Speak to the children of Israel, saying…
I. IN CONTRAST WITH THE OTHER OFFERINGS.
(1) The sin-offering, though without spot or blemish, was yet not a sweet-savour offering. The distinction is this: the sweet-savour offerings were for acceptance; the others for expiation. In the first class sin is not seen at all — it is simply the faithful Israelite satisfying Jehovah. In the sin-offerings it is just the reverse — it is an offering charged with the sin of the offerer. In the sin-offerings, as in the burnt-offerings, Christ is Offerer: but here He is seen standing for us under the imputation of sin. For though in Himself without sin, "the Holy One," yet He became our Substitute, confessed our sins as His sins, and bore their penalty.
(2) The sin-offering was burnt without the camp. This testified how completely the offering was identified with the sin it suffered for; so completely identified that it was itself looked at as sin, and as such cast out of the camp into the wilderness. A part indeed, "the fat," was burnt on the altar, to show that the offering, though made a sin-bearer, was in itself perfect. But the body of the victim, "even the whole bullock," was cast forth without the camp. "Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate." He was east out as one who was unfit for Jerusalem, as unworthy a place in the city of God. And what this must have cost that Blessed One can never be entered into or understood till the holiness of Christ and the sinfulness of sin are seen in measure at least as God sees them.
(3) The third peculiarity we may note in the sin-offering is, that it was an offering for sin, not an offering for trespass. God judges what we are as well as what we do; our sin, the sin in us, as much as our trespasses. In His sight sin in us, our evil nature, is as clearly seen as our trespasses, which are but the fruit of that nature. He needs not wait to see the fruit put forth. He knows the root is evil, and so will be the buddings. Now the distinction between the sin and trespass-offerings is just this: the one is for sin in our nature, the other for the fruits of it. Thus in the sin-offering no particular act of sin is mentioned, but a certain person is seen standing confessedly as a sinner: in the trespass-offering certain acts are enumerated, and the person never appears.
II. THE VARIETIES IN THIS OFFERING.
(1) The first variety which is seen in the sin-offering is the difference in the animal offered. In the burnt-offering, the offering though varied was limited, either to a bullock, a lamb, a goat, or turtledoves. Here in the sin-offering we have several other grades, coming down at last to a sin-offering composed of simple "flour." Suffice it to say that here, as in the burnt-offerings, they show us the different characters under which the offering of Christ may be apprehended by us. In the sin-offering, as in the burnt-offering, one saint has one view, another another view respecting the character of the offering.
(2) The next variety we may notice is in the person offering: we have the priest, the congregation, the ruler, and the common Israelite. First in order we have the sin-offering for the priest; then the sin-offering for the whole congregation; then the sin-offering for a ruler; then for one of the common people; and lastly, the sin-offering for particular sins; in which last the person of the offerer is lost sight of, and the particular act for which he offers more clearly seen. This last is very nearly akin to the trespass-offering, and is indeed called indifferently by both names of sin and trespass. In this last class, as in the lowest classes of the other offerings, we get the lowest view which can be taken of this particular aspect of the offering. But what is the import of this variety in the person offering? They are only different measures of apprehension. Of course the Offerer here, as elsewhere, is Christ, made under the law, our Representative. As such He is here seen confessing sin; but though seen as Offerer in this aspect, He may yet be seen very differently. For example, in the first case the offerer is apprehended as "priest," a person who stands the representative of a family or congregation. In other cases the offerer is seen as "one of the common people," one who stands simply the representative of an individual. In the lowest cases of all, the person of the offerer is altogether lost sight of, neither individual nor congregation are seen, and the sin for which he suffers is almost the only thing apprehended.
(3) A third variety in the sin-offering has reference to "the blood." In the higher classes the blood was sprinkled on the incense altar; in the lower classes it was not taken into the Holy Place, but sprinkled upon the brazen altar in the court. The deeper the apprehension of the efficacy of the blood, the deeper will be the sense of that from which it delivers us.
(4) A fourth variety in the sin-offering has reference to "the fat." In the higher grades the fat was burnt upon the altar; in the lowest class this is overlooked: what was done with the fat is entirely unnoticed. "The fat" represents the general health and energy of the whole body. Its being burnt to God was the appointed proof that the victim offered for sin was yet in itself acceptable. This acceptability is most seen in the higher classes, but it is apprehended also in all save the lowest grade. There the atonement made for sin is indeed apprehended, but the perfect acceptableness of the victim is unnoticed. So with some Christians, is not their thought respecting the sin-offering more of our, pardon than of Christ's perfectness?
(5) Another variety we may observe in the sin-offering has reference to "the body" of the victim. In the higher grades it is cast without the camp; in the lower this is unnoticed; but in the law of the offerings another particular is marked; the priest is seen to feed on the offering. The import of this distinction is at once obvious. Where the sin-offering is fully apprehended, the victim, which is the sin-bearer, is seen accursed, and as such cast out as unclean into the wilderness. Where the sin-offering is more partially apprehended, the victim is still seen as sin-bearer, but the reality of its separation from God is lost sight of, and its death viewed merely as satisfying the Mediator. And how exactly this accords with the successive stages of Christian experience will be sufficiently understood by those who know much either of themselves or others. At first Christ's work, or person, or offering, is viewed with interest solely on account of what it is to us. It has taken away our sins; it has made atonement; this is the one thing, and almost the sole thing, seen respecting it. Anything further than this at such a stage would appear a grand impertinence. But let the question of peace with God be settled, let our acceptance become a thing known and realised, then the perfectness of the offering, and what it is in itself, will, without exception, be more seen and dwelt upon.
(6) The last variety I will here notice in the different grades of the sin-offering is connected with the name by which the offering is variously designated. In the higher classes it is always called a "sin-offering," and no particular act of trespass is noticed; in the lower classes it is called a "trespass-offering" as well as a "sin-offering," and the person of the offerer is lost sight of in the particular trespass. So when the measure of apprehension is limited, there will be want of intelligence respecting the precise difference of sin and trespass; nor this alone; the offering will be seen only for sins; that it is offered for persons will not be apprehended. We have thus gone through the particulars of the sin-offering, as far at least as they are given in the law of the offerings. In other places there are some other details added, the principles of which are, however, all contained in what we have investigated. The additions only give us some new combinations as to the character under which the sin-offering may be exhibited: I refer to the offerings of the red heifer (Numbers 19.), and of the scapegoat on the great Day of Atonement (chap. Leviticus 16.). The offering of the red heifer, as we might expect from its being found in Numbers, exhibits not so much what the offering is in itself, as its use in meeting the wants of the wilderness. Thus no memorial of it was burnt on the altar, nor was the blood seen to be taken into the Tabernacle; but the whole animal was burnt without the camp, and its ashes laid up to be mixed with the water of purification. Then when an Israelite found himself unclean, through contact with the dead, these ashes with water were sprinkled on him. All this is the sin-offering as meeting our need of cleansing, and as given to remove the defilement caused by the dead things of the wilderness. The view presented by it has to do with the effects of the offering, and its use towards man as applied by water, that is the Spirit. In the scapegoat, offered on the great day of atonement, the view presented is very different. In this sin-offering, which was offered but once a year, the blood was seen to be put on the mercy-seat. The offering it spoke of is shown (Hebrews 10:1, 22) to have been "once for over," and "access into the holiest" the consequence of it.
Parallel VersesKJV: Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a soul shall sin through ignorance against any of the commandments of the LORD concerning things which ought not to be done, and shall do against any of them: