If a person sins unintentionally against any of the commandments of the Lord in anything which ought not to be done, and does any of them … he shall bring the bull to the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the Lord. (Leviticus 4:2, 4)
These instructions are given in regard to the “sin offering,” or in Hebrew, חטת chatat. The Hebrew word comes from a root that means, “to miss the mark.” The idea is that God gives us a way to live, specified in His Word, that is the standard and the ideal. To come up short of that — to miss the mark –technically speaking, is sin. John put it this way: “sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4).
Notice that the verse says if the person sins “unintentionally,” indicating that ignorance of God’s commandments was not to be considered an excuse — restitution was still necessary if that person was going to be considered eligible to approach a holy God. This should be easy enough to understand because, in our own society, ignorance of the law is does not exempt one from the consequence of breaking those laws.
The difference is that God gives a recourse to those who realize that they have missed the mark and allows for them to set things right. That’s because He is motivated by a desire to dwell among His people and be in a close relationship with them. That fact is borne out by this observation: if the sin offering accommodated sins committed unintentionally, what about those that were committed intentionally?
According to rabbinical commentary, the sin offering regulations did not apply when the sin was premeditate or intentional. That is to say that animal sacrifice was insufficient if a person intentionally transgressed God’s laws which begs the question, “What could atone for this kind of sin? For instance, how could David be forgiven of the sin he committed with Bathsheba and the killing of her husband? There is only answer to that — faith in Messiah. He is the atonement for all of our sins, those committed in ignorance and those committed out of rebellion.
Of course, that should not be used as the excuse to intentionally ignore God’s Word. To the contrary, His obedience unto death sets the standard we are supposed to aim for. We should willingly and obediently follow Him, bearing our own cross and dying to our will. That is not the easiest thing to do but, nevertheless, we are compelled to do it. As Paul said, we “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Messiah Yeshua” (Philippians 3:14). If we should falter and “miss the mark,” we can be thankful to know that we have an advocate before the Father. Through Him who knew no sin and yet became sin for us, we can be “made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Blessings and Shalom,