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If a soul shall sin through ignorance.
The sin and trespass-offerings
I. There are, then, some lingering defilements and trespasses adhering to man, even though he be justified, consecrated, and in fellowship with God. A man may run from a gathering storm, and be terribly shocked at the idea of being caught in it, and exert all his wisdom and his power to escape it, and yet may be made to feel its force; and though a good man’s whole being is averse to sin, and he can have no more fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, it can argue nothing against a remaining weakness subjecting him every day to lacks and failings which would undo him but for the pleadings of his Saviour’s blood. Though his face and heart are fully turned away from sin, it proves nothing against his liability to be “overtaken by a fault.”
II. And these lingering imperfections and defects are real sins. Men do not scruple to plead their ignorance, their infirmities, their natural and habitual propensities, in excuse for their misdeeds. But the law of God acknowledges no such plea. Sin is sin; and guilt is a part of its essential nature wherever found. True, in their effects upon the perpetrator, or in their influences upon society, some are worse than others; but in their relations to God and His holy law, they are always the same, always evil, abhorrent, and damning. Men may talk of “little sins,” but God never does. Let them he never so little, they are big enough to sink the soul to everlasting death if uncancelled by the Saviour’s blood. All this is very forcibly portrayed in the rites of the sin and trespass-offerings now under consideration. As to sins of ignorance, if the guilty party were a priest, he was to offer “a young bullock”; if a judge or magistrate, he was to offer “a kid of the goats,” of the male kind; if one of “the common people,” he was to offer “a kid of the goats,” of the female kind, or a lamb. And so in the case of trespass, the guilty one was to offer “a lamb or kid”; or, if poor, two doves or young pigeons; or, if poor, and unable to procure the doves or pigeons, an offering of fine flour might be substituted as the representative of the animal or bird which could not be procured, but was to be looked upon, not as a meat-offering, hut as a “sin-offering,” the same as if it were a living animal. These offerings were then to he slain and burned, and their blood presented as the only adequate expiation. And from the nature of the expiation we are to learn God’s estimate of the offence. Though committed in ignorance, or no more than a trespass, or an accidental contamination, it required blood and sacrifice to cover it.
III. There is also a noticeable gradation in these sins of ignorance. Though they are all sins, so that blood only can atone for them, they are yet more serious and offensive in some persons than in others. When a priest or ruler sinned in this way, a more valuable sacrifice was required than when one of the common people thus sinned. The more prominent and exalted the person offending, the more flagrant was the offence. There is a very serious augmentation of responsibility going along with high station. A public man is like a town clock, upon which much more depends than upon private time-pieces. Hence the necessity for greater care and attention with reference to the one than to the other.
IV. But whilst we are treating of these defects and failings which are to be found in Christian life, let us not overlook the principal point of the text, that there is adequate remedy for them. What! are we to be told that Christ’s infinite atonement is that shallow thing, that the first draw of the sinner upon it quite exhausts its virtue, and leaves all subsequent sins to be disposed of by the confessional, and the fires of purgatory? Are we to be told that Christ “ever liveth to make intercession,” and for this reason “is able to save unto the uttermost,” and yet that there is not virtue enough in His mediation to cover a few sins of ignorance and infirmity in Christian life? Are we to behold the priest of a typical economy, with the mere blood of beasts upon his fingers, obtaining a full remission for the Jew, and yet believe that our great High Priest in heaven, bearing the scars of deadly wounds endured for us, is unable to secure mercy for those struggling saints of God, who, in hours of surprise or weakness, become entangled again in guilt of which they heartily repented the moment it was done? Give us this, and we want no pontifical absolutions, no penal inflictions, no purgatorial fires, to make us acceptable to God. From this general subject we are now led to reflect--
1. First, what a holy thing is God’s law! It finds guilt, not only in the sins which are deliberate, but even in the mistakes of ignorance, the contaminations of accident, and the shortcomings of the holiest saints.
2. Second, what reason have we to cultivate the modest virtues of Christian life--to be moderate in our pretensions, humble in our spirit, charitable in our censures, forgiving under injuries, lenient towards offenders, pungent in our self-examinations, hearty in our repentance, watchful in our walk, constant in our prayers, and deeply anxious to be firmly rooted in the true faith l I care not how good we may be, we are still great offenders, and much worse than we think we are.
3. Finally, how precious is the mercy of God in Christ Jesus! (J. A. Seiss, D. D.)
I. View our blessed lord as made sin for us.
1. His personal character is set forth in the victim chosen. It was a bullock, the most valuable of the sacrifices, an animal laborious in life and costly in death; it was a young bullock in the fulness of its strength and vigour; it was without blemish; and the slightest fault disqualified it from being laid upon the altar of God. Behold, O believer, your Lord Jesus, more precious far than ten thousands of the fat of fed beasts: a sacrifice not to be purchased with gold, or estimated in silver. Full of vigour, in the very prime of manhood, He offered up Himself for us. Even when He died, He died not through weakness; for that cry of His at His death, “with a loud voice,” proved that His life was still firm within Him, and that when He gave up the ghost, His death was not one of compulsion, but a voluntary expiring of the soul. His glory is as the firstling of the bullock, full of vigour and of strength. How distinctly was our Lord proved to be without blemish! Naturally born without sin, practically He lived without fault.
2. The act of the transference of sin to the victim next calls for our attention. This laying of the hand does not appear to have been a mere touch of contact, but in some other places of Scripture has the meaning of leaning heavily, as in the expression, “Thy wrath lieth hard upon me” (Psalms 88:7). Surely this is the very essence of faith, which doth not only bring us into contact with the great Substitute, but teaches us to lean upon Him with all the burden of our guilt; so that if our sins be very weighty, yet we see Him as able to bear them all; and mark, the whole weight of our iniquity taken off from us, and laid on Him who took the weight and bore it all, and then buried it in His sepulchre for ever.
3. We must now beg your notice of the sins transferred. In the case of the type, they were sins of ignorance. Alas! the Jew knew nothing about a sin-offering for sins of presumption, but there is such a sin-offering for us. Our presumptuous sins were laid on Christ; our wilful sins, our sins of light and knowledge, are pardoned by His blood. The mention of sins of ignorance, suggests a very comfortable reflection, that if there are any sins which I know not, they were, notwithstanding my ignorance, laid on my Substitute and put away by His atonement. It is not sin as we see it which was laid on Christ, but sin as God sees it; not sin as our conscience feebly reveals it to us, but sin as God beholds it, in all its unmitigated malignity, and unconcealed loathsomeness. Sin in its exceeding sinfulness Jesus has put away.
4. Passing on, still keeping to the same point, we would remark that the sin was laid upon the bullock most conspicuously “before the Lord.” Did you notice the frequent expressions: “shall bring him to the door of the congregation before the Lord”; “kill the bullock before the Lord”; “shall sprinkle the blood seven times before the Lord, and shall put some of it upon the horns of the altar of sweet incense before the Lord”? Apart from the blood, we are guilty, condemned: washed in blood, we are accepted and beloved. Without the atonement we are aliens and strangers, heirs of wrath even as others; but, as seen in the eternal covenant purpose, through the precious blood of Jesus, we are accepted in the beloved. The great stress of the transaction lies in its being done “before the Lord.”
5. Still, further, carefully observe that as soon as ever the sin was thus “before the Lord,” laid upon the bullock, the bullock was slain. “He shall lay his hand upon the bullock’s head, and kill the bullock before the Lord.” So, in the fifteenth verse, “The elders of the congregation shall lay their hands upon the head of the bullock before the Lord, and the bullock shall be killed before the Lord.” Ah! yes; as soon as the sin is transferred, the penalty is transferred too. Down fell the pole-axe the minute that the priestly hand had been laid on the bullock. Unsheathed was the knife of sacrifice the moment that the elders had begun to lean upon the sacrificial head. So was it with our Saviour; He must smart, He must die, for only as dying could He become our Sin-offering.
II. The efficacy of the precious blood of Jesus.
1. As soon as the bullock was slain, blood of the sin-offering was sprinkled. This was to show that our communion with God is by blood.
2. The next act of the priest was to retire a little from the veil to the place where stood the golden altar of incense, adorned with four horns of gold probably of a pyramidal shape, or fashioned like rams’ horns, and the priest, dipping his finger in the basin, smeared this horn and the other, until the four horns glowed with crimson in the light of the golden candlestick. The horn is always, in the Oriental usage, indicative of strength. What was the blood put upon the altar for, then? That incense altar was typical of prayer, and especially of the intercession of Christ; and the blood on the horn showed that the force and power of all-prevailing intercession lies in the blood. Why was this the second thing done? It seems to me that the second thing which a Christian loses is his prevalence in prayer. Whereas first he loses communion with God when he backslides, the next thing he loses is his power in supplication. He begins to be feeble upon his knees; he cannot win of the Lord that which he desireth. How is he to get back his strength? Here the great Anointed Priest teaches us to look to the blood for renewed power, for see, he applies the blood to the horns of the altar, and the sweet perfume of frankincense ascends to heaven, and God accepts it.
3. This being finished, the priest goes backwards still farther and enters the court of the Israelites. There stood the great altar of brass, whereon was consumed the burnt-offerings; and now the priest, having the basin full of the blood of which only a small quantity had been used in sprinkling the veil and touching the horns of the golden altar, pours the whole of the remaining blood in a great stream at the foot of the altar of burnt-offering. What does that typify? Did he not thus teach us that the only ground and basis (for mark, it is put at the foot of the altar), of the acceptance of our persons and of our thank-offerings is found in the blood of Jesus? Thus I have tried to set forth the threefold prevalence of the precious blood, but let it not be forgotten that the blood also put away sin; for you find at the end of the chapter, “His sin shall be forgiven.” First forgiven, then accepted, then prevalent in prayer, and then admitted into access with boldness to God; what a change of blessings! All, all through the blood of Jesus!
III. Thirdly, the most painful part of our sermon remains, while I beg you to view the shame which our lord endured. While it is all so well for us I want you now to reflect how bitter, how shameful it was for our Lord! The offerer who brought the sin-offering has been forgiven: he has been accepted at the brazen altar; his prayers have been heard at the golden altar; and the veil has been sprinkled on his behalf: but what of the victim itself? Draw nigh and learn with holy wonder.
1. In the first place, albeit that our Lord Jesus Christ was made sin for us, it is noteworthy that, though nearly all the bullock was burned without the camp, there was one portion left and reserved to be burnt upon the altar of burnt-offering--that was the fat. Certain descriptions are given as to the fat which was to be consumed upon the altar, by which we believe it was intended to ensure that the richest part of the fat should be there consumed. As much as if God would say, “Though My dear Son must be made sin for this people, and consequently I must forsake Him, and He must die without the camp, yet still He is most dear and precious in My sight, and even while He is a sin-offering, yet He is My beloved Son, with whom in Himself I am still well pleased.” Whenever we speak about our Lord as bearing our sins, we must carefully speak concerning Him--not as though God ever did despise or abhor the prayer of His afflicted Son, but only seemed to do so while He stood for us, representatively made sin for us, though He knew no sin. Oh! I delight to think that the Lord smelled a sweet savour even in the Cross, and that Jesus Christ is this day a sweet savour unto God, even as a sin-offering; the fat, the excellence of His heart, the consecration of His soul, were acceptable to God, and sweet in His esteem, even when He laid upon Him the iniquity of His people. Still, here is the shameful part of it: the priest then took the bullock, and gathering up all the inwards, every part of it, the skin, the dung--all mentioned to teach us what a horrible thing sin is, and what the Surety was looked upon as being when He took our sin--He took it all up, and either Himself personally, or assisted by others, took it away out of the camp.
2. After the removal, they gathered the hot ashes, they kindled the fire, and burnt it all. See here a faint image of the fire which consumed the Saviour on Calvary! His bodily pains ought never to be forgotten, but still the sufferings of His soul must have been the very soul of His sufferings; and can you tell what they were? (C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. In contrast with the other offerings.
(1) The sin-offering, though without spot or blemish, was yet not a sweet-savour offering. The distinction is this: the sweet-savour offerings were for acceptance; the others for expiation. In the first class sin is not seen at all--it is simply the faithful Israelite satisfying Jehovah. In the sin-offerings it is just the reverse--it is an offering charged with the sin of the offerer. In the sin-offerings, as in the burnt-offerings, Christ is Offerer: but here He is seen standing for us under the imputation of sin. For though in Himself without sin, “the Holy One,” yet He became our Substitute, confessed our sins as His sins, and bore their penalty.
(2) The sin-offering was burnt without the camp. This testified how completely the offering was identified with the sin it suffered for; so completely identified that it was itself looked at as sin, and as such cast out of the camp into the wilderness. A part indeed, “the fat,” was burnt on the altar, to show that the offering, though made a sin-bearer, was in itself perfect. But the body of the victim, “even the whole bullock,” was cast forth without the camp. “Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate.” He was east out as one who was unfit for Jerusalem, as unworthy a place in the city of God. And what this must have cost that Blessed One can never be entered into or understood till the holiness of Christ and the sinfulness of sin are seen in measure at least as God sees them.
(3) The third peculiarity we may note in the sin-offering is, that it was an offering for sin, not an offering for trespass. God judges what we are as well as what we do; our sin, the sin in us, as much as our trespasses. In His sight sin in us, our evil nature, is as clearly seen as our trespasses, which are but the fruit of that nature. He needs not wait to see the fruit put forth. He knows the root is evil, and so will be the buddings. Now the distinction between the sin and trespass-offerings is just this: the one is for sin in our nature, the other for the fruits of it. Thus in the sin-offering no particular act of sin is mentioned, but a certain person is seen standing confessedly as a sinner: in the trespass-offering certain acts are enumerated, and the person never appears.
II. The varieties in this offering.
(1) The first variety which is seen in the sin-offering is the difference in the animal offered. In the burnt-offering, the offering though varied was limited, either to a bullock, a lamb, a goat, or turtledoves. Here in the sin-offering we have several other grades, coming down at last to a sin-offering composed of simple “flour.” Suffice it to say that here, as in the burnt-offerings, they show us the different characters under which the offering of Christ may be apprehended by us. In the sin-offering, as in the burnt-offering, one saint has one view, another another view respecting the character of the offering.
(2) The next variety we may notice is in the person offering: we have the priest, the congregation, the ruler, and the common Israelite. First in order we have the sin-offering for the priest; then the sin-offering for the whole congregation; then the sin-offering for a ruler; then for one of the common people; and lastly, the sin-offering for particular sins; in which last the person of the offerer is lost sight of, and the particular act for which he offers more clearly seen. This last is very nearly akin to the trespass-offering, and is indeed called indifferently by both names of sin and trespass. In this last class, as in the lowest classes of the other offerings, we get the lowest view which can be taken of this particular aspect of the offering. But what is the import of this variety in the person offering? They are only different measures of apprehension. Of course the Offerer here, as elsewhere, is Christ, made under the law, our Representative. As such He is here seen confessing sin; but though seen as Offerer in this aspect, He may yet be seen very differently. For example, in the first case the offerer is apprehended as “priest,” a person who stands the representative of a family or congregation. In other cases the offerer is seen as “one of the common people,” one who stands simply the representative of an individual. In the lowest cases of all, the person of the offerer is altogether lost sight of, neither individual nor congregation are seen, and the sin for which he suffers is almost the only thing apprehended.
(3) A third variety in the sin-offering has reference to “the blood.” In the higher classes the blood was sprinkled on the incense altar; in the lower classes it was not taken into the Holy Place, but sprinkled upon the brazen altar in the court. The deeper the apprehension of the efficacy of the blood, the deeper will be the sense of that from which it delivers us.
(4) A fourth variety in the sin-offering has reference to “the fat.” In the higher grades the fat was burnt upon the altar; in the lowest class this is overlooked: what was done with the fat is entirely unnoticed. “The fat” represents the general health and energy of the whole body. Its being burnt to God was the appointed proof that the victim offered for sin was yet in itself acceptable. This acceptability is most seen in the higher classes, but it is apprehended also in all save the lowest grade. There the atonement made for sin is indeed apprehended, but the perfect acceptableness of the victim is unnoticed. So with some Christians, is not their thought respecting the sin-offering more of our, pardon than of Christ’s perfectness?
(5) Another variety we may observe in the sin-offering has reference to “the body” of the victim. In the higher grades it is cast without the camp; in the lower this is unnoticed; but in the law of the offerings another particular is marked; the priest is seen to feed on the offering. The import of this distinction is at once obvious. Where the sin-offering is fully apprehended, the victim, which is the sin-bearer, is seen accursed, and as such cast out as unclean into the wilderness. Where the sin-offering is more partially apprehended, the victim is still seen as sin-bearer, but the reality of its separation from God is lost sight of, and its death viewed merely as satisfying the Mediator. And how exactly this accords with the successive stages of Christian experience will be sufficiently understood by those who know much either of themselves or others. At first Christ’s work, or person, or offering, is viewed with interest solely on account of what it is to us. It has taken away our sins; it has made atonement; this is the one thing, and almost the sole thing, seen respecting it. Anything further than this at such a stage would appear a grand impertinence. But let the question of peace with God be settled, let our acceptance become a thing known and realised, then the perfectness of the offering, and what it is in itself, will, without exception, be more seen and dwelt upon.
(6) The last variety I will here notice in the different grades of the sin-offering is connected with the name by which the offering is variously designated. In the higher classes it is always called a “sin-offering,” and no particular act of trespass is noticed; in the lower classes it is called a “trespass-offering” as well as a “sin-offering,” and the person of the offerer is lost sight of in the particular trespass. So when the measure of apprehension is limited, there will be want of intelligence respecting the precise difference of sin and trespass; nor this alone; the offering will be seen only for sins; that it is offered for persons will not be apprehended. We have thus gone through the particulars of the sin-offering, as far at least as they are given in the law of the offerings. In other places there are some other details added, the principles of which are, however, all contained in what we have investigated. The additions only give us some new combinations as to the character under which the sin-offering may be exhibited: I refer to the offerings of the red heifer (Numbers 19:1-22.), and of the scapegoat on the great Day of Atonement (chap. 16.). The offering of the red heifer, as we might expect from its being found in Numbers, exhibits not so much what the offering is in itself, as its use in meeting the wants of the wilderness. Thus no memorial of it was burnt on the altar, nor was the blood seen to be taken into the Tabernacle; but the whole animal was burnt without the camp, and its ashes laid up to be mixed with the water of purification. Then when an Israelite found himself unclean, through contact with the dead, these ashes with water were sprinkled on him. All this is the sin-offering as meeting our need of cleansing, and as given to remove the defilement caused by the dead things of the wilderness. The view presented by it has to do with the effects of the offering, and its use towards man as applied by water, that is the Spirit. In the scapegoat, offered on the great day of atonement, the view presented is very different. In this sin-offering, which was offered but once a year, the blood was seen to be put on the mercy-seat. The offering it spoke of is shown (Hebrews 10:1; Hebrews 10:22) to have been “once for over,” and “access into the holiest” the consequence of it. (A. Jukes.)
The sin-offering; or, God just and justifier
The most awful and terrible aspect of Jesus’ death is presented in this type. In the burnt-offering He is seen as the “Delight” of the Father (Proverbs 8:30), the One in whom He is “well pleased” (Matthew 17:5), in the peace-offering we behold Him as the blessed Peacemaker (Matthew 5:9; Colossians 1:20). But in--
I. The sin-offering we are shown the heinousness, the awful nature of sin, that called for such a sacrifice. Atonement is its chief feature. The Blessed One “knew no sin,” yet He hung upon the Cross as “an offering for sin” (Isaiah 53:10), the sin-bearer, the personation of that “abominable thing” that God hates (Jeremiah 44:4). Studying the details of sin-offering, we read--
II. “if a soul . . . sin through ignorance.” All are sinners by nature (Romans 3:23; Romans 5:12), and ever prone to sin, by reason of the root of evil that dwells within. This root it is that is specially met in sin-offering (Romans 8:3; Hebrews 9:26), the sinful nature, more perhaps than the actions that spring therefrom, though these are included; but till God opens our eyes to see the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and how the smallest sin separates from Him, and endangers our eternal safety, we are--so to speak--sinning ignorantly. Still, no sin--even when done in ignorance--can be passed over or forgiven by a holy God “without shedding of blood”; hence God, in His grace and mercy, has provided a complete, a perfect atonement, in the “precious blood” shed (Hebrews 9:22; Hebrews 9:28; Hebrews 10:12; 1 Peter 1:19). Even after being “made nigh,” how prone are we to sin! But see Psalms 37:24; Proverbs 24:16. To sin “through ignorance” signifies, not only through actual want of knowledge, but through weakness--failing to lay hold of the “power” to keep (1 Peter 1:5)--unintentionally offending, and not realising at the time the guilt; for, in truth, who can fully realise what is sin in the sight of a holy God? But He foresaw all, and provided a perfect Sacrifice sufficient to meet it all, whether the sin be committed by “anointed priest,” “whole congregation,” a “ruler,” or “one of the common people.” The variation in the offerings teaches how sin becomes deeper, according to the position or privileges of the sinning one. The more prominent were these, the greater the harm done by evil example.
III. The laying of hands on the victim’s head teaches much.
1. Sense of sin, and need of pardon (Psalms 51:4; Luke 18:13; 1 Timothy 1:15). “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23); hence I need a substitutionary sacrifice. “Who shall deliver me?” (Romans 7:24).
2. Transmission of guilt; truth of deepest importance. “The Lord hath laid . . . ” (Isaiah 53:6). “Christ . . . suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust,” &c. (1 Peter 3:18). The holy Jesus received “the wages of sin.” “He put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself”; He overcame “through death” (Hebrews 2:14) the one who had introduced it into the world; and thus the Just One could--without the smallest sacrifice of His justice--exercise His prerogative of mercy, and be “the Justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:24-26).
3. Faith in God’s acceptance of a substitutionary sacrifice (Romans 4:25; Romans 5:1; Romans 5:9). The offering was slain for the offerer; it was laden typically with his sins, as was the holy Jesus actually when He was “made a curse for us” (Galatians 3:10-13). As we meditate on these things we cannot wonder at another feature of the sin-offering.
IV. Not voluntary. There is nothing in this type--as in others--to show willingness on the part of the Holy One, and our Lord’s words in Gethsemane plainly show how He shrank from being “made sin”--that hateful thing which would separate Him from His God and Father. Hence the prayer thrice repeated, with increasing earnestness (Matthew 26:39-44; Luke 22:42-45): which contrast with the willingness displayed in the words (Psalms 40:7-8, with Hebrews 10:1-39.).
V. The animals sacrificed as sin-offerings varied (Leviticus 4:3; Leviticus 4:14; Leviticus 4:23; Leviticus 4:28; Leviticus 4:32), according to whether it was for the “priest,” “whole congregation,” “ruler,” or “one of the common people.” Also, as before observed, no one type could ever suffice to depict the glorious Antitype; therefore no doubt some different characteristic or aspect of the Blessed One, in His passion, is set forth in each of the animals sacrificed. (Lady Beaujolois Dent)
The sin-offering; or, expiation and forgiveness
I. The sin-offering shadows forth the fulfilment of Psalms 85:10; mercy can be shown to sinners in the “free gift of . . . eternal life” (Romans 6:23, R.V.), because God’s truth as to sin’s “wages” was verified on Calvary. Righteousness, i.e., the righteous judgment of a holy God, was shown in the just punishment of “sin,” borne by a sinless victim; and Peace becomes the portion of every soul taught by the Holy Spirit to know that Jesus was punished for him or her; that is, every one that believes in God’s acceptance of Christ’s substitutionary Sacrifice (Romans 4:25; Romans 5:1).
II. The blood strikingly shows the double aspect of this mighty sacrifice. “The life . . . is in the blood” (Leviticus 17:11). Life was forfeited by fall (Genesis 2:17; Genesis 3:19; Romans 5:12); therefore life must be taken, blood must be shed (Ezekiel 18:4; Ezekiel 18:20; Hebrews 9:22), a substitutionary victim must be slain, before a holy God could pardon and accept the sinner. Jesus died, He shed His “precious blood,” and through it we have “redemption” (Matthew 27:50; John 19:34; Romans 5:8-9; Ephesians 1:7). Observe what was done with the blood.
1. For anointed priest, or whole congregation, it was to be sprinkled “seven times before the Lord, before the veil” (Leviticus 4:6-7; Leviticus 4:17-18), and put on “horns of altar of sweet incense”; seven betokening completeness, and horns power. We thus learn the completeness of restoration to worship and communion--interrupted by sin--through the power of Jesu’s blood, shed on Calvary’s Cross, and brought symbolically into the very presence of God for us: the ground, too, of His advocacy for us, as our “Great High Priest” (1 John 2:1-2; Hebrews 4:14). Tim higher the position, privilege, light, the greater the sin. The anointed priest was in a very blessed position, admitted daily to minister in the Tabernacle; and the whole congregation were marked by Jehovah’s favour. They were His “redeemed” or “purchased” people, called by Him, His “son,” “a peculiar treasure,” &c. (Exodus 15:13; Exodus 15:16; Exodus 4:22; Exodus 19:5); brought into covenant relationship with Jehovah, who Himself dwelt in their midst, guarding and guiding them night and day (Exodus 13:21-22). And they were encamped around His habitation, as accepted worshippers, through the medium of the priesthood and offerings. Hence, when sin entered, blood alone could atone and restore.
2. For a ruler or one of the common people the priest must put blood on the horns of the altar of burnt-offering (chap. 4:25, 30), telling of the power of the atoning blood to cleanse from all sin, and restore basis for worship, peace, &c.
3. All the blood was to be poured out at the bottom of the altar (verses 7, 18, 25, 30, 34). This was to be done in every case, as there atonement, or reconciliation, was made; there the Lord met with the children of Israel (Exodus 29:42-43). The pouring out tells of the fulness of the atonement made by Jesus. He “poured out His soul unto death” (Isaiah 53:12; Psalms 22:14); made “reconciliation for iniquity” (Daniel 9:24); gave “His life a ransom,” &c. (Matthew 20:28; 1 Timothy 2:6); and in Him--our “Altar” (Hebrews 13:10)--God and the sinner meet.
III. Fine flour It is thought that in chap. 9., sin, as the root of all evil, the great principle of evil within, is specially dealt with, and when it shows itself in the committal of sin--though of ignorance--it must be judged by a holy God. In chap. 5. certain sinful actions are specified (verses 1-4), and dealt with in the same spirit (verses 5-13); but while again we see how a just and holy God must punish sin, we see also how a God of love meets the need of every sinner--even the poorest--by permitting fine flour to be offered, when the offender was “not able” to bring any of the animals named.
IV. The burning, again, shows the double aspect of the holy Sufferer, by the two words used.
1. The fat, and portions of the inwards (as in peace-offering)--representing the rich excellences, heart and affections reserved for God Himself--were to be burnt as incense, or “savour of delight,” upon the altar of burnt-offerings (Leviticus 4:8-10; Leviticus 4:19; Leviticus 4:26; Leviticus 4:35). Striking testimony to the intrinsic worth of the holy Jesus, even when presented to our gaze as “made sin!”
2. The whole bullock was to be burnt--in judgment--“without the camp” (Leviticus 4:11-12). The animal was--typically--loaded with man’s sin. It represented man in his corrupt state, outwardly and inwardly evil (Romans 3:12; Romans 7:18): head guiding, legs walking, in evil ways, engendered within (James 1:15); therefore too loathsome to remain in sight of holy God, or be consumed with fire on His altar or table. The sin-offering must be cast forth--so to speak--from His presence. Thus “sin” was “laid upon” the sinless Son of God; the holy Jesus was separated from God, when, “in the likeness of sinful flesh,” He “suffered without the gate” (Romans 8:3; Hebrews 13:11-12). The gate of the very city chosen of God to put His Name there. Yes--outside its walls, the holy Son of God was crucified in a place set apart for the execution of malefactors (John 19:16-18).
3. “In a clean place” the bullock was to be burnt, “where the ashes” of burnt-offering were poured out (Leviticus 4:12). Ashes told of “redemption” accomplished, and the pouring out of those of burnt-offering, of acceptance of “finished” work. The “body” of Jesus was laid in a “new tomb” (Matthew 27:60), “with the rich in His death” (Isaiah 53:10); token of work “finished,” complete reconciliation made, “eternal redemption” obtained (Hebrews 9:12).
V. “outside the camp”--“the gate,” full of deep teaching, can here but point to subjects for meditation and study, sufficient for whole lesson.
1. Christ forsaken of God, “made a curse for us” (Psalms 22:1; Matthew 27:46; Galatians 3:13), showing both desert of sinner and fate of those who die unrepentant and unpardoned, and must therefore bear the curse due to--God’s judgment upon--their own sin.
2. Christ rejected by His own--by the world (John 1:11; Luke 23:18; Luke 23:24; Luke 19:14); bearing reproach, scorn (Psalms 42:10; Psalms 69:9; Psalms 69:20; Romans 15:3; Matthew 27:43), buffeted, scourged, crucified (Matthew 26:67; Matthew 27:26; Matthew 27:30-35).
3. All who are Christ’s are called to be “separate from the world,” “bearing His reproach” (2 Corinthians 12:10; Hebrews 13:13), for “the servant is not greater than his Lord” (John 13:16; John 15:20); hated by, crucified to world, “with Christ” (John 17:14; Galatians 6:14; Galatians 2:20).
4. Christ, the “Saviour of the world” (John 4:42; 1 John 4:14). Place of Gentiles was outside the camp, so may here see how Christ died--“not for that nation only,” &c. (John 11:51-52). (Lady Beaujolois Dent)
On sins committed in ignorance
I. Man’s own disposition is to condone inadvertent sins.
1. Ignorance is treated as if synonymous with guiltlessness.
2. The responsibilities which attach to the knowledge become secretly a reason why knowledge is eschewed.
II. Wherein the guiltiness of inadvertent sins consists.
1. What such sinfulness has wrought. The death of the Saviour.
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. Nature. Scripture. Conscience.
2. Man’s resistance of the Divine remonstrance.
3. How is such daring ignorance fostered?
(1) By the perversion of revealed truth.
(2) By erroneous teaching.
IV. Godly souls are betrayed into the commission of inadvertent sins. When Christians 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.
V. Sins in the godly are most heinous in god’s esteem. Sin is to be estimated by a man’s spiritual elevation.
VI. Expiation provided for sins of inadvertence.
1. Against whom the sins were committed. Blood sprinkled “before the Lord.”
2. The process of purging.
3. Its suggestion of death.
4. Its suggestion of wrath.
III. Typical intimations of Christ’s death for man’s sins.
1. God’s condemnation of our Substitute.
2. God’s acceptance of our Substitute. (The Preacher’s Hom. Com.)
Ignorance in sinning
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.
2. Hence the inquiry, What is sin? must be determined from without a man, not from within. God must be heard.
3. The presence of sin in man, even ignorantly contracted, imperils man’s relationship to God. It 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. A full atonement for all sin has been made in Christ.
1. This, if apprehended, lays the ground of a settled peace.
2. This will exalt our conception of the fulness and efficacy of the Saviour’s sacrifice.
3. 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. (W. H. Jellie)
Sins of infirmity
1. Even sins of infirmity contract a guilt upon the soul; yea, such a guilt as needs atonement and expiation in the blood of Jesus Christ. Do not slight sins of infirmity, for then they become more than mere infirmities.
2. Here is relief unto faith against those usual complaints of daily infirmities, which many gracious souls so much complain of and mourn under. The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all our sins.
3. Here is great encouragement to engage in the service and work of God, notwithstanding our own infirmities and disabilities. The Lord hath provided a sin-offering for us; He will accept our sincere, though weak endeavours, and pardon our failings.
4. Take notice what continual obligations of love are upon us to Jesus Christ. We have such continual need of Him. (S. Mather.)
Sin! The sound is brief. But it presents a dark abyss of thought. No mind can trace its birth. No eye can see its death. It ever rolls an ever-deepening course. Think much of sin. It is earth’s death-blow. It marred the beauty of a beautous world. It is man’s ruin. Its most tremendous blight fell on our inner life. It drove the soul from peaceful fellowship with God. Its terrible destructions die not in the grave. It works this bitter and eternal anguish, because God’s curse attends it. As the bright sun behind a threatening cloud, the sin-offering waits to change the aspect. Though sin is death, the sinner need not die. There is a fortress of escape. Such are the tidings of the sin-offering. Say, is not this the truth of truths? Mark, now, how the sin-offering in every part proves sin to be a vanquished foe. There are indeed some grades of difference in this type, as rank or as offence might differ. The first example will illustrate all. The offender is the anointed priest (Leviticus 4:3). Sin has allured-ensnared--defiled him. But now he sees his guilt. He cannot rest till pardon be obtained. God’s voice directs his course. He must bring a young unblemished bullock to the Tabernacle door. Behold the proof, that God has found a ransom. This is an idle and an empty rite, except it shows the victim of God’s choice. This is but mockery, except it witnesses, that help is laid on the redeeming Jesus. A solemn act is next enjoined. The offender’s hands must touch the victim’s head. This sign, too, has no meaning, unless it bids the sin-lost to transmit their guilt. The proxy is then slain (Leviticus 4:4). Sin must have death. The curse must fall. Believer, your sins slew Christ. They cannot now slay you. His death is yours. The precious rite continues to unfold the Saviour’s worth. It shows three uses of the outpoured blood.
1. The veil is sprinkled seven times (Leviticus 4:6). This hung before the mercy-seat. It was the entrance to the holiest place. The truth is manifest. They, who would enter heaven, must plead blood shed.
2. Part dyed the golden altar’s horns (Leviticus 4:7). This was the place where incense rose, as emblem of ascending prayer. Christ’s intercession is salvation’s crown.
3. The brazen altar drank the rest (Leviticus 4:7). Thus all is used to bring assurance to the anxious hearth Each drop subserves its part. Atonement needs the whole. The whole is given. (Dean Law.)
Sins of infirmity
1. To take heed by the fall of others (Leviticus 4:3). If the pillars may bend, End the chief props of the house shake, what shall the tender rafters do? “Be not high-minded, but fear.”
2. To bear with them that are weak (Galatians 6:1). He more easily excuses sin in others, who himself is bitten with the consciousness of his own infirmity.
3. Of the greatness of the sin of the priests. As by their good life and doctrine they save themselves and those who hear them, so by the contrary they destroy both.
4. To bear patiently the momentary afflictions of this life (Leviticus 4:12; cf. Hebrews 13:13). We should in our meditation and desire go out of the world, as out of the camp, and be content to bear reproach for Christ’s sake, seeing we shall have no long continuance here, but look for an everlasting habitation in heaven.
5. The multitude of sinners does not excuse sin (Leviticus 4:13).
6. The prince is to take notice of his error (Leviticus 4:22). (A. Willet, D. D.)
These are not sins of omission, but acts committed by a person when at the time he did not suppose that what he did was sin. Although he did the thing deliberately, yet he did not perceive the sin of it. So deceitful is sin, we may be committing that abominable thing which cast angels into an immediate and an eternal hell, and yet at the moment be totally unaware! Want of knowledge of the truth and too little tenderness of conscience hide it from us. Hardness of heart and a corrupt nature cause us to sin unperceived. But here again the form of the Son of Man appears! Jehovah, God of Israel, institutes sacrifice for sins of ignorance, and thereby discovers the same compassionate and considerate heart that appears in our High Priest, “who can have compassion on the ignorant!” (Hebrews 5:2). Amidst the types of this Tabernacle we recognise the presence of Jesus; it is His voice that shakes the curtains and speaks in the ear of Moses, “If a soul shall sin through ignorance!” The same yesterday, to-day, and for ever! (A. A. Bonar.)
The sin-offering, although first in order of application, came last in order of institution. It is distinctly a creation of the law. Sin having become, by the commandment, “exceeding sinful,” the remedy provided by the law was the sin-offering, with all its elaborate ritual. The most prominent feature is the sprinkling of the blood. The blood being that which atones (Leviticus 17:11), it naturally comes most prominently forward in that which was especially the atoning sacrifice. The sin-offerings fall into two classes--viz., those whose blood was taken into the Tabernacle, placed upon the horns of the golden altar, and sprinkled seven times before the veil; and those whose blood was not taken into the Tabernacle, but only placed upon the horns of the brazen altar which stood in the outer court. To the first class belong the sin-offerings of the high priest (Leviticus 4:3-12), and of the whole congregation (Leviticus 4:13-21); to the second, those offered by rulers (Leviticus 4:22-26), or by any of the common people (Leviticus 4:27-35). Certain portions of the sacrifice were laid upon the altar of burnt-offering (Leviticus 4:8-10); the main part was dealt with in one of two ways--in sin-offerings of the first class mentioned above, it was consumed by fire outside the camp (Leviticus 4:12; Leviticus 4:21); in other cases, viz., where the blood was not carried into the Tabernacle, it became the food of the officiating priests (Leviticus 6:26; Leviticus 6:29; Leviticus 10:17-18); the greater part of the blood was poured away at the bottom of the altar of burnt-offering (Leviticus 4:7; Leviticus 4:18; Leviticus 4:25; Leviticus 4:30; Leviticus 4:34). Tradition adds that it descended thence into the valley of the Kedron. It is to be observed that a sin-offering was ordained to consist of one animal only, and that in each case the precise offering to be made was specified. “Men were not allowed to choose or multiply their sin-offerings, as if there could really be any proportion between their gift and the privileges to which it readmitted them, lest they should dream of compensating for so much sin by so much sacrifice.” According to the unanimous tradition of the Jews, a verbal confession of the sin or sins for which the offering was brought accompanied the imposition of hands in the case of sin and trespass-offerings. The next point to be noticed is that remarkable provision of the law by which it was ordained that the majority of the sin-offerings should be eaten by the priests. The explanation of this is given in Leviticus 10:17. The people’s sin passed into the very substance of the priests who thus “in a deep mystery neutralised, through the holiness vested in them by their consecration, the sin which the offerer had laid upon the victim and upon them.” By this solemn act, which served but to increase the guilt of an unholy priesthood, the priests became in a remarkable manner types of Him who was “made sin for us.” It remains to inquire, For what sins did the sin-offering atone? Clearly not for wilful breaches of any of God’s commandments (2 Corinthians 3:7; Hebrews 2:2; Hebrews 10:28; also Numbers 15:27-31; Deuteronomy 17:12). The law proclaimed aloud that “the wages of sin is death.” For what, then, were the Mosaic sacrificial atonements available? The cases which admitted the application of a sin or trespass-offering may be brought under four beads--viz.,
(1) bodily defilements (Leviticus 5:2-3; Leviticus 12:6-7; Leviticus 15:13-15; Leviticus 15:25-30;
(2) ceremonial offence (Leviticus 5:15-19;
(3) certain specified cases of moral transgression knowingly committed, in favour of which an exception from the general severity of the law was admitted, and an atonement ordained (Leviticus 6:1-7);
(4) sins of ignorance and inadvertency, or offences unwittingly done (Leviticus 4:2; Leviticus 4:13; Leviticus 4:22; Leviticus 4:27; Leviticus 5:15; Leviticus 5:18; Numbers 15:24-29). These last formed the largest class of offences to be atoned for by the Mosaic sacrifices. All this vast and complicated machinery of confession, bloodshed, sacrifice, and priestly atonement existed in the main for what, in modern language, we should call venial sins, for sins committed in ignorance or inadvertence--it might almost be said, for involuntary sins. One great lesson, then, which the system of atonement under the law must have taught, was the extreme heinousness of sin, since even “little” sins, as men might call them, had to be atoned by blood. (E. F. Willis, M. A.)
Sins of ignorance
I know nothing that gives a higher view of the holiness of God than this: that not only sins that we culpably and deliberately commit are guilt in His sight, but that we commit sins in our ignorance which are sins though we do not suppose them to be so. God’s law is a fixture, and is not dependent upon our estimate. There is sin committed in the dark as well as noonday. Sin committed by those who are not acquainted with it as such, as well as when committed, though it may be aggravated in the last case by those who are acquainted with it, is still sin. Now, it has been said that sins committed in ignorance are no sins at; all; and that the ignorance of a duty is atonement for omitting that duty, or expiatory of the sin. My answer is--ignorance may extenuate our guilt, but it does not in the least modify the sin, or make an atonement for it. (J. Cumming, D. D.)
There is a prevailing disposition in the hearts of many to think of sins of ignorance as if they were no sins; or if it be allowed that they need mercy, such mercy is regarded rather as a right than as the free and unmerited gift of grace. Ignorance in the minds of such persons becomes synonymous with guiltlessness; to act conscientiously (however dark or dead the conscience)is to act blamelessly. The thought of the responsibilities that attach to knowledge becomes secretly a reason why knowledge is eschewed. In a word, darkness is loved rather than light, because darkness brings quiet, but light has awakening and convicting power. A sufficient answer to all such thoughts is this--that the especial reason for the appointment of the sin-offering was, that it might meet sins committed in ignorance. The heinousness of such sins of ignorance 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 in heaven 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? What can be more terrible than a conscience so hardened? Nothing has a greater tendency to bring the conscience into this state, and to lead to the daring commission of sins of ignorance, than religious truth perverted. It would be happy, indeed, if we could assert, even of real Christians, that they are free from these fearful sins of ignorance. But whenever they give themselves up to the guidance of any individual, or of any system whose influence is not strictly according to the revealed truth of God, they will surely act against Christ and His commandments ignorantly. There is nothing, perhaps, at this present moment, that is operating more terribly against the progress of truth than the misdirected energies of real Christians, ignorantly sustaining error, ignorantly resisting light. If, then, there may be sins of ignorance, even where there is most diligence and watchfulness, how much more where there is negligence or slumber, or acquiescence in the prevailing evil of the age! There has been only One on earth free from sins of ignorance, even He who said, “I have set the Lord always before me”; and He came to be our Sin-offering--to bear the wrath due to these very sins of ignorance; otherwise, they alone would have sunk us into perdition for ever. The chapter before us, as being addressed to those who were ostensibly the separate people of God, teaches us especially respecting sins of ignorance committed by believers. The greater 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 . . . 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. There are few chapters worthy of more solemn consideration than this. It teaches us the deep responsibility of all positions of ostensible service, especially such as are influential over the minds and habits of others. Any influence we may possess, any ability of instructing, comforting, or in any way helping others, by word or by example, is a talent which we cannot escape the responsibility of using. The priests of God (and all believers are priests)must act, and that, too, openly. But how needful that they should well consider the responsibility of their position; the danger in which they are of acting ignorantly, and the disastrous effects of such ignorance, in dishonouring God and injuring others who may be involved in the consequences of their sin I Honest-hearted reception of the Word of God can alone preserve us from such ignorance. (B. W. Newton.)
Man’s incompetency to deal with sin
Nothing can more forcibly express man’s incompetency to deal with sin than the fact of there being such a thing as a “sin of ignorance.” How could he deal with that which he knows not? How could he dispose of that which has never even come within the range of his conscience? Impossible. Man’s ignorance of sin proves his total inability to put it away. If he does not know of it, what can he do about it? Nothing. He is as powerless as he is ignorant. Nor is this all. The fact of a “sin of ignorance” demonstrates, most clearly, the uncertainty which must attend upon every settlement of the question of sin, in which no higher claims have been responded to than those put forth by the most refined human conscience. There can never be settled peace upon this ground. There will always be the painful apprehension that there is something wrong underneath. If the heart be not led into settled repose by the Scripture testimony that the inflexible claims of Divine justice have been answered, there must of necessity be a sensation of uneasiness, and every such sensation presents a barrier to our worship, our communion, and our testimony, if I am uneasy in reference to the settlement of the question of sin, I cannot worship; I cannot enjoy communion, either with God or His people, nor can I be an intelligent or effective witness for Christ. The heart must be at rest, before God, as to the perfect remission of sin, ere we can “worship Him in spirit and in truth.” If there be guilt on the conscience there must be terror in the heart; and assuredly a heart filled with terror cannot be a happy or a worshipping heart. (C. H. Mackintosh.)
The Bible tells of sin and its cure
The Bible is a book with a single purpose; and that purpose is to reveal the sinfulness of the human family, and a method of salvation from that sinfulness. And, of course, a book that has only one end in view must necessarily be silent with reference to a thousand other subjects. A few years ago a man was galloping on horseback, as if he had seen a spectre, down the bank of a New England river in the dead of night. His mission was to inform the sleeping dwellers in a number of manufacturing towns farther down the stream that the great dam farther up the river was about to burst its barriers. The horseman, as he sped along, trampled myriads of flowers underfoot, but he had nothing to say of botany. He rushed by hundreds of projecting rocks, rich in stories of prehistoric ages, but he had nothing to say on the subject of geology. Over his head the starry hosts were marshalled as they had been since the foundation of the world, but he had nothing to say on the subject of astronomy. He had just one mission--to inform the sleeping toilers of their danger, and how they might escape it, and he had no time to devote to the consideration of any other subject, however important, or however fascinating to other minds. So it is with God’s Word. Its single object is to tell us of sin and its cure. On this subject it is full and explicit and infallible.
“Truth, real inward truth, is the rarest of all things.” Thus wrote the late Rev. F. D. Maurice, one of the most saintly men of his day. Let him who questions this consider this good man’s confession, that “some little petty subterfuge, some verbal or acted dishonesty, we are continually surprised into; and against this neither a high code of honour nor an exact profession of religion is much preservation.” Does the reader see in this confession, as in a mirror, his own heart? If so, and if he would know how to become absolutely truthful, let him learn that “continued intercourse with the Father of Lights, revealing our own darkness to us, is the one safeguard; and the Christian who loses that is in more danger of stumbling than an infidel.” Perhaps not in more, but certainly in as much danger; since when a Christian runs from the light into darkness he is blind as other men. To be thoroughly truthful in all things, it is, therefore, needful for a good man to live very near to the God of truth. Our virtues are never so pure as when we live close to our Redeemer’s throne.
Errors and oversights in all our lives
It is with the children of men as with the housewife, that having diligently swept her house and cast the dust out-of-doors, can see nothing amiss, not so much as a speck of dust in it, whereas, if the sun do but a little shine in through some cranny in the wall, or some broken quarrel in the window, she may soon see the whole house swim and swarm with innumerable motes of dust, floating to and fro in the air, which for dimness of light or sight before she was not able to discern. Even so it is with many that are careful of their ways, so that little may be seen amiss that might require either reformation or amendment, yet, when they shall come to look more attentively into God’s law, a little beam of light reflecting upon their souls from it, will discover unto them such an innumerable company, as well of corruptions in their hearts as of errors and oversights in their lives, that it shall make them, as men amazed, cry out, Lord, what earthly man doth know the errors of his life? (T. Gataker.)
The best are not free from imperfection
He who boasts of being perfect is perfect in folly. I have been a good deal up and down the world, and I neither did see either a perfect horse or a perfect man, and I never shall until two Sundays come together. You cannot get white flour out of a coal sack, nor perfection out of human nature; he who looks for it had better look for sugar in the sea. The old saying is, “Lifeless, faultless.” Of dead men we should say nothing but good; but as for the living, they are all tarred, more or less, with the black brush, and half an eye can see it. Every head has a soft place in it, and every heart has its black drop. Every rose has its prickles, and every day its night. Even the sun shows spots, and the skies are darkened with clouds. Nobody is so wise but he has folly enough to stock a stall at Vanity Fair. Where I could not see the fool’s cap, I have, nevertheless, heard the bells jingle. As there is no sunshine without some shadow, so is all human good mixed up with more or less evil; even poor law guardians have their little failings, and parish beadles are not wholly of heavenly nature. The best wine has its lees. All men’s faults are not written on their foreheads, and it is quite as well they are not, or hats would need wide brims; yet, as sure as eggs are eggs, faults of some sort nestle in every man’s bosom. There’s no telling when a man’s sins may show themselves, for hares pop out of a ditch just when you are not looking for them. A horse that is weak in the legs may not stumble for a mile or two, but it’s in him, and the rider had better hold him up well. The tabby cat is not lapping milk just now, but leave the dairy door open, and we will see if she is not as bad a thief as the kitten. There’s fire in the flint, cool as it looks; wait till the steel gets a knock at it, and you will see. Everybody can read that riddle, but it is not everybody that will remember to keep his gunpowder out of the way of the candle. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
All sin must be abhorred
It is credibly reported that in some parts of Italy there are spiders of so poisonous a nature as will kill him that treads upon them, and break a glass if they do but creep over it. This shows clearly that the force of this poison is not in measure by the quantity, but in the nature by the quality thereof. And even so the force of sin consists not in the greatness of She subject or object of it, but in the poisonful nature of it, for that it is the breach of the law, violation of the justice, and a provocation of the wrath of God, and is a present poison and damnation to men’s souls; therefore, as the least poison, as poison, being deadly to the body, is detested, so the least sin, as sin, being mortal to the soul, is to be abhorred. (J. Spencer.)
If the priest that is anointed do sin.
The eminent sinfulness of error in the priest
I. From the superior position he occupied.
II. From the superior privileges he enjoyed. Exempt from many secular anxieties and temptations. Constantly in contact with sacred influences.
III. From the superior knowledge he possessed. Intimately acquainted with requirements of law. Possessing ample means and opportunities for ascertaining purpose of precepts enjoined.
IV. From the superior influence he exerted. Looked up to as an example. (F. W. Brown.)
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--
I. That however far sin may have penetrated, and whatever solemn and sacred things it may have defiled, thither the atoning blood follows, carrying full expiation where sin has carried defilement.
II. That the dishonour done to God, to the sanctities of a godly life, and to the solemnities of sanctuary ministries, was compensated for in offering upon the altar of incense the symbols of the inherent and intrinsic excellency of christ. (W. H. Jellie.)
Sin in the priesthood
I. A holy office does not ensure infallibility.
II. Occupants of a holy office are specially called to sanctity.
III. Eminently privileged and enlightened, they who minister before God should be most vigilant lest they sin.
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. (W. H. Jellie.)
The priest’s sin
This man is a priest; the holy anointing oil of the Lord his God is upon him, and therefore, of course, he cannot sin! The fact of the matter is that none of us are beyond the reach of temptation, beyond the possibility of a fall. Well, what then? I know what the mocking world will say: “If the priest that is anointed do sin,” I will have nothing to do with religion at all; it is all hypocrisy; he is no better than other men. I know quite well what uncharitable professors will say: Turn him out; he is a hypocrite. “If the priest that is anointed do sin,” he has disgraced himself. I know what your own heart will say: It is no good; I have tried; I have fallen; I may as well give it all up, there is no hope at all. But what does God say? “If the priest that is anointed do sin,” let him bring his sacrifice; “let him bring . . . a young bullock without blemish . . . for a sin-offering.” Is it not marvellous! I do not so much wonder at the 27th verse where God says: “If any one of the common people sin,” but “if the priest that is anointed do sin,” let him bring his sacrifice. And yet, if you read that verse carefully all through, you will see that there is no minimising of the priest’s sin. God, in the terms that He uses, says that it is a very heinous thing for a priest to sin. If one of His own children goes astray it is a very serious thing. He has been anointed; that anointing not only implies separation to God, but enduing with power. That anointing of the Holy Spirit is upon him, he ought not to have sinned. No temptation came upon him more than he was able to bear. And if you read on you will see, in the Revised Version, “If the priest that is anointed do sin, so as to cause the people to sin.” Yes, if the priest sin, he causes the people to sin, and if the Christian sin he is a stumblingblock to others, therefore an ungodly man will go still further into the depths of sin. And yet, “if the priest that is anointed do sin, let him bring his sacrifice.” What does he do when he sacrifices? There are seven points you ought to consider. The first thing he has to do (Leviticus 4:4), “He shall bring the bullock unto the door of the Tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord, and shall lay his hand upon the bullock’s head.” The bullock is to be without spot or blemish. The priest comes there conscious of his own sin, and lays his hand upon the bullock’s head. And that is the first thing you must do. You must find a spotless victim. The Lord Jesus Christ is that Lamb without sin, without spot. The first thing to do is to put our hand upon the victim. And the moment the man laid his hand upon the victim that moment a transference took place. All the sinner’s sin was placed upon the victim. The victim was slain and east outside the camp, and the sinner goes into the Temple of God and takes his place in the Holy Place of Jehovah. And directly you lay the hand of faith upon Christ, directly you grasp Christ as your great Substitute, the same thing takes place. And if you arc a child of God, you have felt that the burden of sin is intolerable, it has weighed you down, and all that sin has been made to meet upon Him. Another reason why he was to lay his hand hard, was to show that all his trust was in that victim alone. He was to lean hard with all his weight upon him. If the victim did not support him the man fell prostrate to the ground. So we must lean entirely upon Christ, all our confidence must be in Him and Him alone. The second point is this--He shall kill the bullock before the Lord. There is no doubt about it, “the wages of sin is death.” Look at it! look priest! and see what your sin has brought about--the death of that pure and spotless victim. Now there were three things to be done with the blood of the bullock. The blood of the bullock was to be taken and sprinkled in three different places. First of all you read in Leviticus 4:6, the priest was to take the blood and sprinkle it seven times before the Lord, before the veil of the sanctuary. Seven times he was to sprinkle it there at the Holy of Holies. Why? Because within that Holy of Holies dwell the Shechinah glory of God. Christian, is this not the first result of your sin? You lose your communion with God. The first thing to be done is to restore that communion with God. The next thing to be done is this--he was to take some of the blood (Leviticus 4:7) and put it upon the altar of sweet incense. What was that? The place where the priest prayed for the people. When the people were praying outside the priest went into the Holy Place, and his offering went up as incense before God. Is not this the second result of sin--you lose the power of prayer; you say your prayers but you no longer pray; you lose all that joy and spontaneity of service; there is no fragrance about your prayers, it is mere routine, and there is no reality about them at all. If you want to have communion with God in prayer, and to be able to pray as you ought to pray, there must be the sprinkling of the blood there. The third thing to be done was to take the rest of the blood and pour it out on the altar of burnt-offering. What was that? The place where the daily burnt-offering was offered up. God will not accept your burnt-offering if there is sin in the heart. There is a controversy between me and God, and though I may try and bring Him offerings, God will not accept them. There was another thing to be done. “And the skin of the bullock, and all his flesh, with his head, and with his legs, and his inwards, and his dung, even the whole bullock shall he carry forth without the camp unto a clean place, where the ashes are poured out, and burn him on the wood with fire: where the ashes are poured out shall he be burnt.” Now we have never had that word for burnt before. That word means to thoroughly consume with burning. Very different to another word for burning I shall notice presently. It is no use your saying you cannot get peace and joy as long as you are keeping your bullock within the camp. You must take it out and burn it. There will be no peace until you do. Inside the camp a very different scene was taking place. There, upon the altar, we read in the eighth and following verses, all the fat of the bullock, all the inwards of the bullock, he is to offer it up upon the altar of the burnt-offering for a sweet savour to God. That is a very different word from burnt--the word in Leviticus 4:10, is k’tour; it means to burn as fragrance--not with consuming burning, but as sweet incense to God. And there is a sweet incense ascending from that altar. The priest may almost hear that whisper from the open heavens, and it is forgiven him. It is all forgiven; the sacrifice is accepted, and the sin is blotted out. (E. A. Stuart, M. A.)
Sin in ministers
The high priest, although a single individual, if he sin, must bring as large and valuable an offering as is required from the whole congregation. For this law there are two evident reasons. The first is found in the fact that in Israel the high priest represented before God the entire nation. When he sinned it was as if the whole nation sinned in him. So it is said that by his sin he “brings guilt on the people”--a very weighty matter. And this suggests a second reason for the costly offering that was required from him. The consequences of the sin of one in such a high position of religious authority must, in the nature of the case, be much more serious and far-reaching than in the case of any other person. And here we have a lesson as pertinent to our time as to those days. ,As the high priest, so, in modern time, the bishop, minister, or elder, is ordained as an officer in matters of religion, to act for and with men in the things of God. For the proper administration of this high trust, how indispensable that such a one shall take heed to maintain unbroken fellowship with God! Any shortcoming here is sure to impair by so much the spiritual value of his own ministrations for the people to whom he ministers. And this evil consequence of any unfaithfulness of his is the more certain to follow, because, of all the members of the community, his example has the widest and most effective influence; in whatever that example be bad or defective, it is sure to do mischief in exact proportion to his exalted station. If, then, such a one sin, the case is very grave, and his guilt proportionately heavy. (S. H. Kellogg, D. D.)
Sin not excused by ignorance
One would wonder whether it is possible that sin can be committed in ignorance--that is to say, whether the ignorance does not do away with the sinful character of the deed. Is not sin a wilful action? Is not its wilfulness the very essence of its guilt? So we would think; yet again and again in the ritual we find that ignorance is never made into a sufficient excuse for sin. The sense of mystery which we may feel in regard to this matter can only be relieved by looking for analogous instances in the field of nature. There is no law written on all the dominion of nature with a broader and clearer hated than that all sin is followed by penalty. Exclude the air, and you exclude vitality; shut out the light, and you impoverish the life; doom yourself to solitude, and you doom yourself by the same fiat to extinction. It is in vain to plead that we did not know the nature of air, or the utility of light, or the influence of high things upon things that are low; we must be taught the depth of our ignorance and its guilt by the intensity and continuance of our personal suffering. Leaving the region of nature and coming into the region of civilisation, we find that even in legal affairs violations of law are not excused on the ground of ignorance. The judge upon the bench does not hesitate to inform the trespasser that he ought to have known the law of which he pleaded ignorance. Turning from purely legal criticism of this kind, we find the same law in operation in social affairs. A man is not excused from the consequences of ill-behaviour on the ground that he did not know the customs of society or the technicalities of etiquette. He may be pitied, he may be held in a kind of mild contempt, his name may be used to point a moral; but at the root of all this criticism lies the law that the man is a trespasser, and that ignorance cannot be pleaded as a complete excuse. This canon of judgment has a very wide bearing upon human affairs. Were it to be justly and completely applied, it would alter many arrangements and relations of life. There are many things which we ought to know, and which we ought to be; and instead of excusing ourselves by our ignorance, we should be stimulated by its effects to keener inquiry and more diligent culture. That sense of ignorance will possibly show us in what critical conditions our life is being spent. What watchfulness is imposed upon us by the fact that it is possible to sin through ignorance! If sin were a mere act of violence, we could easily become aware of it, and with comparatively little difficulty we might avoid its repetition. But it is more and other than this. It is committed when we little think of its commission; we inflict wounds when we think our hands are free of all weapons and instruments; we dishonour God when we suppose we are merely silent about Him. Neglect may be sin as well as violence. There is a negative criminality as well as a positive blasphemy. All this makes life most critical and most profoundly solemn. The commandment of God is exceeding broad. Being a Divine commandment it comes of continual and minute exactions covering all life with the spirit and obligation of discipline. The mercy is shown that a special offering was provided for the sin of ignorance Let every soul, then, boldly say, as if in solemn monologue, Whatever my sin may be, it is provided for in the great Offering established as the way of access to the Father; I will invent no excuses; I wilt seek for no new methods of payment or compensation; I will bring no price in my hand, no excuse on my tongue, nor will I hide even in the depths of my consciousness any hope that I can vindicate my position before God; I will simply fall into the hands of the Living One, and look upon the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world. In that spirit I will go forward to judgment, and in that spirit I will encounter the mysteries of destiny. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Sprinkle of the blood.
The sprinkling of the blood of the sacrifice
There is not that intensity of evil in a sin of ignorance which is to be seen in wilful transgression; but still there is sin in it: for no law can allow ignorance to be an excuse for trespass, since it is the duty of the subject to know the law. No amount of sincerity can turn injustice to righteousness, or transform falsehood into truth. If a man partakes of a deadly poison believing it to be a health-giving medicine, his sincerity will not hinder the natural course of nature: he will die in his error. It is precisely so in the moral and spiritual world. Sins committed in ignorance must be still sins in the sight of the Lord, or else no expiation would have been provided for them. I am greatly rejoiced to think there should be such a sacrifice provided, since it may yet turn out that the larger number of our sins are sins of which we have not been aware, because the hardness of our heart has prevented our discovering our error. Many good men have lived in an evil habit, and remained in it unto death, and yet have not known it to be evil. Now, if the precious blood of Jesus only put away the sin which we perceived in detail, its efficacy would be limited by the enlightenment of our conscience, and therefore some grievous sin might be overlooked and prove our ruin. “Cleanse Thou me from secret faults” is a prayer to which the expiation of Christ is a full answer. The atonement acts according to God’s sight of sin and not according to our sight of it, for we only see it in part, but God sees it all and blots it all out.
I. We begin with the sacrifice of Christ in its relation to the lord God of Israel.
1. In the type before us the prominent thing before God is the blood of atonement. It was God’s intent to awaken in man a great disgust of sin, by making him see that it could only be put away by suffering and death. In the Tabernacle in the wilderness almost everything was sanctified by blood. The purple drops fell even on the book, and all the people. The blood was to be seen everywhere.
2. The blood of the sacrifice was sprinkled before the veil seven times, signifying this: first, that the atonement made by the blood of Jesus is perfect in its reference to God. All through the Scriptures, as you well know, seven is the number of perfection, and in this place it is doubtless used with that intent. The seven times is the same as once for all: it conveys the same meaning as when we read, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins,” and again, “We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once.” It is a complete act. No man need bring anything more, or anything of his own, wherewith to turn away the anger of God; but he may come just as he is, guilty and defiled, and plead this precious blood which has made effectual atonement for him.
3. Note next, that not only is the atonement itself perfect, but that the presentation of that atonement is perfect, too. The sevenfold sprinkling was typical of Christ as a Priest presenting unto the Father Himself as a sacrifice for sin. This has been rally done. Jesus has in due order carried the propitiation into the sanctuary, and appeared in the presence of God on our behalf. We now pass on to a few thoughts about ourselves in relation to the type.
4. This sevenfold sprinkling of the blood upon the veil meant that the way of our access to God is only by virtue of the precious blood of Christ. Do you ever feel a veil hanging between you and God? In very truth, there is none; for Jesus has taken it away through His flesh.
5. I further think that the blood was sprinkled on the veil seven times to show that a deliberate contemplation of the death of Christ is greatly for our benefit. Whatever else you treat slightly, let the sacrifice of Calvary be seriously considered again and again.
6. Remember, too, that this sets out how great our guilt has been, since the blood must be sprinkled seven times ere the work of atonement is fully seen by you. Our guilt has a sevenfold blackness about it, and there must be a sevenfold cleansing. If you plead the blood of Jesus once and you do not obtain peace thereby, plead it again; and if still the burden lies upon your heart, still go on pleading with the Lord the one prevailing argument that Jesus bled. God, who bids us forgive unto seventy times seven, sets no bound to His own forgiveness.
7. Do reflect that if your case seems to yourself to be very difficult, it is provided for by this sevenfold sprinkling of the blood. The devil’s desire will be to keep you from thinking upon Christ; but do remember that thoughts about anything else will do you very little good. Your hope lies in thinking upon Jesus, not upon yourself “He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him.” Mr. Moody Stuart somewhere tells us that he once talked with a woman who was in great trouble about her sins. She was a well-instructed person, and knew the Bible thoroughly, so that he was in a little difficulty what to say to her, as she was so accustomed to all-saving truth. At last he urged upon her very strongly that passage, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners,” and he noticed that she seemed to find a quiet relief in a gentle flow of tears. He prayed with her, and when she rose from her knees she seemed much comforted. Meeting her the next day, and seeing her smiling face, and finding her full of rest in the Lord, he asked? “What was it wrought your deliverance?” “Oh,” she said, “it was that text, ‘ Jesus came to save sinners.’“ “Did you not know that before?” said Mr. Stuart. Yes, she knew the words before, but she found that in her heart of hearts she had believed that Jesus came to save saints, and not sinners. Do not many awakened persons abide in the same error?
II. The blood in its influence upon prayer. “The priest shall put some of the blood upon the horns of the altar of sweet incense before the Lord.” Horns signify power, and the explanation of the symbol is that there is no power in intercessory prayer apart from the blood of expiation.
1. Remember, first, that the intercession of Christ Himself is based upon His atonement. He is daily pleading before the throne of God, and His great argument is that He offered Himself without spot unto God. “It pleased the Father to bruise Him,” and now it pleases the Father to hear Him. The bruised spices of His passion are an incense of sweet smell, and derive a double acceptance from the blood-smeared altar upon which they are presented. And now take the type to yourselves.
2. You and I are to offer incense upon this golden altar by our daily intercession for others, but our plea must always be the atoning blood of Jesus.
3. And, as this must be the plea of our intercession, so it must be our impulse in making intercession. When we pray we come, as it were, to this golden altar, and we look thereon: what is that we see? Stains of blood! We look again, and again see crimson spots, while all the four horns are red with blood. Did my Lord pour out His soul unto death for men, and shall not I pour out my soul in living earnest when I pray? Can you now bow your knee to plead with God and not feel your heart set upon the good of men, when you see that your Lord has laid down His life that they may be saved? Where He poured out His blood, will not you pour out your tears? He has given His bleeding heart for men, will not you give your pleading lips?
4. I think, too, I must say that this smearing of the horns of the altar with blood is meant to give us very great encouragement and assurance whenever we come to God in prayer. Never give anybody up, however bad he may be. Why, there is the blood of Christ. What sin is there which it cannot remove? When we pray, let us with vehement desire plead the blood of Jesus Christ. Perhaps fewer petitions, and more urging of the merit of Christ, would make better prayers.
III. The last point is, the blood in its influence upon all our service. You see we have been coming outwards from the veil to the golden altar, and now we pass outside the Holy Place into the outer court, and there in the open air stands the great brazen altar--the first object that the Israelite saw when he entered the sacred precincts.
1. That altar represents a great many things, and among the rest our Lord Jesus presenting Himself to God as an acceptable sacrifice. Whenever you think of our Lord as being an offering of a sweet smell unto God, never dissociate that fact in your mind from His being slain for sin, for all our Lord’s service is tinged by His atoning death.
2. Viewing the type in reference to ourselves, let us learn that whenever we come to offer any sacrifice unto the Lord we must take care that we present it by virtue of the precious blood of Christ. We must view the atonement as connected with every holy thing. I believe that our testimonies for God will be blessed of God in proportion as we keep the sacrifice of Christ to the forefront. Somebody asked our brother, Mr. Moody, how it was that he was so successful, and he is said to have replied, “Well, if I must tell you, it is I believe because we come out fair anal square upon the doctrine of substitution.” In that remark he hit the nail on the head. That is the saving doctrine; keep that before your own mind, keep it before the minds of those whom you would benefit.
3. And, beloved, do you not think that this pouring of the blood at the foot of this brazen altar indicates to us how much we ought to bring there? If Jesus has brought His life there, and laid Himself thereon, ought we not to bring all that we are and all that we have, and consecrate all to God?
4. Lastly, you notice the blood was poured out at the bottom of the altar. What could that mean but this--that the altar of thank-offering stood upon and grew out of a basis of blood. So all our deeds for God, our sacrifices for His cause, must spring out of the love which He has manifested in the death of His dear Son. We love Him because He first loved us. And how do we know that He loves us? Behold the death of Jesus as the surest proof. I long to put my whole being upon that altar, and I should feel as I did so that I was not giving my God anything, but only rendering to Him what His dear Son has bought a million times over by once shedding His life-blood. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Burn all sin
The blood was put upon the horns of the altar of sweet incense to signify that no prayer can pierce up to God but in and by the blood of Christ. All the rest of the blood was poured at the foot of the altar of burnt-offering, to note still the true shedding of Christ’s blood for mankind, and because also it was holy, it might not be cast out as profane. The burning of the holy without the host plainly showed that Christ should not suffer in Jerusalem, but should be led out of the city to a place appointed, and there suffer; which you know was fulfilled accordingly (Hebrews 13:11-12). And the whole bullock was to be burned, being a sin-offering, to teach men to burn all their sins, and not to divide them, as we do, when we say, I will amend my drunkenness, but I cannot leave my swearing, or if I leave that also, yet my licentious life a little more must have a swing, &c. But burn all, thou wert best, and willingly keep none, burn them, I say, by true sorrow and detestation of them, even all, all, lest but one--being wilfully still delighted in--burn thee all, and wholly in hell for ever. When Moses, with the Israelites, was to depart out of Egypt, and Pharaoh would have had them leave their cattle behind them, saving what they intended to sacrifice, answer was made, they would not leave one hoof of a beast behind; and so deal you with your sins--leave not one hoof of sin behind. No one sin, no part of sin, that is, still I say, by wittingly, willingly, and boldly continuing in it and delighting in it. Otherwise, free from sin in this life we cannot be. But, through the grace of God, we may be free from presumptuous pleasure in sin, and sigh and groan no more, for that anyway we should offend so good a God, as we find infinite ways of Him that we do offend, desiring and longing to be free even from all sin. (Bp. Babington.)
Sprinkling the blood
Ewald thus explains the various ceremonies of sprinkling: “It was in the sprinkling of the blood, the proper sacrament of sacrifice, that the distinction between the guilt-offering and the expiatory offering in the narrow sense came most clearly to the front: and it is easy to understand why it would reveal itself most plainly here. As it was right that the blood of an expiatory offering for public transgressions should be made far more conspicuous to eyes and sense, so it was sprinkled on an elevated place, or even on one which was extraordinarily sacred. The way, too, in which this was done was marked by three stages. If the atonement was made for an ordinary man or for a prince the priest sprinkled the blood against the high towering horns of the outer altar, and poured the remainder, as usual, out at its base; if it was made for the community or for the high priest, some of the blood was seven times sprinkled against the veil of the Holy of Holies, then some more against the horns of the inner altar, and only what was then left was poured out as usual at the base of the outer altar. The third and highest expiation was adopted on the yearly Day of Atonement. On the other hand, in the case of the guilt-offering no reason existed for adopting any unusual mode of sprinkling the blood. It was sprinkled, just as in other cases, round the sides and foot of the outer altar. As soon as this most sacred ceremony of the sprinkling was completed, then, according to the ancient belief, the impurity and guilt were already shaken off from the object to which they had clung.”
Substitution satisfying the conscience
In Passion week as I was reading “Bishop Wilson on the Lord’s Supper,” I met with an expression to this effect, that--The Jews knew what they did when they transferred their sin to the head of their offering. The thought rushed into my mind, What I may I transfer all my guilt to another? Has God provided an offering for me that I may lay all my sins on His head? Then, God willing, I will not bear them on my own soul one moment longer. Accordingly I sought to lay my sins upon the sacred head of Jesus; and on the Wednesday began to have a hope of mercy; on the Thursday that hope increased, on the Friday and Saturday it became more strong, and on Easter Sunday I awoke early, with these words upon my heart and lips, “Jesus Christ is risen to-day! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!” From that hour peace flowed in rich abundance unto my soul. (C. Simeon.)
Repentance insufficient without atonement
1. Some tell us that repentance is sufficient without atonement. “Contrition,” say they, “is all that God wants. Why insist on the need of sacrifice? Let a man mourn over his iniquities and he will be forgiven.” This is a mode of speech not more unscriptural than unphilosophical. To maintain that “repentance is sufficient without atonement” is uncommonly like declaring that life is enough without bread or that heat is sufficient without the sun. The fact is, that as existence is sustained by food, and as warmth proceeds from the orb of day, so repentance is with most men the result of belief in redemption. John the Baptist was pre-eminently a preacher of repentance: we invariably associate the two. “Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”; such was the keynote of his teaching. He bids the Pharisees and Sadducees “bring forth fruit meet for repentance.” Yet he who thus spoke took care to cry, “Behold the Lamb of God.”
2. “Repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ,” stand in the relation of effect and cause. The executioner of Socrates, handing him the cup of hemlock, burst into tears, deeply grieved that he should, in any way, be an accessory to the death of one so illustrious. In like manner, when we hear a well-known voice exclaiming, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from Me,” we are conscious that our transgressions necessitated the fatal draught, and, feeling their enormity, we mourn over them. Some years ago patriotic regard for their country introduced the following fashion among Polish ladies. Each wore a small iron cross bearing upon it the name “Warsaw.” Thereby they were reminded of the wrong done to the nation which they loved so well, and thereby, also, they sought to stir up brothers, husbands, and sons to hatred of tyrannic Russia. Let us have the Cross near our hearts, for nothing will so effectually inflame animosity against sin. Aptly has it been remarked that “contrition is the tear in the eye of faith.” (T. R. Stevenson.)
The whole bullock shall he carry forth.
Why the skin, flesh, and other parts of the bullock was carried out of the host
1. The legal reason was because it was a sacrifice for sin, and therefore unmeet to be burnt as other sacrifices upon the altar.
2. The historical reason, because the Lord suffered without the gate of the city.
3. The moral reason, to show that the skin with the flesh was carried forth so the priest should be far off, not only from sin, but the occasion thereof.
4. The mystical reason, that Christ doth cast out-of-doors, and remove far away from us our sins.
5. Now further, the sin-offering for the priest, and for the whole congregation were burnt without, to show the horror and greatness of their sin; and though it were unclean, being a sacrifice for sin, yet because some part thereof, namely the fat, was burnt upon the altar, the remaining part was with reverence to be burned, and in a clean place, and therefore without the camp, because it was separated from the common pollutions which might happen within the camp.
6. The Hebrews further observe that the high priest’s sin-offering was commanded to be burnt openly without the camp, to the end that no man might be ashamed to confess his sin. (A. Willet, D. D.)
To bear patiently the momentary afflictions of this life
Whereas Leviticus 4:12, the bullock was to be carried out of the host, the apostle applieth it to Christ suffering without the gate, making this further use of it--“Let us go forth therefore out of the camp, bearing His reproach, for we have no continuing city” (Hebrews 13:13). We should in our meditation and desire go out of the world as out of the camp, and be content to bear reproach for Christ’s sake, seeing we shall have no long continuance here, but look for an everlasting habitation in heaven; by this reason taken from the shortness of our afflictions the apostle exhorteth thus (2 Corinthians 4:17). The imitation of the saints, shortness of time, fragility of the body do persuade to perseverance, nature hath well provided that grief if it be great cannot be long, for a short danger thou shalt receive an everlasting reward. (A. Willet, D. D.)
If the whole congregation.
Responsibility of communities and nations
Israel was taught by this law, as we are, that responsibility attaches not only to each individual person, but also to associations of individuals in their corporate character, as nations, communities, and--we may add--all societies and corporations, whether secular or religious. Never has a generation needed this reminder more than our own. The political and social principles which, since the French Revolution in the end of last century, have been, year by year, more and more generally accepted among the nations of Christendom, are everywhere tending to the avowed or practical denial of this most important truth. It is a maxim ever more and more extensively accepted as almost axiomatic in our modern democratic communities, that religion is wholly a concern of the individual; and that a nation or community, as such, should make no distinction between various religions as false or true, but maintain an absolute neutrality, even between Christianity and idolatry, or theism and atheism. It should take little thought to see that this modern maxim stands in direct opposition to the principle assumed in this law of the sin-offering; namely, that a community or nation is as truly and directly responsible to God as the individual in the nation. But this corporate responsibility the spirit of the age squarely denies. Not that all indeed, in our modern so-called Christian nations have come to this. But no one will deny that this is the mind of the vanguard of nineteenth-century liberalism in religion and politics. Many of our political leaders in all lands make no secret of their views on the subject. A purely secular state is everywhere held up, and that with great plausibility and persuasiveness, as the ideal of political government; the goal to the attainment of which all good citizens should unite their efforts. It is not strange, indeed, to see atheists, agnostics, and others who deny the Christian faith, maintaining this position; but when we hear men who call themselves Christians--in many cases, even Christian ministers--advocating, in one form or another, governmental neutrality in religion, as the only right basis of government, one may well be amazed. Will any one venture to say that this teaching of the law of the sin-offering was only intended, like the offering itself, for the old Hebrews? Is it not rather the constant and most emphatic teaching of the whole Scriptures, that God dealt with all the ancient Gentile nations on the same principle? The history which records the overthrow of those old nations and empires does so, even professedly, for the express purpose of calling the attention of men in all ages to this principle, that God deals with all nations as under obligation to recognise Himself as King of nations, and submit in all things to His authority. So it was in the case of Moab, of Ammon, of Nineveh, and Babylon; in regard to each of which we are told, in so many words, that it was because they refused to recognise this principle of national responsibility to the one true God, which was brought before Israel in this part of the law of the sin-offering, that the Divine judgment came upon them in their utter national overthrow. How awfully plain, again, is the language of the second Psalm on this subject, where it is precisely this national repudiation of the supreme authority of God and of His Christ, so increasingly common in our day, which is named as the ground of the derisive judgment of God, and is made the occasion of exhorting all nations, not merely to belief in God, but also to the obedient recognition of His only-begotten Son, the Messiah, as the only possible means of escaping the future kindling of His wrath. (S. H. Kellogg, D. D.)
Multitude no excuse for offence
Note how a multitude of offenders excuseth no, offence: but if even the whole congregation should sin through ignorance, yet a sin-offering must be offered by them all, and their number yieldeth no excuse. Great was the number of sinners when God sent the flood, but their number defended them not. So in Sodom and Gomorrah the offenders were many. Ten tribes of twelve fell away from God and became idolaters. Broad is the way that leadeth to hell, and many find it, going to hell, though they be many, &c. Secondly, observe with yourself the praise (hid from your eyes) and see the state of many a man and woman do evil. The matter is hid from their eyes in God’s anger, and albeit they lie at the pit’s brink of destruction, yet they see it not, feel it not, are not troubled with it. Because, indeed, they never sit and take an account of themselves and their works, laying them to the rule of the word: which if they did, conscience would quickly bite and spy, and speak of a misdoing. The godly do this at last, and therefore you see it here in your chapter, a time of knowing to them, as there was a time of hiding. Pray we ever for this grace, that we sleep not in death: I mean in sin, that leadeth to death, but that we may awake and stand up from the dead, and Jesus Christ vouchsafe us light, to amendment of life, and eternal comfort and safety. (Bp. Babington.)
Some difference between the sacrifice of the priest and that of the people
1. It is said when the sin which they have committed is known this was not rehearsed before in the sacrifice of the priest to show that the priests for the most part do sin wittingly, but the people through ignorance.
2. In the other sacrifice the priest alone was to put his hand upon the head of the sacrifice; but here the elders are to lay on their hands both in their own name and of all the people.
3. Here is added Leviticus 4:20, and the priest shall make atonement for them, which was not expressed before, because the priest before offered sacrifice for his own sin, and so could not be a mediator for himself. Herein the priest interceding for the people was a type of Christ who is the only effectual Intercessor both for sin of priest and people.
4. This congregation here offending may represent the synagogue of the Jews who put Christ to death, crying, “Crucify Him”; but they did it of ignorance as St. Peter saith: “and now I know, brethren, that through ignorance ye did it,” and as here a sacrifice is appointed after the people came to the knowledge of their sin, so there St. Peter exhorteth the people to acknowledge and confess their sin, “repent and turn, that your sins may be put away”; and as here the elders put their hands upon the sacrifice, so the elders, rulers, and governors, had their hand in Christ’s death. (A. Willet, D. D.)
When a ruler hath sinned.
A lesson for politicians
While there are many in our parliaments and like governing bodies in Christendom who cast their every vote with the fear of God before their eyes, yet, if there be any truth in the general opinion of men upon this subject, there are many in such places who, in their voting, have before their eyes the fear of party more than the fear of God; and who, when a question comes before them, first of all consider, not what would the law of absolute righteousness, the law of God, require, but how will a vote, one way or the other, in this matter, be likely to affect their party? Such certainly need to be emphatically reminded of this part of the law of the sin-offering, which held the civil ruler specially responsible to God for the execution of his trust. For so it is still; God has not abdicated His throne in favour of the people, nor will He waive His crown-rights out of deference to the political necessities of a party. Nor is it only those who sin in this particular way who need the reminder of their personal responsibility to God. All need it who either are or may be called to places of greater or less governmental responsibility; and it is those who are the most worthy of such trust who will be the first to acknowledge their need of this warning. For in all times those who have been lifted to positions of political power have been under peculiar temptation to forget God, and become reckless of their obligation to Him as His ministers. But under the conditions of modern life, in many countries of Christendom, this is true as perhaps never before. For now it has come to pass that, in most modern communities, those who make and execute laws hold their tenure of office at the pleasure of a motley army of voters, Protestants and Romanists, Jews, atheists, and what not, a large part of whom care not the least for the will of God in civil government, as revealed in Scripture. Under such conditions, the place of the civil ruler becomes one of such special trial and temptation that we do well to remember in our intercessions, with peculiar sympathy, all who in such positions are seeking to serve supremely, not their party but their God, and so best serve their country. It is no wonder that the temptation too often to many becomes overpowering to silence conscience with plausible sophistries, and to use their office to carry out in legislation, instead of the will of God, the will of the people, or, rather, of that particular party which put them in power. Yet the great principle affirmed in this law of the sin-offering stands, and will stand for ever, and to it all will do well to take heed; namely, that God will hold the civil ruler responsible, and more heavily responsible than any private person, for any sin he may commit, and especially for any violation of law in any matter committed to his trust. And there is abundant reason for this. For the powers that be are ordained of God, and in His providence are placed in authority; not as the modern notion is, for the purpose of executing the will of the constituents, whatever that will may be, but rather the unchangeable will of the Most Holy God, the Ruler of all nations, so far as revealed, concerning the civil and social relations of men. Nor must it be forgotten that this eminent responsibility attaches, to them, not only in their official acts, but in all their acts as individuals. No distinction is made as to the sin for which the ruler must bring his sin-offering, whether public and official or private and personal. Of whatsoever kind the sin may be, if committed by a ruler, God holds him specially responsible, as being a ruler, and reckons the guilt of that sin, even if a private offence, to be heavier than if it had been committed by one of the common people. And this, for the evident reason that his exalted position gives his example double influence and effect. (S. H. Kellogg, D. D.)
Sins of the great
Judges and magistrates are the physicians of the state, and sins are the diseases of it. What skills it, whether a gangrene begin at the head or the heel, seeing both ways it will kill, if the part that is diseased be not out off; except this be the difference, that the head being nearer the heart, a gangrene in the head will kill sooner than that which is in the heel. Even so will the sins of great ones overthrow a state sooner than those of the meaner sort; therefore wise was that advice of Sigismund the Emperor, when upon a motion to reform the Church, one said, “Let us begin at the minorities.” “Nay rather,” saith the Emperor, “let us begin at the majorities; for if the great ones be good, the meaner cannot be easily ill, but be the mean ones never so good, the great will be nothing the better.”
The influence of a ruler’s sin on others
Nourshivan the Just, being one day a-hunting, would have eaten of the game which he had killed, but from the consideration that, after dressing it, his attendants had no salt to give it relish. He sent at last to buy some at the next village, but with severe injunctions not to take it without paying for it. “What would be the harm,” said one of his courtiers, “if the king did not pay for a little salt?” Nourshivan answered, “If a king gathers an apple in the garden of one of his subjects, on the morrow the courtiers cut down all the trees.”
If any one of the common people sin through ignorance.
The sin-offering for the common people
I. The person: a common person.
1. If a common person sin his sins will ruin him; he may not be able to do so much mischief by his sin as the ruler or a public officer, but his sin has all the essence of evil in it, and God will reckon with him for it. No matter how obscurely you may live, however poor and unlettered you may be, your sin will ruin you if not pardoned and put away. If one of the common people sin through ignorance, his sin is a damning sin, he must have it put away, or it will put him away for ever from the face of God.
2. A common person’s sin can only he removed by an atonement of blood. In this case you see the victim was not a bullock, it was a female of the goats or of the sheep, but still it had to be an offering of blood, for without shedding of blood there is no remission. However commonplace your offences may have been, however insignificant you may be yourself, nothing will cleanse you but the blood of Jesus Christ.
3. But here is the point of joy, that for the common people there was an atonement ordained of God. Glory be to God, I may be unknown to men, but I am not unthought of by Him.
4. Observe with thankfulness that the sacrifice appointed for the common people was as much accepted as that appointed for the ruler. Of the ruler it is said, “the priest shall make an atonement for him as concerning his sin, and it shall be forgiven him.” The same thing is said of the common person. Christ is as much accepted for the poorest of His people as for the richest of them.
II. The sacrifice: “a kid of the goats, a female without blemish.”
1. Observe that there is a discrepancy between the type and the reality, for first the sin-offering under the law was only for sins of ignorance. But we have a far better sacrifice for sin than that, for have we not read, “The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin,” not from sins of ignorance only, but from all sin.
2. Note another discrepancy, that the sinner of the common people in this case had to bring his sacrifice--“he shall bring his offering.” But our sin-offering has been provided for us.
3. Now let us notice that in the type the victim chosen for a sin-offering was unblemished; whether it was a goat or a sheep, it must be unblemished. How could Christ make an atonement for sins if He had had sins of His own?
4. But, the main point about the sacrifice was, it was slain as a substitute. There is nothing said about its being taken outside the camp--I do not think it was in this case: all that the offerer knew was, it was slain as a substitute. And everything that is essential to know in order to be saved is to know that you are a sinner and that Christ is your Substitute.
III. The after ceremonies.
1. In the case of one of the common people after the victim was slain, the blood was taken to the brazen altar, and the four horns of it were smeared, to show that the power of fellowship with God lies in the blood of substitution. There is no fellowship with God except through the blood, there is no acceptance with God for any one of us except through Him who suffered in our stead.
2. But then the blood was thrown at the feet of this same brazen altar, as if to show that the atonement is the foundation as well as the power of fellowship. We get nearest to God when we feel most the power of the blood, ay, and we could not come to God at all except it were through that encrimsoned way.
3. After this, a part of the offering was put upon the altar, and it is said concerning it, what is not said in any other of the cases, “the priest shall burn it upon the altar for a sweet savour to the Lord.” This common person had, in most respects, a dim view of Christ, compared with the others, but yet there were some points in which he had more light than others, for it does not say of the priest that what he offered was a sweet savour; but, for the comfort of this common person, that he might go his way having sweet consolation in his soul, he is told that the sin-offering he has brought is a sweet savour unto God. And oh, what a joy it is to think not only has Christ put away my sin if I believe in Him; but now for me He is a sweet savour to God, and I am for His sake accepted, for His sake beloved, for His sake delighted in, for His sake precious unto God.
IV. I have purposely omitted an essential act in the sacrifice, in order to enlarge upon it now. Observe that in all four cases there was one thing which was never left out, “He shall lay his hand upon the head of the sin-offering.”
1. That act signified confession. “Here I stand as a sinner, and confess that I deserve to die. This goat which is now to be slain represents in its sufferings what I deserve of God.” Oh, sinner! confess your sin now unto your great God, acknowledge that He would be just if He condemned you. Confession of sin is a part of the meaning of laying on of the hand.
2. The next thing meant by it was acceptance. “I accept this goat as standing for me. I agree that this victim shall stand instead of me.” That is what faith does with Christ, it pats its hand upon the ever blessed Son of God, and says, “He stands for me, I take Him as my Substitute.”
3. The next meaning of it was transference. “I transfer, according to God’s ordinance, all my sin which I here confess, from myself to this victim.” By that act the transference was made. God did lay sin in bulk upon Christ when He-laid upon Him the iniquity of us all, but by an act of faith every individual in another sense lays his sins on Jesus, and it is absolutely needful that each man should do so, if he would participate in the substitution.
4. This was a personal act. Nobody could lay his hand upon the bullock, or upon the goat, for another; each one had to put his own hand there. A godly mother could not say, “My graceless boy will not lay his hand upon the victim, but I will put my hand there for him.” It could not be. He who laid his hand there had the blessing, but no one else, and had the godliest saint with holy but mistaken zeal said, “Rebellious man, wilt thou not put thy hand there, I will act as sponsor for thee,” it had been of no avail; the offender must personally come. And so must you have a personal faith in Christ for yourself. The word is sometimes interpreted “to lean,” and some give it the meaning of leaning hard. What a blessed view of faith that gives us!
V. The assured blessing: ‘’And it shall be forgiven him” (Leviticus 4:31). Was not that plain speaking? There were no “ifs,” no “buts,” no “peradventures”; but “it shall be forgiven aim.” Now, in those days it was only one sin, the sin confessed, that was forgiven, but now “all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men.” In those days the forgiveness did not give the conscience abiding peace, for the offerer had to come with another sacrifice by and by; but now the blood of Christ blots out all the sins of believers at once and for ever, so that there is no need to bring a new sacrifice, or to come a second time with the blood of atonement in our hands. The sacrifice of the Jew had no intrinsic value. How could the blood of bulls and goats take away sin? It could only be useful as a type of the true sacrifice, the sin-offering of Christ. But in our Lord Jesus there is real efficacy, there is true atonement, there is real cleansing, and whosoever believeth in Him shall find actual pardon and complete forgiveness at this very moment. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Lay his hand upon the head.
Laying the hand on the sacrifice
The text gives us a pictorial answer to the question--How can Christ’s sacrifice become available for me?
I. The intent of the symbol.
1. It was a confession of sin: else no need of a sin-offering. To this was added a confession of the desert of punishment, or why should the victim be slain? There was also an abandonment of all other methods of removing sin.
2. It was a consent to the plan of substitution. If God is content with this method of salvation, surely we may be. Substitution exceedingly honours the law, and vindicates justice. No other plan meets the case, or even looks fairly at it
3. It was an acceptance of the victim. Jesus is the most natural substitute, for He is the Second Adam, the second head of the race; the true ideal man. He is the only Person able to offer satisfaction, having a perfect humanity united with His Godhead. He alone is acceptable to God; He may well be acceptable to us.
4. It was a believing transference of sin. By laying on of hands sin was typically laid on the victim. It was laid there so as to be no longer on the offerer.
5. It was a dependence-leaning on the victim. Is there not a most sure stay in Jesus for the leaning heart? Consider the nature of the suffering and death by which the atonement was made, and you will rest in it. Consider the dignity and worth of the sacrifice by whom the death was endured. The glory of Christ’s person enhances the value of His atonement (Hebrews 10:5-10).
II. The simplicity of the symbol.
1. There were no antecedent rites. The victim was there, and hands were laid on it: nothing more. We add neither preface nor appendix to Christ: He is Alpha and Omega.
2. The offerer came in all his sin. “Just as I am.” It was to have his sin removed that the offerer brought the sacrifice: not because he had himself removed it
3. There was nothing in his hand of merit or price.
4. There was nothing on his hand. No gold ring to indicate wealth; no signet of power; no jewel of rank. The offerer came as a man, and not as learned, rich, or honourable.
5. He performed no cunning legerdemain with his hand. By leaning upon it he took the victim to be his representative; but he placed no reliance upon ceremonial performances.
6. Nothing was done to his hand. His ground of trust was the sacrifice, not his hands. He desired his hand to be clean, but upon that fact he did not rest for pardon. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
All can lean on Christ
The Puritans speak of faith as a recumbency, a leaning. It needs no power to lean; it is a cessation from our own strength, and allowing our weakness to depend upon another’s power. Let no man say, “I cannot lean”; it is not a question of what you can do, but a confession of what you cannot do, and a leaving of the whole matter with Jesus. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Leviticus 4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17