Have you ever gotten in trouble for something you didn’t even know you had done? Not that you were innocent, but you were unaware that you had broken someone’s rule in your carelessness. Like cutting to the front of a line because you didn’t realize there was a line until someone waiting shouted at you? Well, consider the situation of the Israelites:
If the whole Israelite community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD's commands, even though the community is unaware of the matter, they are guilty…If a person sins and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD's commands, even though he does not know it, he is guilty and will be held responsible.” — Leviticus 4:13, 5:17
Now I don't know about you, but when I read this I am glad I was not an Old Testament Jew. I imagine I would go broke making "just in case" sacrifices for all the sins I may have committed unaware (kind of like the extra salvation prayers I made as a kid to make sure I was covered, and those didn't cost me a goat or a ram).
The point is really driven home that you could not just have confidence in your system of sacrifices. There were still too many holes. Salvation still had to come by faith in the God who would see imperfect sacrifices by imperfect persons as faith and hope in the One who was to come, fulfill the law and perfect the system. Or as Paul put it:
Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin…However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. — Romans 3:20, 4:5
Hopefully this dropped home for more than a few Old Testament Jews, as Paul says it did for Abraham and David. (Rom. 4) Salvation is not in the law for we cannot keep it perfectly. Salvation is not in the sacrifices we make at the altar for we cannot sacrifice perfectly. Salvation is only in God, who justifies the wicked and credits faith as righteousness.
Salvation is only in the Messiah, the perfect High Priest, the perfect sacrifice, the perfect fulfillment of the law, Jesus.
1. Do you think God was just in making these sorts of regulations? Why or why not? Do you still feel like God treats you this way today?
2. If you were an Old Testament Jew, how would you feel when you read these sorts or regulations? (Secure, nervous, grateful, resentful, etc.?)
3. Did you pray multiple salvation prayers when you were younger to make sure you were OK (or perhaps you still do)? What do you think might motivate someone to do this?