Friday, December 11, 2009

The Sin Offering

In continuing with my theme of the sacrificial offerings and how they prepare us for Christ’s advent, I want to now focus on the sin offering. I want to take this opportunity to confess to you that I am far from an expert in these matters, but that I’ve been enjoying my journey this Advent season of studying how Christ fulfilled so many types and shadows in the Old Testament of the Bible.

The sin offering is more complicated than the previous offerings we’ve looked at. The exact protocol of the offering differs depending on who has sinned. I don’t pretend to understand all the depths of riches in the sin offering, but I have made a couple of observations in my brief study that I want to share with you.

The first observation is that of the guilt brought by the commission of unintentional sins. Four times in Leviticus 4, the pattern of sinning unintentionally against any of the commandments of the Lord in anything brings guilt that must be atoned for. At first glance this might strike us as harsh. I mean, how can we be held responsible for doing something we don’t know is wrong? But, we can, and we are. I think this may be a lost doctrine in many churches today. We have a way of justifying and softening our sins, but to God our sins are reprehensible, even when committed in ignorance. (Romans 1 gives a good argument that none are truly ignorant, but that we suppress the truth in unrighteousness).

I think this cuts right to the chase. We are all guilty before God. “There is none righteous, no not one.” (Romans 3:10 quoting from the Psalms) We have to stop excusing our sin and come to terms with the fact that our sins have brought guilt upon us. I don’t mean guilt like feeling bad about what we've done, I mean guilt like as in a guilty sentence. “For the wages of sin is death,” and don’t you just love the second half of that verse, “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

The next observation that struck me is that of the bull being taken outside the camp to be burned (in the sin offerings for the High-Priest or the congregation). The blood was first sprinkled before the veil and poured around the base of the altar, showing once again that atonement comes only by the shedding of blood. But why take the bull outside the camp to burn its remains? Why not just throw it on the altar used for burnt offerings? The following excerpt from Charles Spurgeon in his sermon Suffering Outside the Camp sheds some light on this.

“You know that when the High Priest offered the sin-offering, because it typified sin, it was so obnoxious to God that it might not be burned upon the great altar, but it was always burned outside the camp, to show God’s detestation of sin and His determination not only to put it away from Himself, but also to put it away from His Church.” (Spurgeon, 1858)

And Hebrews explains to us how Christ became our sin offering and also suffered outside the gate for us. “Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate.” (13:12) So, once again we see the pattern that Christ becomes the sin offering for us.

It seems to me there must also be some significance related to cleansing or purification in this act of taking the bull outside the camp. Lepers, menstruating women, those deemed “unclean” were sent outside the camp in order to keep Israel pure. In reality, He has removed our sins from us much farther than just outside the city gates. He has removed our transgressions from us “as far as the east is from the west”. Isn’t it wonderful that contemplating our guilt before God causes us to contemplate of God’s great mercy toward us? Maybe this was the idea, as it takes us full circle back to the praise of God. These offerings were in effect, worship. And what better way to spend our Advent season.

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I'm an on-the-run mom to 6 kids who studied and taught exercise science in a previous life. I love all things running, nutrition, and health-related. I usually run at zero dark thirty in the morning and am often quite hungry before, during, and after my run, but I live a rich, full, blessed life with my children, family, and friends. My faith in God is my anchor, and looking to Him and His promises allows me to live fully even when life circumstances are difficult. While running gives me an appetite, my desire is to hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for physical food.