Leviticus 4 – The Sin Offering (preached at Shalom Church on 23 Nov 2021)

This sermon was preached at Shalom Church Singapore on 23 Nov 2021.

For those who are new to the book of Lev, I want to let you know that that I have been trying to cover Leviticus 1-5 every time I get to preach.

So by way of background, let me do a quick summary of what we have covered so far.

Lev 1-5 describe 5 different offerings that the old testament worshipper had to bring in order to approach God.

And the new testament tells us that these offerings were shadows of good things to come.

They were pictures of the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross for His people.

Now, do we who live in the new testament still need to make such offerings? No! Why?

Because Jesus has fulfilled all the requirements pictured in Leviticus for us to draw near to God.

All that is required is for us to repent of our sins & put our faith in Jesus blood & righteousness.

Now, why are they 5 different offerings?

Because none, on its own, can provide a complete picture of Jesus’s work.

Well, so far, I’ve managed to cover the pictures presented in Leviticus 1, 2 & 3, ..

And they are namely – the burnt offering, the grain offering & the peace offering.

What are these 3 offerings for?

The burnt offering (Lev 1) is a picture of Jesus laying down His life as the ultimate sacrifice for His people.

Christ “…bore our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live…” – 1 Pet 2:24

The grain offering (Lev 2) is a symbol of perfection.

It had no leaven, no honey, but is full of oil, salt & frankincense.

And these are symbolic representations of the perfection of Jesus.

He had no sin, no impurity, but was full of the Holy Spirit, Purity & prayer.

When we believe in Jesus, we put on the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

So, when God sees us, He does not see our sins.

Instead He sees the righteousness of Jesus covering us.

That’s what is meant that we are saved through Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

And then there is the peace offering.

You do not bring a peace offering to obtain peace with God.

Instead, the peace offering is a celebration of the resulting peace we have with God through Jesus Christ.

Every time we observe the Lord’s supper, we are remembering & rejoicing that we have peace with God through Jesus Christ.

Now, these 3 offerings – the burnt offering, grain offering & peace offering – they were voluntary offerings.

Today, we come to chapter 4 – the sin offering – which is the first of the 2 compulsory offerings.

The other compulsory offering is in chapter 5 – the trespass offering. 

God-willing, we will cover that another time.

Before I go on, I want to be very clear about my objective today.

There’s a lot of information about the sin offering in Leviticus 4. 

We can do a detailed bible study on each word & instruction there.

But my objective is not to load you with information.

It is my desire that you hear the gospel of Jesus Christ from the pages of Leviticus.

It is my desire that you can see the holiness of God.

And yet at the same time…..the love of God provided in a sacrificial system that foreshadows our Saviour.

And you cannot but respond to the gospel call.

So may God help us see Christ here in Leviticus Chapter 4 today.

Leviticus 4 is about the sin offering.

And this morning there 3 things that I want to highlight about the sin offering. 

1)         The sin offering is different from the trespass offering

What is the difference?

Isn’t a sin a trespass?

Why are there these 2 different compulsory offerings in Leviticus 4 & 5?

Let me try to explain this in a simple manner.

Let me start with the sin offering.

First of all, what does the word “sin” mean?

Most of us would say “sin is a transgression of God’s laws”.

That’s not wrong.

But in Hebrew, the word “sin” actually means “missing the mark” or “coming short”.

What is this mark?

What are we coming short in?

Well, the standard/mark provided for us throughout Leviticus is this – “you shall be holy, for I am holy” – says the LORD. 

And this is repeated several times – starting in Lev 11:44, Lev 19:2, Lev 20:7, Lev 20:26, Lev 21:8 & it goes on even in the book of Numbers & Deuteronomy.

So we have all missed the mark of God’s holiness.

And the consequence of that is eternal hell fire unless something is done for us.

That’s very serious my friends; don’t take it lightly.

No amount of good works can help you meet the mark of God’s holiness, except the gospel of Jesus Christ.

You sin & I sin because of something that we are. 

We are sinners.

And the focus of the sin offering is on the person of the sinner.

Now, sins are not some abstract element that floats around in the air.  

And God does not punish sin that is virtual in this manner.

Because sins are committed by real people; people who are sinners.

And the sins that we commit are symptoms that reveal the internal corruption of our hearts.

We are hell-deserving sinners.

And sin is punished with specific reference to the people who commit them.

And the judgement of God will come upon the people who are sinners, unless atonement is made for them.

That’s the emphasis of the sin offering.

It focuses on the person, the sinner.

And so in Lev 4, we read about offerings to be brought by different categories of persons who have sinned in their respective capacities.

For example, if the priest sins, a young bull had to be offered (v3)

If the leader of the nation sins, a male goat had to be offered (v22)

And the list goes on and on.

Once again, the emphasis of the sin offering is on the person who has sinned…

… – the person who has missed the mark of God’s holiness….

The person who has fallen short of the glory of God.

And that person cannot approach God until atonement is made for him by the category that he belongs to.

And so you see in the daily proceedings of Tabernacle worship, Aaron the high priest, …

before he makes an offering of incense (which is a symbol of prayer) every day, he brings a sin offering for himself…..

and it is only after presenting the sin offering, that he approaches God with sweet incense. 

And the sin offering is always made before the offering of incense.  (Remember our brother Kian Teck labouring on this point during our ACE on prayer?) Why?

Because we can’t approach to God until a sin offering is made.

Why do we always pray in Jesus name?

Because our prayers can only be brought to God through Jesus who is our sin offering to God. 

Let’s remember this precious truth each time we pray.

So that was the sin offering.

What about the trespass offering?

Well, people sin when they commit a particular offence.

And that offence is also called a trespass. 

And it is the specific offence (or trespass) committed by the person/the sinner that arouses the anger of God. 

And the act of the specific offence (or trespass) has to be repented of.

And it has to be atoned for.

And in the trespass offering, we also see the concept of restitution for different types of offences committed.

In other words, it is not just about being sorry for sin.

There had to be compensation for the hurt or loss brought about by the particular sin or trespass.

And we also see the concept of “valuation” for the severity of the trespass committed.

God willing, we will have the opportunity to study these when we come to Leviticus 5.

But suffice for now, let’s be clear that the emphasis of the trespass offering is on the particular offence that a sinner has committed.

Now, that was quite a long explanation.

But I hope it brings clarity to the difference between the sin offering and the trespass offering. 

The sin offering focuses on the person, the sinner.

The trespass offering focuses on the offence committed by the sinner.

Both are detestable before God.

Both need atonement for.

And that is why these 2 offerings are compulsory offerings.

The lesson for us is this – don’t just go away thinking that this is all for the old testament believer.

Let’s be honest with ourselves:

There was never a day or moment where any of us can claim that we have not sinned.

We have all “missed the mark”.

We have all “come short” of God’s holiness.

And as long as we are unrepentant,….

As long as there is no atonement made,… the judgement of God will fall upon us.

But the good news is that God “…. made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” – 2 Cor 5:21.

That’s the gospel of good news!  

That’s hope for sinners conveyed in the sin offering – portraying the ultimate offering made by Jesus for those who would come to Him in faith.

If you are new to the gospel message, it is in your interest to find out more about this.

Please talk to someone in our Church so that we can help you or clarify any questions you may have.

We are studying Leviticus 4 – which is about the sin offering.

There are 3 things that I want to highlight.

And the second is this:

2)         The sin offering (in the Levitical system) was for unintentional sins

Please examine the following verses in Leviticus 4 with me:

v2 “…If a person sins unintentionally against any of the commandments of the LORD in anything which ought not to be done, and does any of them….”

V13 “….if the whole congregation sins unintentionally, ….”

V 22 “When a ruler has sinned, and done something unintentionally ….”

V27 “if anyone of the common people sins unintentionally…”

Can you see that the sin offering is for people who have committed unintentional sins?

That’s what we have read earlier isn’t it?

So what are unintentional sins?

The King James Bible translated the word “unintentional” as “sin through ignorance”.

The Amplified bible translated it as “sin through error or unwittingly”.

From the verses we have read, we understand that “unintentional sins” are committed by doing something that God commanded that we should not do or omitting to do something that we were commanded to do.

Unintentional sins are committed either due to a lack of knowledge, because human weakness, or because the offender did not really understand his guilt. 

Most of these sins may appear to be very trivial.

For example, it could be someone tripping over a dead corpse at night.

Or perhaps taking some food that he is forbidden to take.

But every single violation of God’s law is “missing the mark”.

Well, you may say – but their heart had no intention of sinning, so why are they still guilty?

May be they didn’t even know that it was a commandment of the LORD?

How can you consider that as sin?  

Well, let me try to address this objection using an analogy.

Supposing you are a visitor to Singapore and you rented a car here.

And you were driving at 120km/hr on one of our expressways.

And the traffic police caught up with you.

And they tell you that you have committed an offence.

And you say to them – Oh I am sorry, I didn’t know your speed limit was only 90km/hr.

It was totally unintentional; I didn’t kill anyone; there was no accident.

How can you say I committed an offence?

What do you think the traffic police will say to you?

Even if you eventually receive a pardon, does it mean that you were innocent?

You see, the point is this: we cannot use ignorance as an excuse for our sins.

You are in the land of Singapore.

You are expected to comply with the laws of the land, whether you know it or not.

Ignorance cannot be used to plead innocence.

So in the same way, regardless of whether you accept it, the fact is that this world does not belong to you.

It belongs to the sovereign Creator of the universe.

And since we are living in His world, we are expected to know His laws.

And the bible tells us that the laws of God are written in our hearts, our conscience (Rom 2:15)

And God in His kindness provided atonement for His people in the OT when they sinned unintentionally.

Isn’t’ that wonderful?

We should be grateful to God for providing this way to approach Him for unintentional sins in the OT.

So the sin offering was for unintentional sins.

Now, what if you sinned intentionally & deliberately in the old testament?

What if you despised God’s commands and couldn’t care less about Him?

What if you are a wilful & defiant sinner?

What can you do? What sacrifice do you bring to God?

Well, there is actually no sacrifice in the OT that you can bring to God for deliberate & high-handed sins!

Let me say that again…

There is no sacrifice in the Levitical system that a wilful sinner can bring to God for deliberate sins.

This may surprise some of you.

But before you react, please listen carefully so that you do not misunderstand what I say.

Please turn to Num 15:30-36 that gives us an example of this.

V32 – a man was found gathering sticks on the Sabbath day.

God had expressly said that no work should be done on that day.

Yet, knowingly & defiantly & out of the hardness of his heart, this man did what he was not supposed to do.

What was the judgement for that man?

V30 – ‘‘But the person who does anything presumptuously, whether he is native-born or a stranger, that one brings reproach on the Lord , and he shall be cut off from among his people. Because he has despised the word of the Lord, and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt shall be upon him.’ ”’

What was the eventual outcome for that man?

V35 – “…the man must surely be put to death…”

They brought him out of the camp and stoned him.

That’s quite serious isn’t it? That’s the Levitical system.

There was a woman in John 8 who caught in the act of adultery.

The Scribes & Pharisees brought her to Jesus and suggested that she ought to be stoned.

Why did they make such a suggestion?

Because that’s what it says according to Moses’ law in Lev 18.

But of course we know that in that incident  the Scribes & Pharisees were trying to test Jesus – whether He upholds the Moses’ law.

But all these sound very harsh isn’t it?

Well, let this be a reminder to us that we must never trivialise sin before a Holy God.

When the writer of the book of Hebrews warned the Jews about apostasy and that they should not neglect the great salvation in Jesus Christ, he reminded them of what happened to people who sinned deliberately in the OT.

Let me read to you Heb 10:26-28 – 

‘For if we sin wilfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’

So when the Jew with background of Moses’ law reads these verses, he is reminded that there was no sacrifice that he could bring when he sinned deliberately in the Levitical system.

Therefore, he should never neglect the great salvation in Jesus Christ or he will end up worst than OT people.

Because “…It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

That is the Levitical system, my friends.

Aren’t you glad that by the providence of God, we are not in those times?

Some of you may be wondering …

Isn’t there a “Day of atonement” in the Levitical system?

Aren’t all sins forgiven on that day?

That is an annual national event for Israel – do not confuse that with the atonement required for the individual sinner.

Atonement is specific and particular. It is never generic.

I can take that offline with you if you want to find out more.

Ok. But what if a wilful, deliberate & high handed sinner finally repents in the OT?

What can he do? There’s no sacrifice he can bring. What must he do?

Well, all that he can do is to cast himself on the mercies of God and hope that he can find forgiveness.

Do you realise that that was what King David did when he was convicted of the sin of adultery & murder?

He feared that he could find no forgiveness.

And so, he prayed in Psalm 51:16

‘For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart— These, O God, You will not despise.’

While these verses teach us that God desires the sacrifice of our hearts, it also reminds us that the sin offering is only for unintentional sins.

But the gospel is good news for every sinner in every circumstance.

Listen to what Heb 10:11-12 commenting on the Levitical system has to say.

‘And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God,.. ‘

‘For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.’

Who is this Man that the Hebrews writer is referring to? 

He is Jesus Christ whom I preach to you today!

There is now hope for every repentant sinner because Jesus “..offered one sacrifice for sins forever.”

And with this hope, the Apostle Peter preached to the Jews in Acts 3.

Remember, these were the Jews who rejected Jesus.

They were unrepentant & defiant people who refused to believe in Jesus.

And they deliberately crucified Him.

Yet Peter said to them in v19…”.. Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, …”

The anti-type of Jesus’ sacrifice was superior to the type that is pictured in Leviticus – how precious isn’t it!…

‘For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.’

There is hope for every sinner in every circumstance when you come to Jesus.

And out of all those who heard Peter’s message that day, 5,000 repented.

What would it be for you today as you hear this gospel preached to you?

Have you continued to walk in sin despite hearing and knowing the expressed will of God?

Have you despised His word in spite of experiencing His patience and mercies?

The blood of Jesus can wash away every stain of sin that you may have committed even defiantly & knowingly.

That’s the gospel! 

It calls for repentance and it gives hope for reconciliation with God.

Don’t go away today without settling this account with God.

It is in your interest that you resolve this matter because it is fearful thing to fall into the hands of a Holy God.

We are studying Lev 4 and there are 3 things I wanted to share with you and here is #3.

3)         The sin offering is our hope for reconciliation with God

There are 4 categories of people mentioned in Lev 4:

–           The priest (v3) 

–           The whole congregation (v13)

–           The leader of the people (v22)

–           The common person (v27) 

If we lived in the Old Testament, we will find ourselves in one of these categories.

For each of these categories, a different animal had to used as the sacrifice.

There are 2 observations I want to make here:

Firstly, the individual sins of the priest is as serious as the sins of the entire congregation.

Notice that when the priest sins, he had to bring a young bull as a sacrifice (v3).

And if the whole congregation sins, likewise a young bull had to be offered (v14).

This is a solemn reminder to those holding spiritual office (including the Sunday School Teachers).

The individual sins of a spiritual leader is as severe as the sins of the entire congregation.

James 3:1 tells us “…let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgement” 

This is not to discourage any of you (especially the young men in our midst) from pursuing spiritual leadership.

If God has given you gifts, they are to be used to serve Him & for His glory.

This is a call for all of us to regularly uphold our Church leaders in prayer.

Support them, submit to them & do not subject them to further stress or temptations that they are already under.

They are the ones under public scrutiny.

They are the ones whom Satan will attack first.

They are also the ones who will receive a stricter judgement.

They need our support & prayers for God’s mercies to be upon them & their families.

When Israel had a good king, the nation was blessed.

But when an ungodly king took office, the nation suffered.

Let us pray that God will continue to give this Church Godly leaders to lead His flock in the generations to come.

Secondly, I want you to notice that sin plagues every category of people.

No class of people, no race, no society is spared from the deadly effects of sin.

Sin is not found more in one race, one class of people, one society than another.

There is no vaccine or antidote for sin.

Whether you are a spiritual leader, a member of the congregation, a leader of the nation or just a common citizen.

You are plagued by sin just like any other human being.

But the good news is that when each category of these people do exactly as God has prescribed for them….

We read the following phrase at the end of the directions for each category – in v20, v26, v31 & v35….

The precious words which say “..it shall be forgiven him”!

Those are wonderful words that provide hope for every sinner’s reconciliation with God.

“Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered”- Psalm 32.

This is our hope for avoiding hell because we “missed the mark” of God’s holiness.

This is our hope to spend eternity in heaven with our Creator.

Let us rejoice in this hope of reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ.

If this sermon has confused you, I hope you will go home with just this one point – 

“…it shall be forgiven you…” if you repent of your sins & put your faith in Jesus Christ.

Let me now draw the meditation to a close.

When I was in university, there was a compulsory subject that I had to take.

It was an area of mathematics called “numerical analysis”.

I don’t know how many of you have studied that subject before.

Till today, I don’t understand why that subject was compulsory for me because I have never ever used anything in that subject in my entire career,…

Except for it to be used as an analogy today.

You see, my problem with that subject was that I couldn’t see the problem.

When you can’t see the problem – that is the biggest problem!

But on the other hand, my wife can see the problem so clearly that she can even teach that subject.

So it’s clearly a case of “Some can see” but “some just cannot see”.

And I am the one who just could not see.

Ok, what’s my point?

If you cannot see your problem with sin, the grace of God will make no sense to you.

The sin offering & how it pictures Jesus will make no sense to you.

And the bible tells us that “..unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

It that your situation today?

If it is, what can you do & what should you do?

I offer you the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:7 which says “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”

Let me share with you what happened to someone I knew who was in a similar situation.

He was a young man who could not see what all these preaching was about, all these going to Church, all these singing of hymns, etc. – Why are we doing all these?

So his mother sent him away to spend some time with a missionary.

She was hoping that the missionary could “knock some sense” into her son & make him see his sins.

Well, of course the missionary knew that he could not do that.

Dear parents, please also understand that the Sunday School teachers cannot do that….

So when the son arrived in his home, the missionary did not say much him.

He just gave him some food & made the young man stay in a room.

And he told him to think about his actions… the thoughts that went through his mind, yesterday, the day before, the week before and the month before.

And the missionary prayed for him.

A few days later, the young man came out and said to the missionary – I have sinned against God.

Praise God! His eyes were opened.

Not because of anything that the missionary did.

But because God opened his eyes.

Perhaps you have been coming to Church.

Perhaps you have been participating in religious activities.

These are all well & good.

But they just mean nothing to you.

There is one thing you can do.

You can pray and ask God – “Lord, help me see my sins and the kingdom of God.”

Help me see why Jesus should be so precious to me.

Ask, seek & knock.

You have nothing to lose but everything to gain by doing this.

And may God be pleased to answer your prayer & say to you in your heart concerning your sins “it shall be forgiven you”.

Let us pray.

By Grace through Faith…..Eph 2:8-9

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