Thus he shall purge the Shrine of the uncleanness and transgression of the Israelites, whatever their sins; and he shall do the same for the Tent of Meeting, which abides with them in the midst of their uncleanness. Leviticus 16:16 JPS
In the midst of – Where is God when we sin? Do we banish Him from our presence when we act disobediently? Is He forced to leave because He cannot endure sinful behavior? Such has been the suggestion about Yeshua on the cross. Theologians commonly express the idea that when Yeshua took on the sins of the world, God abandoned Him because God cannot “look upon” sin. But this passage in Leviticus causes us to reconsider. Where is God when the priest purges the uncleanness from the people. He is “in the midst” of their sin. He is eetam betok (with them in the midst). The rabbis noted that the Hebrew word for sin, het, contains a hidden Aleph. It is spelled Chet-Tau-Aleph. We don’t hear the Aleph in the vocalization, but it is nevertheless there. The rabbis considered the Aleph a shortened signification for aluf, a word that means God, Lord of the Universe. God in the midst! In the midst of our sin!
But how is God present in our sin? Silently! He has not turned from us. He has not abandoned us. He has not cast us off. But He does not speak. We have deafened ourselves so there is no word from the Lord. Sin is precisely the opposite of shama’, to hear and obey. And God does not speak to those who will not hear. The prophets warned us of this and so did Yeshua. No prophet told us that God would abandon His people, but every prophet told us that God would withhold His words to those who refused to listen.
Where is God when we sin? Exactly where we left Him – in the midst. He is there, anxious to cleanse, unafraid of our disobedience, willing to embrace it for the sake of cleansing – if we will but listen once again.
Where was the Father when the Son took on sin? There, with His arms wrapped securely around the ultimate sacrifice. There, in the midst of the great tragedy and final victory. There, where we should have been.
When the Psalmist cries out, “Lord, why have You left us? Why have You cast off Your servants?” we do not expect a thundering voice from heaven to condemn such pleas. We know that soon the psalm will turn to confession and thanksgiving. We know that even if we make our bed in Sheol, God is there. There is no place where we will not find Him if we open our ears to hear. Let no man tell you that God has forsaken you. The absence of the Father is the plight of the unrepentant, not the decision of the Creator. Look into your sin. There is God looking back at you, waiting silently for your ears.
Topical Index: sin, midst, eetam betook, Leviticus 16:16