Friday, August 11, 2023

2023.08.11 Hopewell @Home ▫ Leviticus 4:1–6:7

Read Leviticus 4:1–6:7

Questions from the Scripture text: How do Leviticus 4:1-2 clue you in that this is a new section? What sort of sin is dealt with first? Whose unintentional sin, specifically (Leviticus 4:3)? What is to be brought near as what? What is specified about the bull? Where does he bring it (Leviticus 4:4)? What two things does he do to it? Before Whom? Where must the blood be brought this time (Leviticus 4:5)? What must the priest do (Leviticus 4:6)? How many times? Where? Where else must blood be applied (Leviticus 4:7)? And then, where may/must the remaining blood be poured? What then is taken (Leviticus 4:8-9)? Like what (Leviticus 4:10)? To do what? Where must the rest be taken (Leviticus 4:11-12)? And what must be done with it? Who else might sin in this way (Leviticus 4:13)? And from what may it be hidden? What does this still make them (end of verse 13)? What mercy occasions this procedure (Leviticus 4:14a)? What do they bring where (verse 14b)? Who lean their hands upon its head (Leviticus 4:15)? And then do what to it? Who, then, brings what where (Leviticus 4:16)? What does he do with it, how, and where in Leviticus 4:17? Then what (Leviticus 4:18a)? And then what (verse 18b)? Then remove what and do what with that (Leviticus 4:19)? Like what (Leviticus 4:20)? What does this do? What must be done with the rest (Leviticus 4:21)? Like what? Whose unintentional sin does Leviticus 4:22 now address? What does this make him (end of verse 22)? What mercy occasions the procedure (Leviticus 4:23a)? What is he to bring (verse 23b)? Of what sex, and of what quality? What two things is he to do to it, where (Leviticus 4:24)? What is it? Where (only) is the blood applied this time (Leviticus 4:25)? And what is to be burned (Leviticus 4:26)? Now whose unintentional sin does Leviticus 4:27 address? Against which commandment? What does this make him/her (end of verse 27)? What mercy initiates this procedure (Leviticus 4:28a)? What is he to bring (verse 28b)? Of what sex? What is he to do, only where (Leviticus 4:29)? Then what does the priest do with the blood (Leviticus 4:30)? And with the fat portions (Leviticus 4:31)? With what result? What else may he/she bring (Leviticus 4:32)? Of what sex? How does the procedure if it is a lamb (Leviticus 4:33-35) compare to if it is a goat (Leviticus 4:29-31)? What is one sort of sin that needs atoning (Leviticus 5:1)? And another (Leviticus 5:2)? And another (Leviticus 5:3)? And what kind of speaking, when swearing an oath, is a sin that needs atoning (Leviticus 5:4)? What added step is there, when it is something that he did intentionally—even if he didn’t realize at the time it was wrong (Leviticus 5:5)? What must he bring as restitution for an intentional sin (Leviticus 5:6)? As what is this restitution received? What does the priest do for him (verse 6)? What special case does Leviticus 5:7 treat? What should he bring? Why two? To whom does he present them (Leviticus 5:8)? What does the priest do with the bird that is for the sin (Leviticus 5:8-9)? What does the priest do with the bird that is for the ascension (Leviticus 5:10a, cf. Leviticus 1:14–17)? What case does Leviticus 5:11 now treat? What must he bring? What can he bring instead? What mustn’t he put on it (cf. Leviticus 2:1–2, Leviticus 2:15–16)? Why (end of Leviticus 5:11)? To whom is he to bring it (Leviticus 5:12)? What does the priest do with it (cf. Leviticus 2:2Leviticus 2:9Leviticus 2:16)? As what is it received (end of Leviticus 5:12)? What does the priest do (Leviticus 5:13)? With what result? What does the priest himself receive? What introduces a new section in Leviticus 5:14? Against what, in particular, is this trespass (Leviticus 5:15)? What is to be brought? And what added to it, according to what valuation (Leviticus 5:15-16)? What doesn’t the worshiper know in Leviticus 5:17? What is the difference, then, between Leviticus 5:15-16 and Leviticus 5:18-19? What sets the sins in Leviticus 6:1–3 apart from the ones detailed before? What must the one guilty of this do (Leviticus 6:4)? What must he add to it (Leviticus 6:5)? What does this imitate (cf. Leviticus 5:15–16)? After the restitution, what is to be done (Leviticus 6:5-6)? What does the priest do (Leviticus 6:7)? With what effect?

How could the sinner approach God, if he had committed a new/particular sin? Leviticus 4:1–6:7 looks forward to the evening sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these sixty-one verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that while God had provided a way by which sinners may ascend with tribute and enjoy God’s peace, any specific sins had to be specifically dealt with before they could come near via the three main offerings. 

Atonement and forgiveness for particular sins. When we first heard about coming near by ascension (“the ascension offering”), the Scripture said that the ascension atoned for the worshiper himself. But sometimes, we realize that we have committed a specific sin that must be dealt with. This section is marked with the refrain that the priest makes atonement (reconciles by undoing penalty and impurity) for the particular sins of the sinning party (Leviticus 4:20Leviticus 4:26Leviticus 4:31Leviticus 4:35; Leviticus 5:6Leviticus 5:10Leviticus 5:13Leviticus 5:16Leviticus 5:18; Leviticus 6:7). 

In anticipation of the Lord Jesus Christ’s perfect priesthood, the Lord provides a priesthood whom He has anointed and appointed to be able not only to mediate our drawing near to God but also to take actions by which heaven and earth will agree that particular sins have been forgiven and cleansed. But there is a great difference between these priests and the Lord Jesus: the ability to forgive. Throughout this passage, there is an important distinction between the language used for atoning (“the priest shall make atonement”) and the language used for forgiveness (“it shall be forgiven him”). This is a reminder that the priest cannot forgive sin; only God can forgive sin. And, praise God, these provisions are a demonstration that He does forgive!

The sin offering would have to be brought near before any ascension, tribute, or peace (i.e., burnt offering, grain offering, peace offering) could be brought. And its procedure includes elements from these others: 

  • There is the selection and presentation of the appropriate substitute. 
  • Then, there is the leaning ceremony to identify with the substitute. 
  • Then, there is the slaughtering to indicate that the life belongs to God and not the man/congregation. This is done by the worshiper himself in every case except with the birds, when even the head is not completely wrung off, in order to have as much blood as possible for the application. 
  • Then, there is the application of the life-blood of the substitute to the place of worship.  This is especially that application of blood to which Hebrews 9:22 refers when it says that without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin.
  • Then, there is the offering of the fat as in the peace offering. It is different this time, because the sweet aroma is not the whole worshiper ascending as in the ascension offering, or YHWH’s portion of the fellowship as in the peace offering, but now a propitiation. An offering of the self to be burned, that all of the wrath might be consumed, and YHWH would be propitious (entirely favorable) to the worshiper. 
  • In case of priestly/congregational guilt, the substitute is then burned. Not to ascend to YHWH but in a clean place outside the camp (Leviticus 4:12Leviticus 4:21). The guilt must be removed from the people entirely. As we will see in Leviticus 6:24–7:10, if it is a sin or trespass offering that is brought near in the context of a church that is right with God, the meat and the hide are given to the priest through whom God has ministered this forgiveness.

Unintentional sin (indeed, all sin) needs atonement and forgiveness. One clear teaching of this passage is that when the Lord gives us to discover that we are guilty of a sin that we didn’t know at the time was wrong, or didn’t mean to commit it, it still needs to be atoned for and forgiven (Leviticus 4:2Leviticus 4:13Leviticus 4:22Leviticus 4:27; Leviticus 5:15). It is a grave mistake to think that sin is only guilty or defiling if we mean to sin! One of the reasons we are less aware of our need for Christ, and less grateful for His redemption, is because we have not begun to comprehend the immensity of the sin that we have been forgiven.

The trespass (offering) is a subcategory of the sin (offering). The sins in Leviticus 5:1–4 are the sort of things that seem to a fallen humanity like they wouldn’t be a big deal. But we learn that God places importance upon things like following through on observing oaths (Leviticus 5:1, e.g., at weddings, ordinations, membership, etc.), or being properly prepared for worship (Leviticus 5:2-3), or refraining from idle or thoughtless words (Leviticus 5:4). 

Indeed, all sin needs atonement and forgiveness. In the case of these more “respectable” sins, there is the added requirement that the worshiper “confess” (Leviticus 5:5). The word means to throw open. The idea is that the Lord brings us to expose to the light the greatness of the wickedness of these things by our having to own them before Him. In the context of a passage that is on the removal of guilt, we can see that the more we realize the greatness of our sin, the more we will realize the greatness of the grace that has removed it!

Representatives Who Bring Guilt upon Others. There are two instances in which the blood of the sinner is to be taken inside the holy place and sprinkled or splattered before YHWH in front of the veil (Leviticus 4:6Leviticus 4:17) and then smeared upon the horns of the incense altar (Leviticus 4:7Leviticus 4:18). Why must the life (the blood) be brought into the holy place and applied to the place of YHWH’s atonement for the nation and the place of YHWH’s hearing of the prayers of the nation? Because it is the nation itself, the church itself, that has come under guilt. The worship of an unrepentant, two-faced church is offensive to God (cf. Isaiah 1:11–17). Their sins must be cleansed if their worship is to be acceptable (cf. Isaiah 1:18). 

The guilt of the church as a whole is obvious in the second instance (Leviticus 4:13-21), and this shows us what is happening in the first instance (Leviticus 4:3). The anointed priest has been consecrated by God as a representative over the people. When he sins, it doesn’t just bring guilt upon himself; he is “bringing guilt upon the people” (verse 3). 

Those who are federal representatives in the home or in the church must take heed; for, their sins bring guilt upon the whole, not just themselves. And when they are the ones who lead in worship, or who intercede, or who apply the means of grace, this guilt becomes most dire!

Rulers too must be more careful of their guilt. This is presented subtly by the distinction between the male goat (Leviticus 4:23) that substitutes for a ruler and the female goat (Leviticus 4:28) or lamb (Leviticus 4:32) that substitutes for a person of the land (Leviticus 4:27a). 

Equal opportunity forgiveness. The Lord makes provision not only for those who cannot afford a lamb (Leviticus 5:7) but even those who cannot afford two birds (Leviticus 5:11). The sins of the poor need atoning, and God shows them mercy both by treating their sins seriously and by accommodating their lack of earthly means so that they may still have the atonement ritual that assures them of God’s forgiveness that will come in Christ.

Sin against the sacred requires restitution. When we sin against the holy worship of YHWH (Leviticus 5:15), we rob God of what is His due. When we sin against the property of another, we rob our neighbor of what has been given to him by God as his due (Leviticus 6:1–3). In both cases, we see the addition of one fifth of what is offered (or restored, in the case of a neighbor). This not only underscores to us the importance of giving God His due in worship, but it also helps us understand the eighth commandment better. Once property is “sacred” to him as assigned by God. When a man steals, he must give the extra restitution not only to man (“add one fifth more,” Leviticus 6:5) but also extra restitution to God (“with your valuation,” Leviticus 6:6)

The value of a clean conscience. Our temptation is to do only that which we are compelled to do. But there is tucked away in Leviticus 5:17 an important lesson on the keeping of a clean conscience before God, especially as it touches the holy things and God’s commandments concerning them. We must “come clean” to God, even if we only suspect that we might have sinned. Note the phrase, “though he does not know it.” 

We have a God Who has provided full and free forgiveness in Jesus Christ! Why wouldn’t we freely come with everything in which even thought we might have sinned and enjoy cleansing from guilt?! Let us come to rejoice in the wonderful fulfillment of the happy refrain throughout this text: “Because Jesus the High Priest has made atonement for him before YHWH, he shall be forgiven.” How great our guilt has been. How greater Christ’s grace has been! 

What is your habit for bringing your sin to God? What do you realize, there, about your sin? About His grace?

Sample prayer:  Father, we thank You that You have provided Christ not only as our ascension, tribute, and peace, but even as our sin offering. Grant that as quick and frequent as we are in sinning, so also we would be just as quick and frequent in confessing our sin and enjoying Your forgiveness in Him. And glorify Yourself by this forgiveness, we ask through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP51A “God, Be Merciful to Me” or TPH340 “There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood”

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