It might be helpful, as you listen to these instructions today, to separate the sacrifices into at least three branches. One branch contains sacrifices that were designed to acknowledge Israel’s relationship with the LORD. Sacrifices of thanks, whether they were for specific events, or given out of simple gratitude, fall into this branch. Other sacrifices were required to recover purity, or cleanness, when someone did something or touched something that was unclean.
A third branch of sacrifices is the one of those required to atone for specific sins, whether against God, against others, or against society in general. This branch provides another insight into God’s character: that sin against another person, or against civil society, was a sin against God. Atonement was necessary whether these sins were intentional or not.
We begin our reading with this branch of sacrifices in Leviticus 5. Listen for God’s interest, both in justice and in Israel’s holiness. Listen, also, for the additional step of confession, because this is the first time we’ve heard this idea in the Bible. This is another one where you’ll be hearing more.
At the beginning of chapter 6, we see another new idea for Leviticus: restitution. The sacrificial laws acknowledge both the divine and human victims of sin. It is not sufficient to rob, swindle, or oppress your neighbor, and then offer a sacrifice to make it go away. Here, the order of response might be important: restitution is offered before the sacrifice is. You might hear about this again.
The LORD then turns His attention to how the priests should manage the altars and sacrifices. The maintenance of the fires, the consumption of the sacrificial food, the treatment of meat and fat, and the disposal of waste are all important to God.
Listen, also, to how holiness and unholiness are transferred between person and object. This theme of being holy or unholy, clean or unclean, connect to Israel’s status as set-apart from the nations, and to the priests’ unique status as set-apart from the people. It will become even more pronounced as laws for everyday living are introduced.
Our verse for this week is Hebrews 11:29: By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned.
Leviticus 5 through 7. Now let’s read it!