This series of verses follows immediately after the giving of the instructions for the offerings. The priesthood's ordination and installation into their offices of service at the altar and Tabernacle are about to take place. Verses 2-10 are unique because they are instructions for what will be the first offerings given by the Aaronic priesthood.
Does it not seem plausible that they made the offerings in the correct order the first time they performed them, when little time had passed for people to forget God's commands or even deceitfully corrupt their purity? Moses received the instruction from God, he passed them on to Aaron, and the priests carried them out.
They did so in an interesting progression. Obviously, the order of instruction from God in the first few chapters of Leviticus begins with the burnt offering and proceeds through the meal, peace, sin, and trespass offerings. Did the priests place the offerings on the altar in exactly the same progression? Does it make any difference? Yes, it makes a difference to us because it made a difference to God.
The Bible provides two different orders. The teaching order is given beginning in Leviticus 1. God, it seems, wants us to learn first about devotion to Him and fellow man portrayed by the burnt and meal offerings, as well as our devotion's fruits—gratitude, peace and fellowship—pictured by the peace offering. Following that, His instruction proceeds on to the sin and trespass offerings. However, when the rituals were actually performed at the altar, the sin offering happened first.
Leviticus 9:8 clearly states that the calf of the sin offering was killed first. Aaron then placed the blood from that calf upon the horns of the altar and poured the remainder of its blood at the base of the altar. Following that, its fat, kidneys, and liver lobe were burned on the altar (verse 10), but its flesh and hide were burned outside the camp (verse 11). Not until those ceremonies were fulfilled was the ram of the burnt offering killed, its blood caught, and all its parts burned atop the altar along with its meal offering (verses 12-14).
Investigating why the instruction order was given one way and the practical application order another should prove both logical and helpful. It helps to remember that Christ is the object of all the offerings. The burnt offering pictures His perfect devotion and obedience to God in keeping the first four commandments. The meal offering depicts an equally perfect devotion and obedience in keeping the remaining six commandments, which apply to relationships with other men. The peace offering shows the perfect communion produced. This sequence portrays His sinless performance in living 33½ years, enabling Him to become the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world.
This describes what made Him the perfect sin offering. We cannot approach God as a whole burnt offering because we have not devoted ourselves to God and man in perfect sinlessness. Our devotion is flawed. We are not qualified to be a sin offering because we have sinned. We are imperfect, to say the least.
The only way we can approach God is to have the way cleared before us by a perfect sin offering made in our behalf, which in turn prepares the way for us to become acceptable burnt and meal offerings. The perfect sin offering must precede us so we can be accepted before God. We cannot come to God through our own works because they are badly tarnished. We may come to Him only through the work of the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Once God accepts us into His presence, the love of God begins to be shed abroad in our heart by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). This works to change our heart, preparing us to yield and keep His commandments faithfully in both letter and spirit.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Six): The Sin Offering