Numbers 8:12, 19
And the Levites shall lay their hands on the heads of the bullocks: and you shall offer the one for a sin offering…
The tribe of Levi was set apart for God's service in the tabernacle in place of all the firstborn. Before they could enter on that service they needed a special call and consecration, including atoning sacrifices (verses 5-12). Thus we are reminded of the obvious truth that, without a sacrifice for us, we can never ourselves be acceptable sacrifices to God. Illustrate from the position of Romans 12. I in the Epistle, coming after the exposition of the mercies of God, including the atonement of Christ (Romans 3). But in verse 19 the services of the Levites (or the Levites themselves) are said to be an atonement. The Levites were regarded as a vicarious offering to God (verses 10, 11). In the wider sense of the word atonement, they are said to make (or to be) an atonement. ("The priests made an atonement by sacrifice; the Levites by attendance." - M. Henry.) Yet even this vicarious offering needs to be atoned for (verse 12). Hence the lesson, that every human saint (separated to God, verse 14), service, or sacrifice needs an atonement. This is needed for -
1. All God's chosen servants, "a kind of first-fruits of his creatures." (Illustrate from 1 John 1:7-10; 1 John 2:1, 2, and from John 13:10.)
2. All God's selected ministers (pastors, missionaries, etc.). Illustrate from Tertullian's request to his brethren: "Ye have sought, and ye have found; ye have knocked, and it is opened to you. Thus much I ask, that when you seek again, you remember me, Tertullian, a sinner;" or from W. Carey the missionary's selected epitaph -
"A guilty, weak, and helpless worm,
On thy kind arms I fall."
3. All the most sacred services of the most saintly men. Their prayers need to be prayed for; their tears to be washed from impurity; their gifts of gold to be refined from the dross of earthly motives. Though all Christians are priests unto God, their most solemn priestly acts need the blood of Christ to cleanse them from all sin. - P.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the Levites shall lay their hands upon the heads of the bullocks: and thou shalt offer the one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering, unto the LORD, to make an atonement for the Levites.