"When anyone is guilty... he must confess in what way he has sinned and, as a penalty for the sin he has committed, he must bring to the LORD a female lamb or goat from the flock as a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin. If he cannot afford a lamb, he is to bring two doves or two young pigeons... and he will be forgiven. ...If, however, he cannot afford two doves or two young pigeons, he is to bring as an offering for his sin a tenth of an ephah of fine flour for a sin offering. ...He is to bring it to the priest, who shall take a handful of it as a memorial portion and burn it on the altar on top of the offerings made to the LORD by fire. ...In this way the priest will make atonement for him for any of these sins he has committed, and he will be forgiven."
You can't read the Law of Moses without realizing that the Lord God of Israel takes sin very seriously, and that He does not overlook it or allow it to go unjudged. Sin has to be atoned for, and under the Law, atonement could only be made by sacrifice -- not by prayer, not by good intentions, but by offering up an animal or other ritually acceptable object to be consumed upon the altar of the Lord. Furthermore, that sacrifice had to be the best animal or object of its kind you had to offer -- nothing lame, or old, or worthless -- it had to cost you something.
What really struck me here, however, was the incredible grace of God. There was no getting around the fact that a sacrifice must be offered. And there could be no disputing that the God of Heaven deserved the very best. But He did not play favorites with the wealthy, or make it so that only those privileged enough to own livestock could offer an acceptable sacrifice. He promised forgiveness of sins not only to the man who could offer a healthy young lamb or goat, but even to the man so poor that he could only afford two quarts of flour. He did not say, "If you want to be completely forgiven, you have to bring a lamb; if you can't afford that, then you'll have to make do with a partial, incomplete forgiveness instead." The same atonement, the same restoration of fellowship with God, was available to everyone, whether rich or poor -- so long as they were willing to come to God on His terms.
And that reminded me of this passage in Luke 2:
On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived. When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord"), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: "a pair of doves or two young pigeons."
Ideally speaking, the sacrifice for ritual purification after childbirth was to be a year-old lamb and a young pigeon or dove (Leviticus 12:6). But Mary and Joseph could not afford the lamb, so they had to go with the alternate offering -- two doves (Lev. 12:8). Again we see the grace of God in action, extended to the poorest of the poor.
But in this case the poor people making the offering were the very ones God had entrusted with the care of His only begotten Son.
And the child being consecrated that day would Himself, some thirty-three years later, become the perfect and final Sacrifice for sin (Hebrews 10:1-18).
Excuse me, I just got a shiver down my spine.