“Say to the Israelites: ‘When anyone sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord’s commands—

Leviticus 4:2


Leviticus is one of my favorite books. The title implies that this book is a manual for the Levitical priesthood on how they are to conduct the religious affairs for Israel – and such it is. However, that label will immediately turn many people off from even reading it because it would seem to have little relevance for the average person – especially in our world.


The Hebrew title for this book is actually “And He called” and spoke to Moses which is the first line from chapter one. The inference here is that this book refers to “God’s call to holiness for the people of Israel”.  If you know your Old Testament, you will know Leviticus follows Exodus which is how God called Israel out of Egypt and gave them the blueprints for the Tabernacle and the Priesthood so that these people could be accepted by God. Since God is holy, God now calls his people to be holy in all their behavior – hence the book of Leviticus.


Among a hundred other topics, one of the initial subjects addressed in chapter 4-6 is the problem of unintentional sin. If God is holy and his people are not, how does God accept them? That is initially covered in chapters 1-3. But what happens when God’s people mess up? What happens if they unintentionally sin or trespass against God’s holiness? The answer is that God makes provision for it.


Presumptuous sin is the deliberate, intentional “I don’t care” attitude that says I will do what I want… different kind of response from God than unintentional sin. But if an individual or the people as a whole trespassed against God unintentionally, God made a provision.


Three things we need to know about unintentional sin:

  1. Unintentional means being unaware of the error. God made provision that people do things out of being naive or ignorant of their choices or actions.
  2. If anyone sins and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord’s commands, even though they do not know it, they are guilty and will be held responsible. Ignorance does not let a person off the hook (so to speak).
  3. God provides a way to be forgiven. They are to bring to the priest as a guilt offering a ram from the flock, one without defect and of the proper value. In this way the priest will make atonement for them for the wrong they have committed unintentionally, and they will be forgiven.


Being guilty is not a feeling but an objective conclusion of the Law. If a person was unaware of their error, it did not mean God ignored it, but neither did God inflict punishment immediately. If that person or group came to the Priests, God made a provision through sacrifice to be forgiven.


I remember pulling a U-turn to get on a road as I came off the highway because I was new in town (Portland) and I actually saw a police cruiser pull the same U-turn the previous week. I was unaware that people were supposed to cross over the bridge, pull a U-turn on the other side and come back across the bridge to get to that road. When the police officer pulled me over he asked me if I knew why he was doing it. I said I assumed it was the U-turn but pleaded my ignorance and the example of the police car the previous week. I was still guilty of doing the wrong thing and deserved a ticket, but he was kind enough to explain what I was supposed to do and let me go with a warning. Our God who is holy and is kind enough to make provision when we unintentionally sin.


Pastor Brad