|Series Theme: Meditations in Lessons from the Law of Moses|
Meditation No. 31
Meditation Title: What's a Sin Offering?
Lev 4:1-3 The LORD said to Moses, "Say to the Israelites: `When anyone sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD 's commands-- `If the anointed priest sins, bringing guilt on the people, he must bring to the LORD a young bull without defect as a sin offering for the sin he has committed.
As we come to the Sin Offering we should note that sin is defined in verse 2 as doing anything forbidden in God's laws. The sin that is covered is that which was done unintentionally, i.e. the person did not realise it was forbidden at the time but has subsequently realised it and knows they have to do something about it.
The first person considered is the priest himself (v.3). If he sins, as representative of the people to God, he brings a sense of guilt on the whole people. His sin, should it occur, must be the first to be dealt with, because he is the one who stands in the Tabernacle as the mediator between man and God. If that mediator is tainted then the whole system crumbles. The rules for what happens are similar to the Burnt Offering in as far as an animal is presented at the door to the Tent, the Offeror kills it and the priest take some of its blood. Thereafter it differs.
First some of the blood is sprinkled before the curtain where God is said to reside. This recognises that that entrance, having been lost by sin, is first to need to be sanctified by a life given up. Then some is put on the altar of incense, the altar used to daily present incense, as a recognition that this path to God has likewise been violated by the priest's sin. Finally the rest of the blood is poured out at the base of the main altar. Note that it is the fat and entrails that is actually cut out and offered on the fire, suggesting that it is what goes on inside us that needs sacrificing, not the shell of the body. It is our mind, our soul, and our will, that needs giving over to God, for it is from here that sin comes.
The offerings for the congregation (v.13), the leader (v.22) and the individual (v.27) are similar but for each one the beast gets smaller, as their importance diminishes. The things that need to be cleansed by blood change. For the congregation , as with the priest , the entrance into the Most Holy Place and the golden altar of incense are to be cleansed. This is a sign that God's design is for the nation to be able to be represented as coming into His Holy Presence, but for the leader and an individual , the blood is only put on the horns of the bronze altar for they do not come into the Most Holy Place, in the same way that at Mount Sinai the people were not to touch the mountain (Ex 19:12). Only Moses and the leading priests and the seventy representative elders were allowed to approach (Ex 24:1). The design of the various different sin offerings is therefore careful to maintain this big distinction. Because those priests and key elders, representing the nation, had gone up on the mountain, nearer to God than the people, thus if they sin it is more serious and the nature and extent of their offering has to be greater.
For the ordinary leader (not an elder) and the ordinary members of the congregation, sin offerings simply recognised that they had broken their right to bring even burnt offerings, and therefore the blood they presented had to cleanse the bronze altar even before their offering could be burnt. It IS sin but they are less significant.
In the New Testament we find the apostle Paul exhorting us, “Offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Rom 12:1,2). I am challenged by the question, have I surrendered my heart, my mind and my will to God?
Considering the different categories of this offering, dependent upon the person, perhaps we should recognise that in life different people hold different roles and those roles carry different responsibilities. The bigger the role, representing more people – parents, teachers, leaders, managers, directors, governors etc. – the greater the responsibility and the greater the sin when there is failure, and the greater the accountability to God. Where are we in this?