They say the Internet makes people bold, but it can make a wimp out of you too. Sure, you can send mean, racist, and offensive messages anonymously all you want, but if you use social media with your real name, you had better think twice before you post, share, or like. So many people have lost jobs, friends, money and respect because of what they’ve posted online or what has been shared about them online. Granted, they usually deserved it. Still, there’s something unsettling about knowing that at any moment the worst parts of yourself may be unearthed for all the world to see.
The Israelites lived in the good old days, before social media, but even they didn’t have the privacy we all feel we deserve today. For one, they lived in a close-knit community, and anyone who’s ever lived in a small town, gone to a small school, or attended a church knows that when you’re there, your business is everyone’s business. For the Israelites, this community familiarity is taken up a notch by the offerings God required them to make. In this chapter, God describes a particularly embarrassing type of sacrifice – the sin offering.
The sin offering, just like the burnt offering, was an offering to be made as atonement for sin. But the sin offering was different in one important way – it was made when someone sinned “unintentionally”, or in other words, when someone sinned without knowing it, and then later realized what they’d done. If that happened, the sinner had to take a bull, a goat, or a lamb to the tabernacle and offer it before the Lord, killing it, splashing its blood, and burning its insides. There were no loopholes to this commandment: priests, leaders, the community as a whole, and individuals alike all had to come clean and humble themselves.
The Treasures Within:
Airing Your Dirty Laundry
Imagine heading towards the tabernacle to make a sin offering. Perhaps its a nice day. Maybe you had plans to go on a walk with your parents, or to take your kids to play with their friends, or to finish your chores with your betrothed. Instead, you’re leading one of your pet lambs or best milk goats to the tabernacle, about to watch it die and burn. All because of a nasty word that slipped out the other day, or a too-private moment with your soon-to-be wife, or a generous embellishment of the truth. Your nosy neighbor happens to poke their head out of their tent at the right moment and snickers – they can piece together where you’re headed. It’s a walk of shame, and there’s no place to hide.
Times sure have changed, haven’t they? These days, hiding our sins is our M.O. It’s embarrassing and uncomfortable enough apologizing to someone we’ve wronged – repenting to our entire church family is a hard limit. And how is it even necessary? We all know we’re sinners, theoretically, anyway. We all know Jesus died on the cross for our sins so we, or an innocent animal, don’t have to. No one needs to know our personal business. What would our friends think? Our mentors? Our crushes? Our family members? The only people who need to know what I’ve done wrong are me, myself, and God!
It’s true. Sin is a private thing. And when we do sin, there’s no better place to turn than to God. But these days, where our new favorite hobbies are bragging and comparison, it’s easy to brush our problems under the rug. Our most recent tiny mistake, white lie, or little mishap seems so minor. When we’ve just started to believe in that well-curated image of ourselves; it’s hard to find the justification to ruin it by digging through our unintentional sins. Rather than face the shame of our sins, we find it easier to hide – from others, from ourselves, and from God.
Would publicly killing animals whenever we commit a sin solve this problem? Probably not, but a little honesty might. The fact that our sins break God’s heart, damage our present, damage our future, and cut us off from His smile and our hope of salvation is a bitter one. It hurts. It smells. It cuts deep. But if we admitted it to ourselves and preached about it from our pulpits and talked honestly through it in our small groups, wouldn’t that light a fire beneath us? Wouldn’t that fill us with zeal, with determination, with a desire to pour our hearts out to the God who offers the only solution to this problem, this disease, this poison? Wouldn’t that lead us to not a walk of shame, but a walk of healing, of repentance, of change?
God’s Message To Us:
“I want to change your entire life.” God is serious about sin, and this chapter is just one of many that makes it obvious. Think about it. God made a whole set of laws that addressed the “accidental” sins, the “small” sins, the unintentional sins, the sins that could so easily have been ignored. His message is twofold. The sacrifices the Israelites made were first and foremost about the strange science of atonement, and how death is necessary to cover our sins. The dying lambs, goats and bulls pointed toward the Lamb who would one day die on a cross for all sins, even the unintentional ones. At the same time, these sacrifices taught God’s children about repentance and change. Sins were transferred from sinner to sacrifice with solemn finality. Blood washed away all remembrance of sins once and for all. Walking away from those sacrifices was to be like walking away from sin, forever. No shame, just healing. Just repentance. Just change. Why can’t we have that today? What’s stopping us? When will we allow Jesus to change our entire life, big sins, little sins, unintentional sins, and all?
What do you think? What did this chapter teach you about sin? What was God’s message to you through this chapter of the Bible?