This chapter continues discussing sin offerings but now moves on to the individuals and specific sins that couldn’t wait for the yearly offering. The sacrifices made for these offenses were called sin offerings or guilt offerings. These offenses were an affront to the Lord because they soiled the soul of the person by his actions. The first sin is described in verse 1.
“If anyone sins in that he hears a public adjuration to testify, and though he is a witness, whether he has seen or come to know the matter, yet does not speak, he shall bear his iniquity;”
Bearing witness and speaking the truth on a matter before a judge is important. What one knows, what he has seen, and what he has heard can make a difference in the guilt or innocence of another. There are many reasons a person may want to keep silent on a subject. Perhaps speaking the truth will bring shame to a friend, incriminate someone, or bring about an unwanted conclusion. But the truth is important. The truth is what sets people free by shining its light into the darkness, revealing reality, and allowing those who sinned to be forgiven. Forgiveness brings liberty to the soul.
Verses 2-3 describe more sins that require a sin offering.
“or if anyone touches an unclean thing, whether a carcass of an unclean wild animal or a carcass of unclean livestock or a carcass of unclean swarming things, and it is hidden from him and he has become unclean, and he realizes his guilt; 3 or if he touches human uncleanness, of whatever sort the uncleanness may be with which one becomes unclean, and it is hidden from him, when he comes to know it, and realizes his guilt;”
The Lord is Holy and He longs for us to want and pursue that same purity for ourselves. There were numerous laws about what was clean and what was unclean. They existed so that Israel would be aware that God is holy and His children were chosen and expected to stand out from the world. Coming into contact with the unclean was going to happen but God made provision for reparation when it did.
Verse 4 describes the next sin,
“or if anyone utters with his lips a rash oath to do evil or to do good, any sort of rash oath that people swear, and it is hidden from him, when he comes to know it, and he realizes his guilt in any of these;”
Making a vow without thinking it through, even a declaration to do good is a sin. It is a sin of enough magnitude that it is one of four listed that could not wait for the Day of Atonement. The Lord takes oaths very seriously. Words carry immense weight and power. They are the manifestation of the will and the heart. The book of Numbers devotes an entire chapter to oaths. Verses 1-5 read,
“Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes of the people of Israel, saying, “This is what the Lord has commanded. 2 If a man vows a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word. He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.
3 “If a woman vows a vow to the Lord and binds herself by a pledge, while within her father's house in her youth, 4 and her father hears of her vow and of her pledge by which she has bound herself and says nothing to her, then all her vows shall stand, and every pledge by which she has bound herself shall stand.5 But if her father opposes her on the day that he hears of it, no vow of hers, no pledge by which she has bound herself shall stand. And the Lord will forgive her, because her father opposed her.”
When we make a promise, we had better carry it out. But if it is a promise that goes against the will of our Father, The LORD then we are not obligated to keep it. Making an oath it is still a sin. We are better off not to swear at all. In Matthew 5:33-37 Jesus said,
“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.”
These sins are all sins that directly affect the heart and the soul. Two deal with words, truthful testimony and vows. Two deal with purity of the soul touching unclean animals or people. The Lord understood that Israel would sin. He established a means of expiation. In Christ we have his Spirit. We are holy. The Lord expects us to behave like the saints we are. In 1 Peter 1:14-16 Peter paraphrases Leviticus 11:44-45.
“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
The first step of the sin offering for these offenses is realization of the sin. One can’t repent for a sin until he is aware that he has sinned. People who do not know God, often do not know they are sinning. How can they understand their need of a savior if they don’t know they have fallen short? We just can’t expect the ignorant to be sorry for doing wrongs to God. They don’t know Him. It is up to us to introduce them and let His Love convict.
Notice the next step under the law is “he shall bear his iniquity.” He will feel the weight of his transgression, his wrongness. He will understand his guilt. Not only does he need to know he wronged God but he needs to understand the consequences of the sin. This sin caused pain to others and separated the person from the Lord. That is remorse.
The final step was the sacrifice. The chapter describes the acceptable sacrifices beginning with a female goat or lamb, two turtledoves for those too poor for a goat or a tenth of an ephah of flour for the poorest. Sin has a cost. There can be no atonement without sacrifice.
In Christ when we realized we sinned, we felt the remorse but then Jesus did a wonderful thing for us, He bore our iniquity for us. He paid the price for atonement. He forgave us of every sin in one ultimate sacrifice of the one and only perfect Lamb of God. Under the law, Israel had to make these sacrifices again and again. But in Christ it is finished.