Scripture: And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, If anyone sins unintentionally in any of the LORD’S commandments about things not to be done, and does any one of them…” Leviticus 4:1-2 ESV
Observation: The last two offerings are similar in ritual and purpose (addressing sin) but distinguished by scope. The sin offering (discussed here) focuses on unintentional sins that did not cause damage or loss to a neighbor or tabernacle service. The type of transgression is general to any violation. But, as theologian Roy Gane contends, given the law required a mother to present a sin offering after giving birth (12:6-8), the ḥaṭṭaʾt (as used in this passage) more likely refers to a purification offering. So while the supplicant may inadvertently sin, any who seek to obtain purification from sin may present their offering to the Lord. Thus, for the mother of a newborn, the sin offering provides a means for her and her baby to remove unknown inherited sins and move forward in right standing with their Creator.
Regarding protocol, if the anointed priest sins, he shall offer a bull, sprinkling its blood seven times (a sign of completion) in front of the veil of the sanctuary, then on the horns of the altar, and the rest poured out on the altar’s base (4:3-7). While the priest burns the fat and entrails on the altar, he disposes of the meat outside the camp and burns it on firewood (4:8-12). If the whole congregation sins, the elders lay their hands on a bull (a sign of transferring sin) and follow the same ritual for a priest’s sin (4:13-21). If a leader sins, they present a male goat for their offering and follow the same protocol, but the priest does not sprinkle blood on the veil (4:22-26). Finally, if the “common people” sin, they follow the same steps as that of a leader. However, their offering may vary depending on what the supplicant can afford: a female goat, two birds (pigeon or turtledoves), or a grain offering of fine flour, and the remainder shall be for the priest as in the grain offering (4:27-5:13).
Takeaway: As mentioned above, only the priest’s and congregation’s sins require the additional sprinkling of the blood seven times before the veil. Because the priest is a congregate, there is no mediator for either sacrifice. Thus, he enters this outer sanctum to seek expiation (removal) of his and his fellow brothers and sisters’ sins. Otherwise, he acts as a mediator for all the other offerers.
So how does this translate to our New Covenant? “The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), is our mediator (1 Timothy 2:5) who has removed the sins that otherwise separate us from God. Indeed, he removes the veil for those who turn to him (2 Corinthians 3:16), that we might draw near to his throne of grace by faith (Hebrews 4:16, Romans 5:1–2). But without the shedding of Christ’s blood, there is no forgiveness (Hebrew 9:13–26).
What does this mean for you and me? Just as Jesus petitioned the Father when the Jews and Romans ignorantly sinned against him and the Father, he pronounces the same for us: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34 ESV). Thus, for all who put their faith in Christ, our gracious Father no longer sees our sins, unintentional or not, through the blood sacrifice of his Son. So how much more shall the life of our risen Lord save us from the power of sin (Romans 5:10)? Therefore, let us bring our intentional sin offerings before his throne of grace with a confessional prayer of purity for the things we have done and have left undone, for not loving Christ with our whole heart nor loving our neighbors as ourselves. Then let us appropriate his forgiveness and grace to continue onward and upward in his Promised Land.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for purifying us (removing our sins) through the blood sacrifice of your Son. Would you please help us cooperate with your Holy Spirit in offering intentional and sincere confessional prayers that bring forgiveness and fill us with your grace that we might press on with the work of your kingdom? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling