From Leviticus 1-4
The first few chapters of Leviticus are instructions for worship, offerings and sacrifice. Several offerings are described. The Burnt Offering, The Grain Offering, The Peace Offering, and what we will look at now – the Sin Offering.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
The instructions for the sin offering deal with sins of the anointed priests, the whole congregation, the leaders of the congregation and lastly individuals. Because the anointed priests represent God before the people, their sins are dealt with first.
4 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, If anyone sins unintentionally in any of the LORD’s commandments about things not to be done, and does any one of them,
3 if it is the anointed priest who sins, thus bringing guilt on the people, then he shall offer for the sin that he has committed a bull from the herd without blemish to the LORD for a sin offering. (Lev 4:1–3)
The first thing we should notice is the offering is for ‘unintentional sins’. The text distinguishes between intentional and unintentional sins.
Would you say most of your sins have been intentional or unintentional?
Unintentional sins can be atoned for and forgiven. What about intentional sins? The Jewish law seems to impose harsh consequences for those who sin deliberately.
If a priest sins, he brings guilt on all the people, not just himself. Hence it is quite important that leaders remain blameless before the LORD. Blameless in the sense they make an ongoing practice of obeying the LORD’s commands which includes giving sin offerings.
4 He shall bring the bull to the entrance of the tent of meeting before the LORD and lay his hand on the head of the bull and kill the bull before the LORD. (Lev 4:4)
There are two key elements in the sin offering. The Priest (or offerer) must lay his hand on the head of the sacrifice and then kill it before the LORD.
Touch is a powerful thing. The offerer touches the animal before it dies. The offerer knows he (or she) has sinned and the animal must die as a result.
What has been offered up to atone for your sins?
When living animals and people are killed, they leave one realm of existence and enter another. Killing a sacrifice, devoting something to destruction is the means of giving to God. These sacrifices please Him and provide compensation for sin (cf. Lev 5.6-7).
5 And the anointed priest shall take some of the blood of the bull and bring it into the tent of meeting, 6 and the priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle part of the blood seven times before the LORD in front of the veil of the sanctuary. 7 And the priest shall put some of the blood on the horns of the altar of fragrant incense before the LORD that is in the tent of meeting, and all the rest of the blood of the bull he shall pour out at the base of the altar of burnt offering that is at the entrance of the tent of meeting. (Lev 4:5-7)
The blood is sprinkled in front of the sanctuary, put on the horns of the altar and then poured at the base. The LORD would be pleased (e.g. Lev 1.9,13,17).
He is pleased because the offerer humbled himself before him, desired to be made right and obeyed his instructions for making things right between them.
8 And all the fat of the bull of the sin offering he shall remove from it, the fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails 9 and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins and the long lobe of the liver that he shall remove with the kidneys 10 (just as these are taken from the ox of the sacrifice of the peace offerings); and the priest shall burn them on the altar of burnt offering. (Lev 4:8-10)
All the fat must be burned up.
11 But the skin of the bull and all its flesh, with its head, its legs, its entrails, and its dung— 12 all the rest of the bull—he shall carry outside the camp to a clean place, to the ash heap, and shall burn it up on a fire of wood. On the ash heap it shall be burned up. (Lev 4:11–12)
All the remaining parts of the bull must be burned up. Another key element of the sin offering is that the whole offering must be burnt up. The Priest is not allowed any for himself or his family.
The Priests were professional butchers, dealing with skin, blood and guts every day.
Story of Israel
Burnt and well-being/zebaḥ offerings were known and performed before the Israelite tabernacle was constructed (Gen. 8:20; 22:13; Ex. 18:12; 20:24; 24:5).
In early times the burnt offering could serve not only as basic worship of the Lord but also to remedy sin (Job 1:5; 42:8–9).
However, with commencement of the sanctuary services officiated by Aaronic priests, purification and reparation offerings were initiated as specialized expiatory sacrifices to remedy some (but not all) kinds of sins.
An additional function of the purification offering was to remove severe physical ritual impurities that were incompatible with the divine holiness that resided among the Israelites. (Gane, R., 2004. Leviticus, Numbers, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.)
Story of Jesus
These sin offerings brought about forgiveness of sin. Forgiveness is not to be taken for granted. To forgive means to give up something. True forgiveness has a cost, even for God—especially for God, who absorbs the prerequisite cost in the sacrifice of his Son.
Jesus recognised his death would secure forgiveness of sins and by implication the sacrificial system as well.
26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Mt 26.26-29)
People could still be forgiven, but not through bringing an animal from their flock. Jesus died on the cross for our sins. Through his death our sin is atoned for and we are forgiven.
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