We begin today with the laws for Sin Offerings. First, God gives a way to atone for sins that are committed unintentionally, that is, by mistake, and only realized after the fact. We see that even these sins require a sacrifice of atonement. This also says something about us as God’s people. All sin needs to be repented for, even those that come to our attention after the fact. But even more, this shows us that while we will always struggle with sin in this life, intentional sin should not define us. God first deals with unintentional sin, because this should be the only sin we commit as His people.
Also note that God gives these commands in a decreasing order of severity, which we can see by the offerings required. If the High Priest sins, he brings guilt on everyone (4:3). He is required to bring a bull without blemish (also v. 3). We see in verse 4 the symbolic passing of guilt for sin to the sacrifice. The sacrifice of a bull is required if the whole congregation sins (v. 13), equating the sin of the High Priest and the whole congregation. Note that the elders of the congregation represent them in placing the sin on the sacrifice (v. 15). If an individual leader sins, the sacrifice requirement is reduced to a male goat (v. 23). If an individual not in leadership sins, it is a female goat (v. 28).
In these commands, we not only see the responsibility of those God places in authority over His people, but we see the idea of corporate representation. Adam was our (the human race) representative, and through his sin we all became sinners (Rom 5:12). In seeing Aaron’s representation of all the people, we see another pointer to the work of our great High Priest, Jesus Christ, Who represented us (believers) on the cross, taking our punishment for sin (Rom 5:19). If the book of Leviticus teaches us anything, it is that sin must be dealt with! Thank God He did in Christ!
Chapter 5 deals with an intentional sin, because in our weakness, we do what we know we should not. Note that the sin addressed is a sin of omission (5:1), and is a violation of the ninth Commandment. In verses 2-3, we have another unintentional sin, and this one is about physical contact making one unclean. It points us to how sin spreads. I come into contact with sin, and I sin. Then you come into contact with me in my sin, and you sin. We are too weak to resist sin, so we need to avoid it (Rom 13:14).
In verse 4, we have another violation of the ninth Commandment (I mean, if someone makes and oath and doesn’t realize it until later…). Note that confession is brought into the picture here. It is the first time (and not the last) that the Bible talks about confessing sins. It is presented as a natural response to realizing our sin. This is confession to God (1 John 1:9). And here, the offering is referred to as “compensation” (ESV) – the word literally means “guilt.” Even the sin of rash words brings guilt upon us. And notice that in verses 7-13 that God makes provision for everyone to be forgiven, once again.
Verses 14 speaks of the Guilt Offerings, and begins with guilt for the unintentional sin of “breach of faith” in the holy things of the Lord, that is, misusing those things set apart to Him and rendering them unholy and useless. Note that he who commits this sin must be forgiven through an atoning sacrifice (v.18), but he also must “make good” as we would say on the damage he has done, plus a little more (v. 16).
Chapter 6 continues the idea of an unintentional “breach of faith,” but here it is “against the Lord” (6:2) even though it is a sin committed against another person (vv. 2-3). This shows us how violating the second table of the Law is an inherent violation of the first table. Or, to put it another way, it shows us how loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength means loving our neighbor as ourselves. A sin against each other is a sin against God (see Psalm 51:4). Notice again that the one who wronged his neighbor has to make good, plus a little more.
Verse 8 begins the instructions for the priests to know how to carry out the offerings already commanded in the previous chapters. There are two things to notice in this passage. First, we again see the holiness of God in the specific instructions. Everything that is made holy to God as an offering is dealt with in His presence. Everything else (like the ashes of the burnt offerings) are to be removed far from His presence. And those things that are holy (like the priests garments) stay in the holy presence of God (8:11). God can only allow what is holy (including us!) in His presence.
Second, notice in verse 27 that the uncleanness by physical contact that we saw earlier works both ways. In other words, when I come in contact with holiness, I tend towards holiness. And when you come into contact with me in my holiness, you will tend towards holiness. We can see how our sin and our holiness affect each other. My sin is not done in a vacuum. It affects everyone around me. And my holiness is not acted out in a vacuum. It too affects those around me. We have a responsibility to God and each other, and I love Him by loving you, by not coming into contact with sin.
“Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.” – Leviticus 19:2 (ESV)
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. – Matthew 5:43–48 (ESV)