Atonement on Others’ Behalf
Open Your Bible
Leviticus 4:1-35, Leviticus 5:1-19, Leviticus 6:1-7, Romans 8:1-4
BY Seana Scott
I drove in black darkness through small country towns in central Texas on my way to a retreat. A sign read 40 mph. I glanced down and adjusted my speed. A few moments later, red and blue headlights swirled in my rearview mirror. I pulled over.
“Hello, ma’am,” the police officer said as I rolled down my window. “Did you know the speed limit here is twenty-five, and you were going forty?” I told him I just saw the sign for forty, and he said, “When you drive through these small towns, the speed limit changes. A few blocks back, the sign for twenty-five is posted.”
A few blocks back in the pitch, black night. I didn’t know I broke the law, but the police officer still issued me a $200 ticket. Ouch.
When we break the law, even in ignorance, we are still accountable to the law. The same was true for the Israelites during the time of the sacrificial system. Breaking God’s law, even unintentionally, still required payment for atonement—they still were held guilty until the completion of the sacrifice (Leviticus 5:17–19).
God could have created the law only to perform sin offerings once a year on the Day of Atonement when the special sacrifices symbolized a “clean slate” for the nation of Israel (Leviticus 16). But God included the regulation of offering sacrifices for unintentional sin throughout the year to continually provide a way for reconciliation.
I think this is a picture of His extravagant grace. Carrying guilt for months on end once convicted of sin would feel excruciating. If God only provided the atonement of sin on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16), hearts would weigh down with guilt. By making a way to provide sin offerings throughout the year, God showed the Israelites grace.
Similarly, the opportunity to confess and repent of unintentional sin in the moment of our conviction today is also a gift. We don’t even need to prepare a spotless goat, for Jesus is our perpetual sin offering (Romans 8:1-4).
Recently the Holy Spirit convicted me after-the-fact that I spoke poorly in public about one of my children. My child did something wrong, and I “vented” about them to others—I judged them publicly (Luke 6:37). Once I felt the sting of conviction, I confessed and asked the Lord for forgiveness. Done. No walking out to the fields to select a spotless goat. No preparing to take the time to go to the temple to offer the sacrifice. Conviction. Confession. Repentance. Forgiveness. All thanks to the blood of Jesus Christ (1John 1:9).