Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him
a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great
commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God
with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the
first and great commandment. The second is like unto it, Thou shalt love
thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the
In college, as many of you know first-hand, life is hectic. You have more books to read, more tests, more papers, more obligations … more of everything.
And in the midst of the frenzy of attending university, you are supposed to make all-important decisions about the rest of your life. You determine what you’ll study, what you’ll become when (and if) you “grow up” — and similarly serious issues.
To help you along the way, your college usually assigns you an advisor. When I was a freshman, my advisor was a delightfully witty woman who gave me all sorts of useful counsel.
One day in the spring of my freshman year, however – a day on which I was to meet my advisor and plan my next year’s schedule – the hubbub of life duped me.
I forgot about our meeting. Totally and completely forgot.
Sure, the books and the papers distracted me and preoccupied my mind. The fact remained, though, that I failed to keep my appointment.
In shame I went to see her as soon as I realized my error. “No excuses,” I said. “I forgot.”
She laughed and said, “No problem – thanks for being honest. It’s only the sophomores who drum up lame excuses when they forget to do things.”
Sometimes you and I forget. Sometimes we intentionally don’t fulfill our commitments. Either way, our failure is wrong … and you and I are left with guilt.
As we study the first section of Leviticus 5 this morning, you and I must bear in remembrance what we learned last Sunday about the sin offering: it was a specific sacrifice designed to cover specific sins of the people. In our passage today, though, we’ll examine some “special cases” the Holy Spirit chose to highlight.
Really, you and I will learn about the “other side,” the overlooked side, of sin.
First we will investigate sins of omission – when you and I don’t do what we ought. Second, we’ll see the need for true confession if you and I are to be forgiven.
Failure to fulfill what God requires of you is as sinful as doing what He has forbidden; thus you must confess your sins and be cleansed by the perfect blood of Christ.
We tend to focus on the sins of commission – the ungodly things you and I do that clearly violate God’s Word. But our passage this morning first draws your attention to sins of omission: not doing what the Lord has required of you.
Up front, let’s remember that as New Testament believers, you and I can see both a specific and a general application of this text.
For example, one sin of omission that Moses lists is the failure to testify in court when one has first-hand knowledge of the truth.
Specifically, you and I – just as the Israelites of old – are to be jealous for the truth in all areas of life. Our God is the one true God, the Author of truth. The Scriptures consistently praise the Lord for His truth and for His truthfulness and faithfulness. In fact, our adversary the devil is the “father of lies;” therefore the Apostle Paul encourages the Ephesian Christians to speak the truth at all times.
If you are a child of God through adoption in Jesus Christ, the true Son of God, then you should reflect the character of your heavenly Father. Part of reflecting your Father’s character is telling the truth and seeking the truth, especially in spiritual matters.
All truth belongs to our God. You and I, therefore, should desire to know the truth (for example) about our universe and its origins; that truth cannot contradict God’s true Word. As some Christian scientific scholars have asserted boldly in recent years, science increasingly is backing up the claims of Scripture.
Likewise, you should tell the truth in court, at home, at work – wherever.
And especially, you and I must tell this dying world the truth about our Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, as Paul says, you and I must “speak the truth in love” and not be afraid to give a reason for the hope within us when someone asks us.
Moses also describes another sin of omission: failure to keep a vow made in the name of the Lord. The vow, made rashly, could be for “evil” (another way of saying that it might be exacting and demanding on you) or for good – but the vow must be kept.
It’s about keeping your word and reflecting the faithful character of your heavenly Father, who fulfilled all His promises to you in our Lord Jesus Christ. Promises made in His name must be kept because of who God is; in that vein the apostle calls you to let “your yes be yes and your no be no.”
Your word should be sufficient – and you should satisfy your vows.
The other sin of omission Moses mentions in this text is the failure to undergo purification if an Israelite had touched something or someone unclean.
The Levitical law stipulated that certain creatures were unclean; thus the children of Israel were not to contact them. Creeping creatures were forbidden to be touched, perhaps because they resembled the cursed snake (recall Genesis 3). God’s people weren’t to touch corpses, perhaps (as New Testament scholar Vern Poythress suggests) because death symbolized disorder, while the children of God were to live by His order. God’s people also weren’t to touch bodily discharges, which manifested disorder.
The Lord likely had hygienic concerns in mind as He gave His people these laws. More important, though, Israel was to avoid unclean things BECAUSE GOD SAID SO. God’s decree was reason enough!
If an Israelite inadvertently touched something unclean and learned of his error later, or if he simply didn’t undergo the purification ritual, he had to make a sin offering to the Lord. Sins of omission were just as heinous to God as sins of commission.
But there is a bigger reality in view here, isn’t there?
These verses teach that the Lord has given you and me certain requirements, and we must fulfill them in order to stand in His presence and dwell with Him. Certainly, many of the Ten Commandments are worded “negatively”: “thou shalt not … .”
Yet notice how both Moses and the Lord Jesus Christ sum up the law: “Thou SHALT love the Lord thy God … thou SHALT love thy neighbor … .”
You and I fail the Lord and sin against His divine majesty when we don’t worship Him on His day as we ought and when we simply “go through the motions” of worship. When you don’t perform your job to the best of your ability, you aren’t giving God the worship He deserves in everyday life. When you, husbands, don’t sacrifice for your wives, you’re not fulfilling God’s requirements for your home life. When you and I don’t forgive those who hurt us or help the hungry, we are engaging in sins of omission.
Sin isn’t simply about “doing wrong” – it’s also about “not doing.”
The glorious news in this passage is found in the two words “confess” and “forgiven.” Through confession of sin, the Lord would forgive a repentant Israelite.
We’ve seen in recent chapters that the Lord always allowed His people to come to Him with sorrow and to find mercy. Regardless of the time that had past since sinning, regardless of the sin, if they truly were sorrowful for offending Him and brought the sacrifice that He in His grace accepted, then they would be forgiven.
Most of the elements in these sin offerings are familiar to you from previous chapters, especially as you see how the Lord provided a “sliding scale” for both rich and poor to make sacrifice for their sins. Everyone was welcome. Possibly the greatest difference was that the grain offering was made without oil, because oil signified joy – and the sin offering never was a joyful event.
These sacrifices, though, underscore a greater point: through the shedding of blood, accompanied with true confession of sin, a person can be restored to God. In the Old Testament, His people offered innocent and spotless animals for their sin; in the New Testament, you and I look to Jesus, the fulfillment of all the Old Testament sacrifices.
Loving the Lord and your neighbor involves NOT doing certain things: lying, stealing, and murdering – to name a few. But loving the Lord and your neighbor also has positive requirements that you and I often fail to fulfill.
Thus you and I must look to Jesus our Lord, who paid the price for our failures with his life and who, in his life, perfectly fulfilled the righteous requirements of God’s law for you and for me.
You and I can learn some edifying, specific truths in this passage about keeping our word and about pursuing truth and obedience.
The Lord, however, would have you know something greater, a lesson to penetrate all of your life: loving Him and loving your neighbor have two sides. Thou shalt not do certain things … and thou SHALT do others.
Thankfully you have Jesus, who covered your wrong actions and your inaction through his obedience to the Father. By simply confessing your wrongdoing and your shortcomings and begging God’s mercy in Christ, the Lord will pardon you.
And as you go through life, seeking to show God your thankfulness and your love to Him, remember that being holy before your holy God is about more than avoidance.
It’s also about holy action.