So yesterday I was reading through Leviticus (not one of those "multiple times throughout the year" books) and I came to chapters 4 and 5. These two chapters cover the sacrificial processes for those sins committed unintentionally or unknowingly. But as I read these chapters and tried to put myself in the mindset of an Old Testament Jew, a sense of futility began to creep in.
"If the whole Israelite community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD's commands, even though the community is unaware of the matter, they are guilty. When they become aware of the sin they committed, the assembly must bring a young bull as a sin offering and present it before the Tent of Meeting." Leviticus 4:13,14
"If a member of the community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD's commands, he is guilty. When he is made aware of the sin he committed, he must bring as his offering for the sin he committed a female goat without defect." Leviticus 4:27,28
"Or if a person touches anything ceremonially unclean—whether the carcasses of unclean wild animals or of unclean livestock or of unclean creatures that move along the ground—even though he is unaware of it, he has become unclean and is guilty." Leviticus 5:2
"If a person sins and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD's commands, even though he does not know it, he is guilty and will be held responsible." Leviticus 5:17
Now I don't know about you, but when I read this I am glad I was not an Old Testament Jew. I imagine I would go broke making "just in case" sacrifices for all the sins I may have committed unaware (kind of like the extra salvation prayers I made as a kid to make sure I was covered, and those didn't cost me a goat or a ram). But as I read this, the point was really driven home that one could not just have confidence in your system of sacrifices. There were still too many holes. Salvation still had to come by faith in the God who would see imperfect sacrifices by imperfect persons as faith and hope in the One who was to come and fulfill the law. Perfect the system.
Or as Paul put it: "Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin." Romans 3:20
"However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness." Romans 4:5
I pray this dropped home for more than a few Old Testament Jews, as Paul says it did for Abraham and David. (Rom. 4)
Salvation is not in the law for we cannot keep it perfectly.
Salvation is not in the sacrifices we make at the altar for we cannot sacrifice perfectly.
Salvation is only in God, who justifies the wicked and credits faith as righteousness.
Salvation is only in the Messiah, the perfect High Priest, the perfect sacrifice, the perfect fulfillment of the law.