Lecture IV The Sin Offering

Read Leviticus, chaps. 4; 5:1-13; 6: 24-30; Psalm 22; 2 Cor. 5:21.

We have already noticed that the bloody offerings are divided into two classes, sweet savor offerings and offerings for sin. The burnt offering and the peace offering are in the first class, the sin offering and the trespass offering in the second. The burnt offering was not brought because things had been going wrong; it was the expression of the offerer’s worship. He brought it to God as an evidence of the gratitude of his heart because of what God was to him and had done for him, and all went up to Jehovah as a sweet savor. As we have seen, it represented the Lord Jesus Christ offering Himself without spot unto God as a sacrifice of a sweet smelling savor on our behalf. When we come into the presence of God as worshipers with our hearts occupied with Christ, we come bringing the burnt offering. Our souls are taken up with Him, the worthy One, who gave Himself for us who were so unworthy. We think of Him not merely as the One who died for our sins, but as having glorified God in this scene where we had so dishonored Him, and we adore Him because of what He is, as well as for what He has done. A child loves its mother not merely because of what she does for it but because of what she is. It is her tender loving heart that draws the child to her. And so the Israelite expressed the worship of his soul in the burnt offering. It was the recognition of God’s goodness, and because He saw in it that which spoke of His Son all went up as a sweet savor to Him. As He beheld the smoke of the burnt offering ascend to heaven, He was looking on to Calvary; He could see beforehand all that blessed work of the Lord Jesus, and who can tell how much it meant to Him? In Genesis 8:20, 21 we read how Noah offered a burnt offering upon the renewed earth, and we are told the Lord smelled a sweet savor, or, as the margin puts it, “a savor of rest.” It was something in which His heart found delight, not because of any intrinsic value of its own but because it was a type of Christ and His work.

Then in the peace offering we have another suggestion. In it the pious Israelite expressed his communion with God and with others who shared with him in partaking of it. A portion was burned upon the altar. It was called the food of the offering, and it spoke of God’s delight in the inward perfections of His Son. Then the wave-shoulder was given to Aaron and his house that they might feed upon it. The shoulder is the place of strength. The priestly house had its portion in that which spoke of the mighty power and unfailing strength of the Lord Jesus Christ. The officiating priest had the wave-breast.

The breast speaks, of course, of affection, of love, and so the priest was to feed upon that which set forth the tender love of the coming Saviour. Then the offerer himself invited his family and friends, and they all sat down together and consumed the rest of the peace offering. Every part of it spoke of Christ. Thus we see God, Aaron, and his house, the officiating priest, the offerer and his friends, all in happy communion, feasting together upon that which spoke of Christ! And so to-day all who have been saved by His death upon the cross are called to enjoy Christ together in hallowed fellowship with Himself, the One who made peace by the blood of His cross. But now we come to another view of things. Until the soul has seen in Him the One who took the sinner’s place and bore his judgment, Christ can never be enjoyed as the One who has made peace; so we have the sin offering. It is somewhat difficult to distinguish between the two aspects of the sin offering and the trespass offering; but the first one seems rather to have in view sin as the expression of the unclean, defiling condition of the very nature of the sinner; whereas the trespass offering rather emphasizes the fact that sin is to be regarded as a debt which man can never pay, a debt that must be paid by another if ever paid at all. I am not saying that the sin offering only has in view our evil nature, for that would be a mistake. It is plain, I should think, that actual transgressions are in view in chaps. 4 and 5—but what I do say is that these transgressions are the manifestation of the corrupt nature of the one who commits them. I am not a sinner because I sin; I sin because I am a sinner. I, myself, am an unclean thing in the sight of God; I am utterly unfit for His presence; my evil deeds only make this manifest; therefore the need of a sin offering. That this offering like the others speaks of Christ, we may be assured, for we are told very definitely in 2 Corinthians 5:21: “That God hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” The words for “sin” and “sin offering” are the same in the original in both Testaments, so we might render it, “God hath made Him to be a sin offering for us.” And in the Epistle to the Hebrews, chaps. 9, 10, the Holy Ghost clearly shows how the offering for sin of old typifies His one offering on Calvary’s cross. In fact, in the quotation from Psalm 40 as found in Hebrews 10: 5, 6, all of the offerings are indicated, and all are shown to have their fulfilment in Christ’s work. “Sacrifice” is the peace offering; “offering” is the meal offering; “burnt offering” speaks for itself, and the term “sin offering” takes in both sin and trespass offerings. “The offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” in verse 10, and the “one sacrifice for sin” in verse 12, show that Christ fulfilled all these types.

Turn then to Lev. 4: 2. We read, “If a soul shall sin through ignorance against any of the commandments of the Lord concerning things which ought not to be done, and shall do against any of them”—then follow instructions as to how the sin is to be dealt with. Observe, there was no sin offering for wilful, deliberate sin under the law. It was only for sins of ignorance. But since the cross, God in infinite grace counts only one sin as wilful, and that is the final rejection of His beloved Son. All other sins are looked upon as sins of ignorance; they are the outcome of that evil heart of unbelief which is in all of us. Men sin because of the ignorance that is in them. You remember Peter’s words to guilty Israel as bringing home to them their dreadful sin in crucifying the Lord of Glory. He says, “I wot, brethren, that it was through ignorance ye did it.” And the apostle Paul, in speaking of Christ’s crucifixion and death, says, “Which none of the princes of this world knew; for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” What wondrous grace is here displayed! The very worst sin that has ever been committed in the history of the world is classed by God as a sin of ignorance! And so the sin offering is available for any man who desires to be saved. Whatever your record may have been God looks down upon you in infinite pity and compassion, and opens a door of mercy to you as one who has ignorantly sinned. But if you still refuse the mercy He has provided in grace, then you can no longer plead ignorance, for you crucify to yourself the Son of God afresh and put Him to an open shame. This is the wilful sin so solem- ly portrayed in the Epistle to the Hebrews, the sin for which there is no forgiveness. It is not a question there of a Christian who has failed; but it is the enlightened man, the one who knows the gospel, who is intellectually assured of its truth, and yet turns his back deliberately upon that truth, and finally refuses to acknowledge the Son of God as his Saviour. There is nothing for that man “but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversaries.” But every poor sinner who wishes to be saved may avail himself of the Great Sin Offering, and may know that all his guilt is forever put away.

In Lev. 4:3 we read, “If the priest that is anointed do sin;” then in ver. 13 it is, “If the whole congregation of Israel sin through ignorance, and the thing be hid from the eyes of the assembly, and they have done somewhat against any of the commandments of the Lord concerning things which should not be done, and are guilty;” then in ver. 22 we read, “When a ruler hath sinned, and done somewhat through ignorance against any of the commandments of the Lord his God concerning things which should not be done, and is guilty;” whereas in ver. 27 it is, “And if any one of the common people sin through ignorance, while he doeth somewhat against any of the commandments of the Lord concerning things which ought not to be done, and be guilty.” When you read the instructions that follow you will observe that there are different grades of sin offerings. If the anointed priest sinned he had to bring a young bullock, and this was also the offering for the whole congregation; but if a ruler sinned he was to bring a kid of the goats, a lamb without blemish. On the other hand if it was one of the common people, he could bring a kid of the goats or a lamb of the flock, females. But in chap. 5:11-13 we find that even lesser offerings were acceptable if the sinner was exceedingly poor. All this suggests the thought that responsibility increases with privilege. The anointed priest was as guilty as the entire congregation; he should have known better because he was so much nearer to God in outward privilege. Then a ruler, while not so responsible as the priest, was more so than one of the common people. There is a principle here that is well for us all to remember: The more light we have on the truth of God and the greater the privileges which we enjoy in this scene, the more responsible God holds us; we shall be called to account in accordance with the truth He has made known to us. Alas, my brethren, is it not a lamentable fact that should bow us in shame before God that many of us who pride ourselves upon a wonderful unfolding of truth are ofttimes most careless in our behaviour, and become stumbling-blocks to those who have less light than we? How we need to have recourse to the great Sin Offering, to remember as we bow in confession of our failures before God that all our sins were dealt with on the Cross of Christ! It is hardly necessary to go into all the details of each of the offerings, but we may look particularly at that for the priest as it embraces practically everything that is mentioned in the lesser ones. First observe, the priest was to bring a young bullock without blemish unto the Lord for a sin offering. He who knew no sin made sin for us!—it is of this that the unblemished bullock speaks. It was to be brought to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, before the Lord. The sinner was to identify himself with his offering by laying his hand upon its head and killing it himself. Then the officiating priest was to take of the blood of the bullock, and entering the sanctuary sprinkle it seven times before the Lord before the veil. He was to put some of the blood upon the horns of the altar of sweet incense before the Lord; the rest of it was to be poured out at the bottom of the altar of burnt offering. What solemn lessons are these! It was here on this earth our blessed Saviour died as the great Sin Offering; here His blood was poured out at the foot of His cross. This earth has drunk the blood of Him who was its Creator. That shed blood tells of life given up. In Lev. 17: 11 God says, “The life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.” His life, holy, spotless, pure and undefiled, has been given up in death for us who are sinners by nature and by practice, and now as trusting Him we may well sing,

“Upon a life I did not live,
Upon a death I did not die,
Another’s life, Another’s death,
I hang my whole eternity.”

But that blood shed here on earth, has really pierced the heavens. It has, so to speak, been carried into the sanctuary, the sevenfold sprinkling has been done within the veil which in the old economy was still unrent. It was the testimony to God of the work completed here on earth. Then the blood upon the horns of the golden altar linked the altar in the sanctuary with the great altar out in the court, for the bronze altar spoke of Christ’s work in this world; the golden altar spoke of His work in heaven; the blood linked the two together. His intercession in heaven is based upon the work of the cross.

In verse 8 we learn that the priest was to take off from the bullock all the fat and certain inward parts that could only be reached by death, and he was to burn them upon the altar of the burnt offering. They were not said to be a sweet savor, for they spoke of Christ being made sin for us. This is further emphasized when we read that the skin of the bullock and all the rest of the carcase, even the whole bullock, was to be carried outside the camp where the ashes were poured out and there burned upon the wood with fire. This expresses the awful truth that Christ was made a curse for us. We read in Hebrews 13: 11: “For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as a sin offering, are burned outside the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people by His own blood, suffered outside the gate.” He went into the place of darkness and distance in order that we might be brought into the place of light and nearness to God for all eternity. In Lev. 13 the leper was put outside the camp. It was the place of the unclean, and so our blessed Lord, when He became the great Sin Offering, was dealt with as taking the place of the unclean ones, though Himself the infinitely Holy One. The place itself, however, is called “a clean place.” No actual defilement attached to it.

It is important to learn that it was not merely the physical suffering of Jesus that made atonement for sin; it was not the scourging in Pilate’s judgment hall, the suffering from the ribald soldiery in Herod’s court, the crowning with thorns and the flagellation—these were not in themselves what expiated our guilt. But we read in Isa. 53, “When Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin.” It was what our Lord suffered in the depths of His inward being that met the claims of divine justice and settled the sin question. You have doubtless noticed that our blessed Saviour hung upon that cruel cross for six long hours, and these six hours are divided into two parts. From the third to the sixth hour, that is, from nine o’clock in the morning to high noon, the sun was shining down on the scene, and in spite of all His intense physical suffering our Lord enjoyed unbroken communion with the Father. But from the sixth to the ninth hour, that is, to three o’clock in the afternoon, darkness was over all the land. What took place in those awful hours only God and His beloved Son will ever know. It was then the soul of Jesus was made an offering for sin. It was as the darkness was passing away that He cried in anguish, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” You and I may well see in our sins and our innate sinfulness the answer to that cry. He was forsaken that we might have access as redeemed sinners to the Father’s face. And it is of this that the burning of the sacrifice outside the camp speaks. Observe, it was to be carried into a clean place. We have said that the outside place was the place of the unclean in the case of the leper, and this is true, but un-cleanness was never in any sense attached to Jesus; even as the sin offering He was most holy. He had no sin in Him though our sins were laid on Him.

A careful study of the directions for the people’s offering will bring to light some little details that have not perhaps been touched upon, but I need not dwell on them here for all will be clear in the light of what we have already looked at.

We have in chapter 5 some things that may well claim our attention. In the first four verses we get various degrees of uncleanness because of sin. “And if a soul sin, and hear the voice of swearing, and is a witness, whether he hath seen or known of it; if he do not utter it, then he shall bear his iniquity. Or if a soul touch any unclean thing, whether it be of a carcase of an unclean beast, or a carcase of unclean cattle, or the carcase of unclean creeping things, and if it be hidden from him; he also shall be unclean, and guilty. Or if he touch the uncleanness of man, whatsoever uncleanness it be that a man shall be defiled withal, and it be hid from him; when he knoweth of it, then he shall be guilty. Of if a soul swear, pronouncing with his lips to do evil, or to do good, whatsoever it be that a man shall pronounce with an oath, and it be hid from him; when he knoweth of it, then he shall be guilty in one of these.” These suggest what I have already dwelt upon, that the sin offering has particularly in view sin as evidencing the corruption of our nature. Any of these things would be manifesting the hidden uncleanness. Then in verse 5 we read, “And it shall be, when he shall be guilty in one of these things, that he shall confess that he hath sinned in that thing.” Notice the definiteness of the confession. A mere general acknowledgment of failure would not do. The culprit must face his actual transgression and confess it in the presence of God, and so we read, “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (Uohn 1:9). It is not merely if he asks for forgiveness, or in a general way acknowledges that we all fail—that “we have left undone those things that we ought to have done, and we have done those things we ought not to have done,” but there must be a definite confession in order to have a definite forgiveness.

Then in vers. 6-13 notice the grace of God in the provision made for even the poorest of His people. No matter how feeble our apprehension of Christ may be, if we come to God in His name He will forgive. The offerer under ordinary circumstances was to bring a female from the flock, a lamb or a kid of the goats for a sin offering. But God took poverty into account, and in ver. 7 we read, “If he be not able to bring a lamb, then he shall bring for his guilt according to all he hath committed, two turtle-doves or two young pigeons unto the Lord, one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering.” But there might be some in Israel who could not even procure an offering like this, and so in ver. 11 we are told, “If he be not able to bring two turtle-doves or two young pigeons, then he that hath sinned shall bring for his offering a tenth part of a ephah of fine flour for a sin offering; he shall put no oil upon it, neither shall he put any frankincense thereon; for it is a sin offering.” Then the priest was to take a memorial of it and burn it upon the altar, and even of this we read in ver. 13, “The priest shall make an atonement for him as touching his sin that he hath sinned in one of these, and it shall be forgiven him; and the remnant shall be the priest’s, as a meal offering.” There was nothing in this offering that spoke of the shedding of the blood, but it did picture Christ Himself, and it was Christ taking the sinner’s place. Hence the omission of the oil and frankincense. And God would accept this when the offerer could bring no more. It tells us that the feeblest apprehension of Christ as the Saviour of sinners brings forgiveness. One might not understand the atonement, nor what was involved in the redemptive work of our Saviour, but if he trusts in -Christ, however feebly, God thinks so much of the Person and work of His Son that He will have everyone in heaven who will give Him the least possible excuse for getting him there. What matchless grace!

In chap. 6: 24-30 we have the law of the sin offering, and the priest is instructed as to his own behaviour, and how to treat the vessels that were used in connection with it. Twice we read concerning the sin offering, “It is most holy.” God would not have our thoughts lowered in regard to the holiness of His Son because He stooped in grace to be made sin on our behalf. He was ever undefiled and undefilable.

There was a portion of the sin offering which the priests were to eat. We may think of this as suggesting our meditation upon what it meant for Christ to take the sinner’s place.

“Help me to understand it,
That I may take it in,
What it meant to Thee, the Holy One,
To put away my sin.”

Observe carefully, the priests were not to eat the sin—they were to eat the sin offering. It does not do for us to dwell upon the sin, either our own or that of others. To do so would be most defiling. But we are all called upon to eat the sin offering in the holy place. In ver. 30 we learn, however, that no sin offering, “whereof any of the blood is brought into the tabernacle of the congregation to reconcile withal in the holy place, shall be eaten; it shall be burned in the fire.” The priests could only partake of certain parts of such sacrifices as were not burned outside the camp, nor the blood sprinkled before the veil. We cannot enter into all the fulness of the death of Christ. Our apprehension of what He suffered for sin must always be feeble, and perhaps the full realization of it would be too much for our poor hearts and minds. It broke His heart (Ps. 69:20); it would crush us completely; but, thank God, there is a sense in which we can indeed eat the sin offering in the holy place as we meditate upon what Scripture has clearly revealed in regard to the expiatory work upon that cross of shame. If we read carefully Ps. 22, which might be called the psalm of the sin offering, we may enter in, in some measure, to what His holy soul went through when He took our place in judgment. To do this with reverence and awe is to eat the sin offering in a manner acceptable to God.

In closing, let me say that God in thus giving His Son to take the sinner’s place, has told out to the full His infinite love to lost man. What then can be the guilt of that man who refuses such grace and tramples upon such love? What can there be for him but a “certain fearful look- ing-for of judgment and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversaries?”

“Grace like this despised, brings judgment,
Measured by the wrath He bore.”

God grant that no one to whom this message comes may trample on such loving-kindness and so merit such dire judgment.

We are told in John 3:18: “He that believeth on Him is not condemned. He that believeth not is condemned already, because He hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” And in John 16:9 the sin of which the Holy Spirit has come to convince men is thus described, “Of sin, because they believe not on Me.” This is wilful sin, and for this sin, if unrepented of, there is no forgiveness. Even the redemptive work of Christ will not avail to save the sinner who spurns the One who there died to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. To turn from the message of the gospel—to deliberately and finally reject the One who upon the accursed tree became the Great Sin Offering—is to do despite to the Spirit of God, to trample under foot the love of Christ, to count His precious atoning blood an unholy, a common, thing, and to crucify to oneself the Son of God afresh, thus putting Him to an open shame. Yea, more, it is to throw back into the outraged face of the Father the slain body of His beloved Son, thus calling down the righteous wrath of God upon the guilty rejecter of His grace!