Sunday, February 11, 2018

There is a Distinction Between the Sins of Rulers and The Sins of God's People

An Offering For Leaders
Leviticus 4:22-26:

22 ‘When a leader sins and unintentionally does any one of all the things which the Lord his God has commanded not to be done, and he becomes guilty,
23 if his sin which he has committed is made known to him, he shall bring for his offering a goat, a male without defect.  . . .
[Then what follows is the process for making that offering which is very similar to the process for other offerings covered earlier, with some interesting differences as explained below.]

Thoughts on the Passage

This offering is to be made by rulers (kings, judges, or those who lead others under them) sin and that sin has been brought to their attention (something the prophets later on had a habit of doing).

Robert Jamieson suggests that such a sin is “less serious in its character and consequences than that either of the high priest or the congregation”  That is, God is most sorrowed by the sin of His own people, just as I as a father would be with the sin of my children then the sin of others. I am fascinated by that contention and agree with it. Notice I am not saying that one is sin and the other is not, and that somehow one is more acceptable to God – it is not.  God is more interested in the sins of His specially anointed people (clergymen, pastors, elders, missionaries, and church bodies as a whole, etc.) than He appears to be with sins of those He allows to rule over us who may not necessarily be true followers of His. (Think current political leaders around the world; or think Supreme Court judges.)

Jamieson goes on to say that as such, “a sin offering of inferior value required – ‘a kid of the goats’ [not a bull of the herd]; and neither was the blood carried into the sanctuary, but applied only to the altar of burnt offering [in the outer court]; nor was the carcass taken without the camp; it was eaten by the priests-in-waiting.”
Note: I am not certain at this point in Scripture, where Jamieson gets his two last points from, unless it comes from other chapters or books of the Torah which follow.

Matthew Henry points out that even leaders are accountable to leaders, and the highest leader is accountable to God and should not sin. This is implied in verse 22 where we read, “which the Lord God has commanded not to be done”. There is no doubt that God takes notice of and is displeased with the sins of rulers.

That sin is (again out of ignorance) when it comes to the ruler’s knowledge through his own conscience or more specifically through the reproof of his friends, must be atoned for. (These days I like to think of someone like American Vice-President Mike Pence whom God has placed in that position perhaps for this very thing – to help President Donald Trump know when he has sinned before God, if his own conscious doesn’t make him aware of it.  But notice how gentle Pence is in his dealings with all men and women.)

There is also another underlying principle here according to Henry. He writes, “What we have done amiss we should be very desirous to come to the knowledge of.” How wonderful it is both be a person who, and know people who, want to be told when they have sinned. What a great character trait to have, especially for a “ruler” or “leader”.

Finally, in verse 26, we read that such atonement made sincerely by the ruler who has sinned will be accepted and the sin forgiven. But it has to be sincere – there has to be real repentance and that has to be followed up with reform – a change of practices going forward. Otherwise, as Henry reminds us, God will not accept it nor forgive the sin. This was indeed the case with Eli, a judge in Israel. In 1 Samuel 3:14, we read God saying about him, “And therefore I have sworn to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.”

Sin requires atonement which requires repentance and a change of heart and ways. And that applies to all of us be we leaders or followers.

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