Series: Great Doctrine
We’re going to try to finish the message of last Sunday morning. Last Sunday morning, I made the observation that the altar was larger than you thought it was, than you would naturally think it to be. I made the statement that I thought the altar was about half as big as this church. And some of the folks came to me after the service and during the week and said, “Pastor, we just never heard of any such thing as that. You mean the altar, the burnt offering – the altar, the great altar – half as big as this church? Well, that’s just inconceivable.”
Well, you kind of shook me a little bit. I thought, “Well, well, maybe – maybe I have exaggerated a little.” So I just dug into it this week, and I got the dimensions of it here. This is from Josephus [Titus Flavius Josephus, 37-100 CE]. And he lived there; he worshiped there many times. And he describes the temple in great detail [Wars of the Jews, Chapter V, Book 5, by Flavius Josephus, 75 CE].
All right, these are the figures he gives for the size of that altar. He said it was a square of fifty cubits. It was fifty cubits this way, fifty that way, fifty the other way, and fifty this way. He says the height of it was fifteen cubits; and he says the ascent to it was from the south, and the length of the ramp, the ascent, was thirty-two cubits and the breadth of the ascent was sixteen cubits.
Now, let’s put that in feet. A square of fifty cubits is seventy-five feet. The altar was seventy-five feet this way, seventy-five feet that way, seventy-five that way, seventy-five this way. It was a square of seventy-five feet. Now did I miss it very far, or did I say it big enough? Half as big as this church, it was a square of seventy-five feet. The height of it was twenty-two and one-half feet. The height of that altar, it was twenty-two and one-half feet up there to the level where the burning was. The length of that ramp to it, the ascent to it, was forty-eight feet, and the breadth of that ramp was twenty-four feet. That altar was not just a little thing, and these sacrifices that we’re talking about were not just occasional. They were at the very heart of the worship of the ancient people of God.
All right, now let’s start out with these sacrifices. There are five of them. And last Sunday morning, I mentioned three of them. And this Sunday morning, we’re going to take the other two and the Day of Atonement if we have time. We’re going to talk this morning about the sacrifices for sin.
Now, just by review, so we can put the thing together because it ought all to be delivered at one time – just lack of time, we can’t do it all, but it is one message.
Now, the Book of Leviticus begins with the five sacrifices, the five offerings. The first three are called by the Bible here, they’re called sweet savor offerings [Leviticus 1:13, 2:2, 3:5], and the last two are called sin offerings: one named a sin offering [Leviticus 4:7-8] and the other named a trespass offering [Leviticus 6:5-7].
Now let’s get in our minds once again before we start. That tabernacle, which later placed in stone was the temple, God gave it to Moses on the mount – every detail: how to construct it, how it was arranged [Exodus 24:15-27:20].
Now, it always faced the east. So, you all said this is the east. It always faced the east. Wherever the tabernacle was set [Exodus 27:13-15], it was set facing the east. And when the temple was built, when the tabernacle was made into stone, it faced the east [Ezekiel 8:16].
Now there was a high curtain around it which made a courtyard [Exodus 27:9-18] – in the case of the temple, a high wall around it [1 Kings 6:29].
Just let me talk about the tabernacle and know that what I say about the tabernacle that was the truth. That was the way it was in the temple except the temple was made out of stone.
So I’m going to use just the word “tabernacle.” The tabernacle had a courtyard around it. There was a curtain, and then then on the inside was a courtyard [Exodus 27:9-18]. So when you entered it from the east, there in front of you was the great altar – the altar of the burnt offering; and as Josephus says, the ascent to it was from the south, from this side.
When you walked into it from the east, there on this side was the ascent. And on the north side of the altar was where they slew the sacrificial victims. Then beyond the great altar was a laver, a sea [Exodus 30:17-21]. They called it a molten sea [1 Kings 7:23-26]. It was a large place in which the priest could bathe himself [Exodus 40:11-16; 2 Chronicles 4:1-6]. Then beyond that was the naos – the temple itself. And when it was in curtains, there was a holy place. As you walked in, there was the seven-branched golden candlestick and the table of showbread, then the altar – the golden altar of incense – then just beyond, the veil [Exodus 26:35-37]. Beyond the veil into which the priest entered just once a year, and he alone by himself [Hebrews 9:6-7] – we’re going to see that this morning – beyond the veil was the Ark of the Covenant[Exodus 26:31-34].
The lid of the Ark of the Covenant was called the mercy seat, and there were cherubim [Exodus 25:10-22]. There was a cherub here and a cherub here, and their wings covered the mercy seat and their faces looked down full upon it. Now, that was the arrangement of the tabernacle – the arrangement of the temple.
Now the first offering, which is the first chapter in Leviticus, the first offering was the whole burnt offering. If a man was rich, he offered out the herd [Leviticus 1:1-2]. If he was medium, well-to-do, he offered out of the flock [Leviticus 1:10]. If he was a poor man, he offered of the fowl: a turtledove or young pigeon [Leviticus 1:14].
And the offerer came into the door, into the gate, into the courtyard, and there he was met by the priest [Leviticus 1:3]. And the priest took the offerer and his offering, the sacrificial victim, and he led them to the north side, to this side of the great altar [Leviticus 1:11]. And there, the offerer laid his hands upon the head of the sacrificial victim [Leviticus 1:4] – a bullock, a lamb, a little turtledove or young pigeon – and identified himself with it. Then the priest slew the victim, caught the blood in a basin, sprinkled it on the altar, poured the rest of it out at the bottom of the altar, and then disjointing it and all of its pieces with inward parts and all of the pieces, arranged it on top of the great altar; and there it was burned [Leviticus 1:1-17]. It was a whole burnt sacrifice unto God – a picture of the whole offering of Jesus to God and a picture of our total consecration to God [Hebrews 9:23-28; Romans 12:1-2].
Now these first three offerings are voluntary. If a man did that, he did it voluntarily. The last two offerings, the sin and trespass offering, were mandatory. The people had to make them. This offering was voluntary. A man just did it out of the fullness of his heart.
Now the second offering was voluntary also which is the second chapter of Leviticus [Leviticus 2:1-16]. That is the meal offering. You have it called in your Bible “the meat offering,” but remember I said that in 1611 “meat” referred to food. The word was used for food. And today, we would call it a meal offering. It was always offered with a total burnt sacrificial offering. The meal offering was never offered by itself [Numbers 29:5-6]. The meal offering could be fine flour, or it could be baked loaves, or it could be green ears of wheat which were baked or parched or somehow made edible.
Now it was offered with salt, with olive oil, without leaven [Leviticus 2:1, 4-5, 13], and it was always offered there with the whole burnt sacrifice [Numbers 29:5-6]. That is a picture, we said, of the grain of wheat that falls into the ground. If it abides alone, it has no heritage, but if it die, it brings forth much fruit [from John 12:24]. And we feed upon it which is a picture of our feeding upon the Bread of Life [John 6:35], and it is a picture of the consecration of our toil and of our effort to God.
Now the third offering which also is voluntary: the third offering was the peace offering, and that’s in the third chapter of the Book of Leviticus [Leviticus 3:1-17]. Now, I said when you turn over to the seventh chapter of the Book of Leviticus, you will find that those peace offerings are of two kinds: one, it was an offering of thanksgiving, and the other – the offering of thanksgiving, Leviticus 7:12 – or it was an offering at the conclusion of the fulfillment of a vow, Leviticus 7:16. And you have those two offerings described there in the seventh chapter.
Now going back to the third chapter where it’s presented, there you have again an offering of the herd [Leviticus 3:1], an offering of the flock [Leviticus 3:12]. Now the difference between the peace offering and the whole burnt offering is this. The whole burnt offering had to be a male without blemish [Leviticus 1:3]. Now the peace offering can be a male or a female [Leviticus 3:1, 6]. It has, of course, to be without blemish [Leviticus 3:1, 6]. Whatever they brought to God, they had to bring the best that they had.
Now, there’s one other difference. In the peace offering, the man who brought it also brought with him all of his family and all of the friends that he wanted to invite. And when the peace offering – when the sacrificial victim was slain at the north side of the altar [Leviticus 1:11] and its blood poured out and sprinkled on the altar, why, the inward parts were burned on the great altar [Leviticus 3:10-11]. The breast and the right shoulder of the animal was given to the priest to eat [Leviticus 7:28-34; Deuteronomy 18:3] and all the rest of it the family ate.
If it was an offering of thanksgiving, they had to eat it on the same day [Leviticus 7:15]. If it were an offering in fulfillment of a vow – by that I mean the man would say, “Dear God, if You’ll do so, I’ll do so and so. If You’ll help me, I’ll bring such and such to Thee” – the fulfillment of a vow – he had two days in which to eat it [Leviticus 7:16-18], but it had to be eaten there in the court of the tabernacle.
And that’s where we finished last Sunday morning. I referred to the fact, in closing, that the worship of God in the ancient tabernacle and temple was largely a shared meal and that when we eat, when we break bread together, we’re doing something that God has done with His people from the beginning. So you can see in the tabernacle there, in the court, all the families here and there and there and there, with their friends, having made an offering to God and cooked on the great altar and then they share it together.
All right, now we come to the fourth and the fifth chapters of the Book of Leviticus which describe the offering for sin. The fourth chapter describes the sin offering and the fifth chapter describes the trespass offering.
Now, by way of introduction, may I lay something upon your heart this morning? Do you notice when you read the fourth and the fifth chapters of Leviticus – and I’ll point out the verses and read them to you rapidly – all of these offerings for sin and for trespass were offerings when a man had sinned through ignorance – unwittingly, unknowingly.
Now, you look:
In the fourth chapter of Leviticus and the second verse: “If a soul shall sin through ignorance against any of the commandments of the Lord . . .” [Leviticus 4:2].
All right, look again in the thirteenth verse: “And if the whole congregation of Israel sinned through ignorance . . .” [Leviticus 4:13] – through ignorance.
In the twenty-second verse: “When a ruler hath sinned and hath done somewhat through ignorance . . .” [Leviticus 4:22].
All right, the twenty-seventh verse: “And if any one of the common people sin through ignorance . . .” [Leviticus 4:27].
All right, now the trespass. Look in the fifth chapter and the second verse [Leviticus 5:2]: “If this man trespass against these holy things of God, if it be hidden from him, if he didn’t know it;” third verse, “When he knoweth of it;” now the fourth verse, “And it be hid from him when he knoweth of it” [from Leviticus 5:2-4].
Now look in the fifteenth verse, “If a soul commit a trespass, and sin through ignorance;” now in the seventeenth verse, “Though he wist it not” [from Leviticus 5:15, 17].
Now, do you see that in the ceremonial ritual offerings for sin and for trespass, it was always, it was an occasion when a man did it through ignorance? He didn’t know he was doing it. He did it not wisting that he was doing it.
What about a man who sins willfully – then what? What about a man who sins by choice, then what? What about a man who sins volitionally, then what? Now that’s what I wanted to point out to you. There is no sacrifice for sins in the old Bible, in the Old Testament, for sins of choice – sins of will, sin where the man willingly, consciously volitionally sins. These rituals and these ceremonies – we’re going to talk about why they were set up that way – were in no wise able to wash sin away, in no wise. The blood of a bull, the blood of a goat, the blood of a lamb could never suffice to take sins away [Hebrews 10:4]. They were ritualistic ceremonies to keep before the people the knowledge of their trespass and their iniquity.
All right, what do you do when you sin? If a man chose to sin, if he did it volitionally, what is the way in the old Bible [Old Testament] that a man washed his sins away? All right, this is the little preaching that I wanted to bring to your heart this morning. The way the man had to do in the Old Testament when he sinned willfully, consciously, volitionally, is the same way that a man has to do today in the day of grace and the New Testament.
Any time that a man has sinned volitionally, in the ancient day or in this modern day, any day, any time a man sins by choice, his only forgiveness lies in his casting himself upon the mercies of God. Now I want to show you that in the Old Testament.
In the fifty-first Psalm, David cries concerning his sin. He sinned volitionally; he sinned willfully; he sinned by choice [Psalm 51:4].
Well, what did he do? Why, take a lamb to the temple and offer it, take a bullock to the temple and offer it. Oh, no, there is no offering for volitional sin – sin by choice.
Well then, what does a man do when he sins? He casts himself upon the mercies of God.
Listen to David – the fifty-first Psalm, the sixteenth and the seventeenth verses: “For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” [Psalm 51:16-17].
A man’s sin that he does volitionally was forgiven by casting himself upon the mercies of God, but in no wise was volitional sin forgiven by the offering of a burnt offering or a trespass offering or a sin offering in the courts of the Lord.
All right, now take once again the first chapter of the Book of Isaiah, the prophet Isaiah. Listen to what he says to the people – Isaiah 1:11 and then 18:
“To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto Me?” saith the Lord. “I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.
When you come to appear before Me, who hath required this at your hands?”[Isaiah 1:11-12]
Now, how is it that God forgives sin? Listen: ‘”Come now, and let us reason together,’ saith the Lord. ‘Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool’” [Isaiah 1:18].
The blood of a bull, the blood of a lamb could never suffice to wash sins away [Hebrews 10:4]. In the Old Testament, a man had his sins forgiven by going directly to God in confession, in repentance. “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow” [Isaiah 1:18].
All right, just one again – this is just typical of the whole Book. In the sixth chapter of the Book of Micah, that famous and beautiful verse – 6 through . Listen to it:
Wherewith shall I come to the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Yea, shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
How does a man forgive sins? How does a man wash the stain out of his soul? By offering a bullock? By offering a ram? By offering a meat offering of oil and of flour? “Would the Lord be pleased with a thousand thousand rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Yea, if I were to give my own child for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul, would it suffice?” [Micah 6:7] No. No.
“Well then, Pastor, why these rituals if they didn’t forgive sin? Why these rituals that we’re going to talk about now? Why?” This is why. They were types. They were pictures. They were adumbrations of the great atonement for sin that was to be made by Jesus our Lord on the cross. And that’s all that they are – that’s all.
When we read these verses in Leviticus and when we see these people carrying these sacrifices there before God, did those sacrifices suffice to wash sins away? No. Only God and the suppliant casting himself upon the mercies of God could forgive sins [Psalm 51:1-2, 7-12].
Well then, why all these sacrifices? Why this whole ritualistic system? It was a picture looking forward to the day when the Lamb of God should carry the sin of the world away [John 1:29], and that is all.
“This is My blood. This is My body” [Luke 22:19-20]. Do we find our sins forgiven in the mass? Buried with the Lord, raised with the Lord – do we find our sins washed away in the ordinance? No. They are but pictures of the great spiritual realities we have in Jesus Christ.
So with these pictures in the Old Testament: God gave them to Moses on top of the mount [Exodus 24:15-27:20], and when God gave them to the people, I would think that doubtless they hardly understood what they meant. But when the day came that finally we knew all of their message and their content, what they did was to point to Jesus Christ. They were a pattern. They were a picture. They were a dramatic presentation of the great sacrifice of Jesus on the cross – the atonement for our sins[Hebrews 9:1-28].
All right, now with that in mind, remembering that, let’s look at this sin offering. This is the way of the sin offering. In the third verse, it’s for the priest – what he is to do[Leviticus 4:3-12]. In the thirteenth verse, it’s for the whole congregation of Israel – what all Israel is to do [Leviticus 4:13-21]. In the twenty-seventh verse, it’s for one of the people [Leviticus 4:27-35], and in the twenty-second verse, it’s for a ruler [Leviticus 4:22-26]. They give four different classes of people who are to bring a sin offering: a priest, the whole congregation, a ruler, or one of the members of the congregation – one of the Israelites.
Now, let me say in my own words how it was done, and you can read it here in the Bible before you.
A priest – let’s take a priest. What was the priest to do? Well, he was to take a young bullock – in the third verse there [Leviticus 4:3] – he was to take a young bullock without blemish, and he was to take the bullock to the north side of the altar, and there he was to lay his hands upon the head of the bullock and there he was to confess his sins on the head of the bullock and then the bullock was to be slain at the door of the tabernacle and its blood caught [Leviticus 4:3-12].
Now this is the difference between all the other sacrifices. When the priest took the blood of the bullock that was caught, he went inside of the holy place. Now this is the first time you have anybody going inside of that holy place. In the sin offering, he caught the blood in a basin, and he went inside of the holy place [Leviticus 4:5], and he sprinkled the blood before the veil seven times [Leviticus 4:6], and he sprinkled the horns of the golden altar [Leviticus 4:7], and he offered before the Lord the frankincense that he carried in his hand, made from – to burn from the coals taken from off the great altar in front of the tabernacle itself; and then he came back and he poured the rest of the blood at the bottom of the great altar [Leviticus 4:7]. Then he took the animal outside of the camp and there burned it before the Lord in what they call a “clean place” – in a hallowed place [Leviticus 4:11-12].
Now what does that signify? Oh, just to name it is to say what it signifies. The blood of Jesus Christ was poured out before God. Spiritually, it was taken inside the veil and there offered before God [Hebrews 9:11-14, 23-28]. And His body was taken outside the camp, and there it was destroyed – a whole offering for sin [Hebrews 13:12-13].
Now this that was given 1,500 years before – that I read here in the fourth chapter of the Book of Leviticus – in itself, it was not able to forgive sin at all [Hebrews 10:1-22], but it was a picture of the great day that was to come, known to God, when Jesus should offer His own blood, should carry it within the veil, and his body should be taken without the camp and there consumed on the cross, a sacrifice for our sins.
All this did – all the ceremony did, all the ritual did – was to keep before the minds of the people the iniquities of their lives [Hebrews 10:3]: that they were a guilty people, that they were a people full of trespass and wickedness and sin. And it was to bring them always to God in confession.
We are that way, and we are to continue to be that way all of our lives. We are to be conscious of our weakness. We are to be conscious of the transgressions of our lives, and we are to be each day confessing our faults and our sins before God [1 John 1:7-9].
A holy man is a humble man. He’s a man full of confession. He is a man who will be the first to admit the weaknesses and the mistakes and the foibles of his own life. The farther a man gets away from God, the prouder he will be of himself. The closer a man gets to God, the more his garments look stained against the white background of the perfect Holy Savior [Luke 18:9-14].
When you listen to a man talk, you can always judge his nearness to God by how much he brags on himself. When he says, “I’m as good as any other man. I pay my debts. I have a record of integrity. My reputation is without stain. My record is straight, and I’ll take my chances on gettin’ to heaven. I’m as good as any other man.” When he talks like that, he’s far, far away from God.
But when a man talks like this: “Were it not for the grace of God, I do not know what would have become of me. Were it not for the blood of Jesus that washes sins away, I’d never be able to stand in the presence of heaven. My hope is in Jesus. My – what’s your song? ‘My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness’” [from “My Hope is Built: The Solid Rock,” by Edward Mote, c. 1834]. When a man talks like that, he’s beginning to talk like a man who knows God. Nearer you get to Jesus, the nearer you get to God, the more conscious you are of your unworthiness to stand in His presence.
And that was the purpose of these sacrifices. They were to keep before the people that they were a sinful people and a lost people [Hebrews 10:3], and it was only through blood, through the washing away of sin through the pouring out of life, that they could ever stand in the presence of the Lord [Hebrews 10:19-23].
Now, while I’m speaking of that, may I say a word about why the blood was poured out? Always in these sacrifices, the blood is sprinkled before the holy altar and then poured out at the base of the great altar [Leviticus 4:4-7]. Why that blood? Did you know this is written 1,500 years before Christ? We’ve lived after Jesus almost 2000 years. That means that this verse I’m going to read was written 3,500 years ago – 3,500 years ago.
And it was this week, it was this very week, that I heard a learned doctor, a great specialist in his field – it was this very week that I heard a great doctor say that it is just now that we are beginning to learn that the life is in the blood. The great, great complexity of things that are in the blood, we are just beginning to understand, he said. He said almost every day now, they are discovering some new factor, some new enzyme, some new little body, some new little antibody, something else about the blood – just now.
You listen to this: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” [Leviticus 17:11].
What does God mean by the pouring out of the blood? God means this. God said 3,500 years ago before men discovered it, God said the life is in the blood. And when you pour out the blood, it was the pouring out of the life. And when the blood of Jesus was poured out upon the cross, it was the pouring out of His life, of His soul, into the world. And God said, “When I see the travail of His soul, I will be satisfied” [from Isaiah 53:11]. “It is the blood that maketh atonement for the soul” [Leviticus 17:11]. God did all that, and we just look upon it after these thousands of years and marvel at what God hath done.
That verse is Leviticus 17:11, one of the great, great verses of the Bible, and you ought to underscore it. You ought to put a bracket around it. Leviticus 17:11: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.”
Now in just the two or three minutes remaining, may I speak of the trespass offering? The trespass offering – that’s in the fifth chapter of Leviticus. The trespass offering could be a female from the flock, a lamb or a goat [Leviticus 5:6], or it could be two turtledoves or two young pigeons [Leviticus 5:7], or, in the eleventh verse of the fifth of Leviticus, it could be the tenth part of an ephah of flour, fine flour [Leviticus 5:11].
Now, when you come across the word “ephah,” e-p-h-a-h, you just say “bushel” and that’ll be – it’s not – an ephah was a little more than a bushel but approximately a bushel.
Now, there were two kinds of trespass offerings. If a man sinned ignorantly about holy things – he didn’t do it right, he made a mistake – or if he wronged his neighbor, that’s in the [fifth] chapter, or if he wronged his neighbor – why, then, this is what he was to do. He was to bring to the temple there, to the tabernacle there, his sacrifice: the lamb, the kid, the turtledove or the young pigeon, or the tenth part of an ephah of fine flour, and then he was to make all of those sacrifices that we just said[Leviticus 5:14-19].
With this other, whatever he had done, now the sixteenth verse of the fifth chapter of Leviticus: “Whatever he had done against holy things, he shall make amends for the harm that he hath done in the holy thing and shall add the fifth part thereto . . . “ [Leviticus 5:16]. For example, suppose – oh, I could imagine a multitude of things – suppose a man brought his bullock in there and bullock got away from him and he damaged something in the tabernacle or in the temple. Oh, I could just think of lots of things how a trespass might be made against holy things. Well, he was to make amends for the harm that he had done in the holy thing and add the fifth part thereto.
All right – now the sixth:
If a soul sin, and commit a trespass against the Lord, and lie unto his neighbor, or so and so . . .
Then he shall restore that which he hath violently taken away, or the thing which he hath deceitfully gotten, or that which was delivered unto him to keep or the lost thing which he found . . .
And he shall add the fifth part thereto, and give it to him in the day of his trespass offering.[Leviticus 6:2-5]
Now what does all that mean? Well, again, it points to Christ who is our trespass offering, but it also points to this. As Christian people, when we have wronged anybody, we are to make restitution. Any time that a man gets right with God, one of the things that he’ll find in his heart is this: that what he has taken away, what he has stolen, what was not his and belonged to somebody else, he’ll have it in his heart to make restitution [Luke 19:8-10].
Now, may I say a little word about that? When you make restitution, I have never felt that you had to say who you were. If it is good and best to say who you are, then that’s fine; otherwise, do it anonymously. Have you stolen from somebody? Have you taken anything from somebody? Did you cheat somebody? Did you take advantage of somebody? Did you? If it would be a blessing for the man to know it, why then, talk to him face to face. If it would serve no good purpose for the man to know it, do it anonymously. Restore it to him anonymously. Write him a note and enclose whatever it is or in some way return it to him.
But, I say, that’s one of the marks of a child of God. You’ll want to restore. You’ll want to make restitution. You’ll want to make it right. That’s the picture of it here in the trespass offering.
Now we must stop. While we sing our song, somebody you, to give your heart to the Lord or to put your life with us in the church, as the Lord should say the word and open the door, while we sing the song of appeal, you come and stand by me while we stand and while we sing.
For more sermons by W.A Criswell, please visit www.wacriswell.com