[Leviticus Chapter Four] Mercy is God’s First Response. In this chapter we come to the third kind of sacrifice, that of the sin or trespass offering. We have looked at the consecration offering and the peace or covenantal offering, now we come to the sin offering. The mention is made of “sinning in ignorance”. How does God deal with sin? God’s response to sin is to extend his mercy and provide means of returning to fellowship and relationship with Him through the shed blood of Christ. Even as His first response to sin is mercy even so our first response to sin should be mercy.
Verse 2 says “If a soul sin through ignorance” This statement goes way beyond “ignorance of the law is no excuse…”. What it establishes is that morality, right and wrong exist outside of ourselves. There is something in human nature that excuses ourselves “if we didn’t know better…” as though sin was a personal matter. The broader term we use to describe this is subjectivism. The implication is that there is no objective truth and that situational ethics apply making morality a matter of personal choice rather than eternal truth that every soul is answerable to. The idea that “I’m ok, your ok” arises from a viewpoint that God does not exist and personal opinion is the highest authority.
[Rom 3:23 KJV] 23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
[Rom 5:12 KJV] 12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
Verse 3 deals with the sins of a priest serving in the tabernacle. Here again a concept that would have been foreign to ancient peoples. No one is exempted. Parents with their children always adopt a “do what I say don’t do what I do attitude”. There heart of hypocrisy is holding others accountable to a standard that we don’t apply to ourselves.
As a young pastor I had a group of people in my church who smoked. They invited a young Christian to a prayer meeting in their home who also smoked. He attended for many weeks and the custom was everyone would go outside and have a cigarette before prayer meeting and then adjourn inside for a time of prayer. One day after everyone had had their smoke they came inside to pray and the host hauled their 16 year old boy in front of the group who had been caught smoking himself that day. They proceeded to attempt to cast a demon of nicotine out of the boy! This completely scandalized the young convert who saw the hypocrisy that none of the others in through group saw. No one is exempt from God’s law.
[Rom 11:32 KJV] 32 For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.
Verse 6 – the priest would offer shed blood to deal with his sin. God’s manner of dealing with sin does not prescribe justice but redemption. The blood of the sacrifice represents Jesus dying for our transgression. We don’t bring our good works, or our good intentions, or excuses or justifications before the judgment bar of our conscience. We bring the blood of Jesus. Notice the blood was sprinkled seven times before the vial that was closed barring the way into the holy of holies. The picture is obvious – the shed blood of the sacrifice opens the way for us into deeper intimacy with God. This is how God deals with sin, by drawing us into deeper relationship with him – He brings us into his pretense and when we see Him we become like Him for we see Him as He is.
[1Jo 3:1-2 KJV] 1 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. 2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
Verses 11 – 21
Once the sin offering is made the ashes of the offering are taken out of the camp and disposed of in a ceremonially clean place. The ashes represent the image of Jesus being taken off the cross and laid in tomb. He has paid the price and become sin.
[2Co 5:21 KJV] 21 For he hath made him [to be] sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
What does God do with sin? He takes it away out of his sight in order to establish unbroken relationship with us.
[Psa 103:12-17 KJV] 12 As far as the east is from the west, [so] far hath he removed our transgressions from us. 13 Like as a father pitieth [his] children, [so] the LORD pitieth them that fear him. 14 For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we [are] dust. 15 [As for] man, his days [are] as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. 16 For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more. 17 But the mercy of the LORD [is] from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children;
Verse 13 establishes that not only can an individual sin but a whole nation can sin. Notice the repeated mention of sinning through ignorance. We tend to point a finger at all sin and accuse the offender saying “you knew what you were doing…” But there is a higher perspective that comes from the heart of God’s mercy. Remember the words of Jesus on the cross:
[Luk 23:34 KJV] 34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.
Paul echoes this sentiment in 1 Cor. 2:8:
[1Co 2:8 KJV] 8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known [it], they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
Even those who cried out for Jesus’ death and those who drove the nails in his hands had they realized the cosmic role they were playing would not have done so. If this is the perspective of God’s mercy we must extend the same mercy even to those we are not so willing to forgive.
Verses 22 – 35
Here we see the universal prescription for dealing with sin.
If the priest sin – “he shall bring an offering”
If the ruler sin – “he shall bring an offering”
If the common man sins – “he shall bring an offering”.
Notice the offering is not a grain offering but a sacrificial animal. Shed sacrificial blood is the only solution for sin.
The grain offering represents our works. This was the difference between Cain’s offering and Abel’s. Abel’s offering was accepted because he offering atoning blood in acknowledgment of his own need of a savior. Cain bypassed the consideration of his own need of a savior and offering a grain offering only as though he could negotiate with God without acknowledging his own lost condition.
Performance based religion, or a performance based approach to God denies our need of a savior and rejects the Lordship of Jesus Christ in our lives. In order to correct this and deliver of from ourselves God gave us the law as our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. We exhaust ourselves trying to solve our problems on our own until we collapse at the foot of the cross and finally confess that we need a savior.
In the shed blood of the sacrifice we are expressing our faith not in ourselves or what we have done but in who Jesus is and what He has done for us. We are not bringing God our best intentions or accomplishments we are throwing ourselves upon the mercy of the court of heaven appealing not to our own excuses but offering up the shed blood of Christ for the expiation of our sins and as the basis of all answered prayer.