Scripture: from verse 24
He is to restore it in full plus an additional one-fifth; he must return it to the person who owns it, on the day when he presents his guilt offering.
Observation: The verse refers to anything that was obtained deceitfully, whether stolen, extorted, “borrowed,” lied about, etc. The person who took advantage of others is guilty, and a dual restitution is demanded: the guilt offering to be restored to harmony with the Lord, and returning the stolen money or item plus a fine, to be restored to harmony within the community.
God cares about the people around us. God cares that the community of believers lives in harmony. We can’t ignore the people around us and expect to be in God’s will. He loves them too.
Application: Consideration for others tends to be one of my shortcomings, though at least in practical matters like this I think I’m getting a better. (Considerate and positive words tend to be a little tougher for me.) But, easy or hard, keep the peace. Work to stay friends with others unless there’s a very good reason not to. Build the community, don’t tear it down.
Prayer: Father, thank you for loving the people around me. Help me to love them too. Help me to notice when I am hurting others and find ways to restore the relationship. Amen.
Scripture: verse 1
If a person who is a witness, sworn to testify, sins by refusing to tell what he has seen or heard about the matter, he must bear the consequences.
Observation: The “consequences” appear to be having to confess and bring a sin offering, though there may be other penalties elsewhere if his lack of witness led to someone being wrongly condemned.
But the point is, God insists on openness. God isn’t willing to let things hide in darkness. Not in our communities, and not in our minds and hearts either. Things that hide will only fester. By bringing things into the open He allows healing and cleansing to begin.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not understand it (John 1). Bringing our junk out for inspection is scary. But it’s rarely as bad as we think it was, and once it’s in the light it’s God’s problem and we don’t have to stress and worry about it any more. Once the truth is out, we are free.
Application: Let the truth come out. The consequences of hiding are far worse than the result of openness.
Prayer: Father, thank you for your light. Thank you for revealing truth and washing away my junk and healing me. Help me to be honest and open, so that your truth can prevail. Amen.
Scripture: verse 22
When a leader sins and inadvertently does something against any of the laws of Adonai concerning things which should not be done, he is guilty
Observation: This verse is repeated multiple times in chapter four, with a different person identified each time. It applies to all of us: if we break God’s law by accident, we are still guilty.
“It was just a mistake.” “Regrettable decisions were made.” We try to gloss over our wrong choices, and we see our leaders do the same thing. But glossing over it doesn’t make it go away. It was still wrong.
But when we finally stop making excuses and rationalizations, there is a way to make it go away. We can’t ignore our sins, but we can be forgiven for them. Leviticus details the sacrifices that needed to be made. In our case, Yeshua is our sacrifice, and the forgiveness is freely available as soon as we give up and admit we need it.
It’s wasn’t just a mistake. It was a big deal. But, more to the point, it wasn’t me. Not anymore. Yeshua took my sins as His own. God has wiped the slate clean and forgotten that I ever did any such thing (Hebrews 8:12 and Isaiah 43:25). It wasn’t me.
Application: Admit that your sins are just that: sin. Not little mistakes, not what everyone does, not no big deal. Once you know you can’t be perfect under your own power, you can accept that you are perfect under God.
Prayer: Yeshua, thank you for taking my sins. Thank you for taking responsibility for all my mistakes and slips and confusion. Thank you for making me perfect.
Scripture: verse 12
He is to bring [the bull] outside the camp to a clean place, where the ashes are emptied out. There he is to burn it on wood with fire; there, where the ashes are emptied out, it is to be burned up.
Observation: This passage concerns the sacrifice made for accidental or inadvertent sin. The sinner brings a bull, which is slaughtered. The blood (symbolic of the debt owed for the sin) gets poured out on the alter. The fat gets burned on the alter, as it did for a peace offering. The rest of the bull is taken outside the camp and burned there.
I can’t say I’m really certain why this happened. It kinda sounds like accidental sins need an offering that’s less “sacrifice-y” than the normal kind, which makes sense.
But it seems to me that this part gave the sinner some time away to think about things, while he stood and watched it burn. It gave him a chance to know that he is sinful, that even his best efforts won’t make him holy. To know he needs grace.
Today is Yom Kippur (why am I posting on Yom Kippur? Long story.) and it’s a day for recognizing that we don’t have it all figured out. None of us deserve happiness. None of us have earned peace. In the natural way of things we’d all be outcasts. Thankfully, things aren’t left to nature.
We don’t belong here. We’re welcome anyway.
Application: Acknowledge that you aren’t perfect. None of us are.
Prayer: Father, thank you for seeing me in the darkness and making a way for me to come into the light. Help me to remember and enjoy the light in all its brilliancy. Amen.
Scripture: from verse 9
From the sacrifices made as peace offerings, he is to present Adonai with an offering made by fire; it is to consist of all the fat…
Observation: I’m not exactly certain what a peace offering was (and a quick internet search indicates that no one else is certain either) but the word peace is from the Hebrew shalom, which means not just peace but also wholeness and completeness and everything being right.
And someone who was making a peace offering (meaning he sought peace, perhaps? or was grateful for peace?) would bring an animal and slaughter it and the fat of the animal would be burned on the altar. (I’m doing the whole chapter as one post because the chapter is essentially the same information repeated three times, with slight variation depending on the animal in question.)
The fat burning reminded me of Isaiah 58:11, which in the KJV promises that the Lord will make our bones fat. If we follow God’s will and show His love to those around us,
Adonai will guide you continually;
He will satisfy your soul in the desert,
He will make your bones fat;
so that you will be like a watered garden,
and like an unfailing spring of water.
(That’s the KJV with some tweaks to modernize the language.)
We don’t need the fat of the animals, because God is our energy. We can give up sources of strength, confident in the knowledge that He is our peace. We follow Him and He makes us whole.
Application: Don’t worry. Don’t worry about the chances you pass by or the things you have to give up. God is your shalom, and He will make all things right.
Prayer: Father, thank you for knowing what I need and arranging for me to have it. Thank you for working behind the scenes and beyond my knowledge to make me whole. Help me to trust you beyond what my eyes can see. Amen.
Scripture: verse 13
You are to season every grain offering of yours with salt – do not omit from your grain offering the salt of the covenant with your God
Observation: As we established yesterday, the grain offering was a form of worship – thanksgiving for the good things that God has given us. This is a reminder that we are also to be grateful for the greatest gift He has given us: the ability to be in unity with Him.
That phrase, of course, is a recurring theme in Ephesians. Unity with God means that we have grace and confidence and a purpose and a calling. It means we don’t have to rely on our own strength to do things well. It means we are not alone.
So in the midst of enjoying the good things that God has given us, we are to use it as a reminder of His offered blessing. Unity with God allows us greater and deeper enjoyment of our food and our homes and our tasks, because we are no longer bound to the darkness.
Application: Remember God’s grace. Enjoy the world around you, and allow your joy to remind you of the greater joys He has offered.
Prayer: Yeshua, thank you for making unity with you possible. Thank you for loving me enough to ensure my long-term joy as well as the goodness of creation. Thank you for not leaving me by myself. Amen.
Scripture: verse 4
When you bring a grain offering which has been baked in the oven, it is to consist of either unleavened cakes made of fine flour mixed with olive oil or matzah (unleavened bread) spread with olive oil.
Observation: Maybe I’m just hungry, but this sounds…nice. Good bread and olive oil is such a wonderful food, soothing and stimulating at the same time. The comfort of the bread and the rich oil with just a hint of sharp flavor, along with maybe a little salt and herbs…delicious. It makes me happy just to think about.
Which is good, because grain offerings are about things that make us happy. There’s no blood involved, so this isn’t about atoning for sin. It’s an offering of worship, of gratitude, of trust. It’s about recognizing that God made the flour and the oil, and He’ll make more for me tomorrow. It’s about thanking Him for creating food, for making it delicious and soothing and enriching. He could have made up absorb nutrients from the air, but he gave us tongues and taste buds and all sorts of wonderful smells and flavors.
It’s probably also about communing with God. Yeshua later promises to come in and eat with us (Revelation 3:20). He wants the intimacy of sharing a meal. When God spoke these words, people had to worship at the Temple in Jerusalem, but now we are not confined to a given location, but must “worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23).
God gives us good things. He made food for us to enjoy. He wants us to enjoy them with Him.
Application: Invite God to join you in your pleasures. A good book, a long walk, a nice meal and a glass of wine – He longs to share these things with us.
Prayer: Father, thank you for providing things that make me happy. Thank you for caring how my day goes and how my food tastes and what the weather is like. I praise you for all these things are fearfully and wonderfully made. Thank you for making them for me. Amen.
Scripture: from verse 13
He is to wash the entrails and lower parts of the legs with water
Observation: Speaking of burnt offerings here: the offering (sheep in this section, bird in the next few verses) was to be slaughtered, the blood drained onto the sides of the alter, and then it was to be cleaned before being burned. The yucky parts of the sheep got washed with water, and the bird’s crop was to be removed.
Now, obviously you would do this to animals you were going to eat, but it’s kinda weird to do this to a sacrifice when it’s just going to be burned to ash anyway. It’s not like God will be sickened by a little dirt.
So possibly it’s for the benefit of the person bringing the offering, to continue to be involved in each step of the process. He doesn’t leave it all to the priest, but continues to prepare the sacrifice himself. Just like Yeshua is our sacrifice, but we continue to work with Him to enter into God’s grace.
(Or, possibly, it was for more practical reasons – could there be anything that would make people sick if it got into the smoke? I doubt it, but it’s possible.)
Application: Don’t assume your job is done once you’ve accepted His sacrifice. There’s still a lot of cleaning to be done.
Prayer: Yeshua, thank you for cleaning me. Thank you for sacrificing yourself for me even when I’m covered in mud and worse. Help me to stay under your waterfall of forgiveness. Amen.
Scripture: verse 4
He is to lay his hand upon the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him.
Observation: This passage describes the process for bringing a burnt offering (a sheep or a bull) for sin. What struck me here is how personal this is. The man can’t send the sheep with a messenger. He can’t have his secretary do it, or contribute to a fund. He has to bring it himself.
“The fault is mine and so must the remedy be,” as Mr. Darcy put it. This is a public confession of that he is a sinner. Not that sin exists in general terms, or that society is rotten, or that mistakes have been made but no one is really to blame. He has to put his hand on the sheep and admit that he, himself, is a sinner.
And in doing so, the blame is erased and he is forgiven. Because he came himself.
Application: Admit your own sins. Not just that bad things happen or mistakes get made, but that you, personally, have done wrong things. In our case, the sacrifice has already been made. But we need to acknowledge that it was made for us.
Prayer: Father, I am a sinner. I have done plenty of wrong things. Thank you for providing the sacrifice to wipe my guilt away. Amen.