Bible reading for April 2 -- Leviticus 5; Psalms 3-4.
"In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety." (Psalm 4:8)
When you can't sleep. Many times in pastoral ministry I would read one or both of these psalms with people who were about to undergo surgery. It brings encouragement to those who trust the Lord that they can lie down and sleep (via anesthesia) with complete confidence that the Lord watches over them and sustains them. The Lord never sleeps or slumbers (Ps 121:4). But these words are also a comfort if you can't sleep at night. Reciting God's word to yourself can help focus your mind on what is true and real and beautiful, rather than on whatever is causing anxiety. Biblical meditation involves repeating God's words to yourself, going over them again and again, praying over and pondering every word and meaning. When I can't sleep at night, first I pray and give thanks to God, confess any known sin, bring my petitions to the Lord, and intercede for other people. And then I think about Scripture that I have memorized and let it speak to my soul. If I'm still awake I get up and read the Word. It is usually not long after that I fall back asleep! God's word brings truth and reality to light and makes the darkness of our thoughts to flee.
"...when he realizes his guilt in any of these and confesses the sin he has committed, he shall bring to the LORD as his compensation for the sin that he has committed, a female from the flock, a lamb or a goat, for a sin offering. And the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin." (Leviticus 5:5-6)
Overview of Leviticus 5. This chapter treats of the sin and guilt offerings in the specific situations of a) unintentional sins and b) of the offerings allowed for the poor. Atonement (5:6) means to "cover over" or "wipe away" the guilt of sin so that a person may be reconciled to God. (When used of objects, like the tabernacle or its furnishings, it means to purge from impurity.) In kindness the Lord allows a grade of offerings based upon what the person could afford. Note: the person is still accountable, and he is responsible to bring something. A common theme in Leviticus is that sin is serious and sin is costly.
The one who sins "unintentionally" is also translated as "unwitting sin; straying into sin". [See the NETBible* notes on Lev 4:2.] This description of sin is the opposite of "defiant" sin, or sinning "with a high hand" (see Num 15:27-31), which involves a defiant rejection of God and his word. This is the background to the "willful" sin of Heb 10. There it refers to apostasy and rejection of Christ, for which no sacrifice remains (Heb 10:26). Though all sin is serious, there is a difference in the weight of its seriousness (Matt 23:23).
What are the Christian's "sacrifices"? This is certainly not exhaustive, but here goes: First, foremost, and above all, our sacrifice is the Lord Jesus Christ himself. There is no sin or guilt offerings that may be added to Christ's substitutionary death on our behalf upon the cross (Mark 10:45; Rom 3:21-26; Gal 1:4; Heb 10:14; 1 Jn 1:7; 2:2; 4:10). We approach God only through Jesus Christ, his Son. As believers, when we become aware of our sin -- no matter how intentional or unintentional it may seem -- we are to confess it (1 Jn 1:9), forsake it (Jas 4:8), and trust God's forgiveness, knowing that all of our sin has been covered by Christ's death (Heb 10:12-14). Christ himself fulfilled the whole burnt offering, as he was completely dedicated to God the Father. In following his example we, too, dedicate our whole selves to God as living sacrifices (Rom 12:1; 2 Tim 4:8). As to peace offerings, that is, those sacrifices which express gratitude for being reconciled to God, we also have a part in giving -- though not with the sacrificial animals of the OT -- but with NT offerings. Christian giving (for example, to support pastors, missionaries, the poor) is considered an offering to God (Phil 4:18). Praise, worship, and telling of God's greatness publicly (confessing our faith, evangelism, preaching, and teaching) is part of our NT priestly service (Heb 13:15; 1 Pet 2:5-9). And generally, doing good and sharing our resources with others are sacrifices which please God (Heb 13:16). So, there are differences in manner between the OT offerings and our offerings today as followers of Christ. But the intent is the same: to trust the perfect sacrifice God has provided for us, and to respond with gratitude to the Lord.
*A word about the NET Bible, part of the Lumina Bible Study Suite, a ministry of Bible.org. This is a wonderful resource put together by a number of scholars and pastors informally associated with Dallas Seminary. Recently it has been integrated with the excellent Bible commentary notes by Tom Constable, one of my favorite professors. With its various platforms this resource -- which is free, though they take donations -- is a trustworthy help in studying the Scriptures. To save time in my daily blogs I may just refer to the NET notes (first tab) or Constable's notes (second tab) for a particular verse. The ESV Study Bible, and the Reformation Study Bible, both are excellent, as well, though I'm not sure if there are free online versions available.
Image credit: photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash.
We are following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson.
Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
The NET Bible is a free online resource of Bible.org.