And the priest shall make atonement for him for the sin which he has committed, and he shall be forgiven.
You cannot escape the fact that holiness is a major theme of the book of Leviticus. The entire sacrificial system was set up by God to create a means of fellowship and a way for sin to be dealt with in Israel. God is holy. We are not. Something has to happen to provide a means to relationship with Him. Chapters 4 and the first half of chapter 5 describe the details for what is called the “sin offering”. The conditions for this sacrifice had to do with the nature of the sin. It was “unintentional” – a natural outworking of human fallen depravity. Sometimes we just sin because we are sinners. It is what we do. We are naturally skilled at it. But that sin puts us at odds with a holy God.
The second condition for offering the sin offering was that the individual becomes aware of his or her guilt in the unintentional sin. Either the offended party makes them aware, or they eventually see the disastrous results of personal depravity for what they are. The guilt checks them from really moving forward with God. They need forgiveness.
Another interesting observation was that societal status changed the requirements for this sin offering. At the top of the list was the unintentional sin of a high priest. There the sacrificial animal was an expensive bull. But there were different requirements for the nation as a whole, or for individuals who had sinned unintentionally. Lesser expenses were involved by the type of livestock offered. There were also different requirements based on the type of unintentional sin. The point was that God was not harsh and unrelenting, but understanding in the way He dealt with people who by nature sin so much they don’t always know they did it. God’s grace covers the “oops” factor.
For me, as I read this, the important thing that keeps coming out in every detailed episode of the type of sin and accompanying sacrifice was that GOD FORGAVE THE REPENTANT HEART. These simple five words are profound: “…and he shall be forgiven”. God will completely forgive. He offers a way back. He reaches out to the one who will return. He knows we are dust. He forgives. He provides a way for relationship with us despite our very natures. That is love that abounds to sinners. And that love is here in the harsh little book of Leviticus. Even as the blood of the sacrificed animal drips from the altar in each episode, the love of God forgives the sinner. How much more do I know this in Christ, Who gave Himself for me so that I might be a forgiven sinner as well? The phrase “…and he shall be forgiven” applies to my heart as well. It is the promise that truly brings me peace, perspective, and joy. It comforts and strengthens my heart… daily.