Parashat Vayikra (And He Called)
Vayikra (Leviticus) 1:1–5:26
This week’s Scripture portion gives us insight to a difficult question that I often hear: “What about those who don’t know the truth?” Believers in Messiah often wonder about those who may not have heard the Good News of Yeshua, and struggle to reconcile a loving, merciful, and just God with the eternal judgment on those who do not accept Messiah’s atonement.
It is definitely a difficult topic, but His word gives us answers to even the most difficult questions. Before I continue, I want to highlight three verses found in our weekly portion, which I believe answer this question:
Now if a person sins and does any of the things which the LORD has commanded not to be done, though he was unaware, still he is guilty, and shall bear his punishment. He is then to bring to the priest a ram without defect from the flock, according to your valuation, for a guilt offering. So the priest shall make atonement for him concerning his error in which he sinned unintentionally and did not know it, and it shall be forgiven him. It is a guilt offering; he was certainly guilty before the LORD.
In these verses, we clearly see that even when one commits a sin that he or she is unaware of, that person is still guilty and is, therefore, in need of offering a sacrifice. There are no excuses! Each of us will have to give an account of him/herself to God, and we will not be able to say “I didn’t know…” or “but…” As the popular Latin saying goes, “Ignorantia juris non excusat” (Ignorance of the law excuses not).
Rav Shaul (Apostle Paul) also wrote about this in his letter to the Romans:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
Essentially, Paul is echoing what God declared in Leviticus 5. He clarifies the issue further by declaring that everyone knows the truth because God has evidenced Himself through Creation, and through His “invisible attributes”. Everyone knows — everyone is without excuse. However, not everyone wants to accept it!
This brings me to another very important point. We live in a time and age where many people around the world simply choose to ignore a very big portion of the Bible, which they call “The Old Testament”. This is very dangerous for our spiritual health. Without the Hebrew Scriptures, not only do we lack a context for the Messiah, but also we lack the ability to know what God’s principles are. I believe the warnings which we find in Leviticus 5:17–19, and which Paul affirms in Romans 1:18–21 are a clear warning. We would do well to heed this warning!
God gave us His Word for us to know how to walk with Him. How else will we know what is pleasing, just, and holy to Him if we do not study His entire Word? Yes, we certainly have the Holy Spirit, Who lives within us and counsels us. But we still need the Word to anchor us to His principles, and to have a standard by which we live our lives. We cannot have one without the other.
We are all without excuse. The wonderful news is that He is always ready and waiting to receive us, forgive us, and restore fellowship with us.