Leviticus 4 ~ 20160508 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
05/08 Leviticus 4; The Sin Offering; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160508_leviticus-4.mp3
We are not under law; we are under grace. Praise God we are under grace! 'The law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death' (Rom.8:2). But the law is our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ (Gal.3:24), and 'whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope' (Rom.15:4). The Scriptures give us instruction, give us encouragement, give us hope, hope in Christ! We are not under law, but we can learn from the law. 'All Scripture is ...profitable ...for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness (2Tim.3:16). We can benefit greatly from this training in righteousness that the law offers us.
We are in Leviticus 4, which deals with a new category of sacrificial offering to the Lord. The first three offerings were voluntary offerings, said to be offerings 'with a pleasing aroma to the Lord'. The whole burnt offering was an entire animal that went up in smoke to the Lord, addressing our sin nature. The grain offering was a tribute offering of the work of our hands, given in tribute to our new King. The peace or fellowship offering was a shared meal that celebrated our reconciled relationship of peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Leviticus 4 begins with the words 'And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 'speak to the people of Israel, saying'. These words, similar to the words which open the book, indicate that this is a new section dealing with different issues. Chapter 4:1 – 5:13 deals with the sin offering, and Chapter 5:14 – 6:7 deals with the guilt offering. These are both required offerings when any person sins.
Chapter 4 begins with an introductory statement of the sin offering, then lists four categories of people, and the procedure for making atonement for that person. Verses 3-12 deal with the anointed priest; verses 13-21 deal with sins of the whole congregation; verses 22-26 deal with sins of a leader; and verses 27-35 deal with the atonement for the common people. Chapter 5:1-13 lists four specific occasions in which a person would incur guilt and gives three different types of offering dependent on what the worshiper can afford.
One startling thing to notice right up front in this chapter is that this offering makes atonement and brings forgiveness for unintentional sins. Did you even know there was a category for that? Verses 13, 22, and 27 clarify that if he “sins unintentionally in doing any one of the things that by the LORD's commandments ought not to be done, and realizes his guilt, or the sin which he has committed is made known to him”. These could be sins of ignorance, 'I didn't know that God considers this a sin'; they could be sins of carelessness, 'I was not paying attention or thinking and I did this'; or they could be accidental sins, 'I didn't mean to do this but it happened'. What is startling about all of these is that they all require the death penalty. The bull or goat or lamb doesn't get a spanking or a time-out. It is killed. Even unintentional sins miss the mark of God's perfect standard, and the wages of sin is death. Sin is serious. Deadly serious.
Numbers 15 helps us understand this category of unintentional sins. Verses 22-29 form a rough parallel to Leviticus 4. Verses 24-26 deal with atonement for unintentional sins of the whole congregation; and verses 27-29 deal with atonement for unintentional sins of the individual in very similar terms to what we have here in Leviticus 4. But verses 30-31 draw a distinction between unintentional sins and sins done with a high hand, and then verses 32-36 give an incident as an application of this principle.
There is no sacrifice, no atonement, no forgiveness for sins done intentionally, in willful disobedience, with a high hand. The person who does this is said to revile the LORD, to despise the word of the LORD, and breaks his commandment. Have you ever heard someone say, maybe you've said it yourself 'I know this is wrong, but God is gracious, he will forgive me. After all, I'm not under law, I'm under grace.' This is dangerous thinking. Paul answers this in Romans 6.
Here's the event that illustrates the principle in Numbers 15:
Gathering sticks. Maybe he and his family were cold. He needed to build a fire to stay warm or to cook over. What's the big deal? God said:
This man was despising the word of the LORD. He was reviling the Lord. He was deliberately breaking the commandment.
There was no sacrifice, no atonement, no forgiveness for a high-handed intentional sin.
We tend to categorize sins; 'all I did was tell one little white lie'. Only one, it was little, and it was white; I meant no harm, it didn't hurt anybody. What category would God put this sin under? It is a lie, intended to deceive, an intentional, a willful, a high handed sin. 'Thou shalt not bear false witness' (Ex.20:16).
Numbers 35 helps us to understand what is meant by an unintentional sin.
Without intent. This is the same word we have in Leviticus 4. Killing can be unintentional, and if it is unintentional, there is protection provided for the one guilty of manslaughter. There is a distinction drawn. If he used and iron, stone, or wooden tool that could cause death, he is a murderer.
The motive is considered. If it was a sudden reaction, if it was not premeditated, if he did not intend to do harm, if it was an accident, these were considered unintentional. They were still sin, the taking of a life in God's image, but they were unintentional, and forgivable.
Go and Tell Him His Fault
So much of our sin is unintentional. We simply have no idea. Often an unintentional sin is a sin you don't know you committed. Verse 13 says 'the thing is hidden from the eyes of the assembly'. We are often blind to our unintentional sins. Verse 14 says 'when the sin which they have committed becomes known'. I can't seek forgiveness if I don't know I have sinned. We are not told how the sin becomes known. It could be conviction from the Holy Spirit, or a feeling of guilt. Verses 23 and 28 say 'the sin which he has committed is made known to him'. We need each other to help with blind spots. This does not authorize you to become the sin police, eagerly finding fault with your neighbor and relishing every opportunity to point it out. But it is helpful to know that often the sins of our brothers and sisters are unintentional sins. We feel hurt, offended, slighted, mistreated. That passing comment really cut deep. This is why Jesus tells us:
Note well, Jesus does not say 'if your brother sins against you, give him the cold shoulder until he realizes what evil he has done'; He does not say 'if your brother sins against you, bitterly rehearse in your heart how hurtful it was over and over again while you wait for him to crawl back to you in contrite penance'. He does not say 'go talk to your other brothers and sisters to see if they have also been hurt in similar ways by the offending party'. Notice also that Jesus does not say 'if you sin against your brother, go apologize to him', because this kind of sin we are often blind to. Jesus tells us to go directly and privately to our brother or sister who sinned against us, and tell them their fault, because they probably have no idea that they hurt you! If you go to them directly, that gives them the opportunity to say 'I am so sorry you took it that way! That is not at all what I meant'.
Sometimes the issue is more serious. We need to be watching out for one another, encouraging one another. We need to have the humility to be aware that we have blind spots, and be thankful that we have brothers and sisters who love us.
When we realize our guilt, then we lay our hand on the head of the animal. We identify with the animal, that we deserve to die, and it will die in our place. We confess our sins, agreeing with God that even our unintentional sin is worthy of punishment.
All Have Sinned
Who is it that the sin offering is meant for? The first instance is 'if it is the anointed priest who sins' (3); then 'if the whole congregation of Israel sins' (13) ; then 'when a leader sins' (22); finally, 'if anyone of the common people sins' (27). Who is left out of this chapter? This covers absolutely everyone. We know the verses 'none is righteous, no not one' and 'all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God' (Rom.3:10, 23), but do we really believe this? God is communicating to his people that everyone sins. Religious leaders, national leaders, everyone. We tend to hold religious leaders to a different standard. Religious leaders should never sin. And if they do sin, their sin is unforgivable. Your pastor is human. He is a sinner in need of forgiveness. If you expect sinless perfection, your expectations are misplaced. Jesus is the only one who has never sinned and will never sin.
Some might think, 'well, I'm no one of significance, so it doesn't matter what I do'. Not true! From the great high priest to the national leader to the common person, sin brings guilt and requires forgiveness through an atoning sacrifice.
It is interesting to see that there is such a thing as corporate guilt. A group of people, the whole congregation, can sin. We tend to think of sin as exclusively an individual matter. But this text is clear that whole groups of people, just like individuals, can have blind spots and can sin unintentionally. Whole congregations can be guilty and in need of forgiveness. Often in Israel's history we see the congregation grumbling against God or its leaders, and the Lord was displeased.
Not Many Should Become Teachers
While all sin is sin against God that brings guilt and requires atoning sacrifice to be forgiven, the sins of some are more weighty and require a greater offering. The sins of the national leader requires a male goat, while the sins of a common person requires a female goat or lamb. For both of these, the blood is smeared on the horns of the bronze altar of burnt offering in the courtyard of the tabernacle. But for the sin of the anointed priest or the whole congregation, a bull is required, and the blood must be presented in the holy place, applied to the curtain and to the horns of the golden altar of incense.
The sin of the leader and the individual remain in the outer court, but the sin of the priest and of the whole congregation penetrate into the very presence of God. This is why James tells us:
The blood needed to be splattered seven times on the heavy curtain that separates the most holy place from the holy place. Imagine the priest, who daily entered the holy place to tend the lamps, replace the bread of the presence, and burn incense, who would daily see the blood splattered on the curtain, a reminder of his own sinfulness before God. A reminder of his weighty responsibility. But also a reminder of God's provision of forgiveness. He was able to enter into the holy place by means of blood. Repeated four times in this chapter we find the affirmation 'and the priest shall make atonement for him and he shall be forgiven' (20, 26, 31, 35). What good news this is! The priest makes atonement, but it is God who forgives. This is why the statement of Jesus to the paralyzed man that 'your sins are forgiven' (Mk.2:5) was so shocking. Only God can forgive sins!
Jesus the Better Priest
This of course, like all the offerings, points us to Jesus.
Jesus had no sin of his own that required a sacrifice.
Hebrews 10 specifically mentions the sin offering as being obsolete because of Jesus.
We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus once for all!
Hebrews 13 refers to the sin offering being burnt outside the camp. Lepers and the unclean were forced to reside outside the camp.
Praise God forgiveness through Jesus is not limited to unintentional sins.
Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org