Lev.4:1-35 ; 5:1-13 ; 6:24-30
The SIN offering was mandatory for all unintentional sin and in this offering, as in the Burnt and Peace-offerings, we, as well as all Israel, are taught that all consecration and fellowship begins with, and ever depends upon, atonement made for sin. These offerings remind us of the necessity of atonement, not because of what we do or fail to do, but because of what we are. The Sin-Offering expands upon the thought revealed in the other sacrifices that in order for sin to be pardoned the penalty must be paid. It should be noted at the very outset, however, that the Law made no provision for a person who “sinned wilfully” , so there was no provision made in the Law to restore such a person to covenant standing.
PURPOSE: As the Sin-Offering is introduced we are told that this offering is for “sins of ignorance” or “unintentional sins” , and we should be aware that when the ignorance or unintentional act of the sinner is referred to, it is not speaking of the ignorance of the sinner, but in the nature of the act itself . All that is contained in this Law is meant to bring before us, as well as Israel, the absolute equity of God in His dealings with His creatures .
LESSONS or TRUTHS TAUGHT: (1) One of the first lessons of this offering is that our Heavenly Father and Judge of all men is righteous in all His ways. Another truth is also presented to us in the fact that although ignorance or other circumstances may lessen or excuse our guilt, such ignorance or circumstance does not and cannot nullify our guilt. All sin is sin, and before pardon can be obtained we must have a sin-offering. Throughout scripture we are taught that ignorance does not cancel guilt, and this is evident even in the laws of nature; for God never suspends the laws of nature because an individual may unintentionally break one of these laws: and so it is with God’s laws . (2) If we dwell upon the contents of Leviticus 4-6 only, we may be lead to believe that there were many sins committed in Israel that were never atoned for, because the one who committed the sin was never made aware of it. However, in chapter 16 we are told about a sin-offering that was offered once every year by the high priest. This annual sin-offering atoned for all the many sins of the people that had gone unnoticed. Therefore, no sin in Israel was ever passed over without the shedding of the blood of a victim, thus keeping before us the fact that our unconsciousness of sinning does not negate our guilt or remove the obligation of suffering for that sin; and that the sin of which we are ignorant interrupts our fellowship and peace with a Holy God. Thus confession must be made as instructed in the law, and the guilty sinner must bring and present a sin-offering . (3) Another lesson we may learn from this offering is that after we have examined all the cases for which a sin-offering was to be provided, there still remained some sins for which no provision for forgiveness was made: these included murder, blasphemy (speaking irreverently against the holiness or glory of God), and adultery: and was intended to emphasise the wickedness of such crimes, and to develop a sense of need for a more adequate provision in a better sacrifice for the people: that is, not only for some sins, but for all sins. (4) The sin-offering thus outlined to us here, introduced something new to Israel. Before this there is no mention of a sin-offering or anything corresponding to it either in the scriptures or any other literature. As we examine the distinctions between this offering and all the other offerings, we see that it is in the idea that “the penalty for sin must be satisfied by the sacrifice of a substituted victim”. That is, sin is pardoned on the ground that the penalty is paid through the presentation to God of the blood of an innocent victim. Thus it was designed to emphasise to Israel the solitary and solemn thought that “without shedding of blood (there) is no remission (of sin)” ; not even for those sins which were not known as sins at the time they were committed. The great need of all mankind today is to fully recognize the significance of this fact. Hence many speak lightly of atonement and refuse to admit its necessity for the pardon of sin: but nothing is more certain as a fact of human experience of all ages than this, that the more clearly man perceives the unapproachable holiness and righteousness of God, the greater the understanding that a penalty must be paid for sin by atoning blood; even for sins of ignorance. This is the most necessary and fundamental condition for pardon for sin and peace with a Holy God. We are, however, very slow to learn the lesson of the sin-offering, just as Israel was: and this is illustrated in the fact that it was late in Israel’s history that the sin-offering was introduced; and that from its introduction until Israel’s exile it is seldom mentioned. It is comforting to learn, however, that not all in Israel failed to learn the lesson of the sin-offering. We do not find in any heathen literature such a profound conviction of sin and such a sense of responsibility even for sins of ignorance as we see in the lives of Old Testament believers especially in the Psalms . (5) And so we are taught to see in this offering a type and prophecy of Christ as the true and only eternal sin-offering for the sins of His people; who Himself as High Priest and Victim, offered Himself for us; perfecting us for ever, which the old offering could not do, thus giving us “boldness to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus” . May we all then learn the deepest lesson of this ordinance, and thus discover Him who in His person and work became the fulfiller of this Law.
PRESENTATION – IDENTIFICATION – KILLING: The first observation to be made is that the selection of the victim prescribed is determined by the position (office, or social standing) of the person who is required to present the offering. Thus the rank and ability of the person involved is taken into consideration. (1). THE ANOINTED PRIEST ; (2). THE WHOLE NATION (CONGREGATION) ; (3). A RULER OR LEADER ; (4). A PRIVATE MEMBER OF THE COMMUNITY (A COMMON PERSON) . Here we see that the guilt of any sin is the heaviest when it is committed by one who is in the place of religious authority. In Israel, the high priest was God’s representative before the entire nation; therefore when he sinned the whole nation sinned in him. Today, a bishop or elder acts for and with God’s people in matters pertaining to God; therefore it is expedient that such a person take heed to maintain unbroken fellowship with God. In this all Israel were taught, and so are we, that responsibility is attached not only to each individual person, but also to associations of individuals such as nations, communities, congregations whether secular or religious. There is individual sin, and corporate sin, and God holds everyone responsible, individually and corporately. Therefore as we go through this list of responsibility, we see that there was no one so inconspicuous; as the common person lost in the crowd, or the prominent priest or leader in the community; that was able to escape the Divine eye of God. Everyone was accountable to God and had to present an offering prescribed by God for sin committed; and where there was inability to present an offering of great monetary value such as a bull, provision was made to present an offering of lesser monetary value: no one was excused. Let us learn this solemn lesson contained herein concerning the character of God! HIS OMNISCIENCE seen in the fact that no one escapes His Divine eyes; HIS ABSOLUTE EQUITY seen in the fact that He accurately grades responsibility according to rank and influence; and HIS INFINITE HOLINESS which demands the penalty for any and all sin.
THE SPRINKLING OF THE BLOOD (1). THE ANOINTED PRIEST OR THE WHOLE NATION (2). A LEADER OR AN INDIVIDUAL MEMBER OF THE COMMUNITY . In the case of the burnt and peace-offerings, the blood was sprinkled on the sides of the altar, but in the case of the sin-offering not only is the blood sprinkled on the sides of the altar of burnt-offerings, it is to be applied to the horns of the altar [“horn” Strong’s # 7161 qeren (keh’-ren); a corner (of the altar)]: the most conspicuous and in a sense the most sacred part. The blood must also be brought into the Holy Place, applied to the horns of the altar of incense and be sprinkled seven times before the Lord: before the veil which was immediately in front of the mercy seat; the place of the Shekinah (or visible) glory of God. Further to this in the annual sin-offering, the blood was to be taken by the high priest past the veil into the Most Holy place and be sprinkled on the mercy seat itself. Here in this part of the ordinance we see a difference in the application of the blood. For a sin committed by an individual or common person, the blood was applied only to the altar for burnt-offering located in the outer court of the Tabernacle; since it was only to this area that such people had access. But in the case of the anointed priest and for the whole nation the blood was applied to the altar located in the Most Holy place. Since this was the place of the priest’s office. it was here that God should see the blood. Since the whole nation was regarded by God as a “kingdom of priests”, the blood was to be applied to the altar of incense as well. It should be noted that the only significance of the number “seven” as used in this ritual is in token of the re-establishment of God’s covenant of mercy through the atoning blood. The number seven as used throughout scripture is the number of sabbatical rest and covenant fellowship with God. The lesson to us today is that we as believers now occupy Israel’s ancient position: . Hence we are reminded that the sin of a believer is a far more evil thing than the sin of unbelievers. The sin of a believer is as the sin of the anointed priest and it defiles the Holy Place. and God demands to see the blood of the victim sprinkled, not now in the Holy Place, but in the Holiest of all where our High Priest has now entered for us . Because of this we will benefit greatly to meditate on this symbolism, which more than any other offering in the law portrays the propitiation of our Lord Jesus Christ for our sin. This thought is inseparable from the ritual, that the blood of the slain victim must be presented, not to the priest or the offerer, but to God Himself. Therefore no one should mistake the evident significance of this that atonement by sacrifice is of extreme importance not only to man but to God; which is enough cause for us to insist on this in our day.
Many teachers today infer that the need for the shedding of blood for the remission of sin is because of the nature of man. That is, as far as God is concerned sin could have been pardoned without blood, and that it is only because man is so hard and rebellious and stubbornly distrusts the Divine love, that the death of the Holy Victim of Calvary became a necessity. If the only need for atonement in order to pardon is in the nature of the sinner, why then is there a constant insistence that the blood of the sacrifice should in all cases be solemnly presented before God, not before the sinner. Thus we see the very important truth; that the penalty be paid by blood as a condition for forgiveness of sin is necessary; not because of what man is, but most important, because of who and what God is. God’s love is not extended to us because atonement has been made, atonement has been made because God loved us before we loved Him, and He sent His Son to be the “atoning sacrifice” for our sins. God’s characteristics, however, never change: He remains the Just, Loving, Holy, and Merciful One, and therein lies the necessity of the shedding of blood to secure forgiveness of sins. So it is unfortunate that this thought of blood being shed may be distasteful to some people, but whether pleasing or not, this truth must be constantly brought to our attention; and this we see many times in the New Testament . Here we see that the blood of the Lord Jesus shed on Calvary speaks better and louder than that of Abel. Abel cried for vengeance, while that of our Lord cried for pardoning mercy and procures the remission of sins, as opposed to the instant judgement which Cain received . Thus we see that the reason why we are saved from the wrath to come lies not with anything in us, but rather in the free love of God who chose us in Jesus Christ through His grace. Let us also be careful to note that the sprinkling of the blood is the job of the priest. The offerer is required to present the sacrifice, identify with it by the laying on of hands, but this is where the work of the offerer ends. So this presents to us a picture of the work of our heavenly High Priest. As believers we simply entrust this job to Him (Christ); and since He has been appointed by God to this end He will see to it that this is done .
One final thought on this section has to do with the case of one so poor that he cannot provide an animal as the victim , a situation where poverty could make one feel he was being excluded from the grace of God. But God in His mercy’ makes it possible that even the poorest of sinners can receive His forgiveness; thus displaying His unlimited sufficiency in providing forgiving grace. However, just in case on might confuse this with the meal-offering, note that God’s instructions are that no oil or frankincense is to be added to this offering. Since incense typifies prayer and oil the work of the Holy Spirit, we may be reminded of that unanswered cry from the cross “My God! My God! Why hast thou forsaken me?”, when the comfort of the Holy Spirit seems to have been withdrawn from the presence of the Holy Victim. The tenth part of an ephah of flour was apparently to represent the daily sustenance of an individual; so here we see that if one could not afford to offer a sacrifice of life by means of the shedding of blood, then the substitution of the daily support of one’s life could also be accepted.
BURNING OF THE SACRIFICE AND THE SACRIFICIAL MEAL . Here we see that each official and social level was addressed. THE PRIEST . THE WHOLE COMMUNITY . A LEADER . THE COMMON PEOPLE . THE VERY POOR
THE SACRIFICIAL MEAL , as indicated in Lev.7:35, a certain portion of all offerings was allotted to the priest, but in the sin offering, this was not always the case. It was a general principle in the law that the sacrificial victim being “most holy”, the person who presented it to God was not to partake of its flesh. So the law of the sin-offering states: “it must be burned.” (i.e. for the priest or the whole community) . The reason for this is no doubt that no confusion between the burnt-offering and the sin-offering should occur. The sin-offering must be so disposed of that nothing would divert the mind of the worshipper from the fact that the sacrifice did not represent full consecration, but a penalty to be paid for sin. Thus it was ordained that the flesh of the sin-offering for the priest, or for the congregation must be “burnt on wood with fire without the camp” . Symbolized in the burning of the flesh of the victim outside the camp, is the suffering of our Lord on the cross. For we read that “He suffered without the camp”: and it is seen here that in the ritual of the sin-offering that the flesh of the victim offered for the priest or the congregation should not be eaten but burned outside of the camp. So in this respect our Lord fulfilled this part of the ritual in the fact that He suffered outside of the camp of legal Judaism, suffering thus for the sins of the whole congregation of Israel, and as such for all sinners. He voluntarily submitted to be cast out of Israel, being despised and rejected of all men represented in Israel . Thus we see in the burning of the victim in two separate places a double aspect of the prophecy of the suffering of our Lord Jesus. First of all, in the burning of the fat and inner organs on the altar, we see the full surrender of all that was best in the life of our Lord Jesus, as Son of God and Son of man, unto God the Father as a sin-offering. Secondly, in the burning of the flesh outside of the camp, that our Lord was to be a sacrifice for the sins of people in the fulfilment of the fact that He suffered outside of the “camp” of legal Judaism being an outcast from the congregation of Israel. The symbolism was thus brought to fulfilment when the high priest declared that our Lord was guilty of blasphemy after Christ claimed to be the Son of God. This offence was to be punished by taking the guilty person outside the camp where he would suffer for his sin .
THE HOLINESS OF THE SIN-OFFERING Supplemental to the law, here we have additional regulations: (1). Only the males among the priests’ families shall eat of the offering, and the officiating priest takes the precedence. (2). Everything that touches the offering must be regarded as “holy”, and is thus specifically devoted to the Lord. (3). Any garment that is spattered by the blood must be washed in a holy place; this to ensure that there would be no chance that any of the blood of the offering should come in contact with anything unclean. (4). Since the flesh of the offering which the priest was to eat had to be cooked, the vessel in which it was cooked became holy and therefore had to be scoured and rinsed with water (in the case of the bronze vessel), or be broken as in the case of a clay pot. Again this was to ensure that no such vessel could be used to dishonour or defile in any way the sacrificial flesh. With such regulations as these, it is no doubt that the Israelite would see his special and solemn relation to the holiness of God, even though he may not have realised the full implication of the meaning of the sacrifice. Therefore, for us today there is nothing that more effectively represents the great truth of Calvary, in the fact that such a stress is put on the sanctity of the flesh and blood of the sacrificial victim. As we picture in our minds the victim of the sin-offering slain and its blood presented before God, we should see in this a vivid representation of Christ our sacrificial lamb. We also see in the fact that the victim, although bearing the sin of the person, was regarded as being “most holy”; our Lord Jesus, although being made sin for us and bearing our sin on Himself, is regarded as Himself being “Most Holy”. Therefore, as we meditate upon the law of the sin-offering, we should be deeply humbled in the fact that our Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled this law in every respect when He offered Himself to God as our sin-offering; and even though He cried from the cross “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken Me”, we learn that in this was the expiation of our sins – He paid the ultimate penalty.