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Sacrifices for Sins
Leviticus 4:2.—If a soul shall sin. Be it noted that the foregoing sacrifices are specified as sacrifices already familiar to the Hebrew people. In distinction from those, the sin and trespass offering are for the first time mentioned. The law only just given on Sinai created a new standard of obedience and righteousness; thus, “by the law is the knowledge of sin.” It is here defined as “against the commandments of the Lord,” etc.; and to meet this new disclosure of human frailty and guiltiness, God appointed the sin and trespass offerings. Shall we not welcome a full discovery of our sinfulness, since it both disposes the sinner to despair of self-justification and constrains him to seek the redemption divinely provided? When God reveals sin it is to show its antidote; and “with Him is plenteous redemption.”
Through ignorance, i.e., inadvertently, as distinguished from deliberate and defiant disobedience (comp. Numbers 15:30), for which there was no expiation. Are these of small import? Shall we think them of such inferior consequence as compared with sins done willfully? Let it then be recalled that Christ was crucified by inadvertence! That greatest act of human wrong was done “through ignorance” (Acts 3:17): “Had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:8). Hence, though great the crime it may be forgiven mankind; as a wilful sin, done in the full light of knowledge, could not; but man’s guilt at the Cross was a vast sin of inadvertence: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!” (Luke 23:34). Alas! for such as “sin wilfully after they have received the knowledge of the truth! there remaineth for such no more sacrifice for sins” (Hebrews 10:26).
Leviticus 4:3-12.—The priest that is anointed, etc. Thus it is affirmed that even the highest personage in the priestly ranks is frail and as liable to sin as the commonest of the people; he may “do according to the sin of the people” (Leviticus 4:3). Shall Christ’s ministers, then, dare assume to possess superior spiritual sanctity? [See Hebrews 7:27-28.] The “anointed” priest was the high priest (Leviticus 8:12); other priests were only consecrated. Yet, though he was frail as ordinary persons, his sacred office and privileges made his sin so much the greater that he had to bring a far more costly sacrifice for his atonement. [See Leviticus 4:27-28.] God distinguishes concerning the criminality of sins: they who live nearer the light have less excuse for “ignorance.” So here, God requires most solemn arrangements for expiation: the blood is to be sprinkled “seven times before the Lord, before the veil of the sanctuary,” i.e., in front of the holy of holies, and even be smeared upon the golden altar itself! thus setting his sin in the very light of God’s countenance! How would this fill the anointed priest with self-reproach and shame! God cannot deal leniently with elevated souls. We shall be “judged according to that we have.”
Leviticus 4:7.—Pour all the blood at the bottom of the altar. By this rite the sinner acknowledged that he deserved to have his blood thus poured out like water. It likewise signified the pouring out of the soul before God in true repentance; and typified our Saviour’s pouring out His soul unto death.—Henry.
Leviticus 4:12.—Without the camp. As being accursed, for it symbolically held the sinner’s guilt, he having laid his hand (Leviticus 4:4) thereon. So did our Sin-Bearer “suffer without the gate” (Hebrews 11:11-13). Thus, too, is sin removed from God’s presence by expiation, carried into oblivion, and consumed out of existence. Jesus “put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”
Leviticus 4:13-21.—If the whole congregation, etc. Crime may spread itself throughout a community, a state, or a nation; and equally, a congregation or a church may lapse into evil conduct and contract iniquity. When the sin becomes “known” to them (Leviticus 4:14), an expiation must be made with a solemnity equal to the high priest’s. Guilt is not less guilty because of its being prevalent in a community. God has declared against wrong-doers that “though hand join in hand they shall not be unpunished.” Sanctioned wrongs, evils connived at, customary misdemeanors, immoralities and impieties which find currency, popular sins, all are hateful to Jehovah, and none the less hateful because the moral or spiritual distemper rages amid the multitudes rather than confines itself to individuals. Nations have suffered God’s displeasure for unrepented sins; and churches have been withered for cherishing impurities which have wounded Christ in the house of His friends. True patriotism should bemoan and seek to remove the evils which degrade the national life; and earnest piety will show itself in endeavouring to arouse a lukewarm Church to “repent and do her first works.”
Leviticus 4:22-26.—When a ruler hath sinned. They who dispense laws are amenable to the Lawgiver; they who call others to account are themselves accountable the Supreme Ruler. The word “ruler” is rendered “king” in 1 Kings 11:34, Ezekiel 34:24, etc.; but God is “King of kings, and Lord of lords”; and before His bar they must stand in judgment if before the Cross they do not bow in penitence and faith. “Be wise now, therefore, O ye kings; be instructed ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry,” etc (Psalms 2:10-12).
Leviticus 4:27-35.—One of the common people sin. The lowest are not overlooked by the searching eye of God. Though in his humble station he may be less instructed, less responsible for error, less blameworthy for sin, yet God demands expiation. If none are exempted from the sinfulness of his deeds, surely each should watch against sin, never excusing himself that he “did it ignorantly,” but seek to inform himself of God’s requirements, and thus come to “understand his errors.” Yes; and leaving his evil state, every one should seek the altar with his sin offering; go to Calvary with meek contrition and an upturned look of prayerful trust. “Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.”
Topic: SINS COMMITTED IN IGNORANCE (Leviticus 4:1-12)
Our evil nature does not slumber; it acts. “Dead” as regards all power of living to God, it is full of untiring energy in living “according to the prince of this world, the spirit which worketh in the children of disobedience.” Cain and his children were “dead” towards God, yet full of activity in wrong, they builded cities and invented arts, living to Satan and themselves. So we are committers of sin, doers of iniquity. No remedy, therefore, would be commensurate with our need which failed to meet the consequences of committed sin. Accordingly the sin offering and the trespass offering were appointed.
Committed sin may be distributed into those committed in ignorance (and of these this chapter treats), and those committed consciously (which are dealt with in chapter 5).
I. MAN’S OWN DISPOSITION IS TO CONDONE INADVERTENT SINS.
In the heart of many there is readiness to think of sins of ignorance as if they were no sins; or if admitted to be sins and need mercy, such mercy is regarded rather as a right than as the unmerited gift of grace.
1. Ignorance is treated as if synonymous with guiltlessness. To act conscientiously, however dark or dead the conscience, is, in the esteem of many, to act blamelessly. Hence
2. The responsibilities which attach to knowledge become secretly a reason why knowledge is eschewed. “Darkness is loved rather than light,” because darkness brings quiet; whereas light has an awakening and convicting power.
To these errors of thought the appointment of the sin offering is an answer: it is designed to meet sins committed in ignorance. No one who reverences the Word of God will speak lightly of sins of ignorance after reading, “If a soul shall sin through ignorance, etc.… let him bring for the sin that he hath sinned,” etc. (Leviticus 4:4-5).
II. WHEREIN THE GUILTINESS OF INADVERTENT SINS CONSISTS.
The heinousness of such sins depends not so much on the character of the deed done as on that condition of heart which is capable of committing sin without knowing that it is sin; and commits it, perhaps, exultingly, triumphing in it as good! What must angels think of the state of that soul which is so thoroughly blinded, so utterly astray from God, as to violate His commandments and resist His will in total unconsciousness that it is doing wrong!
1. What such sinfulness has wrought. It was thus that multitudes in Israel hated and persecuted the Lord Jesus, that Paul shed the blood of Stephen, resisting the testimony of the Holy Ghost from one whose face shone with heavenly brightness while he spake; that Paul again “verily thought he was doing God service” when persecuting the saints. All this argued thorough blindness of soul, thorough alienation of heart from God.
2. Sin in ignorance is the embodiment in action of those dark principles of enmity against God which lie embosomed in the human heart.
III. GOD’S EMPHATIC WITNESS AGAINST INADVERTENT SINS.
1. Sources of Divine remonstrance against such sins.
(1) In Nature. Throughout the heathen world the eternal power and Godhead are declared by the works of God’s hands. “The heavens declare the glory of God,” etc. (Psalms 19:0) “He left not Himself without witness in that He gave them rain,” etc. (Acts 14:17). “The invisible things of Him,” etc. (Romans 1:20).
(2) In Scripture. The Jews, in addition to the testimony of creation, had the written Word. “To them were committed the oracles of God” (Romans 3:2).
(3) By living preachers. From them came many a warning, “line upon line, precept upon precept.”
(4) In conscience. The consciences both of Jews and Gentiles were often made to feel the appeals of God; as Paul made Felix tremble.
2. Man’s resistance of the Divine remonstrance. Satan and man’s own evil disposition quenched or obscured the light. As they turned from the light—
(1) Their conscience became more hardened. And as it hardened, sins of ignorance were multiplied, and
(2) Committed with a higher and more reckless hand.
3. Such daring ignorance, how is it fostered?
(1) By the perversion of revealed truth. Truth had been revealed to, received by, Israel; but received to be betrayed. Their imposing systems of worship and sacrifice were constantly distorted, were false renderings of Divinely given truth.
(2) Erroneous teaching was welcomed. In vain, therefore, the Scriptures spake of Jesus; in vain John, His forerunner, testified; in vain the Lord Himself proved by His words, His character, His miracles, that He was indeed the Son of the living God. The light of holiness and grace shone fruitlessly upon their hearts, whose natural darkness was deepened by the systematic influence of a religious corruption which had sanctified error by holy titles, and had blessed wickedness in the name of God.
Nor has it been otherwise in Christendom. The history of the Church of God supplies countless instances of souls so nourished from childhood in error as to be deadened in every power of right discernment and apprehension. What wonder, seeing that our hearts naturally love darkness, that sins of ignorance should abound!
IV. GODLY SOULS ARE BETRAYED INTO THE COMMISSION OF INADVERTENT SINS.
It would be happy could we assert even of real Christians that they were free from these fearful sins of ignorance.
1. How are Christians betrayed thereinto? Whenever they give themselves up to the guidance of any individual, or of any system not strictly accordant with God’s revealed truth, they will surely act against Christ and His commandments ignorantly. Hence nothing operates more terribly against the progress of truth than the misdirected energies of real Christians ignorantly sustaining error, ignorantly resisting light.
2. Christians may therefore be beguiled. Paul was keenly alive to their peril. He knew how easily the souls of believers can be bewitched. “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you?” He knew how easily Satan can transform himself into an angel of light to deceive.
3. If where there is most diligence and watchfulness there may be sins of ignorance, how much more where there is negligence or slumber, or acquiescence in the prevailing evil of the age!
V. SINS IN THE GODLY ARE MOST HEINOUS IN GOD’S ESTEEM.
Addressed as is this chapter to those who were ostensibly the separated people of God, it teaches us especially respecting sins of ignorance committed by believers.
1. Sins are greater in proportion to the spiritual status of those who commit them. The loftier our privileges, the nearer we are brought to God, the more intimately we are connected with His service, the more terrible must be the consequences of transgression.
2. God’s name was more dishonoured. The sins of an instructed Israelite threw discredit on the God he acknowledged.
3. Sacred life was defamed. With the priest or Israelite there should have been found understanding and the fear of the Lord.
Notes: (a) God had a right to expect such sins to be avoided. The priests were anointed that they might minister in the near presence of God: their employment was in holy things; their place the sanctuary. As instructed in the Word of the Lord, acquainted with the ways of His house, their lips were to keep knowledge; and others through them were to learn the ways of the Lord. Sins of ignorance were therefore the very sins that should have been absent from the priest.
(b) Sin is to be estimated by a man’s spiritual elevation. As here; by the holiness of the things and places in which the priest ministered, and by the disastrous consequences to others, as well as to himself, that flowed from its commission.
VI. EXPIATION PROVIDED FOR SINS OF INADVERTENCE.
Sin, as in the priest, had invaded the holy place, had entered before the veil, had taiuted the place of his ministration, had defiled the altar, had involved others in its consequences: the stain must be effaced, either by vengeance consuming the sinner, or be expiated by the blood of a substituted victim.
God, in the unsearchable riches of His grace, appointed the sin offering; on whose head the transgressor laid his hand, and whose blood was sprinkled before the Lord. Thus was denoted—
1. Against Whom the sins were committed. Seven times the blood was sprinkled “before the Lord.” “Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned,” etc. (Psalms 51:4).
2. The process of purging. The ground on which the priest was accustomed to stand, the altar at which he ministered, were covered with blood: thus the taint was covered over, himself purchased back from destruction, the privileged place he had occupied preserved unforfeited.
3. Its suggestion of death. The remainder of the blood was poured out at the bottom of the altar, betokening that the just requisition of God’s holiness had been met—met by death. It was the token of accomplished and accepted atoning death. It was blood shed.
4. Its suggestion of wrath. On fire, kindled not on the altar, not even within the camp, but “without the gate,” the place of dishonour and reproach, like the fire of Gehenna, it was devoured as an accursed thing.
VII. TYPICAL INTIMATIONS OF CHRIST’S DEATH FOR MAN’S SINS.
1. God’s condemnation of our Substitute. Faith, as it stands by the fire without the camp, and gazes on the devoted parts of the sin offering being consumed, beholds—
(1) The memorial of what Christ became on account of His people.
(2) Sees not only their sins, but their sins judicially ended.
(3) That their guilt is remembered no more as the subject of wrath—evidenced by the ashes; for ashes are the token of fire having burned itself out.
2. God’s acceptance of our Substitute. The internal parts of the victim were burned on the altar; representing the inherent excellencies of Christ, and accepted as “a sweet savour” by God. Jehovah provided for us One whose excellencies are here presented for our vileness. In atonement Divine holiness requires in the Surety not only that He should bear every penalty, but that He should also present a substitutional perfectness for us. Thus, while sins committed in ignorance showed the inherent corruption of our inmost nature; the acceptance of the inmost parts of the sin offering by God upon His holy altar declares the satisfaction made by Christ on our account.—Homiletically developed from Thoughts on Leviticus, by B. W. NEWTON.
Topic: SINAI’S LAW NECESSITATED THE ORIGIN OF THE SIN OFFERING (Leviticus 4:2; Leviticus 4:13-14; Leviticus 4:22; Leviticus 4:27, etc.)
Revelation from God and religious feeling in man are not synonymous, are not synchronous. The religious feeling is instinctive. Revelation comes to inform and guide that instinct. Prior to any revelation, man was religious. Within himself, in the thoughts and fears and aspirations of his own soul, man possesses the incitements to religion, i.e., to recognise and seek and propitiate God.
I. EARLIEST ANNALS OF HUMAN HISTORY SHOW MAN TO HAVE BEEN RELIGIOUS.
1. Touched by conscious dependence, man acknowledged it by tributary gifts to Deity.
2. Grateful for enjoyed blessings or providential deliverances, he brings to his altar a thank offering.
3. Troubled by sense of error, wrong, guilt, he rears an altar and offers some propitiatory presentation. Well nigh every ancient people thus expressed religious feeling, even where no revelation was given. Either these votive and appeasement offerings originated in—
(a) The outcry and outlook of the human soul for its unseen and unknown God; or—
(b) An intimation, in some form, from Heaven that men “should seek the Lord if haply they might feel after Him and find Him” (Acts 17:27).
But, whether by supernatural intimation or by spiritual intuition, man has always been religious.
Turning to the Hebrew scriptures we find offerings on some rude form of altar presented to God by the children of the first human family, Cain and Abel. And noteworthy: they bring their offerings not as if they were adventuring upon and originating a new mode of worship, but as if in conformity with a custom already existing.
Through the antedeluvian period, and following the dispersion of Noah’s descendants, worship by altar offerings was preserved in all branches of the Semitic family. [Compare ATWATER on Tabernacle of the Hebrews.]
II. PRIOR TO THE SINAITIC LAW NEITHER SIN OR TRESPASS SACRIFICES WERE INSTITUTED.
The early patriarchs were familiar with burnt offerings and meat offerings; but, until the Exodus, sacrifices for expiation seem to have had no specific existence.
1. Subordinately every ancient sacrifice of victims on the altar intimated conscious sin and desire for expiation. But it was only subsidiary. The sacrifice was not offered with the single and supreme thought of atonement for sin. Those remoter sacrifices expressed self-surrender and allegiance rather than expiation. No sacrifice is recorded as a distinct effort to expiate for sin prior to the Sinaitic law.
2. Until the law was given sin was not clearly realised and felt. There was doubtless a vague and indefinite sense of wrong in men, but “where there is no law there is no transgression” (Romans 4:15). So also “by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20); but “sin is not imputed where there is no law” (Romans 5:13)
3. The conviction of man of sin rendered the Sin offering a necessity. The law convicted man of sin; his inherent guiltiness had not been apprehended till it stood revealed in the light of God’s holy commandments. Hence this provision of the sin offering has relation to a man “sinning against any of the commandments” (Leviticus 4:2; Leviticus 4:13-14; Leviticus 4:22; Leviticus 4:27, etc.). “The law entered that the offence might abound” (Romans 5:20).
III. In the Sin offering ASSURANCE OF SALVATION MEETS THE AWAKENED CONSCIOUSNESS OF GUILT.
It seems evident that the sacrificial offerings of the Hebrews became modified and developed in order to meet the advancing consciousness of sin. With a nearer acquaintance with God came a keener sense of unworthiness and wrong. Hence their sacrifices became increasingly expiatory.
1. Sin, essential and inherent sin, was so pressed upon man’s conscience by the standard of perfect and unattainable righteousness given in the law, as to render the sin offering an absolutely necessary provision of God’s mercy.
2. Hence the expiatory element in sacrifice, which had been subordinate until the law, was raised into eminence and vividness in the newly and specially instituted offering of the sin sacrifice.
3. And in the sin sacrifice a prophecy of God’s purpose was given to provide the great expiatory sacrifice of Calvary, in which all anticipatory sacrifices were to be completed and annulled.
Topic: IGNORANCE IN SINNING (Leviticus 4:2; Leviticus 4:13; Leviticus 4:22; Leviticus 4:27.)
“If a soul sin through ignorance”; but a soul should not be so ignorant as to inadvertently sin. Has not God plainly declared what “ought not to be done”? (Leviticus 4:2). If therefore “they have done somewhat against any of the commandments of the Lord concerning things which should not be done,” they “are guilty” (Leviticus 4:13). Such ignorance must be either from carelessness, which shows culpable neglect; or through blindness, which argues wilful repudiation of light. A perverse will, an “evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God,” a refusal to “come to the light lest their deeds should be made manifest”; these are criminal, and are sternly condemned
I. MAN’S PERCEPTION OF RIGHT AND WRONG CANNOT BE AN ALLOWED STANDARD. He may “sin through ignorance.”
1. Neither his judgment nor his conscience is an adequate guide in detecting sin. There are many wrong things which escape man’s cognizance, many which his conscience fails to condemn, many which indeed “seem right unto a man” and his heart approves, which God cannot tolerate. [See Addenda, p. 57, Ignorance v. Knowledge.]
2. Hence the inquiry, What is sin? must be determined from without a man, and not from within him. God must be heard. “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” He knows what is sin; and He has revealed it in “the commandments of the Lord”
3. The presence of sin in man, sin even ignorantly contracted, imperils man’s relationship to God. He cannot look upon sin. It must be cast out from His presence. “Carry it forth without the camp” (Leviticus 4:12). Sin, therefore, interrupts man’s approach to God, prevents his acceptable worship of God, and alienates his relationship with God.
II. GOD’S ESTIMATE AND MEASUREMENT OF SIN REGULATED THE ATONEMENT. “Bring for the sin which he hath sinned,” etc. (Leviticus 4:3). All the depths and subtilties of sin were in God’s thoughts when He arranged for its expiation.
1. Man’s faulty apprehension of sin would have narrowed the atonement. We should then have found our guilt exceeding the provisions; an unexpiated sinfulness would have remained beyond the appeasement we had made.
2. Sin has been expiated according to God’s measurement of sin. Hence a full atonement for the believer’s sins of ignorance as well as for his recognised sins has been made in Christ.
(a) This, if apprehended, lays the ground of a settled peace. All may be left with Christ.
(b) This will exalt our conception of the fulness and efficacy of the Saviour’s sacrifice.
(c) This will assure us of acceptable and satisfactory fellowship with God, since all sin is propitiated.
III. Ignorance concerning sin argues MAN’S REAL HELPLESSNESS IN DEALING WITH IT.
Even if he could, by any process, rid himself of sin, what can he do with the sin of which he is not cognizant? There is guiltiness in man which never comes (until he is Divinely enlightened) within the range of his own consciousness or conscience.
1. Man’s ignorance of sin proves his total inability to put it away. He is like a physician, when himself so sick as to become delirious, attempting to prescribe and apply remedies for his recovery. [See Addenda, p. 57, Perils of Ignorance.]
2. Even the most elevated human conscience is inadequate to determine and depose sin. “Who can understand his errors?”
3. If there may be sin eluding our detection, how would the dread of undetected and unexpiated guilt destroy all peace were we left to deal with our sin?
4. No happy communion with God would be possible were a misgiving over lurking sin troubling our hearts. An uneasy mind, anxious on the question of sin, would mar all worship and blessedness.
(a) A happy spiritual life rests upon an assured peace.
(b) Assured peace must rest on a perfectly purged conscience.
(c) A purged conscience must rest on the foundation of a perfect remission of all our sins, whether sins of knowledge or of ignorance.
“And He is the propitiation for our sins.”
Topic: DEFILED SANCTITIES (Leviticus 4:6-7.)
“The priest shall dip his finger in the blood, and sprinkle of the blood seven times before the Lord, before the veil of the sanctuary. And the priest shall put some of the blood upon the horns of the altar of sweet incense before the Lord,” etc.
The sin of a “priest” marks the wrong-doing of exalted and privileged souls, and the defamation wrought by one so eminent in sacred relationship and service. In his misdemeanour a defiled foot would taint the holy ground on which he stood; a defiled hand would taint the altar at which he ministered.
1. Christians occupying exalted positions, enjoying elevated privileges, rendering distinguished service for God, may fall into sin.
2. They know that the dishonour done to God is commensurate with the dignity of their position and the holiness of their profession.
3. So acutely is their guilt felt by them when thus brought under consciousness of sin, that its burden and bitterness would overwhelm them were there not adequate grace in the sin offering for even such sin as theirs.
Here, therefore, it is clearly shown by the Holy Spirit—
I. That HOWEVER FAR SIN MAY HAVE PENETRATED, even though to the very “veil of the sanctuary,” and WHATEVER SOLEMN AND SACRED THINGS SIN MAY HAVE DEFILED, even though it be the holy “altar” itself, thither THE ATONING BLOOD FOLLOWS, carrying full expiation where sin has carried defilement.
1. When sin enters the inmost recesses of a Christian soul, high in sacred relationship and godly service, into the motives, thoughts, affections of a holy man, it intrudes to the very “veil of the sanctuary” wherein God dwells. Sin thus invades scenes so hallowed, the very vestibule of the Divine indwelling.
2. When sin mars the life and conduct and ministries of a consecrated servant of the Lord, who had occupied high station in the church, and fulfilled prominent functions in the sanctuary, it profanes the very “altar” of Jehovah, for it casts a stain and defamation on the holiest solemnities of the Christian profession. In touching one who dwells so near God, and whose life is so devoted to Him, sin lays its defiling hand on that which on earth is most godly, which most represents God, and which is nearest God.
Can there be atonement and purifying for such desecration of most holy things?
Yes, the virtue of the Redeemer’s blood penetrates to any shrine, to every object sin has reached.
And “where sin abounded grace doth much more abound.” [See Addenda, p. 57, Pardon.]
II. That THE DISHONOUR DONE TO GOD, to the SANCTITIES OF A GODLY LIFE, and to the SOLEMNITIES OF SANCTUARTY MINISTRIES was compensated for in offering upon that “altar of sweet incense” the symbols of the INHERENT AND INTRINSIC EXCELLENCY OF CHRIST.
1. The inward excellency of the victim (represented in “the fat that covereth the inwards,” etc.) is laid on the sacred altar in lieu of, and as an appeasement for, the inward impurity of the sinner, whose soul had contracted defilement through ignorance. And in that precious excellency of Jesus as our Substitute God receives a perfectly satisfactory compensation. The ill savour of our sin dishonoured God and defiled His holy altar; but on the “sweet incense altar” Christ offered so fragrant a presentation as to answer for all the fallibilities and faults of man.
2. Especially is this perfectly acceptable offering of Christ’s excellence a consolatory fact in contrast with the imperfection which discredits the most consecrated and sacred human life. Even a priest “anointed” with the holy oil (Leviticus 4:3), called to minister at the altar and before the veil of the sanctuary, may “sin according to the sin of the people.” Alas! “there is none righteous, no, not one.” Men may be now “anointed of the Holy Ghost,” raised to a “holy priesthood” in Christ, elevated to loftiest spiritual privileges, made partakers of the heavenly gift, and yet may defile all this sacred excellence through sin. “The best of men are but men at the best.” But Christ was “holy, harmless, undefiled.” “In Him was no sin.” And in Him God’s “soul delighted.” And in Him God was honoured by a perfection so unsullied as to obliterate the dishonour done to Him by man’s faultiness and sin.
Topic:—SIN’S FEARFUL ASPECTS. “If a soul shall sin” (Leviticus 4:2); if a priest shall sin” (Leviticus 4:3); if the whole congregation of Israel shall sin” (Leviticus 4:13), etc
Sin! The sound is brief. But it presents a dark abyss of thought.
I. Think much of sin: IT IS EARTH’S DEATH-BLOW
It marred the beauty of a beauteous world, stripped it of its lovely robe; caused life to wither and decay, etc. It placed its foot upon a perfect workmanship and left it a disordered wreck.
II. Think much of sin: IT IS MAN’S RUIN.
Its most tremendous blight fell on our inner life. It drove the soul from peaceful fellowship with God; changed the loving child into a hardened rebel; robbed the mind of light; made the heart a whirlpool of tumultuous passions, a spring of impure streams. It is the malady, the misery, the shame of our whole race. It is the mother of—death; it digs each grave; every widow and orphan tastes its gall. It fills each hospital with sick; strews the battle-field with slain. It is the core in every grief, the worm that gnaws the root of peace.
III. Think much of sin: ITS TERRIBLE DESTRUCTION DIES NOT IN THE GRAVE
There is a region where its full effects run revel. It kindled quenchless flames; sharpened the undying sting of an upbraiding conscience; bars the hopeless in that outer darkness, where weeping ever weeps, and wailing ever wails.
IV. Think much of sin: it works this bitter and eternal anguish because GOD’S CURSE ATTENDS IT.
It raised a rebel hand against His will; dared to violate His holy law; strove to lay His honour in the dust; trampled on the statute book of Heaven. Therefore God’s anger fiercely burns against it; hence every misery follows in its rear. He must be wretched who has God against him.
V. Think much of sin: REGARD IT WITH AN EARNEST DREAD.
No power can over-paint the terrible reality of what sin is, what sin has done, what penalties it evokes. Those terrors of a human heart are the best prelude to the tidings of the sin offering. Tears magnify the Cross. Hell seen betimes is hell escaped for ever. Though sin is death, the sinner need not die. There is a way by which the vilest may stand pure. God’s love decreed a plan. He willed a ransom, and His Son achieved it. Flee to the Sin Offering. Blessed are they whose curse descends on the Saviour’s Cross.—From “Christ is All,” by Dean of Gloucester.
Topic: HOW THE SIN OFFERING MEETS MAN’S INMOST NEED (Leviticus 4:27; Leviticus 4:35)
The trespass offering provides expiation for specific acts of transgression, for what man does; the sin offering provides expiation for the evil inherent in man, for what he is. Our error is to see sinfulness only as it breaks into expression in deeds; God sees that there is in us a sinfulness which is essential, and which is the source whence the evil acts proceed; that so tainted is man’s moral nature as that he may sin without even recognising his conduct to be sinful. It is a mere peradventure whether, having sinned, his sin will even “come to his knowledge” (Leviticus 4:28).
I. MOURNFUL RECOGNITION OF THE SINNER’S INHERENT CORRUPTION.
Sin is in our very nature. The institution of the law of “commandments” does not create us sinners, it only reveals us to be sinners. It holds the standard up which discloses how void man is of righteousness, of rightness. This inherent corruption is—
1. Not realised by the unenlightened. Unconverted persons only apprehend sin as it appears in actions; they repudiate, or fail to recognise, the fact that they are essentially, and in all the springs of thought and life, sinful.
2. Faintly discerned at first by the awakened. The young convert perceives and bewails his trespasses more than his sin. He deplores that he has done evil, but scarcely sees how really he is evil.
3. Supremely apprehended by the most godly. Those highest in grace, with conscience most illumined and heart most instructed through fellowship with God, and realisation of the beauty of Christ, and enlightenment of the Holy Ghost, “abhor themselves” and not their acts only. “In me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing.” Most keenly is this realised by holiest men. “The flesh lusteth against the spirit,” so that “when we would do good evil is present.” [See Romans 7:0 and Galatians 5:17.]
II. JOYOUS SATISFACTION OVER THE INCLUSIVE ATONEMENT OF JESUS. “A sweet savour unto the Lord”; “an atonement for him” (Leviticus 4:31).
When the painful fact is realised that sin in us, as well as trespasses by us, constitutes our condemnation, what consolation comes in the fact that an offering for sin, as well as offerings for trespasses, was appointed by God. Thus Christ was “made sin for us”; He “bore our sin”; as well as “was delivered for our offences.”
1. Because of our indwelling sinfulness Christ was offered as our Sin Sacrifice (Leviticus 4:29).
2. Because Christ was offered as our Sin Sacrifice we who trust in Him are saved from an indwelling sin (Leviticus 4:35).
(1) When the Spirit reveals to believers their deeper sinfulness (“He shall convince of sin,” John 16:8), it is not to destroy their peace in Christ, or rob them of joyful realisation of His full atonement; but to reveal how much Christ’s salvation is needed, and to provoke to fuller gratitude and faith.
(2) To doubt our justification and acceptance because we see our “sin,” betrays a low estimate of Christ’s work for us, and reflects on the all-abounding graciousness of God in providing the sin offering. He “put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” “He by Himself purged our sins” (Hebrews 1:3).
Topic: THREE ASPECTS OF SIN OFFERING (Leviticus 4:3; Leviticus 4:13; Leviticus 4:22; Leviticus 4:27)
I. THREE DISTINCT CLASSES OF TRANSGRESSION ARE SPECIFIED.
1. “The priest that is anointed” and “the whole congregation of Israel” are classed together as if identified. For the priest represented all Israel, and all Israel suffered in the error of the priest, so that the individual and collective sin are to be atoned for on precisely the same conditions and by precisely the same methods. This points to those transgressors who had enjoyed sacred privileges, and were in covenant relation to Jehovah, representing godly souls who yet had erred from their integrity.
2. The “ruler” represents the civil and secular life of a people, men of state dignity, social eminence, and foremost in patriotic affairs rather than in the church; statesmen, legislators, magistrates, civil functionaries. These may err from their uprightness.
3. “The common people” gather in the multitudes, who are distinguished by no eminence, burdened by no public responsibility, holding no office in Church or State, simple ordinary persons exposed to none of the temptations and perils of an exalted station. Yet these may err and lapse into wrong.
II. THREE ALIENATIONS WROUGHT BY SIN are intimated.
1. God’s dwelling-place in the tabernacle was rendered unsanctified. “Holiness becometh Thine house, O Lord, for ever.” But instead of stainless sanctity sin had been carried by the priest “before the veil of the sanctuary.” The holy place was sullied in God’s sight.
2. God’s worship was marred. The whole “congregation” had to pause in consecration and peace offerings, in the joy of adoration, and to assume the sad attitude of criminals suing escape from vengeance by bringing a victim which must be treated as “accursed” in order that sinful men might be spared. It turned aside the homage of a happy people from Jehovah, while they bowed in mournful prostration as a multitude of condemned transgressors.
3. The individual conscience was molested. Sin raised a barrier between the soul and God, separated the sinner from the Divine acceptance, and destroyed—so long as it lay on the conscience—all fellowship, all bliss.
III. THREEFOLD APPEASEMENTS WROUGHT BY THE BLOOD are suggested.
1. The blood being “sprinkled before the Lord, before the veil of the sanctuary,” secured Jehovah’s relationship with His people (which, but for this atonement, must have been severed) and His continued dwelling in their midst.
2. The blood being put upon “the golden altar” preserved the basis of acceptable worship, so that the flame of “the sweet incense” might acceptably ascend to God, He being propitiated by the atonement.
3. By pouring “all the blood” at “the bottom of the altar” the claims of God on the individual soul were met, for thereby substitutionary death was attested. [Compare Notes on Leviticus, by C. H. M.]
Topic: THE EMINENT SINFULNESS OF ERROR IN THE PRIEST (Leviticus 4:1-12)
Contrition for sin must always have some proportion to its malignity and magnitude. In the gradations of the sin offering—as in all the other sacrifices—this truth is clearly taught. Not that any amount of contrition could really atone for any sin; but the contrition symbolised in the sacrifice was to bear some proportion to the character of the sin to be condoned. The same sin in the priest would be considered greater than in the people, from many considerations.
I. From the superior position he occupied. Placed in front of the people, and anointed to a conspicuous as well as dignified office, being mediator between God and man.
II. From the superior privileges he enjoyed. He had exemption from many secular anxieties that would irritate and embarrass others; was not exposed to many temptations that encompassed others; had more familiar and frequent fellowship with Jehovah than the common people; and was constantly coming in contact with influences in the discharge of his duties that would tend to render his falling into error inexcusable and very culpable.
III. From the superior knowledge he possessed. He would be intimately acquainted with the requirements of the law, having to expound and enforce it; and he would have ample means and opportunities for ascertaining the purpose of the precepts enjoined, and of avoiding omissions and mistakes.
IV. From the superior influence he exerted. The priest would be looked up to by the people as an example, and his influence would be very powerful upon Israel for good or for evil. The old saying, “Like priest, like people,” has much truth in it; and if sin had been allowed in the priest to be passed over and healed up slightly, it would have been like offering a premium to sin and proclaiming an indulgence to transgression. The sin of the priests would not only taint all the holy places that they frequented in the prosecution of their sacerdotal work and worship, but it would contaminate the magnetic circle of moral influence by which they were enveloped, and which necessarily affected the minds and morals of the people among whom they daily ministered. Sin grows heinous according to the rank and influence of the transgressors; and God acknowledged the exalted position of the priests by exacting larger sacrifice from them in the sin offering than from the common people. Sins in the priests—who were regarded as the theocratic earthly head of Israel—would tend to debase the moral sense of the whole community. The sins of the priest were conspicuous, and the sacrifice, therefore, was conspicuous too; and, as the unintentional offender brought the young bullock for an offering, we read in his obedience—anxiety and willingness to be forgiven, as well as confession of his sin. The fact that the offering was equal to that required for the sin of the whole congregation, and more than was to be made for the sin of a ruler, showed how great the contrition and self-abasement were. There was no oil mixed with the sin offering to suggest gladness; no fragrance of frankincense; no festive joy or communion, as at the meat offering. Everything about it denoted sorrow and suffering on account of wrong-doing.—F. W. Brown.
Topic: THE SIN OFFERING OF IGNORANCE FOR THE CONGREGATION (Leviticus 4:13-22)
The people were as liable to sin through ignorance as the priest, so provision was made for their forgiveness as had been mercifully made for his. The laws recently promulgated were so many, minute, and complicated that the people would be liable to misinterpret and misunderstand them. The Divine Lawgiver knew that; made provision to meet such liability by appointing an offering easily available and that would effectually atone. The people had mixed before their exodus with an idolatrous nation; their old propensities and practices would pursue them in the wilderness, as their old foes had pursued them even though they had been delivered from their final bondage. The offering for the sins of ignorance of the people teaches us—
I. That error is so indigenous to, and insidious in man, that a whole community may become the victim of it.
(a) A whole community may sin ignorantly when—
1. It unwittingly obeys unrighteous human laws.
2. When it misinterprets a righteous Divine law.
3. When it is misled by the incorrect interpretations of its leaders.
4. When it is unaware of the existence of the law.
In any of the above instances the persons committing sin do so ignorantly, and such wrong-doing, though unintentional, may incur guilt, i.e., may entail evil consequences. Let us pray and strive to be saved from such delinquencies.
(b) A whole community may sin ignorantly—
1. Even when it has anointed and authoritative leaders.
2. Even when it has ample means of ascertaining the truth.
3. Even when it is surrounded by helpful and hallowed associations.
We see these facts exemplified in the history of Israel. How constantly they went wrong wilfully, and frequently ignorantly, although blessed with peculiar and pre-eminent advantages. Notwithstanding our light and knowledge we are in danger of falling into error; our high privileges may even prove a snare to us, put us off our guard, and render us an easy prey to sin.
No nation is exempt from this danger. If God’s ancient people were not exempt, where He specially manifested His presence and power, where His will was openly made known, no people at any subsequent period of the world’s history can be exempt.
No church is exempt, for although the Spirit takes of the things of Christ and shows them unto His people, and leads them into all truth, yet we only see as through a glass darkly, and “know in part.” The Church has committed great errors in all ages, and no man, and no body of men, however saintly, are infallible. The larger the disc of light the greater the circumference of darkness.
No family is exempt. Where the best interests and welfare of each is sought there may be sins committed ignorantly, yet fraught with disastrous consequences. We may mislead by the advice we give, misjudge in the opinions we form; may omit to discharge our duty by neglecting judicious and necessary discipline and counsel.
II. That when a whole community becomes the victim of inadvertent error nothing but a general expiation will atone for it.
The elders of the congregation laid their hands upon the heads of the offering to be presented to the Lord to denote that the whole people confessed their sin and desired its removal, and the priest did with the bullock as with his own sin offering. Thus he made an atonement for the people, and their sin was forgiven. Such a service and sacrifice would be equivalent to a season of national confession and humiliation, and would be accepted as such in the sight of God. We are not under the law, but under grace, yet the principle that was underlying these old rites exists still, and though we are called upon to offer no bullock for our individual or national sins, yet we are expected to present the sacrifice of broken and contrite hearts to the God against whom we have wittingly or unwittingly sinned, and to expect that our sacrifice will be accepted through the atonement of our great Redeemer, who is at once our Sacrifice and Priest. When sin is participated in by a nation, or church, or family, the whole community and circle should participate in the contrition, acknowledging complicity in the commission of the sin, and deprecating the consequences which, but for forgiveness, would inevitably ensue.
In our united and public worship we should unitedly and publicly confess sin, for if we are not conscious of any flagrant and high-handed sins, we are sure to have upon us the stain of some inadvertent offence against the Divine laws. In many things—yea, in all things—we all offend. There is full and free forgiveness for all secret and unknown faults as well as for open, unmistakable sins.—F. W. B.
Topic: THE SIN OFFERING FOR THE RULER (Leviticus 4:22-26)
By the sin offering of the ruler being inferior in quality to that of the priest, the Lord taught the people that no secular position was so high as that of the priest’s, and that no influence was so potent and extensive as that which he, by virtue of his person and position, exerted. The humblest sacred office is higher than the highest secular position, and the sincere believer and true disciple in the Kingdom of Heaven, though poor and obscure in the world, is a king and a priest unto God. We learn from this rite—
I. That persons in the highest positions of secular authority among men are held responsible to God.
It has often been said that “a king can do no wrong”; but the teaching of the old economy shows us that kings could do wrong, and that rulers could do wrong through ignorance, and that their ignorant acts of wrong-doing were not connived at or condoned by the King of Heaven. When they committed error, even by mistake or in ignorance, the law could not be broken without the Lawgiver being slighted and insulted. The inculcation of this truth, and the institution of this rite, would arouse rulers to be circumspect in their conduct, and check them in the exercise of their regal authority, when tending to grow exacting and despotic.
II. That persons in the highest positions of secular authority among men must humble themselves before God and men when they discover their public errors.
The example of the ruler would influence the people injuriously. The atonement of his sin was therefore to be made in a public manner before the Lord, and in the presence of the people he must acknowledge his offences. Just as mercy adds lustre to crowned heads, so the acknowledgment of inadvertent errors or wilful sins will purify and dignify the conscience, and add to the glory of earth’s mightiest potentates.
III. That persons in the highest positions of secular authority among men—thus humbling themselves—obtain forgiveness of their sins and arrest the consequences of their guilt.
God was just, and yet the justifier of the penitent sinner; He demanded atonement that His broken law might be vindicated, and His slighted authority satisfied. The people would see the exceeding heinousness of sin, how exacting and inevitable its penalty, that a priest or a ruler could not sin ignorantly without having to humble himself and seek forgiveness from Him whose laws he had broken. The guilt of such sins would be arrested, their moral consequences would be removed. Such sins would not likely be repeated, they could not be ignorantly by the same persons, and they probably would not be wilfully, when they had been shown to be so offensive in the sight of God, and when for them such sacrifices had to be made. When a course of sin is arrested a multitude of sins are hidden—not only blotted out, but prevented—sins of the past removed and sins of the future restrained. Guilt removed here, and consequences hereafter.—F. W. B.
Topic: THE SIN OFFERING OF ONE OF THE COMMON PEOPLE (Leviticus 4:27-35)
The law of the sin offering of ignorance included all persons and positions. The sanctity of the priest did not shield him from its demands and scrutiny. The dignity of the ruler did not hedge him in from its surveillance. The multitude of the congregation did not hinder the action of its claims; and the obscurity of any one of the congregation did not excuse or exempt an offender from its requirements. So soon as the sin was discovered to, or by the offender, expiation according to Divine direction must be promptly and penitently made for them. The sin offering for one of the common people teaches us—
I. That obscurity of social position does not shut men out from the cognizance of the great God. The requirement of an offering from a common person who might inadvertently sin, showed that none were too obscure to be observed by the eye of the Lord. Each member of the congregation of Israel was a creature of God, each had a soul capable of sinning, and needing forgiveness, and each one was recognised by and known unto Him. The actions of all men are not only seen, but their moral quality judged.
II. That obscurity of social position does not shut men out from the government of the great God.
Laws were imposed upon and obedience expected from each and all. The poorest might look at the manifestation of God in the shekinah cloud, and recognise Him as their King.
III. That obscurity of social position does not shut men out from the clemency of the great God.
The offering required from a common person was not so great and costly as that required from a priest or ruler; it was adapted to the humbler circumstances of the offerer. This showed that the great God was not willing that even the poorest among the people should perish, not willing that they should sin on without an offering, and so become reprobates. He restored—though they might have sinned—to His fellowship and friendship. “The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works.” In the nature and extent of the sin offering we see foreshadowed the fact that in the great sin offering of the Lamb of God provision is made for the forgiveness of all. “We have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins.”—F. W. B.
OUTLINES ON VERSES OF CHAPTER 4
Leviticus 4:2.—Theme: SIN THROUGH IGNORANCE.
1. The seat of sin. “If a soul,” etc.—body with organs only instruments of soul.
2. The source of sin. “Ignorance”—of God—His love, mercy, grace, etc.
3. The strength of sin. Law, “commandments.”
4. The stain of sin. Deep—requires blood to wash it away.
Temptation in itself not sin; yielding is sin. Ignorance of Israel inexcusable. They had sacred memories, public directions, repeated remindings. The Judge of all the earth will do right with those who have never heard His name; but those who know His will and do it not Shall be beaten with many stripes.—F. W. B.
Leviticus 4:3.—Theme: SIN IN THE PRIESTHOOD. “If the priest that is anointed do sin.”
I. A HOLY OFFICE DOES NOT ENSURE INFALLIBILITY.
II. Occupants of a holy office are SPECIALLY CALLED TO SANCTITY. “Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord.”
III. Eminently privileged and enlightened, they who minister before God SHOULD BE MOST VIGILANT LEST THEY SIN. To “sin through ignorance” should be impossible.
IV. Sin in God’s priests had to be PURGED BY A GREAT SACRIFICIAL EXPIATION. Expressing—
1. The peculiar magnitude of sin in them.
2. The boundless sufficiency of redemption, even for them.
Leviticus 4:6. Note: SEVENFOLD PURGING. “Sprinkle of the blood seven times before the Lord.”
The different treatment of the blood is here to be noticed. Whilst in the case of the other sacrifices the priest threw the blood upon the walls of the altar of burnt offering (see Leviticus 1:5), in the sin offering the high priest is—
1. First, to dip his finger seven times in the blood, and sprinkle it before the Lord.
The finger, according to the rules which obtained during the second temple, was that of the right hand, as the blood was always taken and sprinkled with the right hand. [The right hand is the symbol of strength, as if denoting that the act was done with a resolute purpose to find purifying.—ED.]
2. Seven, being a complete number, is used for the perfect finishing of a work.
Hence, the seven days of creation (Genesis 2:2; Genesis 2:8); seven branches in the golden candlestick (Exodus 25:37; Exodus 37:23); seven times the blood was sprinkled on the day of atonement (Leviticus 16:14); seven times was the oil sprinkled upon the altar when it was consecrated (Leviticus 8:11); seven days were required for consecrating the priests (Leviticus 8:35); seven days were necessary for purifying the defiled (Leviticus 12:2; Numbers 19:19); seven times Naaman washed in the Jordan (2 Kings 5:10-14); seven days Jericho was besieged, and seven priests with seven trumpets blew when the walls fell down (Joshua 6:0); the Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God (Revelation 5:6); seven seals are on God’s book (Revelation 5:5), etc.—Ellicott’s Commentary.
Leviticus 4:6.—Note: EXPIATION WROUGHT IN THE GAZE OF HEAVEN. “Before the Lord, before the veil of the sanctuary.”
1. The phrase “BEFORE THE LORD” indicates that the act of expiation was to be performed in the immediate presence of
(1) Him whom the sin had dishonoured;
(2) Him whom the sprinkled blood was to propitiate; and on the very spot where the priest had ministered, and which—
(1) By priestly sin had been desecrated, and
(2) By expiatory blood was to be again sanctified.
This twofold effort of expiation, reconciliation to God, and sanctification of sacred scenes, suggests what the sinner has to secure through the blood of Christ, viz.:—
(a) Jehovah propitiated, so that man may stand unrebuked in His presence.
(b) Defiled scenes reconsecrated, so that God may still dwell in the temple, in the human heart. That must be sanctified, for “ye are the temple of God.”
2. The phrase “BEFORE THE VEIL OF THE SANCTUARY” indicates that the act of expiation was to be performed in the gaze of the angel hosts. That blue “veil” was all overwrought with cherubic and angel forms, typical of the firmament, the heavenly world, crowded with the angelic hosts.
1. For angelic beholders watch and bewail man’s sin.
2. They joy in the presence of God over the sinner’s repentance.
3. They “desire to look into” the wonders of redemption.
4. They “minister unto those who are heirs of salvation.”
(a) Having beheld God’s holy place defiled, they watch its re-hallowing, and thus ponder how are justified the ways of God with men.
(b) Having witnessed the withdrawal of God from the defiled scenes (for “your iniquities have separated between you and God, and your sins have hid His face from you,” Isaiah 59:2), they are eager observers of the renewal of favour and fellowship between God and the expiated soul. “The father ran and fell on his neck and kissed him”; and “the father said to his servants (comp. Psalms 103:20-21; Zechariah 3:4-5), Bring forth the best robe,” etc.
Leviticus 4:6.—Theme: SEVENFOLD SPRINKLING.
To denote completeness, perfection, to indicate how deeply dyed sin was, and impress the mind that it fully was forgiven: sprinkled “before the Lord” To teach—
(1) That all sin is committed against Him.
(2) That all sin must be forgiven by Him. Atonement and mediation the basis and means of pardon.—F. W. B.
Leviticus 4:12.—Theme: SIN LOATHED BY GOD. “Even the whole bullock shall he carry forth without the camp,” etc.
If the law reveals sin in man, it is to drive the convicted and condemned sinner to the sacrifice for sin. The law was not given to make men holy, but to prove us sinners. Deluded souls, “blinded” by the deceiver, try to keep the law and thus become righteous: in vain! For “the law makes nothing perfect”; it unveils man’s deformity that he may hide himself in the redeeming merits of Christ.
I. SIN’S HATEFULNESS. “Carry forth without the camp.”
Look at the sin offering, and see there how hateful sin is! See how the perfect Substitute, God’s own beloved One, is cast out.
1. Our sin is repulsive, odious, an offence to God. He cannot bear it in His presence.
2. He in whom sin centres is repelled as loathsome, yes: be it Jesus, our Surety, on whom our sin is laid; or be it man himself, carrying his own unpardoned sins—the sin-bearer is banished!
II. SIN’S ANNIHILATION. “Shall he be burnt.” Nothing remaining.
1. Sin consumed. “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” Those dead “ashes” tell of sin’s annihilation.
2. Sins cancelled. All our bewailing over our sins could never cancel one; if, therefore, they were not all cancelled when Christ “died for our sins” they cannot now be cancelled. “There remaineth no more offering for sin.”
(a) If the sin offering has been sacrificed and accepted, we may joy in the fact of sin for ever expiated.
(b) We may rejoice, even when most convinced of sin, that God asks no penalty beyond the death already borne. [See Addenda, p. 57. Pardon.]
Leviticus 4:12.—Theme: DISCIPLESHIP FOLLOWING CHRIST TO REPROACH. “The whole bullock shall he carry forth without the camp.”
This act is to be viewed as expressing—
a. The place which the Lord Jesus took for us, as bearing sin.
b. The place into which He was cast, by a world which had rejected Him.
The use which the Apostle, in Hebrews 13:0, makes of Christ’s having “suffered without the gate” is deeply practical: “Let us go forth, therefore, unto Him, without the camp, bearing His reproach.”
1. The place where He suffered expresses our rejection from earth. Though His death has secured us a city on high, it has forfeited for us a city below.
2. In suffering “without the gate” He set aside Jerusalem as the present centre of Divine operations. There is no such thing now as a consecrated spot on earth.
3. Christ has taken His place as a suffering One, outside the range of this world’s religion—its politics, and all that pertains to it. The world hated Him, and cast Him out.
Wherefore, the word is, “Go forth,”
I OUTSIDE EVERY RELIGIOUS CAMP.
You must “go forth” out of every “holy city,” every religious system which men set up, to find the rejected Christ.
1. From the gross absurdities of ignorant superstitions.
Christ is not to be found amid the ruins of Jerusalem, amid the so-called sacred scenes and the relics of antiquity. A single ray of revelation shows that we must “go forth” from all such trifles to find communion with a rejected Christ.
2. So, when men set up “a camp,” and rally round a standard on which is emblazoned some dogma of truth, or some imposing institution, when they appeal to some orthodox creed or splendid ritual—it then requires much spiritual discernment for the proper application of the words “let us go forth,” and much spiritual energy and decision to act upon them. Still, they should be discerned and acted upon, for the atmosphere of a camp is destructive of personal communion with a rejected Christ.
3. It is the tendency of our hearts to drop into cold stereotyped forms. These forms may have originated from real visitations of the Spirit. The temptation is to stereotype the form when the spirit and power have departed. This is, in principle, to set up a camp. The Jewish system could boast a Divine origin—its temple, splendid worship, priesthood, sacrifices, etc. Where is the system which could put forth such powerful and lofty pretentions to-day? And yet the command was to “go forth.” It is our proneness to slip away from communion with Christ, and sink into a dead routine.
II. Outside the Camp TO THE LORD JESUS “Unto Him.”
Not glide from one system to another, from one set of opinions to another, from one company of people to another, but from all which merits the appellation of “a camp” to Him who “suffered without the gate.”
1. The Lord Jesus is as thoroughly outside the gate now.
The religious world put Him outside eighteen centuries ago; and the religious world of that day is, in spirit and principle, the religious world of the present moment. The world has covered itself with the cloak of Christianity.
2. If we would walk with a rejected Christ we must be a rejected people.
Our Master “Buffered without the gate,” we cannot reign within the gate. If we walk in His footsteps whither will He lead us? Surely not to the high places of this Godless, Christless world.
“His path, uncheered by earthly smiles,
Led only to the Cross.”
He was a despised Christ, a rejected Christ, a Christ outside the camp.
3. Bearing His reproach, let us go forth unto Him.
Not bask in the sunshine of the world’s favour Let us be faithful to a rejected Lord. While our consciences repose in His blood, let our hearts’ affections entwine themselves around His sacred Person. We ask a bold separateness from the world, a joyous, living attachment to Christ.—Arranged from Notes on Leviticus, by C. H.M.
Leviticus 4:13.—Theme: HIDDEN SIN.
Sin may be hidden, undetected by the doer; may be concealed from others; but cannot from God. The genesis of sin—(a) begins in secret chambers of heart, (b) proceeds to, exhibits itself in, words and deeds. No sin so secret and subtle but known fully to God. Thought, feeling, intention, are known to Him. Sins of heart need pardon—unfulfilled evil purposes need forgiveness.—F. W. B.
Leviticus 4:20.—Theme: GOOD NEWS.
I. Of appointment of mediator—“Priest.”
II. Of acceptance of sacrifice—“Atonement.”
III. Of proclamation of pardon. “Shall be forgiven them.”
In the Gospel we have these glad tidings fully and freely proclaimed, and all centred in Christ.—F. W. B.
Leviticus 4:27.—Theme: COMMON PEOPLE.
I. No one so common as to be overlooked by God.
II. No sin so trivial as to be connived at by God.
Life, then, is real, solemn earnest, even in humblest. Venial as well as mortal sins to be deprecated and avoided.—F. W. B.
Leviticus 4:20.—Theme: FORGIVEN. “It shall be forgiven them.”
Based on the “atonement.” No forgiveness otherwise. “The priest shall make an atonement for them and it shall be forgiven them.” The terms of forgiveness are fixed: and the order in which forgiveness is gained is determined. Atonement first: then forgiveness.
I. THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF FORGIVENESS: how is it gained?
The mind of the Jewish offerer was set at rest by the presentation of his sin offering. How did he know that the sin for which he brought his sacrifice was forgiven?
Because God had said “It shall be forgiven him.”
1. His peace of heart rested on the testimony of God.
2. His peace of heart rested on the offered and accepted sacrifice.
It was a transaction with a covenant promise. The transaction effected (“atonement made for him”, the promise was believed (“it shall be forgiven him”). Thus—
(a) FAITH in God’s Word and in the Saviour’s atonement imparts the peace and satisfaction of forgiveness to the sinner.
For an offerer of the sin offering not to believe that his sin was forgiven would have reflected on the truthfulness of God who had pledged forgiveness as the issue of atonement. To doubt is to “make God a liar.” We must believe!
(b) Christ’s crucifixion is a fact; as really so as the death of the victim for the sin offering. The blood of Christ is our satisfaction to justice: as the blood of the victim was. What then? Sin is expiated. That fact stands. The believer sees in Christ One who has been judged for his sin; One who made himself responsible for his sin. And, as God sealed His acceptance of that sacrifice by Christ’s resurrection, the sinner’s pardon and justification are truths to be held with the joy of faith.
II. THE REALISATION OF FORGIVENESS: What it ensures?
1. All fear of judgment and wrath is eternally set aside. God “made Him to be sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Our judgment, the wrath due to sin, these were settled, effected, on the accursed tree, between Divine holiness and the Spotless Victim. Justice has no charge to bring against the believer, because it has no charge to bring against Christ. If a charge could be brought against a soul identified with Christ by faith, it would deny the perfectness of Christ’s work on his behalf.
2. Eternal life is inherited: for the death which sin brings is escaped by its falling on the Substitute. The sin is gone, because the life to which it was transferred is gone. There is no other death required. The sinner does not die: for Christ has died his death. It remains to the forgiven and justified soul that he lives: “he that believeth in Me shall never die” (John 11:26). The judgment and death of Christ on the Cross were realities; then the righteousness and life of the believer are also realities. Imputed sin—ours laid on Christ—was a reality; imputed righteousness—Christ’s transferred to us—is a reality. The death of Jesus satisfies all the demands made as to human sin, satisfies them for ever. [Comp. Notes on Leviticus, by C. H. M.] [See Addenda, p. 57, Pardon.]
Leviticus 4:27. Theme: CULPABILITY OF IGNORANCE. “If any one sin,” etc.
The majesty of the law of God was exhibited, and declared, by the fact that it could not be broken inadvertently with impunity; and the mercy of God was displayed in that, for any transgression, an offering would not only be accepted, but was commanded. It is an eternal law that the moral quality of an action lies in the intention Sins, committed through ignorance, may be fraught with disastrous consequences, as in the case of those who rejected and crucified Christ “through ignorance,” for whom He prayed on the Cross saying “they know not what they do.” Their ignorance was not wholly excusable; they shut their eyes to evidences of the Messiahship; through pride and prejudice they regarded Him as an imposter and usurper, and had, as Jesus said, “no cloak for their sins.”
Saul of Tarsus, though “blameless, as touching the righteousness which is in the law,” yet his legal blamelessness did not exempt him from errors of ignorance, nor did his scrupulous conscientiousness prevent him from doing wrong; for he persecuted the Christians, and thought he was doing God service. The Pharisee in the Temple thought himself better than other men, and seemed unaware of the heinous pride and wicked self righteousness that prevented him going down to his house justified as did the poor publican. Even conscience needs educating and enlightening; it has shared the fate of all the other faculties, and is liable to seriously mislead us.
We may commit sins of ignorance.—
I. Through mere want of thought; through absolute neglect.
II. Through lack of knowledge that might have been acquired.
III. Through misapprehension of information, or direction given.
IV. Through defectiveness of memory, not retentive or ready at the needed juncture to prevent error.
V. Through not heeding protests and obstacles which God may have paced in the “way, and presented against wrong-doing.
The sacrifice provided for sins of ignorance shows that God does not connive at the errors and mistakes of any one; and, that for inadvertent wrong-doing, as well as for highhanded sins, pardon must be sought. We need to pray to be forgiven for unknown, as well as for known sins; and to be cleansed from secret faults, as well as to be kept back from presumptuous sins.—F. W. B.
Leviticus 4:27—Theme: SCRIPTURE THE ANTIDOTE FOR IGNORANCE
“Sin through ignorance, while he doeth somewhat against any of the commandments of the Lord.”
Honest-hearted reception of the Word of God can alone preserve us from ignorance.
I. ACQUAINTANCE WITH SCRIPTURE: This alone is the effectual remedy for the darkness of ignorance.
I. Is not the light of Scripture hidden today, other lights being substituted instead?
(1) Think of the manner in which ceremonial rites (many of them mere inventions of man), ministered, too, by unholy hands, have supplanted the true and saving ministrations of the Gospel of the grace of God.
(2) Think of multitudes while yet in their sins, because unsanctified by faith in Jesus, being taught falsely to say to the great Shepherd of Israel, “We are Thy people, and the sheep of Thy pasture.”
(3) Think how many, uncommissioned by God, unacquainted with His truth, untaught by His Spirit, have usurped the place of ministers of Christ, and are so owned and honoured.
(4) Think how professed discipleship of Christ has degenerated into seeking unholy place and gain, coveting the splendour of Solomon rather than the reproach of Jesus.
2. Is there not a natural tendency in the heart of man to how to perverted and falsely assumed authority?
“The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means, and Thy people love to have it so.”
(1) All such authority, neither based upon nor guided by truth, can only lead into the darkness to which itself belongs. What wonder, then, that ignorance should settle upon that soul which has made itself the slave of such authority! What wonder if it should welcome falsehood, and fight against truth, and congratulate itself most when furthest from the principles of Christ!
(2) Individuals, too. as well as collective bodies, may claim an authority which God has never given. And not unfrequently fear, or affection, or self interest, or a disposition to lean upon others, causes it to be gladly recognised. But such authority, seeing that it is not grounded upon truth, that it directs not to the Scriptures alone, can only lead towards, if not into, darkness.
II. CLOSE ADHERENCE TO SCRIPTURE: This alone will save us from the false leadings and lights of our age.
1. Is that which we hear true or false? Is it or is not the Word of God? Such are the great questions we have to ask ourselves now.
2. The faithful use of the Scripture will expose many an error, detect many a sin of ignorance, and show us much that we have not sufficient grace to attain.
3. Instruction and exhortation of the Scriptures is employed by the Lord to free His people from the sins of ignorance and their disastrous consequences.
III. THE STEADY LIGHT OF GOD’S WORD: This is appointed to shine on in the darkness, until the day dawn.
The energies of Satan, and the impelling of evil in us, are active to resist the Scriptures and quench the sacred light of truth.
1. The delusions of Satan and of the human heart struggle to increase darkness and confirm error. And we cannot wonder that they prosper in their plans during a period marked by our Lord Himself as one wherein “iniquity shall abound.”
2. Yet the greater the darkness the more precious is any light that is available in our midst. Amid all the dark and stifling scenes through which the fierce passions of men, under Satan, are hurrying alike the Church and the world, the Word of God remains unchanged and unchangeable; the only one steady light.
3. Happy they who stand most apart from the tumults, and cleave most closely to the Scriptures, and most meditate therein.
4. If, as the history of Christianity peculiarly shows, the perpetual effort of Satan be to hide, veil or distort the light of Scripture, let our effort be to unveil it, and to give stead direction to its beams. He will not have lived in vain who shall have caused one ray of light from the Word of God to rest steadily on a heart that was dark to it before.
IV. SCRIPTURE LIGHT WILL SURELY MANIFEST SINS OF IGNORANCE: how, then, can we have courage to use, or to approach a light, so certain to reveal such sins both in ourselves and others, if there were no Sin Offering?
What hope could we have unless we were able to say that the whole family of faith are protected for ever under its efficacy? We have not again to offer it: it has been offered, once and for ever offered, every ceremony fulfilled, every ordinance obeyed.
Let us use it, not to nurture ignorance, listlessness and slumber, but to encourage ourselves to cleave to and maintain the light of revealed truth, which, however beset by evil, however much it may be for the time shrouded, shall never have its essential brightness marred by one element of darkness, on to the hour when it mingles with the light of the eternal day.—Developed from Thoughts on Leviticus, by B. W. Newton, Vol. I.—[See Addenda, p. 58, Scripture Light.]
ILLUSTRATIVE ADDENDA TO CHAPTER 4
IGNORANCE. Classical quotations:—
Ignoratione rerum bonarum et malarum maxime hominum vita vexatur.—Cicero.
[Through ignorance of what is good and bad the life of man is greatly perplexed.]
O miseras hominum mentes! Oh pectora cæca!—Lucretius.
[How wretched are the minds of men, how blind their understandings.]
Quantum animis errois inest!—Ovid.
[What error there is in human minds!]
IGNORANCE versus KNOWLEDGE
“When you know a thing, to hold that you know it; and when you do not know a thing, to allow that you do not know it—this is knowledge.”—Confucius: Analects.
“Wisdom is humble that he knows no more.”
—Cowper: The Task.
“The first step to self-knowledge is self-distrust. Nor can we attain to any kind of knowledge except by a like process.”—J. C. and A. W. Hare: Guesses at Truth.
“All things I thought I knew; but now confess
The more I know I know, I know the less.”
“Ignorance is the curse of God;
Knowledge the wing wherewith we fly to heaven.”—Henry VI.
“By knowledge we do learn ourselves to know,
And what to man, and what to God we owe.”—Spencer: Tears of the Muses.
“Conviction of ignorance is the door-step to the temple of wisdom.”—Spurgeon.
PERILS OF IGNORANCE
Modern science has shown that the seeds of epidemic and miasmatic diseases are generated and exert their activity during the night, and in places unvisited by the sun’s beams—a true image of the evils developed from unillumined ignorance.
“So long as thou art ignorant be not ashamed to learn. Ignorance is the greatest of all infirmities, and when justified the greatest of all follies.”—Isaak Walton.
“Ignorance is the night of the mind, but a night without moon or star.”—Confucius.
“Ignorance, when voluntary, is criminal, and that man may be properly charged with that evil which he neglected or refused to learn how to prevent.”—Johnson.
EXPLANATION OF MAN’S IGNORANCE
“Ignorance of things very near to us, and in which we are nearly concerned, may be from two causes:
i. From want of Light. Nothing can be perceived in the dark. If you are in a dark room, though it be richly adorned and furnished, all is lost to you. If you stand in a dark night on the top of a hill that commands a fine prospect, still you are able to see no more than if you were in a valley. Though you were in a dangerous place, with pitfalls, precipices, thieves and murderers all around you, still you might imagine yourself in safety, if you had no light with you.
ii. It may be from some ignorance or obstruction between you and the object. Thus, your dearest friend or greatest enemy might be within a few yards of you, and you know nothing of it, if there were a wall between you.
These comparisons may in some measure represent our state by nature. God is near: “in Him we live and move and have our being! Eternity is near; we stand upon the brink of it. Death is near; advancing towards us with hasty strides. The truths of God’s Word are most certain in themselves, and of the utmost consequence to us, but we perceive none of these things, we are not affected by them, because our understandings are dark, and because thick walls of ignorance, prejudice and unbelief stand before the eyes of our minds, and keep them from our view.”
“I believe in the forgiveness of sins”—The article of the creed which brought peace to Luther’s troubled mind when seeking the way of salvation. “Oh my sins! my sins!” was his cry, almost of despair; from which, however, he was greatly relieved by the good counsel and comforting advice of Staupitz. But the work was not yet finished. One day all his fears and terrors bad returned, when an old monk entered his cell, and Luther opened his heart to him. The venerable old man was unable to follow his soul in all its doubts as Staupitz had done, but he knew his creed, and found much consolation in it for his own heart; so he repeated to Luther the cheering article, “I believe in the forgiveness of sins.”
These simple words, pronounced with much sincerity in the decisive moment, diffused great consolation in Luther’s mind. From that instant light sprang up in his rejoicing heart.
“I feel more sure than ever that the right thing is to take each sin the moment the conscience feels it, to the blood of Jesus, and there, having once purged it, to remember it no more. I don’t think of one scriptural example of a sin once forgiven ever being charged upon the conscience again; and I suppose the yearly sins were never expected to be again brought to mind, after the scapegoat had borne them into the land of forgetfulness. Oh for grace to plunge into the ocean of Divine forgiveness.”—A L. Newton.
At a missionary meeting in Mangaia, after the whole Bible had been received in their own language, an aged disciple rose up to exhort the people to read the whole Bible through. Lifting his own new Bible before the congregation, he exclaimed, “My brothers and sisters, this is my resolve: the dust shall never cover my new Bible, the moths shall never eat it, the mildew shall never got it! my light, my joy!”
What ignorance of the Bible existed in Europe before printing was introduced! stephanus relates of a certain doctor of Sorbonne, who, speaking of the Reformers, expressed his surprise at their mode of reasoning by exclaiming, “I wonder why these youths are constantly quoting the New Testament. I was more than 50 years old before I knew anything of a New Testament.” And Albert, Archbishop and Elector of Mentz, in the year 1530, accidentally meeting with a Bible, opened it, and having read some pages of it, observed, “I do not indeed know what this book is, but this I see, that everything in it is against us.” Even Carolastadius, who was afterwards one of the Reformers, acknowledged that he had never begun to read the Bible till eight years after he had taken his highest degree in divinity.
Dr. Samuel Johnson, distinguished as writer on morals, and whose writings have seldom been excelled in energy of thought and beauty of expression, said to a young gentleman who visited him on his dying bed “young man, attend to the voice of one who has possessed a certain degree of fame in the world, and will shortly appear before his Maker: read the Bible every day of your life”
Salmasius, one of the most consummate scholars of his time, saw cause to exclaim bitterly against himself: “O, I have lost a world of time—time, the most precious thing in the world! Had I but one year more, it should be spent in perusing David’s Psalms and Paul’s Epistles. O sirs”—addressing those about him—“mind the world lees and God more!”
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Leviticus 4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29