As we discovered yesterday, God deals in reality. When it comes to sin, He doesn’t wink and wish it away or ignore it. He deals with it as the real problem that it is. There is more evidence of that in today’s chapter.
We all come to God with real problems, real baggage. Along the way in our journey of life, we accumulate this baggage. It might come from our parents, friends, or teachers. We might be severely damaged by the environment in which we grew up. We might have a very, very long list of misconceptions about God (and life) that He needs to help us address and deal with.
And one of the things we can learn from Leviticus 5 and, indeed, the entire sanctuary system is that God knows how to deal with our problems. Nothing we can bring to God is too difficult for Him to figure out. Our wrong ideas aren’t so complex that He doesn’t know how to unravel them. He can straighten out all our crooked thinking.
How do I know this? Well, I started to get curious about all this animal sacrifice. Here’s another example from our chapter today: "When anyone is guilty in any of these ways, he must confess in what way he has sinned and, as a penalty for the sin he has committed, he must bring to the Lord a female lamb or goat from the flock as a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin." (vs 5-6)
So, we have God requesting lambs and goats for sacrifice. In yesterday’s chapter, bringing a bull was mentioned. These (along with birds and grains) are the main animals in the sacrificial system: bulls, goats, and sheep. Have you ever wondered why? Why those animals? Well, I suppose we could speculate that these were the animals the Israelites would have handy. And that’s true.
But how about this? The Israelites had just come out of a culture that threw itself into the worship of animals. The Ancient Egyptians worshiped nearly every animal, from cats and dogs to chickens and crocodiles. Their temples were full of live, noisy animals (although they also practiced some animal sacrifice). Imagine the cacophony of noise! But goats and bulls were especially sacred to the Egyptians, because they represented the gods of sexual and creative power.
By contrast, the sanctuary of the God of Israel was where you took animals to be sacrificed. While this might sting our 21st-century sensibilities somewhat, it was a major slap-in-the-face to the religious system of the Egyptians — which the Israelites were so comfortable with. In Egypt, they had worshiped goats and bulls; but now, when they went to meet with their God in His sanctuary, they would be reminded that He alone is sovereign — not the bull or goat they had brought which was now dead on the altar in front of them. If the Ten Plagues were a newsflash from God to the Egyptians that their gods were false, the sanctuary system was an ongoing reminder to the Israelites.
God must have wanted to especially deal with bulls and goats, since they represented something so potent to the Egyptians and the Israelites. Your personal wealth (i.e. the size of your flocks or crops) was second only to the size of your family. Everything depended upon your offspring. Did you have lots of sons? Or did you have only daughters? Was your wife barren? These were major concerns to people in Bible times.
People were concerned about their offspring because it was of the utmost importance that the family line was preserved. A son (particularly a firstborn son) was almost a literal extension of yourself. He would carry on the family line. And in Egypt, worshiping the fertility gods (represented by bulls and goats) was one way to try to manipulate your family’s success in this area. But God wanted Israel to know that He was the only true God.
I don’t think it was any coincidence that the Israelites were offering bulls, goats, and sheep in the sanctuary. And this is the point: God knows precisely where we have come from. If we have prejudices, He knows it. And He knows how to deal with them. If we have based conclusions on misinformation, He knows it. And He knows just how to address it.
Let’s not let our problems keep us from coming to God. Since He knows our hearts better than we do, He knows just what we need. He is willing and so able to address our problems. We can trust Him to deal with us in just the right way for our best good!