Leviticus 4:1–2 (HCSB)
1 Then the Lord spoke to Moses: 2 “Tell the Israelites: When someone sins unintentionally against any of the Lord’s commands and does anything prohibited by them—
In this pericope, almost twice the number of verses of the previous passages, we are introduced to the sin offering. Some characteristics should be noted.
- The sin offering is for “unintentional” sin. Certainly intentional sin and unintentional sin are very different, and the rules described here are for the latter. At first it may seem counter-intuitive to prescribe an offering for sins we do not know we have committed… how can we make a sin offering if we don’t know we sinned? Although it is not spelled out here, it seems clear that we, as Christian brothers and sisters, are to hold each other accountable, gently and lovingly, bringing each other’s sin to light. And then when we are aware of our sin, we should carry out our repentance. In this passage we see the only occasion that makes an exception of sorts, is when the entire assembly, or nation, sins, and then the offering is to be made upon becoming aware of the sin.
- It is interesting that the offering for the anointed priest is the same as the offering for the entire assembly. This would suggest that the sin of the priest carries the same sort of impact, it is on par with the sin of the entire nation. This should remind us of the major responsibility of our spiritual leaders, and the immense impact they have. In fact, the passage outlines a hierarchy of sorts, where those that bear more responsibility require a “greater” sin offering for their trespasses.
- Finally, we should note the differences in the sin offering compared to the previous offerings in the carrying out of the ritual. Where the previous offerings made use of the altar, the sin offering was to be burned outside of the camp, pointing us towards Jesus (Hebrews 13:12). Additionally, the procedures concerning the blood of the sacrifice are different, being closer to God’s dwelling presence than the previous offerings. Perhaps this emphasizes the severity of sin? Or the need to come to God when we have rebelled and sinned against Him?
Lord, thank You for providing a way for us to be reconciled with You. We read here that it used to be through the sacrifice of animals, their blood covering our sin, but the ultimate, and permanent, atonement was Jesus. I pray we don’t become blind to our sin, but recognize it, whether it be on our own or through the rebuke of others, and continue to come to You in repentance, cleansed by Your Son’s blood. Amen.