Leviticus 4:1–35

Third Avenue Baptist Church

Louisville, KY

Leviticus 4:1-35 — Leviticus Series

October 10, 2021

Well, good morning. It’s good to see you all spectacular October morning and wonderful to be here together for the study of God’s word. And we are in Leviticus looking at chapter four in our adventure in, this central book of the Pentateuch, the third book of the Bible, and the book of the law. In this case, the specific instructions were given to the people of Israel known as Leviticus with specific reference to the Levitical priesthood. The performance of sacrifices. As we see here at the beginning of our study together. We’re going to be looking at chapter four, continuing this morning, but let’s open with a word of prayer.

Our Father, we pray that you will open your word and open our hearts simultaneously and open our minds to understand. And Father, we seek the deep things in your word. Things hidden from before the foundation of the earth that you have revealed to us. Father, we pray this for Your glory and for the health of your church in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, our Lord, amen.

This morning, no doubt you gave some thought to coming here and for the study of God’s word and for worship. You gave some thought to what would happen here. We’ve often described the distinction and the book of Leviticus in terms of the Cultus. Well, all that’s required in terms of preparation and specificity, even all that’s required in terms of the physical objects from the tent of meeting and the tabernacle to what will eventually be the temple and the most holy place. The spectacular cloth that arrayed within the site of the room. The specific grandeur and priestly nature of the vestments, the robes worn by the priests and by others.

We compare that to the fact that we don’t have a uniform. There, there are no priestly garments. There’s no priest here, but as we look at the passage of our consideration today, beginning in Leviticus, chapter four. It’s just yet another stark reminder of how much attention this required of Israel for Israel to be faithful to this law, it had to give constant— virtually hour by hour attention—to itself and to the preparation for what would be necessary sacrifices.

Today, we come to the sin offerings. This is what most Christians think of as the very heart of the sacrificial system. Now we’ve seen there are other offerings— guilt offerings, peace offerings, burned offerings— but, now we come to the sin offering and I think most Christians, even as they think, “We know what this, this kind of offering’s going to be about. We know what this sacrifice is going to be about,” would be shocked to find out actually how chapter four begins.

Now, for one thing, this is a new passage in Leviticus. You know that because of the phrase, “Now the Lord spoke to Moses.” So, when this comes, this is like a separate Oracle experience. Moses is receiving this separate from what has come before.

“And the Lord spoke to Moses saying, speak to the people of Israel.” Another thing we need to note. So this is not a secret priest code. Which again tells us something about how central this was not just to the priesthood, but Israel. This is not secret information that is supposed to be released only to the priests who have this gnostic, that secret knowledge. No, this is the knowledge of Israel. The Lord spoke to Moses. Moses is to speak to the people. He is to tell them exactly what he has received from the Lord, not just the priests, all of Israel. “Speak to the people of Israel saying if anyone sins unintentionally in any of the Lord’s commandment about things not to be done and does any one of them if it is the anointed priest who sins, thus bringing guilt on the people, then he shall offer for the sin, that he is committed a bull from the herd, without blemish to the Lord for a sin offering.” That’s pretty straightforward. It’s big.

There’s something here that Christians might just rush past without recognizing what’s taking place here. Not just in times past, but particularly in our times. In our times there is a lot of effort to minimize sin. Now that’s probably been a human project ever since Genesis three. So, we get that, but there’s a sense in which, in our time we have rather sophisticated mechanisms to try to deny the sinfulness of sin.

For one thing, we’ve had the modern redefinition of human beings, from being sinners who are agents to being victims, who are acted upon. So, there is a sense in which there’s a lot behind this; you have the entire revolution in terms of Freudianism and the psychotherapeutic revolution that creates the self. What is wrong is from outside the self, it represses the self. Freudianism is a lot more complicated than that. But the point is that the average American thinks of sin as something far less than a falling short of the glory of God in a violation of God’s law, that brings on God’s wrath, and that brings on guilt.

The big thing in this shift of sin is the idea that whatever sin is, it should not bring about a sense of guilt. When most people today talk about guilt, they talk about something subjective. “I feel guilty.” You know, if you go to the psychotherapist, you’re likely to hear that guilt is something you need to overcome. It is something that has been imposed upon you. Now, in terms of the Christian vocabulary, our understanding of guilt is first and foremost, that it’s an objective reality. It’s an objective reality that is not necessarily our sense of it because it exists, whether we sense it or not. It’s an objective reality because it is indeed the guilt of having transgressed God’s law. And with sin comes guilt. We understand that the parallel word is shame. Shame is the experience, individually or collectively, of having sinned.

By the way, National Public Radio this morning as I was shaving. I turn on the top news segment from National Public Radio. When I begin to shave just to provide some kind of thrill to see if I can listen to that news and still not cut my throat, as I’m shaving. This morning it was a particular challenge because they were talking about the women’s marches all over. Especially in response to the Texas abortion bill. A woman was coming on the program and one of the NPR reporters said a central purpose of the march is to help women to understand there should be no stigma attached to abortion. One of the women speaking just said, “I had an abortion simply because I didn’t want to be pregnant and there’s nothing wrong with that!”

You just listen to that. You go, “Okay, there’s the battle cry. There’s the battle cry of rebellious humanity. ‘I had an abortion simply because I didn’t want to be pregnant’, you know, deal with it. There’s no stigma here. There’s no shame here.” But you need to notice something that we just read at the beginning versus chapter four in Leviticus. It’s the refutation of modern, liberal Protestant theology that minimizes sin. It’s the refutation of modern evangelical stupid—there’s a lot of that—that minimizes sin. It’s the refutation of the idea that we can sin without guilt.

Look at what we read. “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 these things not to be done and does any one of them if it is the anointed priest who sins thus bringing guilt on the people.'”

So here’s how inextricably linked sin and guilt are. The link is so powerful that if unintentionally— this is how the whole text begins—if one of the priests sins unintentionally, he brings guilt upon the people. So you’ll notice it’s almost as if that verse was given to us to refute this modern argument of the minimization of sin. This is natural for Israel. Israel was hearing this as if it knew what sin is and now it’s just being told how the Lord will have them deal with sin. But in this case, it’s an unintentional sin by a priest that brings guilt upon the entire nation. It turns our theology on its head, and it’s right there and it’s natural. You’ll notice this is just the natural argument of Leviticus. This is why all the sacrifices, why all the offerings, this is why all the requirements. It’s just mind-blowing to recognize what we’re being told here.

God takes sin so seriously that if a priest unintentionally sins it brings guilt upon the entire nation. What then is to be done? Again specificity. “Then he, then he shall offer for the sin that he has committed a bull from the herd without blemish to the Lord for a sin offering. He shall bring the bull to the entrance of the tent of meeting before the Lord and lay his hand on the head of the bull and kill the bull before the Lord. And the anointed priest shall take some of the blood of the bull and bring it into the tent of meeting. And the priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle part of the blood seven times before the Lord in front of the veil of the sanctuary. And the priest shall put some of the blood on the horns of the altar of fragrant incense before the Lord, that is in the tent of meeting and all the rest of the blood of the bull he shall pour out at the base of the altar of burnt offering that is at the entrance of the tent of meeting. And all the fat of the bull of the sin offering, he shall remove from it, the fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins and the long lobe of the liver that he shall remove with the kidneys, just as these are taken from the ox of the sacrifice of the peace offering. And the priest shall burn them on the altar of burnt offering, but the skin of bull and all its flesh with its head, its legs, its entrails, and its dung, all the rest of the bull he shall carry outside the camp to a clean place to the ash heap and shall burn it up on a fire of wood on the ash heap It shall be burned up.”

It’s a lot there. One of the things we are going to see is that Israel is given a certain scale of sin offerings. In this case, it begins with the most significant and that is a sin of a priest that brings guilt on all the people. What kind of sacrifice would be required? Well, it is a sacrifice of a bull without blemish. Now in the pecking order, in the economy of the animals in this agrarian context, a bull is the most expensive animal of all. So you’re talking about a very expensive sacrifice and it has to be provided.

One of the things we note just as a matter of economy here is because of the nature of sin—how often we sin, how often Israel sinned, how often the priests would sin even unintentionally— then there would be the need for a lot of bulls to be brought. So one of the things you have to see in the background of Leviticus is the economy of the sacrificial system. This is a massive economy. And in the case of this particular sacrifice, there’s nothing left. So the priests are not eating this. Otherwise, the priests would benefit from his own sin. And that’s one of the reasons why at the very end of what we read the animal is taken to the place outside the camp where it’s burned utterly, as a sacrifice to the Lord.

But you’ll notice that he’s to bring the bull to the entrance to the tent of meeting. So this is before the Lord. So the sacrifice itself was taking place out front, but looking into the tent of meeting. So it’s outside. Nothing’s brought in until it is intentionally by instruction brought in. Notice again, the substitutionary transference here. He shall bring the bull to the entrance of the tent and before the Lord and lay his hand on the head of the bull and kill the bull before the Lord. Laying on a hand again, this is a priestly way of indicating representation, substitution, sacrifice.

We’re told what happens here and it’s similar to the burnt offering, but it’s not exactly the same. And the anointed priest shall take some of the blood of the bull and bring it into the tent of meeting. So as you picture it, you have the tabernacle and outside the tent, you have the actual sacrifice of the animal and laying on of hands. And then the animal is butchered, it’s slaughtered. And then what is taken into the tent and towards the most holy place is some of the blood from the animal. This blood is going to be sprinkled. You’ll notice in verse six, “And the priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle part of the blood seven times before the Lord in the front of the veil of the sanctuary.”

Mary and I have had the delight of having our daughter, Katie, and our grandkids with us just for a few days this week, it was a precious, precious time. This is just being afflicted upon you, sorry. Benjamin’s five and Henry’s three and Mary Margaret’s about six months. It’s the two boys that are the center of storm and fury.

We love watching them play, and playing with them, these two little boys. Energy from each other and their constant reference to each other. In my library, I have a couple of bookstands, with the antique and aquarium Bibles of significance on them. They look like pulpits to these two little boys. So, they decided that they would take it upon themselves to go down to my study and preach. Benjamin is learning so much at five. He can preach, he can really preach. I mean, he can get up and tell you about the entire sequence of the Old Testament events. He can tell you about the invasion of the Hyksos into Egypt. It’s just incredible what this five-year-old already knows.

There are other things that he hears that he doesn’t really know. At one point he was talking about God giving Noah a rainbow sign. And he talked about the rainbow. Then he said, he gave him a sign. You know, he put up a sign like God, putting up a yard sign, “Look at the rainbow, you idiot.” God put up a sign. As he was preaching, and by the way, that meant that his little brother went to the other pulpit. He kind of mimicked words coming from Benjamin. But the preaching is pretty much centered on sin. A five-year-old gets there pretty fast. The fact that the Lord, God told Adam and Eve not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But they did God put them out of the garden. And then Noah and the flood God’s judgment on sin is big. Because if you’re five that you get. You don’t get it in its fullness, but you get that is the point. It takes an adult to miss the point. It takes an adult’s defense mechanisms. It takes psychotherapy and liberal theology and all the rest to avoid just how grotesque sin is.

But for Israel, just think about the fact that most days, in the cycle of Israel’s life, this is just being constantly done. And this sprinkling of blood, when you think about it being brought into, to the tent of meeting. Some of it is sprinkled here and some of it is sprinkled there. By the way, the number seven is big, because we also got a sermon on Jericho and Joshua. And how many times, seven times. “Why”, you asked,”Was it seven times?” Because God told them seven times. That is the right answer. But the number seven just comes up again and again and again. This number of, of perfection pointing to divine glory and the divine command, the divine command is that this is to be done seven times. It’s interesting. This is different.

Part of it is sprinkled in front of the ail of the sanctuary. So that veil is what separates the holy place from the most holy place. What is the new testimony we referred to as the holy of holies? At least that’s what we think of it more often as the most holy place.

“And the priest shall put some of the blood on the horns of the altar of fragrant incense before the Lord that is in the tent of meeting.” So this is the incense piece. The horns, remember, are where on the corners there would’ve been raised like the horns of an animal. Some of it is to be sprinkled there as well. Now you must remember that also what has to follow this is the cleansing, the ritual cleansing of all. But then you have a dead animal. You just took the blood into the tent of the meeting.

So verse eight, “And all the fat of the bull of the sin offerings should be removed from it.” At this point, you think, “Well this is going to be all removed because parts of it are going to be burned, you know, in the offering and parts of it be dealt with this way and that way, part of it, the priest will eat.” No, this is different because this is a sin offering. We are given all the details about what is to be removed, but you have the prize pieces burnt at the altar of the burnt offering. Then the rest of it—here’s the other just blockbuster part of this passage— “all the rest of the bull, he shall carry outside the camp to a clean place to the ash heap and shall it up on a fire of wood. On the ash heap, it shall be burned up.” Amazing. Outside the tent, outside the camp.

So now we have spatially, as we’re thinking about this, we have the camp and then we have the tent in the camp. You approach it within the camp. It’s all within the little society, the little civilization where Israel—Israel’s not a little people at this point, this let’s call it the metropolis of Israel. Some things have to go outside.

Aristotle said that every city civitas begins with families who first of all, identify with each other. Then secondly, identify against the world. The world is a violent place, Aristotle understood. So if you see a city, two things have happened. People gather together and this will be family structures. They gathered together and, out of their commonality, they said, “Let us live together.” But in order to survive, they had to say, “Not only are we committed to each other inside this civitas, but we are against the rest.” In other words, defensive. Others will try to come and take us, or what is our own.

Aristotle’s point was that as you have a city like that—what we would just call the camp of Israel—there has to be a definition, a clear definition of what is inside and outside. So that’s why during this time of human history, you often have city walls and you have city gates. Aristotle is right. That’s how a city starts. People saying, “Let us live together.” But then, in order to live together in peace, they have to be ready to define themselves and defend themselves against the world. The wall, thus the gate, is a camp. Remember Israel isn’t yet a city. This is a moving metropolis. This is a nomadic people being led by the Lord until they can go into the Land of Promise where they will inhabit the land. You notice the verbs in the Old Testament. They’re passing through this territory, they will inhabit. They’re going to possess, that’s another important, Old Testament word. They’re going to possess this Land of Promise, but they’re just passing through here. But even when they are a camp, rather than a city, there has to be an inside and outside. There are things that take place outside. And by the way, that’s true for us.

There was a controversy, just a matter of, about two years ago, because— here’s an obvious fact a lot of people don’t think about. Evidently, it’s an obvious fact, a lot of people in New York City in Manhattan didn’t think about it. Guess where the garbage goes produced by all those millions of people in Manhattan. Well, here’s the answer. It doesn’t stay in Manhattan. Manhattan can’t do anything with all this garbage. It produces a lot of garbage. It has to go somewhere. Basically, there are only two ways out of Manhattan for that trash. One is by ship and the other is by train. A couple of years ago came the scandal of the fact that a lot of the garbage in Manhattan was being taken by night on these stinky garbage trains that were going to places like Southern states and some other places where landfills were created so that what New York produces and can’t handle being taken elsewhere. Well, there was outrage at the fact that these Manhattanites were exporting their garbage. Someone else has to take their garbage. And after all, these are the people who want the green new deal. Meanwhile, in order to flush their own commodes and do everything else. They have to just put it on a ship and put it on a train and ship it somewhere else.

But the point is you can’t live in Manhattan if your garbage stays in Manhattan. Here’s a little clue. It’s bad enough when it’s there long enough to be picked up and put on a train or on a ship. One of the first things I notice about being in a place like Manhattan is not just the tall buildings. It is the tall smells. You have a real clear idea that human beings are living in Manhattan, doing all the human being stuff that produces all the human being stuff.

One of the other things I learned as a boy scout, there are certain things inside the camp, certain things outside the camp. You don’t build your latrine inside the camp. That is not good form. That doesn’t work very well. That adds up too. If you’re, you know, a bunch of boy Scouts adds up perhaps to some temporary inconvenience. If it’s long-term, it’s called typhus. It’s deadly. This doesn’t work.

Israel had to have an inside and outside the camp and understand outside the camp means two things. It means outside the civilization, it’s outside the civitas. It’s in the territory that the city’s not claiming as its own. It’s not defending this territory. It’s not the civilized territory. It’s not the inhabited territory, but more than that, it’s a distinction between where we live and we keep clean and what’s outside with a different set of rules. The camp becomes very important. Outside the camp will be important to our salvation where Christ dies outside the camp. Outside the city walls of Jerusalem. He has taken out where the garbage is burned, where he dies for our sins.

But right now, this is outside the camp for what is left of the bull. The bull was taken outside the camp to a clean place, to an ash heap. “And on the ash heap, it shall be burned up.” The Lord doesn’t want this part of the bull. Like the burnt offering, the prize parts are to be burned on the fire. But in this case, what’s left, pretty graphically described, is to be burned outside the camp.

In verse 13, “If the whole congregation of Israel sins unintentionally, and the thing is hidden from the eyes of the assembly, and they do any one of the things that by the Lord’s commandments ought not to be done, and they realize their guilt when the sin, which they have committed becomes known, the assembly shall offer a bull from the herd for a sin offering and bring it to the front of the tent of meeting. And the elders of the congregation shall lay their hands on the head of the bull before the Lord. And the bull should be killed before the Lord. Then the anointed priest shall bring some of the blood of the bull into the tent of meeting. And the priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle it seven times before the Lord in front of the veil. And he shall put some of the blood on the horns of the altar that is in the tent of meeting before the Lord and the rest of the blood he shall pour out at the base of the altar of burnt offering. That is at the entrance of the tent of meeting. And all of its fat he shall take from it and burn on the altar. Thus he shall do with the bull as he did with the bull, with the sin offering. So shall he do this. And the priest shall make atonement for them and they shall be forgiven, and he shall carry the bull outside the camp and burn it up. As he burned the first bull. It is the sin offering for the assembly.”

So much here that you understand is that the heart of the gospel. The word atonement shows up here. The priest, by this sacrifice, is making atonement, “at-one-meant,” for sin. This is not just illustrative. The sacrifice is not just demonstrative. Something objective is taking place, an atonement is made. There again is the prefiguring of our salvation. Our salvation is not merely on the fact that Jesus died as a demonstration, as an illustration, but rather that he died objectively to gain our salvation. Something objective happened. An atonement is accomplished.

This is the people sinning. You’ll notice the unintentional is made clear. And you’ll notice that unintentional doesn’t mean “unsinful.” This all begins with unintentional sin. An unintentional sin, which is seen in retrospect. Once it becomes known, then the guilt is known. The guilt was already there. Because the guilt is objective the atonement is objective. What subjective is our understanding of our sin?

So when the people sin, unintentionally, and when it’s known to them, then the sacrifice has to be made. You’ll notice it follows pretty much the same symmetry. It has to be a bull.

It is sacrificed as instructed. The blood is taken inside the tent, as instructed. And then the rest of the bull, after the prize parts are burned, as in the burned offering, it is taken outside the camp and burned up. In verse 22, “When a leader sins doing unintentionally, any one of all the things that by the commandments of the Lord his God ought not to be done and realizes his guilt or the sin, which he has committed is made known to him. He shall bring as his offering a goat, a male without blemish, and shall lay his hand on the head of the goat and kill it in the place where they kill the burnt offering. Before the Lord, it is a sin offering. Then 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 pour out the rest of the blood at the base of the altar of burnt offering and all its fat he shall burn on the altar, like the fat of the sacrifice of the peace offerings. So the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin. And he shall be forgiven.” Back up in verse 15, something happened. We ought to note.

It says in verse 15, “And the elders of the congregation shall lay their hands on the head of the bull before the Lord.” Now, the elders repeatedly in the Old Testament, we were told about the elders of Israel. Particularly, in this period. We, we hear about the elders of Israel. Here’s what we don’t know about them. Almost everything we don’t know about them. We don’t know much about them at all. We don’t know how many of them there were. They’re probably the heads of the houses. That’s probably it, but we really don’t know. Clearly, this is a group of men identified as elders who have a spiritual responsibility— probably more than spiritual. It’s probably all so political and economic and in every other way. But they are the leaders of Israel. These are the men who are the leadership of Israel. This is an eldership. Again, you see pointing towards the church. It’s pointing to the church, but we don’t know a lot about these elders, but the very fact that they are cited is important to us. In other words, they have the responsibility, the stewardship, the agency, the leadership assigned to them. But one of them may sin. And that’s what we’re looking at here. You see the elders of Israel.

Now, we’re told if a leader sins, it’s the same pattern of unintentionality of a sin that becomes known. You’ll notice that in this case, it is not a bull, it is a goat. Now, what does that tell us? It tells us that sin is in every case, an infinite transgression against holy God, but there’s a scale of sacrifice. It began with the priest. Remember the sin of the priest brought guilt. Not just, sinfulness, but guilt, objectively, upon all the people. Therefore, it had to be a bull. Bulls are the most expensive, most precious of all the animals, making the sacrifice very clear. If the assembly of Israel itself sins, that corporate sin, also a bull is to be offered. But here, after we had a reference to the elders in verse 15, now we’re told about a leader, if he sins it’s a goat. That doesn’t mean his sin is less significant. It does mean that the sacrifice for it need not be, as it was in the first two cases, a bull. It also tells you about the pecking order. As we will see a little further in the text, it’s a bull, then a goat, and then a lamb.

Now you say, well, why would a goat be more precious than a lamb? Actually, I know too little about, either goats or sheep, to be able to define that. Except for the fact that evidently in Israel and likely elsewhere sheep reproduce faster.

You notice the goat is to be treated pretty much like the bull. So much so that it is said to be like the burnt offering, as the fat of the sacrifice of the peace offerings. Verse 27, “If any of the common people, sins unintentionally in doing any one of the things that by the Lord’s commandments ought not to be done and realizes his guilt or the sin which he has committed is made known to him, he shall bring for his offering a goat, a female without blemish.”

This is a less expensive sacrifice than the leader, which was a male goat. Now it’s a female goat. “For his sin, which he committed. And he shall lay his hand on the head of the sin offering and kill the sin offering in the place of the burnt offering. And the priest shall take some of his blood with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of the burnt offering and pour out all the rest of his blood at the base of the altar and all its fat he shall remove. As the fat is removed from the peace offerings and the peace shall burn it on the altar for a pleasing aroma to the Lord. And the priest shall make atonement for him and he will be forgiven.”

So this is an individual sin. And in this case, it is a female goat. Notice the provision of verse 32, “If he brings a lamb as his offering for a sin offering, he should bring a female without blemish.” So in other words, the preference is for a goat, but you have an allowance for a lamb.

“Then the priest shall take some of the blood from the sin offering with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of the burnt offering and pour out the rest of its blood at the base of the altar and all its fat he shall remove as the fat of the lamb is removed from the sacrifice of peace offerings and the priest shall burn it on the altar on the top of the Lord’s food offerings and the priest shall make atonement for him for the sin, which he is committed and he shall be forgiven.”

So what we have here in chapter four, is the fourth part. If a priest sins, or if the people sins, if a leader sins, or if any of the common people sins. So that’s another breakdown. In the breakdown of animals, it is a bull, he-goat, she-goat, lamb. Then a breakdown of the hierarchy of the consequences of sin starts with the priest. Isn’t that interesting? It starts with the priest. It doesn’t start with the assembly. It starts with the priest because the priest is the mediator, his sin becomes paramount in consideration.

You’ll notice that once again, you have the Lord speaking to Moses. You have to look back and wonder when Moses brings this—you think of the Lord, God almighty giving Moses the law. You think about the tablets of stone. Not that many words on the stone. In fact, in the Hebrew, “These 10 words.” It’s like my dad used to say, “I’d like to have a word with you.” I noticed when I was very young, it was never just one word. My dad says, “I want to have a word with you.”. And it’s like, you know, “weather.” No, he never had just one word with me. It was a word.

It’s the same thing. When you say these 10 words, it’s the 10 commandments. There are more words than 10. Can you imagine what it was like for Moses, even to communicate this? As I’ve been working my way, word by word through Leviticus, and then putting it in the context of the Pentateuch, the Pentateuch in the context of unfolding theology of the Old Testament. That within a canonical theology, the two testaments together. You look back and go, “You know, there are a lot of amazing things to think about,” because you can think about, for example, what it would’ve been like for a church in Philippi to receive this letter from the apostle Paul and for the letter to be read aloud. Got that, got that.

But just think about Leviticus. Just think about the fact that it’s been a fairly hard process for us to just hear the same words over and over again in the complexity of all of this. Some of you are because you love God’s word, taking notes. Just imagine that this had to be an inscripturated revelation because who can keep all this straight? Part of the gift of God’s words. Part of the gift of Torah, of law. Even as Israel was told to commit all this to its heart. I mean, there’s incredible specificity here. We’re just four chapters into Leviticus folks. And already you could not keep this straight. If there was an exam on this material, how would you do? Well, what about if someone’s life is depending upon this? What about if the life of an entire people is depending on this? We need inscripturated revelation. We need as much as Israel needs it. We need the Word. We need the Scriptures. We need the Bible.

Imagine Israel hearing this for the first time. You’ll recall that the pattern is the Lord God spoke to Moses. Remember he called to Moses, from the tent as Leviticus begins. But he says this to Moses, it’s not just, “Hey, Moses, I’m letting you in on exactly what we’re doing here.” It’s Moses receiving this in order to teach it to the people. In my own imagination, I have to think about what that would’ve meant. But then you think about all the generations of Israel, even in just the process of children coming along and young men becoming older men and elders passing and elders coming. This has just got to be taught all the time. It’s being taught by the fact that it’s happening, but Israel has to be continuously told “We didn’t come up with this.” This is what the Lord said to Moses. Right now, Moses is with them. These are the books of Moses. The Lord speaking to Moses. Moses also has a mediatorial role here.

As you look at chapter five going forward, and that’s where we will turn next, you’ll notice specific kinds of sins. Verse one, “If anyone sins in that he hears a public adjuration testify and though he’s a witness, whether he is seen or come to know the matter yet does not speak, he shall bear his iniquity.” We shall see that touching unclean things, you know, et cetera. So there can be specific sins that are going to follow specific sacrificial responses.

But in chapter four, we just need to note the magnificent weight of this chapter. Even beginning with the Lord, speaking to Moses about the sin of a priest that isn’t just a liturgical mistake. Even if done unintentionally, it brings sin and guilt upon the entire people. And the people cannot remove their own guilt. That’s the point. And that’s the point of the gospel. We cannot remove our own guilt. Guilt is an irresolvable problem for us because the offense is not something that we can make compensation for. We can’t pay for it. This animal cannot pay for it.

As we see in Hebrews chapter nine, we thought about this so many times, but we have to think about it again. “It is impossible for the blood of bulls or goats to take away sin.” I remember that song that I have known virtually all my life, “What can take away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” This is all pointing to Christ. Yet, I hope looking backward helps us to understand that this is all on the mind of Jesus in his earthly ministry. This was all the purpose of God.

God did not have this as plan A, which failed, and Jesus was plan B. From the beginning, this was to point to a sacrifice for sin. “Once, and for all”, as the apostle Paul would say, to take away our sins. By the time you read Leviticus, chapter four, you recognize this is about unintentional sins. One priest can sin, and the entire people be guilty. Then guess what? Here’s the reality guess where Israel was right after every one of these sacrifices. Right back where it started.

This was the terror to me when I was about 12 or 13 years old. Hearing preaching about sin. When I recognized there was no safe place. I can confess all my sins knowing he’s faithful and just to forgive me my sins, and to cleanse me from all unrighteousness. Yet, I will probably sin as I’m asleep before I awake. I’ll awaken, think of sinful thoughts and I’m right back where I was.

So, here’s where Israel is always needing more bulls. But for Christ, we would be behind an infinite line of bulls that would only buy us time. Let’s pray. Father, we’re just so thankful for all You’ve given us in Your Word. We thank You for this incredible chapter in Leviticus, chapter four. Father, thank you for bringing us face to face with guilt, face to face with atonement, and by Your grace face to face with Christ. Our great high priest who made full atonement for our sins. Father, it is in His name that we pray. Amen.