“If any of the citizens of Israel do something forbidden by the LORD, they will be guilty even if they sinned unintentionally.” — Leviticus 4:27

Some people seem surprised when they do something wrong, as if they think they’re incapable of engaging in such an act. But usually they recover quite quickly and either forget about it or, if the matter lingers in their memory, take the liberty to “forgive themselves”!

Now that concept is as odd as it is common. Think about it. How can a man forgive himself? If some wrong has been done, and someone has been wronged, then only the person who has been wronged can forgive the wrongdoer. The wrongdoer can’t forgive himself, and neither can a third party forgive him. If you punch me on my nose, only I can forgive you; you can’t exonerate yourself, and even your doting mother can’t forgive you!

Here’s the point about man’s sin. While it is true that most sin negatively affects others and we are responsible for the harm done to them, the person who really has been wronged is God. Sin is a denial of the authority of God—a repudiation of God’s right to determine what’s right and what’s wrong, a rejection of His gracious direction of our behavior. So sin is primarily against God, and if He is the one wronged, then He alone is the one who can forgive.

This leads to two monumental questions. First, if God alone can forgive sin, will He? The answer to this is YES! He will! He proved it by forgiving the Israelites through their sacrifices, and He has proved it to us by forgiving us through Christ. Second, what price does God demand in order for forgiveness to be made available? More than the sum total of what human effort can ever pay. We could never pay for our own sins, so God paid for them Himself.

The New Testament discusses the issue of sacrifice as follows: “Under the old covenant, the priest stands before the altar day after day, offering sacrifices that can never take away sins. But our High Priest offered himself to God as one sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down at the place of highest honor at God’s right hand” (Hebrews 10:11-12).

Don’t assume you can forgive yourself—you can’t! Let God do the forgiving—He can! And He will.

For further study: Leviticus 4:22-35

Content taken from The One Year Book of Devotions for Men by Stuart Briscoe. Copyright ©2000. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.