that’s not morally wrong. Don’t worry about it. It was an accident.” But if the sheriff had pulled me over, he would be justified in writing me a ticket. I had broken the law, plain and simple.
And God’s people can break his law without knowing it or intending to do so. Right now, the world tells us a lot of things are OK to do that are clearly against God’s way for humanity. A person could fall into sin with the world applauding all along the way only to discover later that he or she was now outside of God’s Way.
Sin is sin. There’s no way around it. And every sin has its cost, whether that sin was committed intentionally or not. To understand sin as sin, we also have to understand God as holy. He is perfectly good. He wouldn’t be perfectly good if he turned a blind eye to sin – even to small, unintentional sins.
But God provided a way for his people to atone for their sins. You notice in Leviticus 4 that levels existed in how these sins were handled by God. The unintentional sins of the priests were handled differently than the unintentional sins of the common people. This could be because the impact of the sins of the priests was greater than that of other people. The sins of leaders can bring great harm to the people.
And the priests also had access to the Holy Place in the tabernacle. That’s why we see in this chapter the priests carrying the blood of their sacrifices into the tabernacle to sprinkle it before the veil and to touch the horns (the place of power) of the altar of incense. The altar of incense was a symbol of the prayers of the people. Because the priests had access to the Holy Place, it was defiled by their sins.
And so, in Leviticus 4, we are told how the tabernacle could be purified. Please understand this. God was giving his people a picture of the way in which their sin damaged their worship. We know it fractured their relationship with Him, but it also made the very things of their worship and the very elements of creation unclean and impure.
Purification was needed.
We read this as Christians. Every sin matters – every tiny, insignificant, throw-away sin. Every white lie has an effect. And it doesn’t matter whether you are rich or poor or a leader in the church or a just a “regular Joe.” Sin is sin, and sin brings problems.
And Jesus paid the price for those sins. He is our substitute. He purifies what’s been defiled by sin – namely, you and me.
In the Book of Hebrews, the writer explains how Jesus atoned for our sins as our High Priest and how Jesus brought purification to the heavenly temple.
First, the writer said almost everything under the law “is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22). This is what God established. We can’t argue with it and be faithful to Scripture. Sin has consequences, and God doesn’t want his people to lose sight of the high cost of sin.
Then, the writer of Hebrews explained that the tabernacle and temple on earth was a copy of the heavenly temple. And Jesus purified it. “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. … But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:24, 26).
We see this again in the throne room of God in the Book of Revelation (chapters 4-5). “And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain” (Revelation 5:6).
Again, he is our substitute. And he purifies as he goes.
Our sins matter. And we need to deal with them. The only way to do this is through Christ.
“If anyone of the common people sins unintentionally in doing any one of the things that by the Lord’s commandments ought not to be done, and realizes his guilt, or the sin which he has committed is made known to him …”
We realize our guilt, and we turn to the Lamb. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
We need to be purified. The uncleanness, the place where the blood needs to be sprinkled and which the blood needs to touch, is us.
It is Easter Sunday. A good thing to do today is to look around at our lives and see what it is that Jesus has done. We look for the work of purification in our lives.
All of us have dirtied up our lives because of sin. And all of us, as we recognize those sins – hopefully – are turning to Christ in confession.
And he makes us clean. And because of that, we have a future that does not end.
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:19-22).
Our hearts are what need to be purified. Only the blood of Jesus can do this.