A Place to Go with Our Guilt – Leviticus 7
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but not many people write devotionals on Leviticus.
You want to fail in a Bible reading plan? Leviticus is your book. You want to dissuade people from reading the Old Testament? I recommend Leviticus. But you want to inspire people? Leviticus is generally not the first place you turn.
Imagine my surprise when I was perusing today’s readings and Leviticus 7 nearly jumped out and bit me.
Positioned at the top of the chapter (in large topical font) are the words “Guilt Offering.” I don’t know about you, but the word “guilt” draws me in every time.
I am a guilt person. Let me be clear to say that I do not mean “guilty person.” Like many of you reading this, I know I am not guilty because of what I believe about Christ. But guilt has a tendency to draw me in and wreak havoc on my peaceful heart.
I feel guilt about a lot of things. Some of them are legitimate. Some are halfway legitimate. But some I have no real reason to feel guilt about. So why do I take guilt on?
Maybe it gives me the illusion of control. If I feel guilty enough, my vigilance will earn me God’s favor. I know I’ve asked for forgiveness, but have I really done enough?
So it’s no surprise that this passage drew me. Even if it is in Leviticus. Maybe if there was still such a thing as a guilt offering, I could take it to God and He would really forgive me. I mean, haven’t you ever felt that it was too easy just to ask for forgiveness?
At times I fear I’ve fallen into what Dietrich Bonhoeffer calls “cheap grace.” This great saint lived—and wrote about—the cost of discipleship, and when I read his words about what it really means to follow Christ, I imagine him rolling in his grave (or wringing his hands in his mansion in heaven) about the way we casually receive our unmerited forgiveness.
There are times when I feel I need to pay more for what I’ve done. And keep paying. After all, I don’t ever measure up to the person I think God wants me to be.
So maybe this Levitical sacrifice thing has something I need.
And then I read on.
You will notice in verse 5, it’s the priest the people came to with their sacrifices. They didn’t go to God with their sacrifice. They went to the priest, and he offered the sacrifice for them.
Suddenly it dawns on me that what we do today is not unlike what they did.
The only difference is (as Hebrews 9:11 tells us), our priest is higher.
So high, in fact, he trumps all other priests, making them unnecessary in the equation.
Because our priest doesn’t just present the sacrifice. He is the sacrifice.
No bloody animals needed. He bled to take their place.
He who had no sin became sin. He who had no guilt became guilt. God laid upon our great high priest the iniquity of us all.
So reclaiming our iniquity is not in our power.
The only thing we can “do” with our iniquity is let the forgiveness we’ve undeservedly received become forgiveness we undeservedly give.
That (I believe Bonhoeffer would affirm) is the cost of discipleship.
And it’s the only price tag attached to the unearned gift of God’s grace.
Laurie Short (formerly Polich) is a speaker, associate pastor, and author of fourteen books for students and youth workers. This year, she’s releasing her first non youth ministry book, called Finding Faith in the Dark (Zondervan, 2014.) The subtitle is “When the Story of your life takes a turn you didn’t plan,” which is a pretty good description of Laurie’s life. Single for 48 years, Laurie married and became a mom in 2009. (Her stepson was six when she married). Her experience with singleness, marriage and (now) motherhood allows her to speak to women on a variety of levels.
Laurie is passionate about God’s word, and hopes this site will help women uncover new insights from familiar (and not so familiar) passages of Scripture. She has a Masters from Fuller Seminary, works part time at Ocean Hills Covenant Church, and balances the rest of her time as an author, speaker, wife and mom. (Don’t all women have five jobs?) LauriePolich.com.