And if the whole congregation of Israel sin through ignorance, and the thing be hid from the eyes of the assembly…
The sacrifice is very similar to the high priest's. The ruling thought in both cases is that of sin attaching to those who represent the covenant of God. The people, whether as a nation or assembly, or as a house of God, a worshipping congregation, whether in its ciders or rulers, or in its high priest, were in a covenant relation to Jehovah; therefore might offend against that relation, and required atonement to be made. Take up the subject of national sins.
I. A NATION MAY BE GUILTY.
1. Negatively, violating the commandments of God. Political unwisdom, producing national disorder, ignorance, division of classes from one another; decay of commerce, and distress. International confusion and war.
2. Positively irreligious. Growth of vices till they become national. Combinations of great masses of people to uphold wrong and protect interests which impede the advance of morality. Sins of rulers in dishonest legislation. State interference with religious liberty. Spread of superstition, for which the nation as a whole is accountable. Indifference of the more privileged classes to the moral and religious condition of the multitudes. Guilty leaders followed.
II. NATIONAL SINS SHOULD BE NATIONALLY CONFESSED AND PUT AWAY. While there are prominent members of the nation who should set an example of penitence and sacrifice, the whole people should be summoned to a united acknowledgment of their position before God. The national fast, if rightly conducted, and emanating from a widespread sense of sin, and not from a mere royal command, must be pleasing to God. At such times the chief stress should be laid not upon the performance of external rites, but upon the facts of the moral state of the people and the gospel call to repentance and faith.
III. THERE IS A FORGIVENESS OF NATIONS AS WELL AS OF INDIVIDUALS. "And the priest shall make art atonement for them, and it shall be forgiven them." We cannot doubt that God, as a Moral Governor, punishes nations. History proves that there is not a mere natural rise and fall of great powers by the working of ordinary physical, social, and economical laws; but there is an ordering of events, so as to visit national sins upon nations. Great illustrations: in France; in United States for slavery; in our own history, Spanish Armada - "Affiavit Deus, et dissipantur." Many instances of change for the better in affairs of nations: France, Italy, America, England at the Commonwealth. Preservation from impending evils. Special help in internal troubles and international relations. We must watch the will of Providence over long periods, and adapt facts and principles to one another. Testimony in the Old. Testament, and especially in the Psalms, to the government of God in nations. - R.
Parallel VersesKJV: And if the whole congregation of Israel sin through ignorance, and the thing be hid from the eyes of the assembly, and they have done somewhat against any of the commandments of the LORD concerning things which should not be done, and are guilty;