Monthly Archives: May 2016

Leviticus 5:14-6:7

14Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 15“If any soul acts unfaithfully and sins unintentionally in any of the holy things of the LORD, he will bring a reparation offering to the LORD—a ram without blemish from the flock valued in silver shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary for a guilt offering. 16He will make restitution for what he has sinned in the holy things, and will add a fifth to it and give it to the priest, and the priest will make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering, and he will be forgiven. 17If any soul sins in doing any one of the things which by the commandment of the LORD ought not to be done and he doesn’t know it, he is guilty, and will bear his transgression. 18He will bring to the priest a ram without blemish from the flock or its equivalent for a guilt offering, and the priest will make atonement for him for the error he has committed unintentionally, and he will be forgiven. 19It is a reparation offering; he has indeed incurred guilt before the LORD.” 6 1 [20]Then the LORD spoke to Moses and said, 2 [21]“If any soul sins and acts unfaithfully against the LORD and deceives His neighbor in a matter of deposit or security, or through robbery or has oppressed his neighbor 3 [22]or has found a lost thing and lied about it, swearing falsely—in any one of the all the things that men do to sin thereby—4 [23]because he has sinned and is guilty and will restore what he took through robbery or oppression [fraud] or the deposit that was entrusted to him or the lost thing he found, 5 [24]or anything about which he has sworn falsely, he will restore it in full value and add a fifth to it and give it to him to whom it belongs in the day he realizes his guilt. 6 [25]And he will bring to the priest as his reparation offering to the LORD a ram without blemish from the flock or its equivalent for a guilt offering. 7 [26]And the priest will atone for him before the LORD, and he will be forgiven for any one of all the things that he did to incur guilt.

 

Some debate has existed through the years regarding the nature of this offering; some argue that this is a continuation of the purification offering, while others maintain that this is a separate offering unto itself. It seems preferable to land on this latter position, given the fact that the ritual was different, the sacrificial animals were different, the circumstances were different, and the function of this offering was not the same as the purification offering. The word that is employed as a modifier here is אָשָׁם, which means “reparation.”  Only a ram or male lamb could be offered for reparation offering. This text restricts the choice of animal to one species. Male sheep never allowed for purification offering, but are used here; this is yet another evidence that this is a separate offering.

 

Specifically, this offering concerns those who commit a breach of faith (מְעֹ֣ל מַ֔עַל). It was a serious matter to act unfaithfully to God. Consider God’s words to Hosea concerning Israel: “And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.” Faithfulness versus adultery is a major theme in the Old Testament, and the reparation offering is designed to deal with this. Swearing falsely in YHWH’s name is a breach of faith, for example. It was possible for a people to collectively be guilty of a breach of faith.

 

 

 

It is noteworthy the first regulation concerns those who have sinned inadvertently concerning the holy things (קָּדְשֵׁ֖י—sacred property) of the LORD (15-16). Sinning against God’s property was serious, apparently. The second concerns those who have unknowingly broken one of the Lord’s commands (17-18). Then there is a list of cases classified as a breach of faith (21-22), and these involve getting control of something that belongs to another person through cunning schemes or deception rather than outright force (Hartley). These are gaining another person’s property through deceit (כחשׁ) and gaining another person’s property through extortion (עשׁק). What is particularly telling is the absolute value of private property ownership that is enshrined in this concept. Whether sinning against the Lord’s property or another’s property, there is a legal requirement that all humans acknowledge the private ownership of property. In addition to making reparation to the Other who has been defrauded in some way, the worshiper must also add 20% to compensate him, and must acknowledge his guilt before the LORD. In addition to making this reparation, he would bring a sacrifice to the priest and have his sin expiated.

 

How might we apply this passage today? Reparation and restitution is a critical step in true repentance (Hartley). The passage in 2 Cor. 7 reminds us that there are two kinds of grief: godly and worldly. The latter is the kind that doesn’t change you, while the former is the kind that spurs you to repentance. Christ has offered Himself as a reparation according to Isaiah 53, and has made restitution for our defrauding of God with our sin. So once again, the ultimate solution in Leviticus is in Jesus Christ.

 

It is also helpful to remember that God has what the Scholastics called scientia visionis—He sees everything as it is. Are we really in constant remembrance of God’s knowledge of our sin? As we go through our day, are we conscious of the many ways in which we pollute ourselves with our selfishness? He sees it all. What are some of your unintentional sins? How do you come to realize them? Are you grieved about your persistent clinging to your sin? Since God instituted this to teach His people, it is helpful to ask yourself what you’ve learned about the reparation sacrifice.

 

It is humbling and a little disquieting to remind myself that the cost of my sin has been paid in full. Reparation has been made. My gratitude regarding this should spur me toward the godly virtue that is spoken of in the New Testament. And my humility should result in my seeking God’s forgiveness when I stumble. I do this not out of fear that I’ve lost my soteriological standing before God (because I haven’t)—but rather out of love for Him. I so desire to be reconciled to Him and be in relationship with Him that I don’t want to break faith with Him.

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Leviticus 5.1-13

1If any soul sins inadvertently in that he hears a public adjuration to testify, and though he is a witness, whether he has seen or come to know the matter, and does not speak up, he will carry his guilt; 2or if any soul touches anything unclean, whether a carcass of an unclean beast or a carcass of unclean livestock or a carcass of unclean creeping things, and it is hidden from him and he has become unclean, he is guilty; 3or if he touches human uncleanness, of whatever sort the uncleanness may be which defiles, and it is hidden from him, when he comes to know it, he is guilty; 4or if any soul swears a rash oath with his lips to do evil or to do good, any sort of rash oath that men swear, and it is hidden from him, when he comes to know it, and is guilty in any one of these things; 5when he is guilty in any one of these things and confesses that he has sinned in it, 6he will bring to the LORD his compensation for his sin that he has sinned a female from the flock—a ewe-lamb or a she-goat for a purification offering. And the priest will make atonement for him, for his sin. 7But if he cannot afford a lamb, he will bring to the LORD as compensation for his sin two turtledoves or two young pigeons—one for a purification offering and one for a burnt offering. 8He will bring them to the priest, and he will offer the first one for a purification offering, and will wring its head from its neck, but will not sever it completely. 9Then he will sprinkle some of the blood of the purification offering on the side of the altar, and the rest of the blood he will drain on the base of the altar; it is the purification offering. 10Then he will offer the second as a burnt offering according to the regulation. And the priest will make atonement for the sin he has sinned, and he will be forgiven. 11If he cannot afford two turtledoves or two young pigeons, he will bring as an offering for the sin he has sinned one-tenth of an ephah of fine flour as a purification offering, but will put neither oil nor frankincense on it; it is a purification offering. 12He will bring it to the priest, and the priest will take a handful of it as a memorial portion and burn it on the altar on the LORD’s food offering; it is a sin offering. 13Thus the priest will make atonement for the sin that he has sinned in any one of these things; and he will be forgiven. The remainder will be for the priest, as in the case of the cereal offering.

 

This section is a continuation of a particular type of purification offering; in fact, 5.1-13 serves as an appendix to the sin and purification offering, and deals with some special cases (Mosely). The idea here is that the blood of the purification offering cleanses the tabernacle from the pollution of sin (Wenham). All sin is harmful, and is disruptive of a person’s relationship with God. This includes those that are committed unintentionally, ignorantly, or in error (Hartley). The purification offering   achieved expiation for sins committed inadvertently, whether out of negligence of failure (Hartley). The extent of defilement corresponded to the prominence of the offender: the priest of cultic community defiled the inner sanctuary, while the prince or individual defiled the main altar.

 

Chapter 5.1-4 deals with three kinds of sin: indifferent silence, prolonged impurity, and unfulfilled promise (Mosely). The first dealt with the situation in which a person fails to testify when called upon by a general oath (Hartley). The second dealt with situations in which a person had lived significant time as polluted beings. The third involved rash promises. These all impact the well-being of the community. This is noteworthy; a person’s sin—however seemingly slight or inadvertent—pollutes them and the sanctuary around them. It directly affects the community. This is as foreign a concept as we can imagine in Western culture; we prefer to think of our sin (when we think of sin at all) as belonging only to us as individuals, and no one else’s business. But the ancient Jews would not have understood this hyper-individualistic concept of sin. All sin affected the community, so all sin was everybody’s business. Everyone had to be purified. Recall the story of Achan in Joshua 7: the entire camp fails at its mission because one man had engaged in sin that polluted everyone. The purification offering is mandatory for anybody who sins and every person sins…therefore, it is an offering that every Israelite would have had to present from time to time (Hartley). In the last verse, we see again that whatever is left over belongs to the priest for wages.

 

Applying this concept to our worship today is not difficult. The notions of sin and guilt go against the grain of our culture. This chapter describes guilt as a reality or metaphysical entity attached to someone who commits sin. We, too, commit sin, and we bear guilt (Mosely). We see in 5.5 that confession is necessary. Mosely advises that we should keep a “short account with God.” This does not mean that your soteriological standing before God has changed; you are trusting in a Savior Whose blood is much more efficacious than that. Rather, this chapter reminds you that one of the consequences of sin is the inevitable pollution that accrues around your life. We read in this chapter that the priest is to make atonement for the worshiper, and we note that atonement is a type of taking away of sin. Sin has to be removed for us to be reconciled with God (Mosely). The sacrifice never did that—recall David’s cry to God in Ps 51.16-17—“you do not want a sacrifice.” Remember the teaching in Heb 10.4—“it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” God’s wrath was never appeased by sacrificing animals—that’s paganism. He has always wanted—and still wants—the heart change. There is no need to stress about your standing with God: Christ’s blood continually cleanses from sin (1 Jn 1.7) and He continually makes intercession for us at God’s right hand (Ro 8.34, He 7.25). But we may yet be mindful of the polluting consequences of sin, and how those consequences actually affect the community of faith. When you come before God in worship—which you do in the community of faith—being mindful of your fallenness and relying on Him to cleanse you is crucial. Confessing your sin and asking His forgiveness are acts of love and devotion to the One Who provided the means of atonement or you—not acts of terror. The followers of Jesus wear white robes in Rev.—demonstrating purity. He is the one Who purifies; rely on Him for this today.

 

Often, evangelical churches like ours rely on emotional appeals in altar calls that might result in many rash promises being made by God’s people. We should be mindful of keeping our word to God in His community. This is the way that we learn accountability—and the way that we grow.

 

Finally, it is worth our time to stop and think about how we got to a place, culturally, in which we no longer have the biblical attitude toward sin. Teachings about sin are not popular. This tendency has wormed its way into the church as well. How personally offended would you be if you were required to confess your sin publically before the congregation? Though we won’t be doing that in our church, that’s exactly how the ancient Jews rolled. It’s worth noting how far we’ve tumbled through the centuries—and how most of that is related to our inability or unwillingness to embrace the community of faith the way that God taught. The individual is more important to us.

 

Keeping a short account with God, approaching Him with reverence and repentance, and being mindful of our pollution and its effects on the community are ways that we can apply Leviticus 5.1-13 to our lives.

 

Leviticus 4:1-35

1Then the LORD spoke to Moses and said, 2“speak to the sons of Israel, saying: if any soul incurs guilt unintentionally in any of the LORD’s commandments about things not to be done and does one of them, 3if it is the anointed priest who sins, thus bringing guilt on the people, he will bring near for the sin that he has committed a bull from the herd without blemish to the LORD for a sin offering. 4He will bring the bull to the entrance off the tent of appointment before the LORD, and ay his hand on the head of the bull and kill the bull before the LORD. 5Then the anointed priest will take some of the blood of the bull and bring it into the tent of appointment, 6and the priest will dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle some of the blood seven times before the LORD in front of the veil of holiness. 7Then the priest will put some of the blood on the horns of the altar of fragrant incense before the LORD that is in the tent of appointment, and all the rest of the blood he will pour out at the base of the altar of burnt offering that is at the entrance of the tent of appointment. 8And all of the fat of the bull of the sin offering he will remove from it all of the fat that covers the entrails and all of the fat that is on the entrails, 9and the two kidneys and the at that is on them at the loins, and the long lobe of liver that he will remove from the kidneys. 10(Just as these are lifted off from the ox of the sacrifice of the peace offerings). 11And the priest will send it up in smoke on the altar of burnt offering. But the skin of the bull and all the flesh, with its head and its shank and its entrails and its dung he will bring out—12all the rest of the bull—outside of the camp to a clean place, and will burn it on the ash heap on a fire of wood. On the ash heap it will be burned. 13If the whole congregation strays and the thing is hidden from the eyes of the assembly, and they do any one of the commandments that by the LORD’s commandment ought not to be done, they are guilty. 14When the sin which they have sinned becomes known, the assembly will offer a bull from the herd as a sin offering, and they will bring it before the tent of appointment. 15Then the elders of the congregation will lay their hands on the head of the bull before the LORD, and the bull will be killed before the LORD. 16Then the anointed priest will bring some of the blood into the tent of appointment. 17And the priest will dip his finger into the blood and sprinkle it seven times before the LORD in front of the veil. 18And he will put some of the blood on the horns of the altar in the tent of appointment before the LORD, and will pour out all of the blood at the base of the altar of burnt offering that is at the entrance of the tent of appointment. 19Then he will remove all the fat from it and will burn it on the altar. 20Thus will he do with the bull. As he did with the bull of the sin offering, so will he do with this. And the priest will make atonement for them, and they will be forgiven. 21And he will bring the bull outside the camp and burn it as he burned the first bull; it is the sin offering for the assembly. 22If a leader sins unintentionally, doing any one of the things that by the LORD’s command ought not to be done, he is guilty—23or the sin that he has sinned is made known to him, he will bring as his offering a male goat without blemish, 24and will lay his hand on the head of the goat and kill it in the place where they killed the burnt offering before the LORD; it is a sin offering. 25Then the priest will take some of the blood of the sin offering with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and the rest of the blood he will pour around the base of the altar of burnt offering. 26And all of the fat he will send up in smoke on the altar, like the fat of the sacrifice of peace offerings. Then the priest will make atonement for his sin, and he will be forgiven. 27If any soul from the common people sins unintentionally in doing any one of the things that the lord commanded ought not to be done, he is guilty—28or if his sin that he sinned is made known to him, he will bring as his offering a goat, a female without blemish, for the sin that he has sinned. 29And he will lay his hand on the head of the sin offering and kill the sin offering in the place of the burnt offering. 30Then the priest will take some of the blood with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and the rest of the blood he will pour on the base of the altar. 31And all of the fat he will remove, as the fat is removed from the sacrifice of peace offerings, and the priest will send it up in smoke on the altar; it is a soothing aroma to the LORD. Then the priest will make atonement for him, and he will be forgiven. 32If he brings a young ewe-lamb as his offering for a sin offering, he will bring a female without blemish. 33And he will lay his hand on the head of the sin offering and kill it for a sin offering in the place where they kill the burnt offering. 34Then the priest will take some of the blood of the sin offering with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and the rest of the blood he will pour on the base of the altar. 35And all of the fat he will remove, as the fat of the ewe-lamb is removed from the sacrifice of peace offerings, and the priest will send it up in smoke on the altar as a fire [food] offering to the LORD. Then the priest will make atonement for him for the sin that he has sinned, and he will be forgiven.

 

Chapter 4 deals with the effects of sin. The type of offering described herein is a  חַטָּאת offering, which is derived from a root that means “to fail, to sin.” But the root, חטא, is actually used in the Hebrew “piel” case,  so it carries the opposite meaning of “sin.” Literally, this word would mean ”de-sin”….or “purification.” The propitiation of divine anger is an important element in the burnt offering, while restitution is the key idea in the purification offering (Wenham).  The purification offering is less important, and offered less frequently, so less valuable animals were used. It was designed to cope with the subsidiary problem created by human sin—pollution and defilement (Wenham). Interestingly, the Bible attaches greater significance to actions than we do—for us, past actions are just memories. For biblical writers, an action has enduring aftereffects (Wenham)—hence the need to purify the sanctuary.

 

In this chapter, sins of inadvertence are in view. This is in contradistinction to a “sin of high hand” (Nu 15.30). For example, Nu 35 speaks of homicide—but in two ways. If the homicide was deliberate, or “high-handed,” it carried the death penalty. This placed the highest possible value on human life; if you took a life, your punishment would cost you a life. If the homicide, however, was inadvertent, the offender could flee to a city of refuge, in which he would be protected by law. We will also note in this chapter that there are two types of purification: (1) regular—this was broken into two divisions: the people in covenant community and the individual; and (2) graduated. There were four classes of people in view for the purification offering: the anointed priest, the entire congregation of Israel, a prince (secular leader, rather than cultic), or any member of community. There were two basic regulations for the purification offering: the greater purification (for the priest or congregation), in which blood was brought inside the sanctuary and sprinkled on the veil, placed on the horns, and the flesh was burned outside the camp. The lesser regulation was for a prince or individual; in this case, blood was smeared on the horns and the flesh was eaten by priests.

 

Most interesting is the word סלח, which shows up 4 times in the chapter. It means “forgiven.” The Levitical sacrificial system didn’t just cover over sins, as some have taught. It provided for forgiveness of sins, as ordained by God. The only time the priest does not proclaim forgiveness is in his own case; perhaps it would not have been considered appropriate for the anointed priest to proclaim his own forgiveness.

Outside of verse three and Le. 6.15, the high priest is never called the anointed priest. Note that when he sins, he brings guilt on the people. The higher the position of the person who has sinned, the more costly the animal is required for sacrifice (Hartley). In verses 5-7, we see that instead of dashing the blood against the altar, the priest takes (לקח) it into the Holy Place and sprinkles (נזה) some of it 7 times before the holy curtain, or veil (פָּרֹ֥כֶת הַקֹּֽדֶשׁ). Seven was a number that typically signified completeness to the Hebrews. The top of the altar was square, eighteen inches by eighteen inches, standing thirty-six inches high. At the corners were upward protrusions called horns (Hartley). These are the “horns” of the altar. Here is a picture:

 

When the anointed priest sinned, the blood was sprinkled on the veil; when the secular leaders and the people sinned, the blood was smeared on the horns of the altar of burnt offering (Wenham). There is nothing from this altar that is to benefit humans (11-12). This prevents the priest from profiting from his own sins, possibly (Hartley).

 

The next category to be purified is the congregation, but what does this mean? It could have been a sin committed by the leaders of the group, or by the group itself when they had been poorly instructed. When the sacrifice is made, the priest makes atonement for the worshiper and the worshiper is forgiven. Hartley points out that “forgiven” (נִסְלַח) is passive, so the implied subject is God. In other words, God himself accepts the merits of the sacrifice and grants forgiveness. The Hebrew understood this, and therefore was shocked when Jesus claimed to have forgiven sins in the New Testament (Lk 7.48, for example). No one could do this unless He was God.

 

The final category is the “common people,” a phrase that describes the Hebrew עַ֣ם הָאָ֑רֶץ. This phrase is literally translated “people of the land.”

 

So how does today’s Christian apply this chapter of Leviticus? Two ideas come to mind.

 

First, we must remember that sin is a significant force in our lives. Israel, for example, was the chosen people, but when she sinned she no longer enjoyed the benefits of God’s presence (Ex 32, Le 10). Stan Norman paints a bleak picture in “Human Sinfulness”, page 473: “Sin must never be taken lightly. The Bible presents a horrific picture of the devastation of sin. Sin is idolatry, rebellion, missing the mark, straying from the path, treachery, lust, ungodliness, and wickedness. Sin disregards, commits willful error, brings guilt, and lacks integrity. Sin lusts, perverts, and breaks the law.” There are, in fact, only four chapters in the entire Bible that have no mention of sin—the opening story of Eden and the closing story of the redeemed creation. Simply put, the Bible is the story of man’s sin—it is the story of humanity (Mosely). Sin has terrible after-effects. There are the visible effects of sin—the natural consequences you suffer, for example, when you miss the mark. But there are also those effects that you don’t see (but of which the ancient Hebrews were painfully aware)—the pollution of your being. To atone for sin is to do what is necessary to restore a right relationship with God. Only Christ is capable of this; you don’t “get right” with God—He makes you right when you trust Him. And He is able to keep you. Purification cleansed the tabernacle of the pollution of sin. We learn in Hebrews 9.22 that EVERYTHING is purified by blood. 1 Peter 1.2 tells us that Christians are those who are “chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood,” and Revelation 7.14 tells us that the saints in heaven have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. All of these New Testament references have their central grounding in this chapter in Leviticus. People sin, but God sent His Son to be the sacrifice for that sin, and He sends His Holy Spirit to draw us closer and teach us to conform to His image. While we’re at it, we might note that the sin of leaders is considered more serious than that of ordinary people. It can lead a people astray, and can definitely pollute them. Moreover, forgiveness is arranged by God. It’s on His terms, not ours.

 

We can also remember that the ritual of worship is not mindless or empty. There is an order of operation that in some way mirrors God’s teaching and actions. First God set His people free from slavery, then He gave them laws for living (Mosely). Worship is what happens after we’ve been set free from slavery and are being drawn closer to Him. If this is your motive, your worship is never empty. Legalism, as practiced by the Pharisees in the first century, is following rules and expecting that action to make you holy. True worship is the humility that only God can make you holy—and the acknowledgement you’re willing to submit to His process.

 

Finally, we can learn a very important thing about God from this chapter: He is a teacher. The sacrificial system was God teaching that we simply can’t do this at all. We can’t be holy. When God gave His Law to His people, they proceeded to fail miserably at following it. Those who became the best at following it typically had the wrong motives, moreover. Forgiveness, atonement and holiness come only from the living God. By giving them this system, He was teaching them—and all of mankind. What was He teaching them? Not only did He teach them that they were incapable of holiness, but also that sacrifice was necessary. Because He is not a liar, the penalty for sin is death. He is a just God, so He must punish sin. But Israel showed that she trusted God by following this system. Ultimately, we show that we trust God by submitting to the new covenant—the one where He has already provided the sacrifice.

 

 

The humility of a sinner who desires to be holy. The willingness to submit to the teaching of God. The acknowledgement and embrace of the sacrifice God provided for us. These are elements of this chapter that we could incorporate into our worship.