Book of Leviticus Chapter Four Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
Not every sin is done on purpose, and modern law, based in many countries on British Common Law, reflects Scripture: "Ignorance of the law is no excuse." If we did it, we're guilty whether we understood it or not. Jesus brought us the disturbing news in Matthew 5:28 and its context, that if we even just think it, we're guilty before God. Here's Verses 1-2 in Leviticus 4: "Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 'Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, If a person sins unintentionally in any of the things which the Lord has commanded not to be done, and commits any of them...'" This verse is a key reason why we should receive the Apostle Paul's words in Romans 3:23, that "ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God." These ancient sacrifices don't need to exist anymore because "Christ died for the the ungodly" (Romans 5:6,8)—He is our Sacrifice and our Healer from sin. We trust in Him who did for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
Verse 3 notes the heavy responsibility of religious leaders, and it's true for secular rulers as well—when leaders sin, their actions often bring down those who looked up to them. "If he cheats, so can I," is a typical response, and so in Verse 3: "if the anointed priest sins so as to bring guilt on the people, then let him offer to the Lord a bull without defect as a sin offering for the sin he has committed." Notice the prophetic pattern over and over again in these sacrifices: God will receive an acceptable innocent substitute in the place of the guilty. Verse 4—"He shall bring the bull to the doorway of the tent of meeting before the Lord, and he shall lay his hand on the head of the bull and slay the bull before the Lord." God does not want your death and He does not want you to go to hell. Romans 5:8 reveals—"God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." More than bulls, goats or sheep, we are offered the Lord.
History is full of wars, murders and other horrible events, and this Chapter is full of blood. All these sacrifices illustrate humanity's sin and are signposts to the future from that time, pointing to Jesus Christ. Verses 5-7: "Then the anointed priest is to take some of the blood of the bull and bring it to the tent of meeting, 6 and the priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle some of the blood seven times before the Lord, in front of the veil of the sanctuary. 7 The priest shall also put some of the blood on the horns of the altar of fragrant incense which is before the Lord in the tent of meeting; and all the blood of the bull he shall pour out at the base of the altar of burnt offering which is at the doorway of the tent of meeting." It's a lot of blood when you consider the thousands, millions of animals that died as sacrifices, and then see the millions of animals that die right now, so the world has food for another day. John the Apostle saw the risen Lord, referring to "Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood" (Revelation 1:5). Jesus' sacrifice reaches forward and backward in time and to the ends of the earth, for all who simply have faith in Him. Notice that the blood is sprinkled "seven times" in this sacrifice, a key number reminding us of the seventh day in creation when all things were complete, and we are complete when we trust in the Lord.
The person bringing this sin offering could not eat the cooked meat. The priests could, except that if the priest was the sinner bringing the offering, he could NOT eat of it. In any event, what was considered the best of the animal was to be burned, not eaten, as in Verses 8-12: "He shall remove from it all the fat of the bull of the sin offering: the fat that covers the entrails, and all the fat which is on the entrails, 9 and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them, which is on the loins, and the lobe of the liver, which he shall remove with the kidneys 10 (just as it is removed from the ox of the sacrifice of peace offerings), and the priest is to offer them up in smoke on the altar of burnt offering. 11 But the hide of the bull and all its flesh with its head and its legs and its entrails and its refuse, 12 that is, all the rest of the bull, he is to bring out to a clean place outside the camp where the ashes are poured out, and burn it on wood with fire; where the ashes are poured out it shall be burned." The sinner was NOT to benefit from his sin, and we are to note that God brings equity to all our motives and actions. Hell makes sense because the unrepentant one who overtly or subtly took from others will end up with nothing.
Nations sin. God continues to tell us, "Do this" or "Don't do that," but then we act contrary to His will. How will things be made right? How will we understand and not do it again? Verses 13-14, offered a way for Israel: "Now if the whole congregation of Israel commits error and the matter escapes the notice of the assembly, and they commit any of the things which the Lord has commanded not to be done, and they become guilty; 14 when the sin which they have committed becomes known, then the assembly shall offer a bull of the herd for a sin offering and bring it before the tent of meeting." Sacrifice is final, fully catching our attention in a shocking way, and the cross of Christ is the fulfillment of these verses in Leviticus. We have no idea how many sins are being committed right this moment, and if we knew even a portion of them, we might not survive the experience. Jesus knew. He experienced the sins of everyone who has ever lived or will live, while on that cross. He is humanity's "sin offering," the way for us to become clean in the sight of God.
Notice in Verse 15 the way for nations to be restored: "Then the elders of the congregation shall lay their hands on the head of the bull before the Lord, and the bull shall be slain before the Lord." Our leaders, our representatives, are to confess sin openly, asking the Lord for forgiveness, and God will forgive. And it happens legally: God has made an offer of forgiveness, authenticating it with the precious blood of Christ. Accepting His offer enables us to be forgiven and clean in the sight of God. Confessing sin is embarrassing, but the benefit is eternal and it's through His blood, as symbolized by Verses 16-18: "Then the anointed priest is to bring some of the blood of the bull to the tent of meeting; 17 and the priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle it seven times before the Lord, in front of the veil. 18 He shall put some of the blood on the horns of the altar which is before the Lord in the tent of meeting; and all the blood he shall pour out at the base of the altar of burnt offering which is at the doorway of the tent of meeting." Leviticus 17:11 says, "it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul." 1 Peter 1:19 is an assurance that we are "redeemed with the precious blood of Christ."
How do you feel when God asks you to give up something you really like? Did the one bringing the animal reflect on what life had denied him when bringing this sacrifice? In Verse 19, "He shall remove all its fat from it and offer it up in smoke on the altar." The sacrifice unfolded much as before, except that here we are to especially recall that this is about unintentional sin, understanding that even the "righteous" among us are not good in and of themselves. We constantly fall short of the glory of God and He reveals our shortcomings to us, to the end that we will finally trust in Him and not in ourselves. Here in Verses 20-21, "He shall also do with the bull just as he did with the bull of the sin offering; thus he shall do with it. So the priest shall make atonement for them, and they will be forgiven. 21 Then he is to bring out the bull to a place outside the camp and burn it as he burned the first bull; it is the sin offering for the assembly." Note again how the fabric of these verses point to Jesus Christ, as seen in Hebrews 13:13—"Jesus suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through His own blood." He identified completely with us, accepting rejection in the process, and it is expected that we will join with Him, as Hebrews 13:14 continues, "Therefore let us go to Him outside the camp and bear the reproach He endured." We are to prefer the life God has for us, more than one of our own choosing. We give up the "fat" of this life, if it is His revealed will.
The natural response of people everywhere is to cover sin, hiding it even from ourselves. "I am a good person," many like to think, but God knows we aren't. Leaders often don't know what to do, anymore than anyone else, and their studied decisions are mere guesses, which leads us to Verses 22-23: "When a leader sins and unintentionally does any one of all the things which the Lord his God has commanded not to be done, and he becomes guilty, 23 if his sin which he has committed is made known to him, he shall bring for his offering a goat, a male without defect." And of course, the only remedy for the sin of leaders or anybody else, is the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, who died for leaders and followers alike. Note Verse 24, in which, "He shall lay his hand on the head of the male goat and slay it in the place where they slay the burnt offering before the Lord; it is a sin offering." We are responsible for what we have done, even though our action(s) may not be deliberate, which is why many nations convict defendants of what is often called "involuntary manslaughter." I didn't mean to do it, but I did it, and a price has to be paid for the crime...leaders and the rest of us must own up to what we did.
Hebrews 9:22 is clear that "without the shedding of blood there is no remission" of sin," which is consistent with Leviticus 4:25—"Then the priest is to 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 its blood he shall pour out at the base of the altar of burnt offering." The blood of Leviticus is a precursor, a parable pointing us to Jesus Christ, and we are saved by trusting in Him. "Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation" (Hebrews 9:28). Leviticus 4:26 continues with the sin of the priest: "All its fat he shall offer up in smoke on the altar as in the case of the fat of the sacrifice of peace offerings. Thus the priest shall make atonement for him in regard to his sin, and he will be forgiven." It's God who made the Law that convicts us, and it is God who offers forgiveness in His Son, Jesus Christ.
Unintentional sin is more than about leaders, as Verses 27-29 continue: "Now if anyone of the common people sins unintentionally in doing any of the things which the Lord has commanded not to be done, and becomes guilty, 28 if his sin which he has committed is made known to him, then he shall bring for his offering a goat, a female without defect, for his sin which he has committed. 29 He shall lay his hand on the head of the sin offering and slay the sin offering at the place of the burnt offering." If we did it, we're guilty, and only the blood of God's Sacrifice can save us. Verses 30-31 prefigure God's Holy Offering: "The priest shall take some of its blood with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering; and all the rest of its blood he shall pour out at the base of the altar. 31 Then he shall remove all its fat, just as the fat was removed from the sacrifice of peace offerings; and the priest shall offer it up in smoke on the altar for a soothing aroma to the Lord. Thus the priest shall make atonement for him, and he will be forgiven." We need the Lord and what He has done.
Verse 32 is interesting because the Hebrew word involves the sacrifice of a she-goat: "But if he brings a lamb as his offering for a sin offering, he shall bring it, a female without defect." We view ourselves as members of some race or another, but God sees as we are—humanity. We see humans as male and female, but God sees more: "There is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). Like all sin offerings, we are to confess our sin, pictured in Verse 33: "He shall lay his hand on the head of the sin offering and slay it for a sin offering in the place where they slay the burnt offering." Whoever or whatever we are, our faith is to be in the atoning, shed blood of Jesus Christ—there is no other way.
Verses 34-35 continue: "The priest is to 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 all the rest of its blood he shall pour out at the base of the altar. 35 Then he shall remove all its fat, just as the fat of the lamb is removed from the sacrifice of the peace offerings, and the priest shall offer them up in smoke on the altar, on the offerings by fire to the Lord. Thus the priest shall make atonement for him in regard to his sin which he has committed, and he will be forgiven." Our High Priest is Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us—He is the atonement for our sin—His blood is on the "horns of the altar." 1 John 1:8-9 perfectly fits this chapter: "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Do you want to be clean? I do. Let's pray together:
Lord Jesus, You shed Your precious blood for me. I surrender to You. I confess my sin and trust in You. I am Yours. Father, I am blessedly Yours in the Gift of Jesus Christ. Thank You. I praise Your Holy Name. In Jesus Name. Amen.