“Will a Man Rob God?”
Although the Sin Offering and the Trespass Offering have much in common, yet they do need to be distinguished. In general it may be said that the Sin Offering was for the sinner rather than for sins, whereas the Trespass Offering took notice of particular sins or trespasses and was the due penalty for such. This means, as is often said, that Christ as my Trespass Offering is for what I have done but Christ as my Sin Offering is for what I am. What I am is, in fact, worse than what I have done for I would never have done what I have done had it not been for what I am.
The Sin Offering then was offered to make atonement for the ignorance of the sinner. Ignorance may be general or it may be particular but sins of ignorance are sins nevertheless demanding the shedding of blood. It is a sad reflection of the state of the human heart that a man may sin and not even be aware that he has sinned. It is often insisted that these guilt offerings deal with the sins of a people already redeemed. This is indeed so, but God abhors sin whether it be in the ungodly or in His people and the measure of that divine hatred of sin is seen at the cross.
Throughout Leviticus 4, it is anticipated that four different classes of people may sin and sin always robs God in some way. The priest may sin. The whole congregation may sin. A ruler may sin. One of the common people may sin. The priest, the people, the prince, and the peasant are all vulnerable, but whether prince or peasant, an offering is required.
First, the priest may sin. This is both sad and serious for it is noticeable that in his case it does not say, “through ignorance.” A man in his privileged position ought to have known. There may indeed be ignorance but there is no excuse for it. Jehovah is thus robbed of worship for how can a sinning priest engage in worship either for himself or for those whom he represents? We shall see that his Sin Offering is commensurate with his responsibility.
Second, the whole congregation may sin and God is robbed of effective testimony for how can a sinning congregation bear proper testimony for Him. Again and again Israel sinned against the Lord causing Him to abandon them to their enemies. For centuries too, they failed in the keeping of His feasts and in the paying of tithes, so that in Malachi He charges them, “Ye have robbed Me” (Mal 3:8, 9).
Third, a ruler may sin. God is consequently robbed of government. It was the responsibility of the rulers to govern the people but such rule would not be possible if a ruler had sinned. How could a sinning prince suitably and acceptably govern the people? The same principle obtains in the New Testament. Accusations against an elder must be proven, but if they are, then, “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear” (1 Tim 5:19-20).
Fourth, one of the common people may sin. Can this be so serious? Indeed it is, for God is thereby robbed of fellowship. Fellowship with each one of His redeemed people is exceedingly precious to Him, how precious we shall see as we consider the appropriate Sin Offerings.
The sinning priest must bring a bullock, the highest form of Sin Offering. His position and his knowledge required a large offering. He must bring his bullock to the door of the tabernacle and lay his hand upon its head. It was a public, and perhaps painful, confession that he had sinned. The blood of the slain bullock would then be brought into the tabernacle. Seven times the blood must be sprinkled before the veil for the eye of God. The horns of the golden altar would then be anointed and the rest of the blood poured out at the bottom of the great brazen altar in the court. The fat and the kidneys and the caul above the liver having been put upon the fire of the altar to be burnt, then the skin of the bullock with his flesh, head, legs, the remaining inwards and the dung must be carried outside the camp to be consumed. This was the place of the defiled, the place of the leper, and the place of execution. Sin is abhorrent to God and the Sin Offering had to be utterly burnt without the camp. The typical significance is clear. “The bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also … suffered without the gate” (Heb 13:11-12).
The sinning congregation must likewise bring a bullock and the elders must lay their hands upon its head, again a public acknowledgement of sin. When it is killed then the ritual as prescribed for the sinning priest is again to be followed for the congregation.
In the case of a sinning ruler he must bring for his guilt a kid of the goats, a male without blemish. When he has similarly laid his hand upon its head and killed it, then some of the blood would be put upon the horns of the altar of Burnt Offering and the rest poured out at the bottom of the altar while the fat burned on the same altar.
For one of the common people who had sinned Jehovah would accept a female kid of the goats or a lamb. Again the great altar must be anointed with blood and the blood poured out at its base while the fat burned on the altar. There is now however, a most touching addition in the case of this offering. For the one and only time in connection with the guilt offerings we have the expression, “for a sweet savor” (Lev 4:31). How sweet, how precious to God, is the restoration of even a commoner who has sinned.
Many lovely details of the Sin Offering have been for the present omitted but will be considered, God willing, in a continuing paper.