Thursday, March 13, 2014

Sins of Omission

Leviticus 5:1-13

“And if a soul sin, and hear the voice of swearing, and is a witness, whether he hath seen or known of it; if he do not utter it, then he shall bear his iniquity.” (Leviticus 5:1)

The word swear used hear has the same meaning as in court when one swears to tell the truth.  It is not sin to hear such a promise, but it is sin to hear it and not tell if the one taking the oath claims he didn’t make it, whether one was asked to witness it or not.  Numbers 30:2 commands, “If a man vow a vow unto the LORD, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth.”

It didn’t matter whether it was a vow to God or an oath to someone else, the Jews were keep it.  Legally one is an accessory to a crime if one knowingly helps another get by with it, even though they did not participate in the crime itself.  Knowing someone had taken and oath and broken it and not telling made one an accessory to a breach of contract.  He will be held responsible by God.

“Or if a soul touch any unclean thing, whether it be a carcase of an unclean beast, or a carcase of unclean cattle, or the carcase of unclean creeping things, and if it be hidden from him; he also shall be unclean, and guilty.  Or if he touch the uncleanness of man, whatsoever uncleanness it be that a man shall be defiled withal, and it be hid from him; when he knoweth of it, then he shall be guilty.” (Leviticus 5:2-3)

In New Mexico people are warned not to handle dead prairie dogs because they often have died of bubonic plague and may transmit it to the person handling the body.  Unclean animals were those most susceptible to diseases which might infect humans.  Even though it was accidental and the person didn’t realize he had touched the body of such a dead animal he might still be carrying the germs or pathogens, putting others at risk.

Medical personnel use rubber gloves when handling patients with certain diseases to avoid being infected themselves or spreading the infection to others.  People who are not medically trained may not be aware of the dangers, but that does not preclude their getting infected.  If a person later realizes he has been exposed to such a potential infection from man or animal, he is responsible for not spreading the disease to others.  

“Or if a soul swear, pronouncing with his lips to do evil, or to do good, whatsoever it be that a man shall pronounce with an oath, and it be hid from him; when he knoweth of it, then he shall be guilty in one of these.” (Leviticus 5:4) 

Fifty years ago, when we first moved to the reservation, Navajo custom was that t person wasn’t obligated to do what he said until he had said it four times because it is so easy to say things without thinking about what we have said.  If they had repeated it four times, it was not a slip of the tongue.  The Hebrew word translated swear means ‘to seven oneself’, literally to repeat it seven times.  Just as with the Navajos, the promise was not unintentional if it had been repeated that many times.

Even though a person had not made a point of swearing to do something, just promising to do it, perhaps not even realizing what he had said, but as soon as he learned what he had said, he was responsible for fulfilling the promise.  Jesus warned, “But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.” in Matthew 5:37.  Just a man’s word ought to be enough,  If more is needed, it indicates distrust .

“And it shall be, when he shall be guilty in one of these things, that he shall confess that he hath sinned in that thing: And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the LORD for his sin which he hath sinned, a female from the flock, a lamb or a kid of the goats, for a sin offering; and the priest shall make an atonement for him concerning his sin.” (Leviticus 5:5-6)

From time to time, nearly everyone misspeaks or fails to speak up or otherwise fails to take responsibilities.  When they realized they had done so, the Jews were to confess their sin, acknowledging their responsibility, and were to give a sin offering as an individual in the previous examples of sin offerings.  Because they were sins of omission rather than of conscious action, there was no difference between the leaders or priests and ordinary people.

“And if he be not able to bring a lamb, then he shall bring for his trespass, which he hath committed, two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, unto the LORD; one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering.  And he shall bring them unto the priest, who shall offer that which is for the sin offering first, and wring off his head, And he shall sprinkle of the blood of the sin offering upon the side of the altar; and d from his neck, but shall not divide it asunder: the rest of the blood shall be wrung out at the bottom of the altar: it is a sin offering.  And he shall offer the second for a burnt offering, according to the manner: and the priest shall make an atonement for him for his sin which he hath sinned, and it shall be forgiven him.” (Leviticus 5:7-10)

If a person was able he should bring a lamb or kid.  If he could not, a pair of young pigeons or turtledoves would be acceptable.  One was offered as a sin offering and the other as a burnt offering as commanded elsewhere.  

“But if he be not able to bring two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, then he that sinned shall bring for his offering the tenth part of an ephah of fine flour for a sin offering; he shall put no oil upon it, neither shall he put any frankincense thereon: for it is a sin offering. 

Then shall he bring it to the priest, and the priest shall take his handful of it, even a memorial thereof, and burn it on the altar, according to the offerings made by fire unto the LORD: it is a sin offering.  And the priest shall make an atonement for him as touching his sin that he hath sinned in one of these, and it shall be forgiven him: and the remnant shall be the priest's, as a meat offering.” (Leviticus 5:11-13) 

Even two turtledoves or pigeons might be hard for some people to get.  In such a case, God would accept about two quarts of fine flour for a sin offering for sins like these.  God gets no pleasure from a sin offering, and did not want them to add any oil or frankincense.  The priest was to take a handful of the flour and burn it as a sin offering, keeping the rest as food offering.

Hebrews 10:12 is speaking of Christ when it says, “But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God.”  Because no further sacrifice is needed, I John 1:9 can promise, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  We still need to confess our sins and take responsibility.

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