LEVITICUS 4: RESTORING SOMEONE AFTER THEY SIN
The Lord said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘When anyone sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord’s commands—“‘If the anointed priest sins, bringing guilt on the people, he must bring to the Lord a young bull without defect as a sin offering for the sin he has committed. He is to present the bull at the entrance to the tent of meeting before the Lord.He is to lay his hand on its head and slaughter it there before the Lord. (Leviticus 4:1-4)
When a school brings a bully and a victim together and they talk it out, rather than expelling the bully, this is often called restorative justice. Rather than expelling a student, the desired outcome is a retored relationship through confession, forgiveness, and a strategy for moving forward in love and fairness.
In ancient Israel, God also provided a way for the people to restore relationship, and Leviticus 4 describes one form of this process. The Lord spoke to Moses again, advising him what to do in the case of a person who sins unintentionally. This section displays the redemptive nature of Yahweh. Each group is instructed by turns on how to bring a sin offering to the Lord when someone sins unintentionally. In addition, a powerful refrain is spoken after guidelines for each group: “and he will be forgiven” (4:20, 26, 31, 35).
Glory be to your name because you do not simply expel us from your presence without repeatedly giving us opportunities to restore our relationship with you. Thank you for restorative justice. Thank you for the way you established this system of justice from ancient times. We don’t understand it well. We are far removed from such a sacrificial system. But we are not far from our sin, our mistreatment of others, and we need our relationships to be restored.
Greg Taylor preaches for The Journey. Greg's wife, Jill, teaches math at Broken Arrow High School and Tulsa Community College. Greg and Jill have three adult children, Ashley, Anna, and Jacob. Greg is the author of many books, including his latest co-authored with Randy Harris, Daring Faith: Meeting Jesus in the Book of John.