“He is to lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering so it can be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him.”
Leviticus 1:4 CSB
This weekend we got to spend a day with our grandson at an indoor playground. He is fourteen months old and hasn’t quite started to put together words. However, our son and daughter in law are teaching him some basic sign language. More. Please. All done. Thank you.
It is fascinating to me to watch him make his first steps into communicating. Even without the sign language, he is learning how to express himself. He hoots and coos when he is happy. He cries when he is scared or frustrated. He sits down when he’s tired. Soon, he will develop a vocabulary. But for now, he communicates with actions and signs.
I realized something today I had never noticed before. In the first five books of the Bible, only one person says the words “I have sinned.” And it isn’t an Israelite. It’s Pharaoh (see Exodus 9:27, 10:16). And no one ever says “thank you” to God until 1 Chronicles 16:4.
There’s a reason the Israelites are often referred to as “the children of Israel.” Since they don’t yet have the vocabulary to express their hearts to God with words, God starts them off with sign language. Noah builds an altar and sacrifices to the Lord when he exits the ark (Genesis 8:20). Miriam dances after God leads them through the Red Sea (Exodus 15:20-21).
The first four chapters of Leviticus describe four offerings made before the Lord. Chapters 1 and 4 are about burnt offerings and sin offerings. This is how they learn to say “I’m sorry.”
Chapters 2 and 3 are about grain and fellowship (peace) offerings. This is how they learn to say “Thank you.”
We are not so different today. We don’t always have words to express our hearts to God. And so we can express our hearts through our actions. We can raise our hands in praise. We can dance before Him with joy. Our actions can express our gratitude.
But sometimes we have the opposite problem. Especially when it comes to sin, often the only thing we give God is our words. There are no visible signs or actions that indicate we are truly sorry for our sins. There is no fruit in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:8). They are just words.
And so I thank God for accepting my sign language for what I haven’t learned to express with words. And I thank God for requiring action so that my words aren’t empty.
Lord, when I don’t have the words, accept my actions. When all I have is words, let them be few.