Bible Study with Jairus – Leviticus 4

Leviticus 4 mentions different sacrifices that were used in several different situations. When the priest and the whole congregation sinned, they were to offer a bull, put its blood on the horns of the altar of fragrant incense, and sprinkle the blood seven times on the veil of the Holy of Holies. But when a leader sinned, he was to offer a male goat. And when a common person sinned, he was commanded to offer a female goat or a female lamb. In this case, the blood would be sprinkled on the brazen altar in the outer courtyard, not on the veil of the Holy of Holies.

Why do these differences exist? The differences in the sizes of the sacrifices and the location where the blood was sprinkled represented different degrees of redemption that were needed for different degrees of sins. This picture also reminds us that when we remove the hindrance of sin from our lives, our fellowship with the Lord will be more intimate. As God cleanses us from sin and helps us through our struggles, he reveals a way to deepen our fellowship with Him.

The size of the sacrifice and the location of the sprinkling of blood

Verse 4:2 says, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, If anyone sins unintentionally in any of the Lord’s commandments about things not to be done, and does any one of them…”  When an Israelite sinned unintentionally, he was commanded to offer a bull (verse 4:3). Verse 27 says, “If anyone of the common people sins unintentionally in doing any one of the things that by the Lord’s commandments ought not to be done, and realizes his guilt…” Here, the individual was commanded to offer a female goat. Why this difference in offerings?

For an answer, we need to look at the third verse. Verse 3 says, “if it is the anointed priest who sins, thus bringing guilt on the people, then he shall offer for the sin that he has committed…” Following the progression of these verses, we can see that a priest’s sin would bring guilt on all the people of Israel. The same thing would happen when an individual Israelite sinned. Even though only one person sinned, whether a common Israelite or a priest, it would bring guilt on Israel as a whole. These sins were serious, and required larger sacrifices, such as a bull without blemish as a sin offering (verse 4:3).

Later, we learn that if a leader sinned unintentionally, he needed to offer a male goat without blemish (4:23); if a common person sinned unintentionally, he needed to offer a female goat without blemish (4:28). We can speculate that a male goat was worth more than a female goat, and a bull was worth more than a male goat. Therefore, these offerings of different values showed that different degrees of redemption were needed for different degrees of sins.

When a common person sinned unintentionally, the damage and harm he brought to the community were relatively limited. However, because a leader had greater power and influence, the negative impact of his sins was much greater than that of a common person. Hence, a leader’s sin required a larger sacrifice. In the same way, a priest was a representative of God. His sin would have an even greater negative impact. If a common person or priest sinned intentionally, it would bring guilt on the entire congregation. This was a more serious situation. Thus, offering a large sacrifice, such as a bull, was needed.

Let’s read the description of the place where the bull was offered and where the blood was sprinkled: “He shall bring the bull to the entrance of the tent of meeting before the Lord and lay his hand on the head of the bull and kill the bull before the Lord. And the anointed priest shall take some of the blood of the bull and bring it into the tent of meeting, and the priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle part of the blood seven times before the Lord in front of the veil of the sanctuary.” (4:4-6).

The “veil of the sanctuary” was the thick veil that separated the Holy of Holies from the sanctuary. The altar of fragrant incense was located near this veil. In addition to sprinkling the bull’s blood on the veil, the blood would be put on the horns of the altar of fragrant incense, and poured out at the entrance of the tent of meeting and at the base of the altar of burnt offering.

When a leader or a common person sinned, the blood would be sprinkled “on the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and all the rest will be poured out at the base of the altar.” In this case, the blood was not sprinkled on the veil, nor on the horns of the altar of fragrant incense. In other words, the blood was sprinkled near the outer courtyard.

The difference in the location of the sprinkling of blood showed that varying degrees of sin needed varying degrees of redemption.

Different sins require different degrees of redemption

Joshua 7 records the story of Achan’s sin, which led to the Israelites’ failure to conquer the city of Ai. Achan’s sin brought guilt on the entire nation and caused them to lose the battle against Ai. Only one man sinned, yet his failure brought judgment and destruction to his entire family.

In Joshua 7:25 “Joshua said to Achan, ‘Why did you bring trouble on us? The Lord brings trouble on you today.’ And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones.”[1] Clearly, one person’s sin can bring guilt to the entire congregation.

The Bible seems to indicate that there are differing levels of sin. The book of First John says that we should not pray for those who commit sins that lead to death (1 John 5:16-17). Achan, Uzzah, Ananias and Sapphira, and Judas were instantly killed for their sins. Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Holy Spirit. Judas betrayed Christ. These may be examples of sins that lead to death.

The book of Hebrews mentions that the blood of Jesus not only cleansed the sanctuary on earth, but also purified the heavenly sanctuary (Hebrews 9-10). This indicates that some serious sins, such as Satan’s rebellion, defiled the heavenly sanctuary. These sins against the heavenly Holy of Holies were judged severely.

Leviticus 4 is not discussing serious, intentional sins, but unintentional sins that are redeemable. Nonetheless, the extent of the redeeming sacrifice would vary according to the extent of the damage caused by the sin. Some people sin against the outer courtyard, some against the sanctuary, and some against the Holy of Holies.

Many people committed sins against the outer courtyard. All they needed to do was offer a goat, and the blood only needed to be sprinkled on the altar in the outer courtyard. Perhaps the sins of tax collectors and prostitutes would qualify as sins against the outer courtyard. Yes, they sinned, but their sin was unintentional. They did not know God yet. So Jesus treated them as His friends.

In Matthew 21:31, Jesus told the chief priests and elders of Israel, “The tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.” Jesus was saying that the tax collectors and prostitutes were more eager to believe in John the Baptist than the chief priests and elders were.

If a person sinned the sanctuary, he would sprinkle blood on the veil that separated it from the Holy of Holies. The sins committed by the chief priests and elders could be thought of as sins against the sanctuary. These religious leaders did know God, and the priests even served in the sanctuary. Yet they refused to believe in Jesus Christ, whom God sent to save them. Priests serve in the sanctuary. Jesus was greater than the temple (Matthew 12:6); yet the religious leaders did not believe in him. By refusing to believe in the Lord Jesus, they were rebelling against Him. In effect, they were sinning against the sanctuary.

On the other hand, a person who sins the Holy of Holies could be killed. Uzzah is a great example of this occurrence.

The sacrifices mentioned in this chapter remind us of our sinful nature. The bulls, male goats, and female goats offered by the common people were sacrifices that represented different levels of sinful behavior. There is a difference between the sinful nature and sinful behavior. The sins of the priests and the community can remind us of the sinful nature, while the sins of individuals can remind us of sinful behavior.

On the one hand, Christ took away our sinful nature and sinful behavior once and for all. This reality is fulfilled in the Spirit. But we also must constantly experience Christ’s redemption as we confess our sins to him. In the first two examples, the blood was sprinkled on the veil in front of the Holy of Holies, while in the third, the blood was sprinkled on the bronze altar in the outer courtyard. These sacrifices remind us of our sinful nature and sinful behavior, respectively.

In addition to ordaining different types of sacrifices for different types of sin, God also allowed different sacrificial animals for different financial abilities. He offered the people a “sliding financial scale.” God allowed his people to bring female lambs, which were worth less than female goats. Since each person had a different level of poverty or wealth, God took into account their finances when he ordained sacrificial offerings. This shows that God is gentle and compassionate.

Levels of Fellowship with the Lord

Why did God ordain different sacrifices for the sins against the outer courtyard, the sanctuary, and the Holy of Holies? With regards to the sin against the outer courtyard, we cited the example of the prostitutes and tax collectors.

Sinning against the sanctuary is explicitly mentioned in Numbers 18:1. Here it says that if someone enters the sanctuary in the wrong way, or served wrongfully in the sanctuary, Aaron would take responsibility.

God also mentions sins against the Holy of Holies. For example, Aaron’s two sons, Nadab and Abihu, offered strange fire to God (Leviticus 10:1-2). This was likely a sin against the Holy of Holies. As sons of Aaron, these men were candidates for the position of High Priest. But since they were not yet ordained as High Priest, they were not allowed to enter the Holy of Holies. When they offered strange fire, they sinned against the Holy of Holies and were consumed by the fire of God.

Uzzah also sinned against the Holy of Holies. Only the Kohathites were allowed to carry the Ark of the Covenant, and Uzzah was a descendant of Merari. Numbers 4 clearly states that the Merarites were only permitted to carry the items in the tabernacle as well as in the outer courtyard. Uzzah was killed for touching the Ark of the Covenant. Most likely, he sinned against the sanctuary or even the Holy of Holies.

The Old Testament is only a picture of the New Testament reality. This picture shows that the closer the relationship, the more relational harm we cause by our hurt and betrayal. A person who is far from the Lord doesn’t bring him as much harm. Unbelievers on the streets may speak disrespectfully against God. While I don’t condone this behavior, I believe that these words do not hurt God as much as if a loyal believer said the same words. Since these people have little connection with Him, he disregards their words.

But the closer you are to God, the more harm your sin brings to him. The words of your closest friends hurt more than the words of a stranger. When a couple first meets each other, they are strangers. Their words are not as hurtful. But when they have been married for a long time, their words of betrayal or distrust can do great harm to the relationship between a husband and a wife.

The same is true between us and God. When we do not belong to God, He demands less of us. He accepts anyone willing to come to Him for salvation. After we know him as Savior, when we sin unintentionally, we bring more hurt to God’s heart. But when we who know God intentionally sin against Him, He will treat us more severely. The differences in the size of the offerings and the places where the blood was sprinkled remind us of this truth.

The closer we are to the Lord, the higher are His demands of us. When we first believed in the Lord, he only corrected our external behavior. But as our fellowship with the Lord deepened, the Holy Spirit began to enlighten us about more subtle sins that took place in our hearts. He begins to show us sins we are less aware of, that dwell in our sinful nature.

Difficulties and the Answers They Reveal

God doesn’t make us aware of a problem without also giving us a solution. Often, that solution is hidden. But if we look for it, we will find it. Our different degrees of sins are our problem, and the different sizes of sacrifices are the solution. God provides a unique provision that matches each unique problem.

In the Local Church Movement, I learned a prayer method called Tabernacle Prayer. This type of prayer is also taught by David Yonggi Cho. In this method of prayer, the elements of our prayer match the items in the tabernacle, in the order a priest would encounter them when entering the tabernacle.

In this method of prayer, we would first go to the altar to confess our sins and remember Christ’s sin offering. Then we would go to the laver to experience the washing of the Holy Spirit and the washing of the water in the word. We reach the table of the bread of the Presence, where we eat, drink and enjoy the Lord. We receive power and illumination from the golden lampstand of the Holy Spirit, and then enter into intercession at the altar of incense. In the Holy of Holies, we experience the Lord Himself as our light, resurrection, food, and life.

Let me explain these specific steps in detail. When we come to the bronze altar in the outer courtyard, we need to offer sacrifices and sprinkle blood to remove our sins. In the Old Testament, the Israelites offered sheep and cattle, but in the New Testament, we are cleansed by Christ’s blood. During prayer, we imagine that we are sprinkling Christ’s blood on ourselves to cleanse us from all sin. We confess our sins to God, repent, and then ask Him to forgive us.

Once we are cleansed by the blood of the Lord, we approach the laver. In the Old Testament, priests washed themselves at the laver so they could serve God in holiness. After we are cleansed from our sins, we must remove the filth and contamination of the world so we can come near to God. We can imagine that we are washing ourselves in the water of the Holy Spirit, who cleanses us from defilement.

After we have gone through these two steps, we can imagine ourselves coming to the table of the bread of the Presence. Here, we eat God’s holy bread. His word is our food. At this time, we can pray through a verse of Scripture, meditate on it, digest it, and speak it aloud to ourselves.

As we do, the Lord’s words will give light. When the unfolding of God’s words gives light, it imparts understanding to the simple (Psalm 119:130). We have now arrived in front of the golden lampstand. The light of the lampstand reminds us of the light of God’s word. Both will illuminate the secrets of our hearts. Here, we check the intentions and motives of our hearts. What is our motivation for our thoughts, words, and deeds? We must examine ourselves in the light of the Lord.

The next step is entering into intimate fellowship with God through the altar of incense. The altar of incense represents intercession. Revelation 5:8 says that incense represents the prayers of the saints. Here, we enter into Abraham’s intercession for Lot. As we reach this point of intimacy with God, we let go of ourselves and begin praying for others.

As we continue to have fellowship with God, we pass through the veil into the Holy of Holies, where we meet God and hear Him speak above the mercy seat above the Ark of the Covenant (Numbers 7:89). To pass through the veil, we must experience the cleansing of Jesus’ blood. Not only do we need to be cleansed of our sinful behavior, but we must also be cleansed of our sinful nature. Jesus has cleansed us from these sins so we can enter into a deeper fellowship with God.

Inside the Ark, there is manna (which reminds us that the Lord is our food, the bread of heaven), Aaron’s rod that budded (reminding us of the resurrection), and a tablet with the Ten Commandments written on it (reminding us of the light of God’s word). This is the provision of God for our needs.

This prayer method allows me to personally experience God’s provision. Pastor David Yonggi Cho was asked, “How could you pray for hours when there is often nothing to pray for?” He replied that when he prays the tabernacle prayer, moving from the outer courtyard to the sanctuary and then the Holy of Holies, a few hours will quickly pass by without him noticing.

Let’s return to the content of this chapter. In it, God revealed how to offer different sacrifices for different sins. Each different sin had a different sacrifice. Each problem had a unique solution.

In the same way, God will help us solve the unique and different problems that arise in our fellowship with Him. He will provide resolution to the various obstacles that hinder our fellowship with Him. Remember, whenever you face a problem or temptation, God will provide a unique solution that is perfect for your needs. When you face temptation, God will always provide a way of escape, so that you can overcome it (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Leviticus 4 mentions different levels of fellowship we can experience with the Lord. It shows us how to overcome each difficulty we face, so we can enter into deeper fellowship with him.

[1] All Scripture quotations are taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.