The content of the first three chapters of the Book of Leviticus was like the first chapter of John’s first Epistle. In the picture of the burnt offering, we were shown the eternal life which was manifested to us in Christ – the great Atonement. Next, the grain offerings taught us that the Lord has a claim upon all that is ours; and therefore, we must yield up ourselves and all that is ours to Him. When this is done, we walk in fellowship with Him – represented in the peace offerings. These things have been written to us, in these first three chapters, so “that we sin not.” The Lord does not want us to live like the dark world around us; He wants us to be drawn to Him with His cords of love.
In this chapter, the Lord spoke again to the Israelites, and gave them directions for another kind of offering: the sin offering. Here He showed them what was to be done when they were brought to a consciousness of sin, of which they were not aware before. How saddening it is to find that we grieve the Lord in so many hidden ways! We have a heart that is as prone to sin as our body is to weariness. Sins committed through ignorance are the very ones that David prayed against in Psalm 19:12, when he cried, “Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret things!” These are acts committed by a person who, at the time, did not suppose that what he did was sin. Although he did the thing deliberately, yet he did not perceive that there was sin in doing it. Alas! So deceitful is sin, that we may be committing that same abominable thing which cast angels immediately and eternally into hell; and yet, at the moment, we may be totally unaware that it is sin! The awareness is hidden from us by a lack of knowledge of the truth, and by too little tenderness of conscience. But here again, a foreshadowing of the Redeemer appears! Jehovah mercifully instituted sacrifices for sins of ignorance. And in doing so, He revealed the same compassionate and considerate heart that appears in Jesus, our Great High Priest, “who can have compassion on the ignorant” (Heb. 5:2). Praise God that He is the same yesterday, today, and forever!
The Lord’s directions for the sin offerings varied somewhat depending on who was offering them. They began with the case of a guilty priest (verses 3-12). It is evident that God never had any infallible priest or pastor in His Church upon earth, for even the high priest of Israel was liable to fall into sins of ignorance. In fact, any pastor or church leader who pretends to act without error possesses the sure marks of the anti-Christ.
The body and remnants of the animal that was sacrificed as a sin offering were to be carried outside the camp, and burned to ashes there. This was a picture of the duty of repentance, which is the putting away of sin as a detestable thing that our soul hates. We must deal with our sins in the same way that the Israelites handled the bodies of these animals; they must be put to death and destroyed (Rom. 6:6). The Apostle also referenced the carrying of this sacrifice outside the camp when He spoke of Christ suffering and dying outside the city of Jerusalem (Heb. 13:11-13).
If the leaders of the people – through a mistake – caused the people to go astray, then an offering was to be brought so that wrath might not come upon the whole nation (verses 13-21). When the animal for a sin offering was sacrificed, the persons upon whose behalf it was slain were to lay their hands upon the heads of the victim, and confess their sins; but in cases when this offering was being made for the whole nation, the elders (as representatives of all the people) were to do this. The load of sin was then symbolically “carried” by the guiltless animal. When the offering was completed, atonement was made, and the sin was forgiven. Let us give thanks for the mediation of our Lord Jesus, which saves entire churches and nations from ruin!
Those who have power to call others to account, are themselves accountable to the Ruler of rulers. When a public leader did wrong, and his sin came home to his conscience, he had to offer a sin offering as well (verses 22-26).
Verses 27-35 contain directions for the sin offering of an ordinary individual. Even if we sin in ignorance, it will not excuse us; these sins still need a sacrifice, for none of us are out of reach of Divine justice – but we are all welcome to come to Jesus! Let us pray for grace to rightly value Him – the great and true Sin Offering – Whose blood cleanses us from all sin, which the blood of bulls and goats could never take away. Let us take heed of pride, sloth, and carelessness. With serious study of the Scriptures, let us pray earnestly for the convincing influences of the Holy Spirit; for it is only in this way that we may detect our sins of ignorance, so that we may repent and obtain forgiveness through the blood of Jesus.
Lord, we know that the great evil of our sins exposes us all – without distinction – to Your just and merited punishment. But under the consciousness of deserved wrath, it is infinitely precious for our hearts to see Jesus – the Lamb of God which takes away the sins of the world! Dear Savior, may the Holy Spirit work in our hearts, and give us the assurance that You have indeed taken away our sins. Amen.
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