03 Lessons from Leviticus - "Sunnyhill" Herne Bay Evangelical Free Church

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Slippery Slopes to Sin
N°3. Lessons from Leviticus



Text:   Lev.5:17-19  
"If anyone sins, doing any of the things that by the LORD’s commandments ought not to be done, though he did not know it, then realizes his guilt, he shall bear his iniquity. He shall bring to the priest a ram without blemish out of the flock, or its equivalent for a guilt offering, and the priest shall make atonement for him for the mistake that he made unintentionally, and he shall be forgiven. It is a guilt offering; he has indeed incurred guilt before the LORD."


Introduction:
On Sunday evenings we have been thinking about the great matter of sin. We’re not doing so simply to know what the Bible has to say – that would not be much help to us and could turn out to be very unedifying indeed. Instead we want to be able to store up its teachings in our hearts so that we might not sin against our God – and that is a very practical and beneficial goal to pursue.

This evening we turn to see what we can learn from the Book of Leviticus. The word sin appears some 100 times in the book with chapters 4+5 containing a disproportionate number of these occurrences. These two chapters deal with the sin offering and the guilt offering and will largely be the focus of our studies this evening.


"If anyone sins..."
These words are to be found in our text Lev.5:17 but also in 4:2, 27; 5:1, 15 & 6:1.

It is a sad truth that since Adam and Eve’s first rebellion in the Garden sin has been a constant and stark reality in the human experience.

While it is a sorry truth to affirm it is nevertheless encouraging to find that the Bible treats us as we are and doesn’t address some imaginary or ideal world that just doesn’t exist. The Bible is not unrelated to us. By it God addresses his word to the reality of our predicament and because he does so it is relevant to each and every one of us.

The context of these words "if anyone sins..." is also relevant and significant. The occurrences are found in a book of rules and regulations concerning how men and women may approach the Living and True God. It is this God who has provided the means whereby the ever-present problem of sin can be dealt with. The problem of sin is, while being a serious and a very real problem, not unresolvable. We should not be afraid to face up to the gravity of sin and pretend it really isn’t that bad and we can act in this way precisely because God himself has provided the way out of our impasse.

Had God simply said: "If anyone sins ... that is it forever and ever" we wouldn’t have any grounds for complaint but, praise be to the LORD, he did not say that! As the hymn-writer put it:

There is a way for man to rise
to that sublime abode:
an offering and a sacrifice,
a Holy Spirit’s energies,
an Advocate with God.


Moses in this Book of Leviticus was given detailed instructions concerning the offering of various blood sacrifices designed to deal with men’s sin and alienation from God. Now these these sacrifices, although they were of divine origin, were never intended to be a permanent, final solution to the problem of sinful human rebellion. In place under the OT dispensation they were only ever designed to be a temporary measure, one which need to be repeated over and over again until finally replaced but something more lasting and effective.

At last the Lord Jesus came and offered his life as the perfect sacrifice. His shed blood was able to do what these animal sacrifices could never fully achieve. By his sacrificial substitutionary death Jesus secured a complete salvation with his once-for-all sacrifice on Calvary’s cross.


But what is sin?
Humanism likes to see mankind as the measure of all things and even if we don’t buy into humanist philosophy we are tempted to act in a similar way – puffed up with our own importance we like to start with ourselves and decide for ourselves what is right and what is wrong.

The Bible however does not share this outlook. It is God who determines what is and what is not acceptable. He determines what attitudes are appropriate for human beings to hold and also what behaviour these attitudes should produce.

We find that clearly in the words of our text:

"If anyone sins, doing any of the things that by the LORD’s commandments ought not to be done"


Other words that are used here to describe such breaking of the LORD’s commandments are iniquity and mistake. Each of these words has a slightly different shade of meaning and together describe man’s failure to keep God’s laws:

  • To Sin – means to miss the goal or to take the wrong path

  • To commit Iniquity – means to act perversely or in a depraved manner

  • To make a Mistake – means to err or to go astray in a moral sense


Further sinful behaviour can be directed in one of two directions:

  • It can be directed against God or

  • It can be directed against men or against holy things


Other descriptions of sin are easy to find in these chapters and as we think about them we should realise that we are given this information so that we might come to hate sin and watch carefully against it:


- Sin brings about guilt.


The guilt that is in view is an objective reality that describes the real state and condition of the sinner whether or not he experiences any feelings of guilt. The absence of any guilty feelings is no cast iron proof of uprightness and innocence before God. These chapters speak about people sinning and, for a time at least, not realizing their guilt. Their guilt however did well and truly exist before they were ever brought to recognize it.

Lev.4:13-14 "and they realize their guilt, when the sin which they have committed becomes known..."


Cf. Lev.4:22, 27; 5:2, 3, 4, 5, 17; 6:4, 5


Thus we have two related problems that must be dealt with: both the problem of our sin and the resulting problem of our guilt need solutions.

The guilt offering that is described in our text is necessary because we have incurred guilt because of our sin. Trust in the divinely ordained sacrifice secures forgiveness for the guilty sinner.

Lev.5:18-19 "the priest shall make atonement for him for the mistake that he made unintentionally, and he shall be forgiven. It is a guilt offering; he has indeed incurred guilt before the LORD."



- Sin renders unclean and calls for purification

In Leviticus ch.4 Moses carefully explained the procedures to be followed – the sprinkling of the blood of the offered sacrifice speaks of the need of cleansing and the fact of it.

In the NT the apostle John joins together the notions of forgiveness and of cleansing:

1Jn1:9 "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."



- Sin divides

Because sin divides – men from men but more importantly God from men - it calls for reconciliation and the reparation of broken relationships. The need for atonement is constantly repeated in these two chapters (9X) as is the need for forgiveness (9X).

When we see that atonement and forgiveness are absolutely necessary how good it is to find that all has been graciously provided by the Lord.


- Sin’s consequences are costly.

Yes, it is wonderful that provision for both sin and the consequent guilt has been made! But it comes at a price.

In both the sin offering and the guilt offering sacrifices must be made – sin simply cannot be overlooked, ignored or swept surreptitiously under the proverbial carpet: a life must be forfeited be that the life of a bull, a male goat, a female goat or lamb, or turtledoves and pigeons. (In the case of extreme poverty grain could be substituted). In God’s graciousness forgiveness, atonement and restoration are made accessible to all – none is prevented by his status in life.

The cost of these sacrifices had to be met by the guilty party – it all served to emphasise the seriousness of sin.

But the real cost is far greater than this. These OT sacrifices could only point in the direction of a high price that had to be met. The true price is well beyond the capacity of any man or woman to pay and has to be paid for by someone else. The NT tells us about the true price of our redemption – it is the precious blood of Christ of far more worth than human resources measured in terms of gold and silver.


- Sin can be varied.

The thing that stands out in these chapters is that there are sins that may be committed unintentionally. Some sin may be done unwittingly that is in ignorance. The implication of the repeated phrase "if anyone sins unintentionally" (4:2, 13, 22, 27; 5:15, 18) is that it is possible to sin with deliberate intent as well. The sacrificial Law given to Moses contained no remedy for this type of headstrong, wilful sin.

A remedy and a solution is however to be found in the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus whose blood cleanses from all sin! Do you remember the words that he uttered as he was in the process of being crucified?

Lk.23:34 "And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’"


These words might want us to be careful how we interpret the references to unintentional sin in the OT. They certainly help us appreciate the lovingkindness and compassion of our Saviour towards those who, while failing to recognise him as the Author of Life, were intent on hounding him out of the world he had come to save!

Further there are a number of examples of sin that are listed here for us to take note of. The list is interesting because it probably doesn’t correspond to the type of list that we might draw up:

  • Failure to testify and to speak out as a witness 5:1

  • Ceremonial contamination through contact with death or disease (these things being themselves the resulting marks of sin) 5:2-3

  • Careless speech – in the form of swearing a rash oath 5:4

  • Breach of faith – 5:15


Thus we see that sin consists both of positive acts of wrong-doing and also of negative failure to do that which is good. Sins of omission are mentioned alongside sins of commission.


Conclusion
If sin is so wide ranging and can take so many different forms we certainly need to be carefully instructed.

Just as "ignorance of the law" is no defence in a court of law in our own country so we cannot expect a claim of "not guilty" to be established in God’s sight on the grounds that we don’t know what his requirements are.

Consequently we should read our Bibles and pray for understanding of them. We should take care not to briefly glance at its teachings and then immediately forget what we see there, rather we should take God’s word to heart so that we might not sin against him.

An awareness of the seriousness of sin and the costliness of putting it right ought to make us wary of any tendency in our own hearts to go ‘soft on sin’.

At the same time what joy should fill our hearts as we contemplate the divine provision so lovingly made to deliver us from our sin and guilty shame! When we fall into sin let us go humbly but quickly to Jesus. Let’s not try to bluff it out pretending that our sin is not really sin at all but let us rather confess our sins and ask him for the forgiveness he promises and the cleansing too that we need.

Let us not be fearful about thinking about what the Bible says about sin – the more we appreciate the utter sinfulness of sin the more we will rejoice in Jesus the Saviour of the World!

And to God be the glory.

Amen.
Slippery Slopes to Sin
N°3. Lessons from Leviticus


Reading:   1Jn.1:5-2:6
Text:   Lev.5:17-19  
"If anyone sins, doing any of the things that by the LORD’s commandments ought not to be done, though he did not know it, then realizes his guilt, he shall bear his iniquity. He shall bring to the priest a ram without blemish out of the flock, or its equivalent for a guilt offering, and the priest shall make atonement for him for the mistake that he made unintentionally, and he shall be forgiven. It is a guilt offering; he has indeed incurred guilt before the LORD."

Introduction:
On Sunday evenings we have been thinking about the great matter of sin. We’re not doing so simply to know what the Bible has to say – that would not be much help to us and could turn out to be very unedifying indeed. Instead we want to be able to store up its teachings in our hearts so that we might not sin against our God – and that is a very practical and beneficial goal to pursue.

This evening we turn to see what we can learn from the Book of Leviticus. The word sin appears some 100 times in the book with chapters 4+5 containing a disproportionate number of these occurrences. These two chapters deal with the sin offering and the guilt offering and will largely be the focus of our studies this evening.


"If anyone sins..."
These words are to be found in our text Lev.5:17 but also in 4:2, 27; 5:1, 15 & 6:1.

It is a sad truth that since Adam and Eve’s first rebellion in the Garden sin has been a constant and stark reality in the human experience.

While it is a sorry truth to affirm it is nevertheless encouraging to find that the Bible treats us as we are and doesn’t address some imaginary or ideal world that just doesn’t exist. The Bible is not unrelated to us. By it God addresses his word to the reality of our predicament and because he does so it is relevant to each and every one of us.

The context of these words "if anyone sins..." is also relevant and significant. The occurrences are found in a book of rules and regulations concerning how men and women may approach the Living and True God. It is this God who has provided the means whereby the ever-present problem of sin can be dealt with. The problem of sin is, while being a serious and a very real problem, not unresolvable. We should not be afraid to face up to the gravity of sin and pretend it really isn’t that bad and we can act in this way precisely because God himself has provided the way out of our impasse.

Had God simply said: "If anyone sins ... that is it forever and ever" we wouldn’t have any grounds for complaint but, praise be to the LORD, he did not say that! As the hymn-writer put it:

There is a way for man to rise
to that sublime abode:
an offering and a sacrifice,
a Holy Spirit’s energies,
an Advocate with God.

Moses in this Book of Leviticus was given detailed instructions concerning the offering of various blood sacrifices designed to deal with men’s sin and alienation from God. Now these these sacrifices, although they were of divine origin, were never intended to be a permanent, final solution to the problem of sinful human rebellion. In place under the OT dispensation they were only ever designed to be a temporary measure, one which need to be repeated over and over again until finally replaced but something more lasting and effective.

At last the Lord Jesus came and offered his life as the perfect sacrifice. His shed blood was able to do what these animal sacrifices could never fully achieve. By his sacrificial substitutionary death Jesus secured a complete salvation with his once-for-all sacrifice on Calvary’s cross.


But what is sin?
Humanism likes to see mankind as the measure of all things and even if we don’t buy into humanist philosophy we are tempted to act in a similar way – puffed up with our own importance we like to start with ourselves and decide for ourselves what is right and what is wrong.

The Bible however does not share this outlook. It is God who determines what is and what is not acceptable. He determines what attitudes are appropriate for human beings to hold and also what behaviour these attitudes should produce.

We find that clearly in the words of our text:

"If anyone sins, doing any of the things that by the LORD’s commandments ought not to be done"

Other words that are used here to describe such breaking of the LORD’s commandments are iniquity and mistake. Each of these words has a slightly different shade of meaning and together describe man’s failure to keep God’s laws:

To Sin – means to miss the goal or to take the wrong path
To commit Iniquity – means to act perversely or in a depraved manner
To make a Mistake – means to err or to go astray in a moral sense

Further sinful behaviour can be directed in one of two directions:
It can be directed against God or
It can be directed against men or against holy things

Other descriptions of sin are easy to find in these chapters and as we think about them we should realise that we are given this information so that we might come to hate sin and watch carefully against it:


Sin brings about guilt.

The guilt that is in view is an objective reality that describes the real state and condition of the sinner whether or not he experiences any feelings of guilt. The absence of any guilty feelings is no cast iron proof of uprightness and innocence before God. These chapters speak about people sinning and, for a time at least, not realizing their guilt. Their guilt however did well and truly exist before they were ever brought to recognize it.

Lev.4:13-14 "and they realize their guilt, when the sin which they have committed becomes known..."

Cf. Lev.4:22, 27; 5:2, 3, 4, 5, 17; 6:4, 5

Thus we have two related problems that must be dealt with: both the problem of our sin and the resulting problem of our guilt need solutions.

The guilt offering that is described in our text is necessary because we have incurred guilt because of our sin. Trust in the divinely ordained sacrifice secures forgiveness for the guilty sinner.

Lev.5:18-19 "the priest shall make atonement for him for the mistake that he made unintentionally, and he shall be forgiven. It is a guilt offering; he has indeed incurred guilt before the LORD."


Sin renders unclean and calls for purification

In Leviticus ch.4 Moses carefully explained the procedures to be followed – the sprinkling of the blood of the offered sacrifice speaks of the need of cleansing and the fact of it.

In the NT the apostle John joins together the notions of forgiveness and of cleansing:

1Jn1:9 "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."


Sin divides

Because sin divides – men from men but more importantly God from men - it calls for reconciliation and the reparation of broken relationships. The need for atonement is constantly repeated in these two chapters (9X) as is the need for forgiveness (9X).

When we see that atonement and forgiveness are absolutely necessary how good it is to find that all has been graciously provided by the Lord.
Sin’s consequences are costly.
Yes, it is wonderful that provision for both sin and the consequent guilt has been made! But it comes at a price.

In both the sin offering and the guilt offering sacrifices must be made – sin simply cannot be overlooked, ignored or swept surreptitiously under the proverbial carpet: a life must be forfeited be that the life of a bull, a male goat, a female goat or lamb, or turtledoves and pigeons. (In the case of extreme poverty grain could be substituted). In God’s graciousness forgiveness, atonement and restoration are made accessible to all – none is prevented by his status in life.

The cost of these sacrifices had to be met by the guilty party – it all served to emphasise the seriousness of sin.

But the real cost is far greater than this. These OT sacrifices could only point in the direction of a high price that had to be met. The true price is well beyond the capacity of any man or woman to pay and has to be paid for by someone else. The NT tells us about the true price of our redemption – it is the precious blood of Christ of far more worth than human resources measured in terms of gold and silver.


Sin can be varied.

The thing that stands out in these chapters is that there are sins that may be committed unintentionally. Some sin may be done unwittingly that is in ignorance. The implication of the repeated phrase "if anyone sins unintentionally" (4:2, 13, 22, 27; 5:15, 18) is that it is possible to sin with deliberate intent as well. The sacrificial Law given to Moses contained no remedy for this type of headstrong, wilful sin.

A remedy and a solution is however to be found in the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus whose blood cleanses from all sin! Do you remember the words that he uttered as he was in the process of being crucified?

Lk.23:34 "And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’"

These words might want us to be careful how we interpret the references to unintentional sin in the OT. They certainly help us appreciate the lovingkindness and compassion of our Saviour towards those who, while failing to recognise him as the Author of Life, were intent on hounding him out of the world he had come to save!

Further there are a number of examples of sin that are listed here for us to take note of. The list is interesting because it probably doesn’t correspond to the type of list that we might draw up:

Failure to testify and to speak out as a witness 5:1
Ceremonial contamination through contact with death or disease (these things being themselves the resulting marks of sin) 5:2-3
Careless speech – in the form of swearing a rash oath 5:4
Breach of faith – 5:15

Thus we see that sin consists both of positive acts of wrong-doing and also of negative failure to do that which is good. Sins of omission are mentioned alongside sins of commission.

Conclusion
If sin is so wide ranging and can take so many different forms we certainly need to be carefully instructed.

Just as "ignorance of the law" is no defence in a court of law in our own country so we cannot expect a claim of "not guilty" to be established in God’s sight on the grounds that we don’t know what his requirements are.

Consequently we should read our Bibles and pray for understanding of them. We should take care not to briefly glance at its teachings and then immediately forget what we see there, rather we should take God’s word to heart so that we might not sin against him.

An awareness of the seriousness of sin and the costliness of putting it right ought to make us wary of any tendency in our own hearts to go ‘soft on sin’.

At the same time what joy should fill our hearts as we contemplate the divine provision so lovingly made to deliver us from our sin and guilty shame! When we fall into sin let us go humbly but quickly to Jesus. Let’s not try to bluff it out pretending that our sin is not really sin at all but let us rather confess our sins and ask him for the forgiveness he promises and the cleansing too that we need.

Let us not be fearful about thinking about what the Bible says about sin – the more we appreciate the utter sinfulness of sin the more we will rejoice in Jesus the Saviour of the World!

And to God be the glory.

Amen.

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