This is the first offering that was required, unlike the voluntary sweet savour offerings, the object and effect of the sin offering were to be the forgiveness of sin (Lev. 4:20, 26, 31, 35) and the cleansing of the pollution of sin (Lev.12:8, 14:20, 16:19). The Hebrew word used is 'hattath' meaning an offence, a word not used to describe any sacrifice other than in Mosaic times, it was a penalty, that was peculiarly a sacrifice to the law. Sin is an offence to God that separates us from God and breaks our fellowship with Him. He is a holy God and sin cannot be where the presence is that of a pure, perfect and just God.
The sin offering is covered in chapter 4 of Leviticus and in verse 2 we read "When anyone sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD'S commands". Therefore any conduct that unintentionally caused the falling short of what was commanded would be reason for the sin offering. The meaning is clearly sinning in error through ignorance, hurry, want of consideration, or carelessness. Such that come from the weakness of our human nature rather than a determined, defiant rebellion against God and his commands. The animals to be sacrificed varied to the position or status of the sinner. The priest offered a bullock. The whole congregation offered a bullock. The leader or ruler offered a male goat. A member of the community a female goat. The offering required by God from the priest and the whole congregation were equal, for in Gods eyes the sin committed by the priest was as large as that committed by the whole congregation. If a man serving in an official capacity sins, he can lead the whole congregation astray. It has been wisely said that if the teacher sins he teaches sin, therefore high position means high responsibility. Just as today those in special office in the church whether Minister, Elder, Deacon, Homegroup, Leader, Youth Leader, Sunday School Teacher must be extra careful of their conduct because others are taking you as an example. The offering of the leader or ruler was male, a symbolising their position of authority, whereas the member of the congregation who had no authority brought a female goat. In each case the sacrifice had to be perfect, that is without defect or blemish.
In each of the four the phrase unintentional sin is repeated with the clear assertion of guilt, and so that the responsibility is not easily pushed aside. Even when unaware that state of unawareness does nothing to cover over the falling short of God's commands, just as with todays civil law there is no ignorance in the sight of the law. The act has been committed we have fallen short of meeting Gods standard for our life. We stand guilty as charged there is no defence possible. Three times in verses 14, 23, 28 "When they become aware or when he is made aware" the purpose of the law was to make the people aware of their unintentional sins so that they would not repeat them and so that they could be forgiven. To be able to live as God intended in fellowship with Him. The offerer would bring the sacrifice to the gate of the tabernacle, the place designated by God. God did not allow this sacrifice for sin to be made just anywhere. This would have led to uncontrolled practices eventually leading to idolatry, even today the efficacy of the cross is lost in ceremony and symbolism, While the bible, the word of God is over ruled by scientific thought and tradition. We are to meet with God and recognise God in the place chosen by God, the church, but it has become an institutionalised, business hierarchy it has moved from what God ordained. The family that we were adopted into is turned into a business led by success rather than by God. The body we became a member of, a limb of, is no longer that living organism but an lifeless rule-driven organisation. Let us return to what God intended and make the church, the place where people may meet with God.
The offerer was to lay his hands upon the head of the animal to be sacrificed, in the case of the whole congregation it was done by the elders as representatives of the community. This act had a two fold significance, first it was identification. They identified themselves with the animal that was about to die. Just as our finger prints found on some object identify us with that object, so the offerer was identified with the sacrifice. Secondly it was an act of imputation. They believed that their sins passed from them to the animal. The offerer came and in this act said that I and this offering are one, I have sinned and I deserve to die, I bring my substitute and it dies in my place. It dies instead of me taking upon it my sin. The offerer then had to kill the animal, He had to slay his own substitute. For this was a personal matter, no one could perform this act for him as it was the offerers sin that had caused the death of the victim. The victims lack of defect or blemish is imputed to the offerer he has become free of his sin. The priest then takes the blood into the tabernacle and there in the most holy place before the veil sprinkle the blood seven times before the Lord. This signified God's acceptance, the veil speaks of access into Gods presence and the atoning blood gives us access into God's presence. Then he puts some blood on the horns of the altar of incense that was in the holy place. Then coming out from the Holy Place the remainder of the blood would be poured out by the bronze altar. The picture is of the blood being applied as he came out not as he went in. The way is opened from God to man, salvation is of the Lord, a gift from God to man. The gift was brought out to us by Jesus, He opened up the way by the shedding of his blood and along this bloodstained way a man travels from without to within the veil. We meet Christ at calvary on the cross, where he poured out his life as an offering for sin. Then we proceed on to the golden altar, the place of his intercession, and on to the veil now torn from top to bottom, giving us access into the presence of the living eternal God. Where we have a perfect standing before him clothed in the one who was without defect or blemish, his right standing imputed to us. The priest took the fat from the inwards and burnt it upon the bronze altar but the rest of the bullock the priest had to take outside the camp to the place that the ashes were poured. There he would burn all of the remainder of the animal in a fire of wood on the ash heap. God had ordained this to show the people the severity of his judgement of sin. The sin was now in this animal by reason of imputation and it had to be carefully transported outside the camp to a clean place and there totally destroyed. In the case of the ruler or the member of the congregation the blood remained outside and the priests had a share in the offering. They were allowed to eat a part of the animal but only inside the court of the tabernacle and the vessels the meat cooked in if clay were to be broken and if bronze had to be thoroughly cleaned (Lev. 6:28)
This done it is possible for the sinner to say I am forgiven, the sin against me has been put away. The Christian today can say I am justified. Justification means the legal act of God which declares the sinner righteous on the basis of the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. It is not an act or process of renewal such as regeneration or sanctification, and does not affect the condition but the state of the sinner. It differs from sanctification in that justification takes place outside of the sinner in the tribunal of God. It removes the guilt of sin and is an act that is complete at once and for all time. While sanctification takes place in a man, and removes the pollution of sin and is a continuous and lifelong process. Justification is the pardon granted that applies to all sin past, present, and future and therefore does not admit repetition. Jesus was the sacrifice who gave himself once for all. Hebrews 10:8-14 shows us that Jesus Christ made that sacrifice as our high priest. This doesn't mean that we don't need to pray for forgiveness, for the consciousness of guilt remains creating a feeling of separation, and makes it necessary to seek repeatedly the comforting assurance of forgiveness. In justification God adopts believers as His children, that is, places them in the position of children and gives them all the rights of children, including the right to an eternal inheritance. This legal sonship of believers should be distinguished from their moral sonship through regeneration and sanctification. Hebrews chapter eight tells us we have a better or superior covenant to the old one that is founded on better promises.
Thoughts for simple sermons:
1/ People today often believe that either there is no such things as sin or that it only refers to others such as bank robbers or adulterers. The Bible says in Romans 3:23 "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God". We have all fallen short of God's glorious standard of perfection, as seen in Jesus Christ. We only have to ask the question "Have I been a perfect son or daughter or parent or employee"? If the answer is no, then that is sin and frankly I haven't met any perfect people except Jesus. I met him and he changed my life.
2/ They took the offering to the right place, the place ordained by God. People today faced with the consequences of sin very often look for answers in the wrong place. When the women went to the grave looking for Jesus, the angel asked "Why do you look for the living among the dead? We look to science for answers, we look to ourselves for some inner-strength as the answer, or we look for some mystical experience to be the answer. When we look in these places we only fool ourselves because we are looking for life in the cemetery, among dead things. We should and must look to the cross where Jesus is our sin offering and in our identification with him through faith we can receive eternal life and his righteousness.
3/ In verses 14, 23, 28 it says "When they become
aware" or "when he is made aware" the purpose of the law was to make the people
aware of their sin. Very often when we are faced with our short comings we
become defensive or obstructive, deliberately misunderstanding the allegation
or justifying our own position. It is easier when we look into the word of God
and see our short comings and we are less likely to be hard hearted and
continue in our sin, but when a friend or even worse our spouse points out our
short coming we tend to react like the stiff necked people described in the
bible. Yet if we want to be our best for God does it matter whether it be the
bible or a friend or even an enemy that points out our sin, for sin hinders us
in being a good son or daughter in Gods family.