14 August 2012

A Survey of the Old Testament Law--The Sin Offering (part 1), Leviticus 4:1-35; 6:24-30




We have seen the Burnt Offering (עֹלָה (olah)), the Grain Offering (מִנְחָה לַֽיהוָה, minchah qorban) the Peace Offering ( שֶׁלֶם (shelem)). Today we begin a study of the Sin Offering (or, Guilt Offering), or חַטָּאָת (chatta’ath). Like the two tables containing the Ten Commandments, many disagree over whether or not to divide this into two separate offerings—the Sin Offering (Guilt Offering), and a separate Trespass Offering (אָשָׁם, awsham) based on the fact that this phrase “Trespass Offering” is found in Leviticus 5:6“‘And he shall bring his trespass offering to the LORD for his sin which he has committed…” However, just to differentiate between the reasons for the differences in bringing and preparing these offerings, we will split them into the two distinct offerings. The Sin Offering (חַטָּאָת (chatta’ath)) is the first of the non-voluntary offerings. Everyone had to bring one of these because they were Sin Offerings and…well…all have sinned. These offerings could be classified into two different categories—Sin Offerings for the entire nation; and Sin Offerings for individuals. Sin Offerings for the entire nation would be brought if the high priest or the whole assembly sinned, “bringing guilt on all the people.” However, a Sin Offering for an individual would be brought if a “ruler of the people” (i.e., the head of a tribe)) sinned, or if one of the “common people”—just a regular, everyday individual—sinned. That said, let’s begin by looking at the offering required of a high priest who sinned.

Leviticus 4:1-31 Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “2 Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘If a person sins unintentionally against any of the commandments of the LORD in anything which ought not to be done, and does any of them, 3 if the anointed priest sins, bringing guilt on the people, then let him offer to the LORD for his sin which he has sinned…” The Sin Offering was a means of atonement for people who had committed a sin in ignorance. Which begs the question—“How can a person not know they sinned?” Which is not an unfair question. And it is a question that will be answered in due time. But first, let’s look a little closer at the command here. First, look at the focus of this command. Leviticus 4:3“‘If the anointed priest sins, bringing guilt on the people.’” Let me just make one clarification here. The KJV says “‘If the priest that is anointed do sin according to the sin of the people.’” And that is not the correct reading. It’s not that the high priest sins “as the people sin,” so to speak. The principle here is that when the high priest sins, god imputes guilt of his sin to the people.

What is God saying here? He’s saying that if the high priest sins, he has brought guilt upon the whole assembly—not just himself. Doesn't seem very fair, does it? Can't you just hear the people grumble and complain, saying, “Hey now, I didn’t do anything wrong! I should not have to be ashamed for myself when I had nothing to do with what that guy did!! It wasn’t my fault!” But we read all throughout the Scriptures that God when the rulers sin, that sin is often imputed to the people. It wasn’t very long before God gave this command that we see this very principle fleshed out. Think all the way back to Exodus 32. The episode with the golden calf. Whose bright idea was it to “make gods that will go before us”? It was the people. And when they came to Aaron, did he try to restrain them? Should he not have known better? Yes. But listen to Moses’ rebuke of Aaron, in Exodus 32:21Moses said to Aaron, "What did this people do to you that you have brought so great a sin upon them?" Who came up with the idea for the golden calf? Did Aaron initiate the whole thing? No, that was the people who did that. BUT—who fashioned the golden calf? That would be Aaron. And who was ultimately responsible for safeguarding these people’s souls, and keeping them from sin? Again, it was Aaron. So even though it was the people who rebelled; even though it was the people who clamored for a graven image; even though it Aaron who fashioned the golden calf and built an altar to it and declared that thing to be YHVH, God imputed Aaron’s sin to the entire congregation.

Let’s go even further back. All the way back to, say, the Garden of Eden. Who was the first to take of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil? Genesis 3:6(a)So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. What happened when she ate? Did she begin to die? Was God wroth with her? No. Why? Well, let’s keep reading. Genesis 3:6(b)-76 She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked… It was not until Adam ate of that fruit that sin entered the world. Was Adam, alone, held accountable for his sin? Was Adam the only one who was punished? No. Romans 5:12Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned. All have sinned because that’s who we are. That’s what we are. We are, by birth, sinners. Why? Because our great-great-great-(skip a few)-great grandfather Adam sinned, and passed that trait along to us. The sin of the high priest was imputed to the congregation, just as Aaron’s sin was imputed to the people, just as Adam’s sin was imputed to the whole human race.

Now, let’s take this one step further. For us Christians, under the new covenant—the new and better covenant, based upon better promises with a better sacrifice—who is our High Priest? Hebrews 9:11But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle… Let’s think about this a second. We know that Christ is our High Priest. We also know that according to the Law of God, if a high priest sinned he brought guilt upon all the people. Leviticus 4:3“‘If the anointed priest sins, bringing guilt on the people.’” So, if Christ sinned, doesn't that mean He would have brought guilt upon us? And doesn't that mean that He would have had to make an offering for Himself? But, Hebrews 10:12-1412 But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God…14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. What was the one sacrifice for sins that He offered? Did He have to offer a sacrifice for Himself? I mean, think about that! We’re talking here about sins committed in ignorance! Even if the high priest had committed some sin and didn’t know it, he had to bring a sacrifice once it had come to his attention! But Jesus, our High Priest, never even committed a sin in ignorance! Which is why the write of Hebrews can say in another place, Hebrews 7:26-2826 For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; 27 who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people's, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever.

But allow me to show you the depths of human depravity and the low view of Christ that some have. Mark Driscoll—a name which has become synonymous with the word ‘depravity’—once said this, and I quote—“If you’re tempted to these sorts of things — including sexual sin — some of you say, ‘Now Mark, Jesus wasn’t sexually tempted.’ Well, of course he was — 30 something year old single man who had women who adored him. You don’t think he ever wanted the comfort of a woman? You don’t think he ever got tired of going to bed by himself? You don’t think that he didn’t once want to have intimate relations with a woman? He was tempted.” (Mark Driscoll – “How Human was Jesus?”, October 15th 2006.) This quote just reeks of bad theology and, even worse, bad Christology. First of all, let’s set some parameters and define some terms. There is a difference between saying someone was tempted with sin, versus saying someone was tempted by sin. I can tempt you with a bottle of Scotch. But if you don’t want it, you will not be tempted by it. See the difference?

Now, it may be true that Jesus might have been tempted by a woman or two (although we don’t read that in the Scriptures, and to go outside of the Scriptures and use broken down human logic, we run into some monumental blunders). There may have been some women who tried to tempt Him (although, again, no Scriptural proof). But, to indulge a fool, let’s say that was true. We then need to go a step further and say that Jesus was tempted by those women. That is, that He even had a fleeting thought of indulging them in their fleshly cravings. That means He had fleshly craving—which is exactly what Driscoll is saying. Then we are opening up the possibility that Jesus had even one impure thought. And if He had even one impure thought, then He sinned. And if He sinned, then He brought guilt upon us. And if He brought guilt upon us, then He could not redeem us and perfect us, because He would not be, as Peter terms Him, a Lamb without blemish and without spot (1st Peter 1:18-19). And what kind of offering was always required for sin? Without spot or blemish. You see how far off the tracks one can get when they try and be too hip, cool and relevant? When one invents a Jesus of their own making? They are, for all intents and purposes, creating an idol in their heart. Ezekiel 14:3—“Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts, and put before them that which causes them to stumble into iniquity. Should I let Myself be inquired of at all by them?”

So, when the high priest committed some sin in ignorance, here is the offering he had to bring. Leviticus 4:3-12“‘3 …a young bull without blemish as a sin offering. 4 He shall bring the bull to the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the LORD, lay his hand on the bull's head, and kill the bull before the LORD.’” Could he bring just any old animal? Could he go over to Yitzhak’s tent and say, “Hey, got any bulls you’re not doing anything with? Oh, hey, that one ought to do.” No, he could not do that. Once again, as we read time after time after time, this had to be “without blemish.” This would prove to be the final undoing of the old covenant Levitical priesthood before the coming of Christ. We learn that through the prophet Malachi. Listen to the charge God lays against the p in Malachi 1:6-14"6 ‘A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am the Father, Where is My honor? And if I am a Master, where is My reverence?’ Says the LORD of hosts to you priests who despise My name. Yet you say, 'In what way have we despised Your name?' 7 You offer defiled food on My altar, but say, 'In what way have we defiled You?'…8 And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?" says the LORD of hosts...“10 Who is there even among you who would shut the doors, so that you would not kindle fire on My altar in vain? I have no pleasure in you,” says the LORD of hosts, "Nor will I accept an offering from your hands...13 You also say, 'Oh, what a weariness!' and you sneer at it," says the LORD of hosts. "And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick; thus you bring an offering! Should I accept this from your hand?" says the LORD. 14 "But cursed be the deceiver who has in his flock a male, and takes a vow, but sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished—for I am a great King," says the LORD of hosts, “And My name is to be feared among the nations.”

The charge God is making against the priests is twofold: for one, they have gotten so familiar with the offerings that they are now taking them for granted, and they now see them as being a burden and something they just have to put up with because it is their lot in life. Their attitude was, “Oh bother, this God we serve is so severe! He makes us go through all these rituals, and for what? Day after day, we’re knee-deep in blood, and it never stops!” For so long a period of time (1100 years at the time of the prophet’s writing) the sons of Aaron had been in one of the most important positions a man could occupy—mediating between the people of Israel and their God, Almighty YHVH. But now, instead of seeing these offerings for what they were—an instrument of God’s grace, by which He gave His people a way to cover over their sins that they may not face eternal destruction—they saw them as just another drab job to perform.

The second charge God is making is this: God, in His Law, had commanded that only the best specimens of animal be offered on His altar. Every beast offered was to be “without blemish.” And He confronts them with the fact that they would not dare offer such flesh to the pagan kings who would hold them in captivity. They would bow and curry favor with their captors, and offer them the choicest of the herd. But to their true King—they just grabbed any old beast, didn’t matter whether it was lame or blind or had some kind of deformity or disease. “We’re gonna burn this on God’s altar and he’s gonna have to like it.” God says, “Offer the kind of junk you offer Me. See how quickly they would put you to death. How much more should I, the Sovereign over all creation, do so and more to you for such an affront?”

So, they were to bring a bull “without blemish.” They were to then lay their hand on the head of the bull. Here, once again, we have the symbolic act of laying hands on something, transferring guilt to the object of sacrifice. By placing his hands on the head of the bull, the high priest was acknowledging that he had sinned, and that God, in His mercy, would accept this beast as being killed in place of the sinner. Time and again we see throughout these sacrifices a penal substitutionary atonement. A foreshadowing of the penal substitutionary atonement Christ would make for us. Christ is called “The Lamb of God” (John 1:29), and it was on Him that God laid all the sins of all those who would be saved—both of those who were saved under the old covenant, and those who would be saved under the new covenant. Then they slit the neck of the bull, they bleed it out, then Leviticus 4:5-12“‘5 Then the anointed priest shall take some of the bull's blood and bring it to the tabernacle of meeting. 6 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. 7 And the priest shall put some of the blood on the horns of the altar of sweet incense before the LORD, which is in the tabernacle of meeting; and he shall pour the remaining blood of the bull at the base of the altar of the burnt offering, which is at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. 8 He shall take from it all the fat of the bull as the sin offering. The fat that covers the entrails and all the fat which is on the entrails, 9 the two kidneys and the fat that is on them by the flanks, and the fatty lobe attached to the liver above the kidneys, he shall remove, 10 as it was taken from the bull of the sacrifice of the peace offering; and the priest shall burn them on the altar of the burnt offering. 11 But the bull's hide and all its flesh, with its head and legs, its entrails and offal—12 the whole bull he shall carry outside the camp to a clean place, where the ashes are poured out, and burn it on wood with fire; where the ashes are poured out it shall be burned.’”

First, the priest had to take the blood, catch it in a basin, and sprinkle it seven times before the veil separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. Not five times, not eight times, not fifteen times. But seven times. Then he had to take some and put it on the four horns of the Altar of Incense. Now, if you recall, the only thing to be burned on this altar was incense, and only incense that had been prepared the way God specified in Exodus 30:34-38. But the blood of a Sin Offering was to be smeared on the horns coming off of the corners of the altar. The rest of the blood was to be poured out at the foot of the Altar of Burnt Offering. It was then cut up as were the Peace Offerings we read about back in Leviticus 3, and what was left—the head, the flesh and the dung—none of that was to be laid on the altar. Now, as far as the carcass was concerned: It was to be taken “‘outside the camp to a clean place, where the ashes are poured out, and burn it on wood with fire; where the ashes are poured out it shall be burned.’” And here we see that God is even telling the people, 1400-1500 years before it would happen, where their Messiah would be slain. Why couldn’t they kill Jesus within the walls of Jerusalem? Why did He escape their clutches on the occasions where they could have stoned Him or thrown Him off a cliff? Because not only was it not His time, but it was not the place. Sin Offerings were not to be burned within the camp (or the city).

Now think about this for a moment. Where was the animal slain? Within the courtyard of the Tabernacle. Where was the carcass carried off to? A place outside the camp. Did the people know what the priests were doing when they carted a nearly-intact, unburnt carcass through their midst? So when all the people saw this dead, hacked-up animal being carted through their camp, they knew someone had sinned. Not only did they see someone had sinned, they saw the penalty for sin. They saw the cost of that sin. They were reminded, once again, that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). That as that bull, who had done nothing wrong—it was a bull, probably just minding his own business, walking around, grazing, chewing some cud. But then, someone sinned against God. And the priests looked that bull over from head to tail, and said, “I find no fault in this bull.” And that bull would die for your sin. Let’s apply that to Christ and His sacrifice. We read about Christ being bloodied and beaten, cut by the scourges of the Romans, His blood not only pouring through the streets, but most importantly being shed on the cross, we see that even now, as in the old covenant sacrifices, that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Christ, being the spotless Lamb of God, who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth, harmed no one. But evil men found Him, arrested Him, and tried Him under the most scandalous circumstances. And even a pagan governor looked Him over and said, “I find no fault in this man.” And that Lamb would die for your sin. Outside the camp. Hebrews 13:11-12—11 For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. 12 Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate.

We'll finish up next week.

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