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
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? Well, basically if someone sins intentionally they probably aren’t welcome in offering a sacrifice for forgiveness. If caught, they would be punished (cf. Heb 10.26-31). The Jewish law doesn’t assume people keep on sinning deliberately. But if they do, there are harsh consequences.
If a priest sins, he brings guilt on all the people, not just himself. Hence it is quite important that their leaders remain blameless before the LORD. Blameless in the sense they make an ongoing practice of obeying the LORD’s commands and make sure they make sin offerings regularly.
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 it is touching must die as a result. The wages of sin is death and the animal is his substitute.
Who would take your place and die for your sin?
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. I think the LORD would be pleased (e.g. Lev 1.9,13,17). Pleased because our sins don’t harm him in any way although they may grieve him because he cares and as the righteous King and Judge he must punish. 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.
I can’t imagine what it must have looked and smelled like. Blood and guts. The Priests were professional butchers and did it every day. So unlike what we are used to now.
Can you think of any corporate sins as opposed to individual?
A very similar set of instructions are applied to unintentional sins of the whole congregation of Israel.
13 “If the whole congregation of Israel sins unintentionally and the thing is hidden from the eyes of the assembly, and they do any one of the things that by the LORD’s commandments ought not to be done, and they realize their guilt, 14 when the sin which they have committed becomes known, the assembly shall offer a bull from the herd for a sin offering and bring it in front of the tent of meeting. 15 And the elders of the congregation shall lay their hands on the head of the bull before the LORD, and the bull shall be killed before the LORD. 16 Then the anointed priest shall bring some of the blood of the bull into the tent of meeting, 17 and the priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle it seven times before the LORD in front of the veil. 18 And he shall put some of the blood on the horns of the altar that is in the tent of meeting before the LORD, and the rest of the blood he shall pour out at the base of the altar of burnt offering that is at the entrance of the tent of meeting. (Lev 4:13–21)
This time the elders represent the people on their behalf. They lay their hands on the substitutionary sacrifice. The end of the instruction below makes it clear what the sin offering is for.
19 And all its fat he shall take from it and burn on the altar. 20 Thus shall he do with the bull. As he did with the bull of the sin offering, so shall he do with this. And the priest shall make atonement for them, and they shall be forgiven. 21 And he shall carry the bull outside the camp and burn it up as he burned the first bull; it is the sin offering for the assembly. (Lev 4:19–21)
‘The priest shall make atonement for them, and they shall be forgiven’. The LORD is a gracious and compassionate God, he is willing to forgive those who come to him in faith.
Story of Israel
The same practice was performed by Job. He did it on behalf of his sons. Just to make sure they remained right with God.
1 There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. 2 There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. 3 He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. 4 His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5 And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually. (Job 1:1–5).
Still, Job had to sacrifice over and over again. And so did Israel. From the time of Moses right up to Jesus. When an Israelite sinned, they would go to the tent of meeting or the temple and make an offering. They were thankful because in the law the LORD provided a means where they could be righteous and blameless before the LORD.
Story of Jesus
When Jesus came he was not pleased with what the sacrificial system had become. People were using it to make money. To grow rich.
13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. (Jn 2:13–22)
His actions in the temple revealed its time was about to end. Jesus would replace the sacrificial system. People could still be forgiven, but not through bringing an animal from their flock. Jesus would be the substitute. Jesus died on the cross as our substitute. Through his death our sin is atoned for and we are forgiven.
The author of Hebrews explains how Jesus death is a much better sacrifice that what we have read in Leviticus.
23 Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Heb 9:23–28)
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