THE SIN & TRESPASS OFFERINGS (Lev 4.1-6.7)
The phrase, "And the Lord spake unto Moses saying", that we suggested divides the offerings, comes in at the beginning of this chapter (4.1) distinguishing between the two main sections of the offerings, namely the sweet savour offerings and the non sweet savour offerings. The phrase will come again to mark the difference between the sin offering and the trespass offering (5.14), and again to note the difference between trespass in the holy things and trespass in relation to the neighbour (6.1).
Voluntary and compulsory offerings
It should be noted that the sweet savour offerings in the main were voluntary but the non sweet savour offerings were compulsory. The language of the Scriptures is always clearer and sweeter than any words that I could use. The words of ch.1 are, "If any man of you bring ye shall bring" (v.2). It is of his own volition, but the words used in connection with the non sweet savour offerings are, "If a soul shall sin he shall bring" (4.2,4). He had no choice, it was obligatory that he brought a sin offering, or judgment would fall.
Those who offered a sin offering
It has often been said that the Epistle to the Romans is dealing with the sin offering and that is true, but we must note an important difference between Romans and Leviticus. The Roman Epistle, for the first part, is dealing with the sinner responding to the call of the gospel. Leviticus is about those who were already sheltered by the blood of the Passover Lamb and had been brought out from bondage by the power of the Lord.
To put it in simple language, Romans is speaking of the guilty sinner coming in faith and receiving justification, full and free, because of Gods grace and by virtue of the work of the Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross on Calvary. We are justified by grace (3.24), by faith (5.1), and by blood (5.9). We are cleared of every charge. The accuser is silenced, God is vindicated, and Christ is honoured.
Man can forgive, only God can justify. He not only does it gladly, but He does it righteously and we, the guilty, step out from the dock "justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses" (Acts 13.39). All this is "To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved" (Eph 1.6).
In Leviticus it is still the sinner but in New Testament language it is the sin of the believer and his recovery and restoration, perhaps having more to do with the Lords work as an advocate. You will recall the difference between the Lords work as a priest and His work as advocate. As the High Priest He keeps us from stumbling. As the Advocate He takes up our case "if" we sin.
We should always remember the words "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 Jn 1.8). But we also read that "If any man sin we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 Jn 2.1). Note, it is not when we sin but if we sin. "If" means it is a future possibility; we have not to think and act as if sin were inevitable and excusable, it is, "If". Priesthood has to do with infirmity. Advocacy has to do with sin. Priesthood is linked with grace to help. Advocacy is linked with righteousness and forgiveness. Our God is not only the God of salvation but also the God of recovery and restoration. Naomi went out but the Lord brought her back again. Samson cut his hair but the Lord made it to grow again. David said, "I acknowledged my sin unto thee and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah" (Ps 32.5). There is a way back to God from the dark paths of sin. There is forgiveness with God that He may be feared (Ps 130.4).
The four groups who offered
There are four different persons, or groups of persons, mentioned in Leviticus 4, who sin: the priest (v.3), the whole congregation (v.13), the ruler (v.22), and one of the common people (v.27). I am sure that it has been noticed that in the sin offering the persons are named but in the trespass offering it is the sin committed that is named. Sin is the root, but sins are the fruit. Sin is what I am, but trespass is what I do. Sin committed by anyone is serious but in some it is more serious, because of who they are and the place they hold.
The anointed priest is not said to be like the others and "sin through ignorance", for "the priests lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts" (Mal 2.7). He should have an accurate knowledge of every kind of evil which is against the commandments of the Lord; nevertheless he has, like others, an evil nature, a heart that is wicked and rebellious. Even Paul said, "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing For the good that I would I do not, but the evil which I would not, that I do" (Rom 7.18-19), and, "When I would do good, evil is present with me (Rom 7.21). He also stated, "For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified" (1 Cor 4.4). Job was "perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil" (1.1), but he said; "I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes" (42.6). The former is what was said about Job, the latter is what Job said about himself. Isaiah said, "Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips" (Is 6.5).
It is true that we do not all sin to the same degree, but it is just as true that "there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not" (Eccl 7.20). As we have already noted, John says, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 Jn 1.8). So even the priest is not exempt. We sin because we are sinners. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it" (Jer 17.9).
I want to think with you how all-inclusive is the sinful group mentioned in this portion of Scripture, and be convinced that in principle the same sins could be found in us. We cannot now bring an animal sacrifice, but when sin becomes known we can come with a convicted conscience and a contrite heart as well as a frank confession on our lips, and find that our God is of tender compassion, rich in mercy, and ready to forgive.
Gods grace in forgiving
We are always getting and forgetting, God is always giving and forgiving, but we should constantly remember that forgiveness does not mean that we escape Gods discipline. Psalm 99 mentions Aaron, Moses, and Samuel (v.6), and states about the Lord God, "Thou answeredst them, O Lord our God: thou wast a God that forgavest them, though thou tookest vengeance of their inventions" (v.8). David knew Gods forgiveness but smarted under Jehovahs chastening rod betimes. The Lord, for our good and for His own glory, has to make us taste the bitterness of our own sin. The golden calf was ground to powder, put in water and Israel were made to drink it (Ex 32.20). Sarah dealt with Hagar with a high hand and drove her out, but the Lord sent Hagar back and Sarah was made to feel the full weight of her folly (Gen 16.4-14).
To be continued.