The law of the offerings (6:8-7:38)
In the section known as ‘the law of the offerings’, the additional regulations were mainly for the benefit of the officiating priests. These regulations have already been dealt with in the discussion on the preceding chapters. Although the present chapters list the offerings in a slightly different order from the earlier chapters, the same five categories are dealt with: the burnt offering (6:8-13; see notes on 1:1-17), the cereal offering (6:14-23; see notes on 2:1-16), the sin offering (6:24-30; see notes on 4:1-5:13), the guilt offering (7:1-10; see notes on 5:14-6:7) and the peace offering (7:11-38; see notes on 3:1-17).
Limitations of the offerings
If the sin offering and the guilt offering were only for sins committed unknowingly, what were people to do when they had knowingly done wrong and later been sorry for it? The sacrificial system showed up sin in all its horror and taught people how serious a matter sin was, but it also showed that it had no complete solution to the problem. None of the five categories of sacrifice was designed to provide a way for wilful, guilty, yet repentant sinners to find acceptance with God. Guilty sinners had no right to
forgiveness. They were left with nowhere to turn except to God himself; they could do nothing but cast themselves upon God’s mercy.
This does not mean that repentant sinners could ignore the sacrifices, as if they were of no use. The sacrifices had been given by God and they all contained symbolic acts of atonement. In addition, a sacrifice was offered on the Day of Atonement for the cleansing of all the sins of the people (see 16:30). Repentant sinners could by faith cry out for mercy, realizing that God provided a way of approach to him through these sacrifices. But the sacrifices would have defeated their purpose if people could use them to gain automatic forgiveness without thinking of God or their own desperate spiritual need. The sacrifices pointed beyond themselves to the mercy of God, which in every age is the only hope for sinners (Ps 51:1- 2,16-17).
Believers of Old Testament times may not have seen clearly that full cleansing could come only through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ, but they had no doubt that their salvation depended solely on God’s grace. And on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice (which the Levitical sacrifices foreshadowed), God exercised mercy while at the same time being righteous in forgiving those who had faith in him (Rom 3:21-26; Heb 9:23-10:4).