In chapter 1 we discussed the Olah or the Burnt Offering which illustrated the Sacrifice God would have to graciously make in order to truly atone for our sins. Following this, chapter 2 then documents the Minchah or the Grain Offering which articulated the appropriate way in which we should respond to God for the demonstration of His grace. If you weren’t with us for either of these two studies I encourage you to catch up this week at C316.tv.
Stemming from the Olah Offering of grace and the Minchah Offering of response to God’s grace, chapter 3 transitions to the Shelem (sheh’·lem) or as it’s translated into English the Peace Offering. Defining this Hebrew word shelem is important for it immediately clears up a confusion that tends to arises when people discuss the purpose for the Peace Offering.
While the customary Hebrew word for peace is shalom, the word shelem had a more official, legal connotation. For example… If you were at war with a neighbor and desired peace with them, the word shalom would be used. “We want to stop fighting and have peace with you!”
That said… If you were at war and a peace agreement had already been reached, shelem would result. “We are at peace with you!” The idea behind this word shelem was that the offering was not to achieve peace with God. Rather, it was an offering made to the Lord manifesting from a peace that had already been attained.
In his commentary on Leviticus 3 Pastor David Guzik observes, “This was not an offering to make peace with God, but an offering to enjoy peace with God. The whole reason Jesus made peace between the Father and the believer is so that the peace could be enjoyed.”
Again, the ordering of these particular offerings is not accidental, but deeply significant… After discussing the grace we received through His Sacrifice (the Olah Offering) and taking the time to explain the right way we should then respond to Him for His grace (the Minchah Offering), God now discusses how His incredible grace should be enjoyed by His people — the Shelem or Peace Offering!
Though these unique details will not be specifically addressed until additional instructions are articulated to the priests in chapter 7, the Peace Offering was different from the first two in this regards… While the Burnt Offering was completely consumed by God upon the altar and a memorial of the Grain Offering was given to God with the remaining portion allocated for “Aaron and his sons,” the Peace Offering was divided up into three different parts…
As we will see explained in chapter 3 the “blood, fat, liver, and kidneys” of the sacrifice was to be offered to the LORD. Then in chapter 7 we’ll learn how the meat of the animal was to be divided between the priests and the offerer with the instructions they cook and eat the meal together. In a sense a Peace Offering was made to God and a feast resulted!
In this ancient Eastern culture eating with someone or sharing a meal was both a mystical and a spiritual experience. The act of eating from the same dish or consuming the same animal illustrated oneness between individuals and was emblematic of genuine community. Please know peace with God attained through the Burnt Offering now manifests within our lives the peace of God for one reason — In Jesus we are all one with Him!
In Revelation 3:20 Jesus plays off of this Eastern way of thinking when He says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” To this point, in his letter to the believers in Colossi Paul declares the “hope of glory” and the grand “mystery hidden from generations” centered on the reality God would not dwell with His people, but would dwell within His people!
The purpose behind the Peace Offering was to illustrate what manifested through the oneness we now have with God because of His grace. Our peace with God achieved through the sacrifice Jesus made for us has now yielded the peace of God as we’ve been filled with His Holy Spirit! It’s because of this oneness with God through the indwelling of His Spirit that our lives naturally begin to produce Godly characteristics like “love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness.” (Galatians 5:22-23 — Fruit of the Spirit.)
Aside from this, as illustrated by the feast and celebration connected with the Peace Offering — which we’ll unpack further when we get to these things in Leviticus 7, our individual oneness with God established true community with one another! Life in communion with God as His people should foster a life of joy we get to experience together!
Leviticus 3:1, “When his offering is a sacrifice of a peace offering (shelem offering), if he offers it of the herd (this would be an oxen or a bull), whether male or female, he shall offer it without blemish before the Lord.” (In contrast to the Burnt Offering which required only a “male” be offered for “atonement” — and note this word is absent from this particular chapter, a “female” could be sacrificed as long as it was also “without blemish.”)
Leviticus 3:2-5, “And he shall lay his hand on the head of his offering, and kill it at the door of the tabernacle of meeting; and Aaron’s sons, the priests, shall sprinkle the blood all around on the altar. Then he shall offer from the sacrifice of the peace offering an offering made by fire to the Lord. (The offering to the Lord would include…)
The fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails (literally the inner parts), the two kidneys and the fat that is on them by the flanks (loins), and the fatty lobe attached to the liver above the kidneys, he (offerer) shall remove; and Aaron’s sons shall burn it on the altar upon the burnt sacrifice, which is on the wood that is on the fire, as an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the Lord.”
We should pause for just a moment and address why God specifically wanted the “fat, liver, and kidneys” to be offered to Him leaving the rest to be consumed by the priests and the offerer. While you’ll run into all kinds of various theories, the most likely centers on a biological explanation. And keep in mind, the same kind of quality controls we have in place safeguarding the meat we eat today did not exist in these ancient cultures.
Because the “liver” and the “kidneys” were designed to filter out any type of toxins present in an animal’s feed, it makes since why they’d be excluded. Additionally, while we love to cook our meat with a little “fat” for an enhanced flavor (think ribeye steak), because these animals were free-range the fat was often infested with tapeworm and generally unhealthy to digest.
Since the purpose of the Peace Offering was to share a meal with God, it would appear He specified the impure parts of the animal be offered to Him leaving the better ones to us. Isn’t it true concerning this relationship we have with God that we have the better end of the deal?
Leviticus 3:6, “If his offering as a sacrifice of a peace offering to the Lord is of the flock, whether male or female, he shall offer it without blemish.” (As with the Burnt Offering God presents alternatives if you were unable to afford one “of the herd” — an offering “of the flock.” Birds were excluded because there wasn’t enough meat to share.)
Leviticus 3:7-11, “If he (the offerer) offers a lamb as his offering, then he shall offer it before the Lord. And he shall lay his hand on the head of his offering (this picture of transference), and kill it before the tabernacle of meeting; and Aaron’s sons shall sprinkle its blood all around on the altar. Then he shall offer from the sacrifice of the peace offering, as an offering made by fire to the Lord, its fat and the whole fat tail which he shall remove close to the backbone. (Different animal, different dissection.)
And the fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails, the two kidneys and the fat that is on them by the flanks, and the fatty lobe attached to the liver above the kidneys, he shall remove; and the priest shall burn them on the altar as food, an offering made by fire to the Lord.”
Leviticus 3:12-16, “And if his offering is a goat (this is the third concession), then he shall offer it before the Lord. He shall lay his hand on its head and kill it before the tabernacle of meeting; and the sons of Aaron shall sprinkle its blood all around on the altar. Then he shall offer from it his offering, as an offering made by fire to the Lord.
The fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails, the two kidneys and the fat that is on them by the flanks, and the fatty lobe attached to the liver above the kidneys, he shall remove; and the priest shall burn them on the altar as food, an offering made by fire for a sweet aroma; all the fat is the Lord’s.”
Leviticus 3:17, “This shall be a perpetual statute (an everlasting limitation) throughout your generations in all your dwellings: you shall eat neither fat nor blood.” (Since the issue of consuming blood will be addressed in chapter 17 I’ll leave my commentary till then.)
While the way the specific parts of the animal are divided up is unique to the Peace Offering, there is no doubt certain aspects of the sacrifice intended to remind you of the Burnt Offering. For example… Within both offerings the worshipper was required to “lay their hand on the head” on the oxen, sheep, or goat before “killing the animal before the tabernacle of meeting.” It was then incumbent on the offerer to butcher the animal. And in both the job of the priest was then to “splash the blood all around the altar” and make the offering.
These obvious correlations between the Peace Offering and the Burnt Offering were designed to remind the worshipper how they’d received their right-standing with God in the first place. Jesus, the Lamb of God, was offered as a sacrifice to atone for our sin. You see His work accomplished on our behalf is how any of us have peace with God!
Friend, here is an undeniable truth… You will always be restless in this life until you come to terms with your Creator and find peace with Him! To this point, the simple fact is you can only experience the peace of God once you have peace with God. And yet, peace with God is only possible once your sins have been atoned for by Jesus Christ!
And yet, it’s worth noting that this particular offering did not intend to create peace with God, but to only manifest from a peace we’ve already been given! For the first time since Eden Jesus’ declaration from the cross of Calvary “It is finished” gave humanity a way to have peace with God! In Romans 5:1-2 we’re told, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
Following the Peace Offering, in chapter 4 God will now address what is known as the Sin Offering. Let’s dive right in the text beginning with verse 1… Leviticus 4:1-2, “Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘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…” (Let’s pause here for a moment!)
For starters, you will notice chapter 4 begins with the same language we found in Leviticus 1 — “Now the Lord spoke to Moses…” What this tells us is that God is presenting a division between the Burnt, Grain, and Peace Offerings with the Sin and later Trespass Offerings.
The most notable difference is that while the first three were voluntary offerings these last two were mandatory. As it pertained to the Burnt Offering you might say the sacrifice for sin was made in a general sense. It was the first offering to be made as a general “atonement” for man’s sin. And yet, you will notice as we get into the Sin and Trespass Offerings God mandates offerings be given by “the guilty” to “atone” for specific misgivings.
Aside from this, as we work our way through the passage, with the singular exception of sins committed by the “common people,” a familiar phrase will be largely absent. Up until this point we’ve read how the Burnt, Grain, and Peace Offerings were “a sweet aroma to the Lord.” It would seem God did not enjoy the Sin or Trespass Offerings in the same way.
Broadly speaking, in the context of grace, our response to grace, and the peace we have through our oneness with God, the Sin Offering established the way in which God’s people were to respond to Him when we still blow it! The context is important… God says, “If a person sins unintentionally against any of the commandments of the Lord.”
In the Hebrew this word we have translated as “unintentionally” is incomplete. The OKJV translates it as “through ignorance” but this isn’t any better. According to the Strong’s Lexicon the word literally means to sin in error or inadvertently. Think of it this way… In contrast to sins committed willfully or what we might call deliberate sin, these kind of sins manifest because we are sinners. We mess up all the same, but our motivations weren’t malicious.
With all of this in mind, in this chapter God will provide four different circumstances by which a Sin Offering should be given… The first pertains to sins committed by the “anointed priests!” We read… Leviticus 4:3-6, “If the anointed priest sins, bringing guilt on the people, (because of the priests position their sin has far-reaching consequences) then let him offer to the Lord for his sin which he has sinned a young bull without blemish as a sin offering. He shall bring the bull to the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the Lord, lay his hand on the bull’s head, and kill the bull before the Lord.
Then the anointed priest shall take some of the bull’s blood and bring it to the tabernacle of meeting. 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.” (The location of the blood would serve for the priest as a continual reminder of his sin.)
Leviticus 4:7, “And the priest shall put some of the blood on the horns of the altar of sweet incense before the Lord, which is in the tabernacle of meeting (this altar represented prayer and the “horns on the altar” were symbolic of power and authority. In a sense the act acknowledged there was power in the offering for atonement.); and he shall pour the remaining blood of the bull at the base of the altar of the burnt offering, which is at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. (This particular location of the blood would serve as a public acknowledgement of the priest’s sin in view of the people.)
Leviticus 4:8-12, “He shall take from it all the fat of the bull as the sin offering. The fat that covers the entrails and all the fat which is on the entrails, the two kidneys and the fat that is on them by the flanks, and the fatty lobe attached to the liver above the kidneys, he shall remove, as it was taken from the bull of the sacrifice of the peace offering; and the priest shall burn them on the altar of the burnt offering.
(After burning these parts on the altar similar to the way you’d handle the Peace Offering, what would follow was completely unique.) But the bull’s hide and all its flesh, with its head and legs, its entrails and offal (literally its dung) — the whole bull he shall carry outside the camp to a clean place, where the ashes are poured out, and burn it on wood with fire; where the ashes are poured out it shall be burned.”
The location “outside the camp where the ashes are poured out” would have been about a 5 mile hike through the assembly! Beyond being labor intensive the enter process was out-in-the-open. Typologically, it’s worth noting Jesus was crucified “outside the camp” as well.
The second circumstance for the Sin Offering pertains to “the whole congregation of Israel!” We read in Leviticus 4:13-15, “Now if the whole congregation of Israel sins unintentionally, and the thing is hidden from the eyes of the assembly, and they have done something against any of the commandments of the Lord in anything which should not be done, and are guilty; when the sin which they have committed becomes known, then the assembly shall offer a young bull for the sin, and bring it before the tabernacle of meeting. And the elders of the congregation shall lay their hands on the head of the bull before the Lord. Then the bull shall be killed before the Lord.”
The idea being presented here is that the entire Nation of Israel awakens to the reality they have done something wrong and sinned against “the commandments of the Lord.” In such a situation a “young bull” was to be brought to the tabernacle and “the elders of the congregation” or the representatives were to “lay their hands on the head of the bull.”
Following the slaughter of the bull… Leviticus 4:16-17, “The anointed priest shall bring some of the bull’s blood to the tabernacle of meeting. Then the priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle it seven times before the Lord, in front of the veil. (This would serve as a reminder to the priest that they’d been derelict in shepherding the people.)
Leviticus 4:18, “And he (the priest) shall put some of the blood on the horns of the altar which is before the Lord, which is in the tabernacle of meeting; and he shall pour the remaining blood at the base of the altar of burnt offering, which is at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. (This would serve as a public reminder to the people of their sin.)
Leviticus 4:19-21, “He shall take all the fat from it (young bull) and burn it on the altar. And he shall do with the bull as he did with the bull as a sin offering; thus he shall do with it. So the priest shall make atonement for them (plural), and it shall be forgiven them (national repentance and reconciliation). Then he shall carry the bull outside the camp, and burn it as he burned the first bull. It is a sin offering for the assembly.”
I heard one liberal commentator use this passage to make an appeal for America to engage in a national repentance for things like slavery, how we treat the poor, abortion, even our positions on guns. The irony is that with one breath these scholars shirk at America being viewed as a Christian Nation, but then attempt to apply concepts aimed at God’s handling of His people (Israel) towards how we should rectify social injustices. I don’t buy it!
The third circumstance for the Sin Offering pertains to the “ruler” of the people. Leviticus 4:22-23, “When a ruler has sinned, and done something unintentionally against any of the commandments of the Lord his God in anything which should not be done, and is guilty, or if his sin which he has committed comes to his knowledge, he shall bring as his offering a kid of the goats, a male without blemish.” (While the priests had to offer an adult bull and the congregation a young one, it was stipulated that a “ruler” had to bring to the tabernacle a male “kid of the goats.”)
Leviticus 4:24-26, “And he (the ruler) shall lay his hand on the head of the goat, and kill it at the place where they kill the burnt offering before the Lord. It is a sin offering. The priest shall take some of the blood of the sin offering with his finger, put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and pour its blood at the base of the altar of burnt offering. (No need to pour blood before the veil because the ruler wasn’t allowed to enter the Holy Place.) And he (the priest) shall burn all its fat on the altar, like the fat of the sacrifice of the peace offering. So the priest shall make atonement for him (the ruler) concerning his sin, and it shall be forgiven him.” (God would forgive him.)
The final circumstance for the Sin Offering pertains to the “common people.” We read… Leviticus 4:27-28, “If anyone of the common people sins unintentionally by doing something against any of the commandments of the Lord in anything which ought not to be done, and is guilty, or if his sin which he has committed comes to his knowledge, then he shall bring as his offering a kid of the goats, a female without blemish, for his sin which he has committed.” (While the ruler was required to bring to the tabernacle a male “kid of the goats” for the common person a “female” would suffice.)
Leviticus 4:29-31, “And he (the commoner) shall lay his hand on the head of the sin offering, and kill the sin offering at the place of the burnt offering. Then the priest shall take some of its blood with his finger, put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and pour all the remaining blood at the base of the altar. He (the offerer) shall remove all its fat, as fat is removed from the sacrifice of the peace offering; and the priest shall burn it on the altar for a sweet aroma to the Lord. So the priest shall make atonement for him, and it shall be forgiven him.
Leviticus 4:32-35, “If he brings a lamb as his sin offering, he shall bring a female without blemish (concession for a lamb). Then he shall lay his hand on the head of the sin offering, and kill it as a sin offering at the place where they kill the burnt offering.
The priest shall take some of the blood of the sin offering with his finger, put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and pour all the remaining blood at the base of the altar. He shall remove all its fat, as the fat of the lamb is removed from the sacrifice of the peace offering. Then the priest shall burn it on the altar, according to the offerings made by fire to the Lord. So the priest shall make atonement for his sin that he has committed, and it shall be forgiven him.”
Let me close out our time together this morning by unpacking this Sin Offering with three macro-lessons we can draw from the text. First, the very existence of the Sin Offering following the Burnt, Grain, and Peace reveals the fact God knows we’re still going to sin!
What grace there is in the fact God keeps his expectations of you and I appropriate to who we are? God offered His Son to atone for our sins. He tells us how we should respond to His grace. He throws a party to celebrate our peace and the oneness we have with Him. And now He makes a concession knowing we’re going to blow it and sin sooner than later!
The second lesson we can draw from the Sin Offering is the importance of confession. In all four of these scenarios the Sin Offering was of no effect until the individual was willing to first acknowledge their sin and own their guilt. In every situation we find this similar refrain, “When ________ has sinned, and done something unintentionally against any of the commandments of the LORD his God in anything which should not be done, and is guilty, or if his sin which he has committed comes to his knowledge, he shall bring ________.”
Understand, the idea behind this was not to embarrass the individual, but to provide a path for healing and restoration. You see admitting sin has a redeeming effect. In James 5:16 we are encouraged to “confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” In 1 John 1:9 we are promised that “if we confess our sins, Jesus is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
While it’s true coming to the tabernacle and bringing before the Lord this Sin Offering had a corporal nature to it, for the common person and the ruler (individuals) this was the extent of the public show of remorse. It was only in the situation of a national sin or the sin of an “anointed priest” that the spectacle of carrying the bull outside the camp was required.
The reason this was necessary in the case of national repentance is self-evident. And yet, in regards to the sin of the priest, because their job was so important it could “bring guilt on the people” (verse 3), this overt act was designed to articulate transparency. While spiritual leaders are called to a higher standard, they are sinners as well. When a pastor sins the best thing he can do is publicly own it and be transparent that he’s in equal need of God’s grace.
The third lesson we can draw from the Sin Offering is that atonement remains! One of the fascinating components of the Sin Offering is that within God’s instructions two new concepts emerge in Leviticus. For the first time in this book we have the word “guilty” being used, as well as the word “forgiveness” — both in connection with our “atonement.”
What’s even more interesting is that Leviticus 4:13 presents the first time in all of Scripture the word “guilty” is used. In the Hebrew the idea being communicated is more than just the acknowledgement of a person’s guilt, but an admission the offense demanded judgment.
The other word we find introduced to Leviticus is “forgiveness” which meant to pardon one of their guilt and to spare them the judgment they deserved. It’s worth pointing out this is the second time the word is used in the Scriptures with the first adding depth to its meaning.
Back in Exodus 32 Moses returns to the camp from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of stone containing the Law only to discover the people have crafted and are worshipping a Golden Calf. Furious, Moses breaks the tablets, comes to the entrance of the camp, and declares, “Whoever is on the LORD's side — come to me!” In response to this we’re told “all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him. And Moses said to them, ‘Thus says the LORD God of Israel: Let every man put his sword on his side, and go throughout the camp, and let every man kill his brother, his companion, and his neighbor.’ Those who were not remorseful! “So the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And about three thousand men of the people fell that day.” Following this purge Exodus 32 then closes with “the LORD” sending a “plague on the people because of what they did with the calf.”
In Exodus 34 Moses returns to the presence of the Lord, receives two new tablets, and then prays, “If I have found grace in Your sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray, go among us, even though we are a stiff-necked people; and pardon (same word “forgive”) our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your inheritance.” God then proceeds to renew His covenant with Israel.
Here’s the point… Regarding the order God was establishing among His people (people who’d literally just experienced His righteous judgment) the application for this Sin Offering was rather straightforward. Whether you were an anointed priest, a ruler, a commoner, or if the national conscious became aware of a societal sin, the process by which the “guilty” came to the tabernacle to make “atonement” with God and receive His “forgiveness” was clear. “God, I/we have sinned against your commands and now we offer this animal to make things right with you!” Amazingly, God provided a way the guilty could be forgiven!
And yet, if like the other sacrifices we’ve looked at in this Sin Offering God is establishing the structure for a much deeper spiritual reality, the application takes on a whole new direction.
Keep in mind, the Sin Offering aimed at “making atonement” concerning a specific sin came after the Burnt Offering that “made atonement” for all of your sin! I mentioned earlier how the sacrifice of the Peace Offering intended to remind the worshipper it had been through God’s work of atoning for sin that you now had peace with God. Well, the mechanism associated with the Sin Offering was designed to yield the same effect.
You see when I sin (a born-again believer having already placed my faith in the atoning sacrifice Jesus made for me) what does God require for atonement — for my sin to be covered? Does He demand I make some kind of sacrifice to get back into His good-graces? No! Not at all! When I sin nothing is required from me for atonement, because my “guilt” was already permanently satisfied by Jesus’ work on the cross!
With this in mind, the application of the Sin Offering is that in the place of failure God’s appeal is that we’d acknowledge our sin and come back to the place of atonement — The sacrifice Jesus made for us on Calvary (the Burnt Offering). Though we were all “guilty” and deserved judgment, Jesus “bore our guilt and shame” — took upon Himself the wrath of God in our place. And why did He do this? So that we might be “forgiven” and restored!
Dear Christian, in the place of failure, I want you to know… God is not surprised! Confess your sin and take responsibility for your actions, knowing the atoning sacrifice Jesus already made for you remains sufficient and more than able to keep you right with God! In Romans 5:8-9 Paul declares this glorious truth to the people of God, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.”
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