Wednesday, February 07, 2018

When It Comes to Sin Offerings, God Addressed the Priests (Clergy and Pastors) First

The Sin Offering
Leviticus 4:1-12:
1Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,
“Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘If a person sins unintentionally in any of the [a]things which the Lord has commanded not to be done, and commits any of them, 
if the anointed priest sins so as to bring guilt on the people, then let him offer to the Lord a [b]bull without defect as a sin offering for the sin he has [c]committed. 
He shall bring the bull to the doorway of the tent of meeting before the Lord, and he shall lay his hand on the head of the bull and slay the bull before the Lord. 
Then the anointed priest is to take some of the blood of the bull and bring it to the tent of meeting, 
and the priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle some of the blood seven times before the Lord, in front of the veil of the sanctuary. 
The priest shall also put some of the blood on the horns of the altar of fragrant incense which is before the Lord in the tent of meeting; and all the blood of the bull he shall pour out at the base of the altar of burnt offering which is at the doorway of the tent of meeting. 
He shall remove from it all the fat of the bull of the sin offering: the fat that covers the entrails, and all the fat which is on the entrails, 
and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them, which is on the loins, and the [d]lobe of the liver, which he shall remove with the kidneys 
10 (just as it is removed from the ox of the sacrifice of peace offerings), and the priest is to offer them up in smoke on the altar of burnt offering. 
11 But the hide of the bull and all its flesh with its head and its legs and its entrails and its refuse, 
12 [e]that is, all the rest of the bull, he is to bring out to a clean place outside the camp where the [f]ashes are poured out, and burn it on wood with fire; where the [g]ashes are poured out it shall be burned.

Thoughts on the Passage

I see this chapter as being divided into four parts. First, we have instructions for when a priest sins (verses 1-12).  Then we have instructions for when the whole congregation of Israel sins (verses 13-21). Third, for when a leader sins (verses 22-26).  Finally, for when a common person sins (verses 27-35).

Matthew Henry starts his comments on this chapter by saying that the first three chapters of Leviticus, covering the first three types of offering were delivered to Moses at one time before the giving of the law upon mount Sinai, as the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) were acquainted with them (see Genesis 8:20 and Exodus 20:24). In this chapter (4), we have the beginning of the statutes of another session, another day, with God sharing His commands.

Chuck Smith points out that even the sins of ignorance needed forgiveness as ignorance of the law is no excuse. He suggests that sin is often related to ignorance whereas transgression is not. Which then exclaims why there is both a sin offering and a trespass offering. Sinning is “missing the mark” – we try to do well, but we fail. Trespass is more than missing the mark – we know what God wants us to do, and we do the opposite. Or, we know what He doesn’t want us to do and we do it anyway. It’s a deliberate, willful act against God. And as Matthew Henry says, this offering also covered sins of omission.

Smith goes on to remind us that Jesus prayed for the forgiveness of the sin of ignorance for those that were crucifying Him when He uttered the words in Luke 23:24, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.”

Our passage provides the process for the offering when there were sins of ignorance committed. One difference from the other offerings described so far was that the semi-burned, mostly ashes, of skin of this animal (the bull) and all its flesh, with his head, and his legs, and the inwards, etc., were to be carried outside the camp unto a clean place, and the ashes further burned on wood (verses 11-12).
The skins of the animals of the first offering, the burnt offering of consecration could be kept by the priests and made into coats.  But these skins from the sin offering could not. The bull’s fat (signifying the ‘best’ of the animal) was dedicated to God.  The rest could not be offered to God, but instead burned outside the camp representing the worthless portions.

David Guzik plays down the idea of these sin offerings being for “accidental sins”. Instead, he sees them as being for sins committed by a person who basically loves God. Presumptuous sins, or sinning ‘with a high hand’ had not atonement available as the sinner’s heart was so defiantly turned against the Lord. If that was the case, sacrificing all the animals in the world would do no one any good.
This first part of the chapter makes provision for when priests committed unintentional sin. They too were held to a strict measure. Sometimes those in the priesthood think they are above the law of God, but God says absolutely not.  They are even more accountable for keeping it exactly. This is a lesson many of our clergies need to keep in mind these days. This passage clearly puts them at the same (lower) level with those they serve. When it comes to sin, priests and pastors are held to the same rules as the rest of us.  At the same time, when it comes to honor or prominence, we come up their (higher) level, for we are now, all priests (see I Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6, 5:10, and 20:6).

In fact, priests had to offer an unblemished bull whereas later we will see that other leaders could get away with simply a goat (verses 22-23).

The blood of this sacrificed animal was to be applied in three places: sprinkled in front of the veil of the Tabernacle and on the horns of the altar of incense, and the remainder of the blood was to be poured at the base of the altar of burnt offering or sacrifice just outside the tabernacle.
Guzik gives this rationale:

“Sin is an offense against the holiness of God, and so the veil guarding His holy presence must receive sacrificial blood.
“Sin affects our prayer life, and so the altar of incense representing the prayers of God’s people must receive sacrificial blood.
“Sin makes our atonement necessary, so the altar of the burnt offering – the place of atonement – must receive sacrificial blood.”

Returning to the focus of this passage – priests and their sin offerings – I often wonder how much more respect, and even love, congregants would have for their local church leaders if we saw them as human beings just like us subject to all the temptations and weaknesses that we have to deal with. And for their part, they are transparent in their failures including sins of omission and seek God’s forgiveness for them.

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