IBL02: Second Commandment (Craig Press)

Sacrifice and Responsibility


*This is an unedited and unoffical print version of R.J. Rushdoony’s lecture.

R.J. Rushdoony: 00:03 Leviticus 4, 1 through 15. “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a soul shall sin through ignorance against any of the commandments of the Lord concerning things which ought not to be done, and shall do against any of them, if the priest that is anointed do sin according to the sin of the people, then let him bring for his sin, which he hath sinned, a young bullock without blemish unto the Lord for a sin offering. And he shall bring the bullock unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord, and shall lay his hand upon the bullock’s head, and kill the bullock before the Lord.

R.J. Rushdoony: 00:49 “And the priest that is anointed shall take of the bullock’s blood, and bring it to the tabernacle of the congregation, and the priest shall dip his finger in the blood, and sprinkle of the blood seven times before the Lord, before the vail of the sanctuary. And the priest shall put some of the blood upon the horns of the altar of sweet incense before the Lord, which is in the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall pour all the blood of the bullock at the bottom of the altar of the burnt offering, which is at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And he shall take off from it all the fat of the bullock for the sin offering; the fat that covereth the inwards, and all the fat that is upon the inwards, and the two kidneys, and the fat that is upon them, which is by the flanks, and the caul above the liver, with the kidneys, it shall be taken away, as it was taken off from the bullock of the sacrifice of peace offerings, and the priest shall burn them upon the altar of the burnt offering.

R.J. Rushdoony: 01:51 “And the skin of the bullock, and all his flesh, with his head, and with his legs, and with his inwards, and his dung, even the whole bullock shall he carry forth without the camp unto a clean place, where the ashes are poured out, and burn him on the wood with fire: where the ashes are poured out shall he be burnt. And if the whole congregation of Israel sin through ignorance, and the thing be hid from the eyes of the assembly, and they have done somewhat against any of the commandments of the Lord concerning things which should not be done, and are guilty; when the sin, which they have sinned against it, is known, then the congregation shall offer a young bullock for the sin, and bring him before the tabernacle of the congregation. And the elders of the congregation shall lay their hands upon the head of the bullock before the Lord, and the bullock shall be killed before the Lord.”

R.J. Rushdoony: 02:52 Our scripture this morning deals with sacrifice. Indeed, we shall be considering the first seven chapters of Leviticus briefly this morning. All of them, and a great deal more of the law of Moses, deals with sacrifice. It is customary today to neglect the fact of sacrifice as something that is a relic of our ignorant past. But nothing could be wronger, because we find that sacrifice appears in every civilization, in every tribe, in every culture that this world has ever known. There has never been a culture without sacrifice.

R.J. Rushdoony: 03:46 Moreover, in spite of the cross-current of sin in man’s nature, there is still — however, it sometimes takes very perverted fashions — an ingrained desire on the part of man to sacrifice. So that we see on all sides that men do, in spite of their rejection of the concept of sacrifice, perpetually sacrifice to a variety of things. Some men would give of themselves sacrificially to their calling, and many a man will work sacrificially. Even when there is no pay or visible reward, he gives himself sacrificially to his calling. Others will sacrifice themselves for all kinds of things that are thoroughly unworthy.

R.J. Rushdoony: 04:49 But to sacrifice seems to be inescapable in man’s nature. Nothing can be done to escape this aspect. Psychologists have usually walked around this fact. William James was the only one who recognized that this was almost an overpowering aspect of man, and hoped that something could be done with it to build world peace upon this, but his plan, of course, was futile because he reckoned without the fact of sin. But suffice it to say, sacrifice is something that cannot be removed from the human scene. It is apparently basic to man’s nature. It is important for us, therefore, to understand what the Bible teaches about sacrifice so that we see sacrifice as God ordained it to be, because everything else is a perversion of that which God ordained.

R.J. Rushdoony: 06:05 Now, as we understand sacrifice in the law of God, the first thing we must recognize is that sacrifice in the Bible requires a doctrine of human sacrifice, while rejecting the physical sacrifice of man as sinful. All Biblical sacrifice rests on the idea of the gift of life to God, the devotion of man’s life to God, either in expiation, expiation for sin, or in consecration in the form of service. As a result, sacrifice, human sacrifice, the sacrifice of man in the sense of total devotion to God is basic to the Bible. But we must say, second, the physical sacrifice of sinful man as an offering to God is a fearful offense against Him, and the law tells us it invites the judgment of God. Human sacrifice is an attempt to bypass God’s law and find man’s way to God. It is humanistic to the core. It is an attempt by man to say that atonement by man on his own terms is sufficient. And what men have done when they have offered human sacrifice is, in a sense, to try to buy insurance from God.

R.J. Rushdoony: 08:05 Now all sacrifice in antiquity and throughout the modern world, wherever it still exists in various cultures, is anti-Biblical, in that it is a form of insurance policy. When men in the ancient world, say in Greece, or in Rome, or in Japan today, among those who do go to the temples and offer sacrifices, when they went, they were buying insurance. They were saying to the gods or whatever powers existed, “We want to be left alone in this or that venture, and we are paying an insurance policy, and if you don’t give us what we want, we’ll shop elsewhere and take our business to another temple.”

R.J. Rushdoony: 08:57 And this is why you had a variety of competing gods and competing temples, because what you were doing was buying insurance, and if you didn’t get good insurance from one, you went to another. It was not the idea that they represented any absolute power to whom you owed total devotion and allegiance. And human sacrifice, therefore, was the supreme way of buying insurance. A monarch offered up his child or offered up some of his servants as a way of saying, “Now look, you see how much I’m ready to offer up to you. Are you not, in return for this gold and silver and human lives, going to give me insurance against this or that enemy, or this or that peril?”

R.J. Rushdoony: 09:54 Third, we must say then that the total devotion to God, our total sacrifice to God — because the word “devote” in its origins meant “to sacrifice” — our total devotion to God in terms of the Bible requires obedience to God’s law, obedience to God’s law in love and faith. The Ten Commandments are followed by a summons to obey the law in total devotion: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” Sacrifice in the Bible is always linked to obedience, and the prophets again and again denounced sacrifice that was purely formal, that was not linked-

R.J. Rushdoony: 11:00 … purely formal that was not linked to obedience for the law. But for us we must then say that since no man keeps the law perfectly, or ever has, since man is a sinner and can only keep the law to any degree when he has been redeemed and given a new nature, sacrifice typifies Christ our substitute. The death penalty of God is against all sin, against all rebellion, and man being in rebellion against God has Jesus Christ as his sin-bearer, the perfect man who kept the law in perfect devotion, and as his substitute, accepted the death penalty from God.

R.J. Rushdoony: 12:01 And so the sacrificial animals of the Old Testament typified Christ; therefore, they had to be clean animals without blemish. As we saw, when the animal was offered, the offerer had to lay his hands upon the bullock’s head. The word lay can be better translated “lean” his hands, as it were, to put his weight upon the sacrificial animal, to indicate that this was himself. To place the burden of his sin upon it, indicating that he recognized that God was providing a substitute to accept the death penalty, one who was to come, even Jesus Christ, and that through His death the sacrificer had life. Thus the sacrifice requires of all believers that they accept the fact that their life stands in the sacrifice of the innocent one. Those not covered by the sacrifice of Christ are under the sentence of death. When the animal was sacrificed, the blood was sprinkled in part upon the altar, in part upon the people, to signify that they were now one blood, that they had a common life, they were brought together. And also to signify that if this bond of peace was violated by a flagrant sin, then the penalty was death. But sixth, the sacrifice and the laws of sacrifice incorporated into the law a basic principle, and the fourth chapter of Leviticus, among others, incorporates this at great length and detail. And this principle is simply this: The greater the responsibility, the greater the culpability, the greater the sin under the law. In other words, the more important a person is, the worse his sin in the sight of God. And the fourth chapter of Leviticus gives us four grades of sin, four levels of sin.

R.J. Rushdoony: 14:54 And in verses 3-12 it tells us that the greatest sin, the most fearful in the sight of God, is that committed by the priest, by the spiritual leader. And for this a bullock had to be offered. The second category was the entire nation, and for them a bullock had to be offered. Consider the implications of that. It means that the sin of a religious leader is equally as important in God’s sight as the sin of the entire nation! This means that the sin of a minister, of a priest or of a Pope or a bishop, is in God’s sight as great as the sin of that entire nation wherein he dwells.

R.J. Rushdoony: 16:08 I think perhaps some of you will understand now why I am so hard on the clergy. The Bible requires that I be very hard on them. Their waywardness is so fearful in the sight of God, and you notice, ignorance as well, because it says here, “If he sin through ignorance …” and the sad fact is that even many of the best of our clergy, you can sit in church week in and week out and you find that you know more than he does. And that’s a sin through ignorance on his part.

R.J. Rushdoony: 17:06 God says, therefore, “In my sight I equate their sin as equally fearful as the sin of an entire nation. Because if the people are not taught, how shall they follow? How shall they know the law?” It is a fearful thing, then to teach, to preach, to be a spiritual leader, and not to recognize the consequences of this office in the sight of God. We can only say that today there is a fearful responsibility that must be borne by the spiritual leaders of this country. They sin with knowledge, they sin with ignorance, they sin. And God will judge them accordingly. As we’ve already seen, the second level of sin, in importance, is that of the entire nation. Verses 13-21 deal with this. It is of equal significance as the sin of the priest or of the spiritual leader. The third level or grade of sin is that of the prince, the rulers, government officials. And a goat, a male, a kid, is to be offered for them. Now, of course, this comes as a shock to some people, perhaps, because they are so used to thinking politically today. They are so used to seeing as the most important in a country, the prime minister or president or dictator or whoever is at the top. But the real power is still in the pulpit.

R.J. Rushdoony: 19:45 If we don’t recognize it, the Communists and the various socialist groups do. This is why, beginning with the Civil War era, the various subversive groups decided that in order to subvert the United States, as I pointed out to some of you more than once, it was imperative that these subversives subvert the church! Because more people go to church every Sunday in the United States than have ever voted in any national election.

R.J. Rushdoony: 20:24 And so they began the subversion of the clergy, and the clergy has submitted to it! They’ve gone for it like a pig goes to the trough. And is it any wonder, then, that the politicians today are what they are? I think one could say, and I think everyone here knows my opinion of President Johnson, that he may be better than we deserve as a nation. Politics follows the spiritual climate of the people. And the prophet Isaiah said, “The day will come when wise men will refuse to rule over you.”

R.J. Rushdoony: 21:23 Fourth, on the level of sins, is that of individuals. And here there are a variety of offerings possible. A female kid, which could be considered a little more important than that of a prince’s offering or a government officials; a lamb, which is a cheaper and lesser offering, or two turtledoves, or two pigeons, which are very insignificant offerings. What does this mean?

R.J. Rushdoony: 22:00 … which are very insignificant offerings. What does this mean? It means that with individuals there are variations, and variations are permitted in terms of their financial circumstances. And it means, therefore, that a wealthy individual has power, and his sin, therefore is on a higher level, so that the sin of a tremendously wealthy industrialist, of a Ford or of a Rockefeller, for example, is equally important, and perhaps more important, than that of a president or of a prime minister. But that the sin of a very simple, ordinary person, while still a sin in the sight of God and requiring atonement, in its consequences in the sight of God is on a lesser level.

R.J. Rushdoony: 23:12 We see, therefore, that all sin is sin in the sight of God, but there are degrees, there are levels of sin, and the greater the responsibility, the greater the sin, and the greatest responsibility is with the ministry. After all, as Proverbs 29, Verse 18 declares, “Where there is no vision, the people perish, but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” As the Berkeley version indicates, this can be rendered, also, “Where there is no prophetic ministry, that is a ministry that truly speaks for God, the people run wild.”

R.J. Rushdoony: 24:19 A seventh fact that must be drawn from the Biblical laws of sacrifice is that ignorance of the law is no excuse. This appears clearly, from Leviticus 4, where it speaks of sins according to ignorance, and Leviticus 5, since of inadvertency. These are still sins. We didn’t intend to sin, but we sinned. We didn’t know it was a sin, but it’s still a sin. In other words, what the law is making clear here is that it is not what our conscience says, but what the law says, that constitutes sin. Man may sin with a good conscience. I may drive down a street at 45, thinking that that is legitimate there, but it may now be 35. And I may have done it in good conscience, but I was still violating the law.

R.J. Rushdoony: 25:36 The criterion, therefore, of transgression is not man’s conscience, but the law of God. Many of the most fearful sins are committed, sometimes, with good conscience. Cannibalism and human sacrifice are performed as matters of conscience. Fallen man’s conscience is fallen also.

R.J. Rushdoony: 26:12 Eighth, we must then say, further, that what the law declares, as in Leviticus 5:16, not only was the law given to requiring sacrifice, that is atonement for sin, but it required restitution also. “And he shall make amends for the harm that he hath done in the holy thing, and shall add the fifth part, thereto, and give it unto the priest, and the priest shall make an atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering, and it shall be forgiven him.” The law of restitution we have dealt with previously in brief, and we shall deal with it again in greater detail when we come to the commandment, “Thou shalt not steal”. Briefly, if a man stole $100, he was to restore not only the $100, but another $100, the exact amount that he had stolen, so that it cost him exactly what he intended that it should cost the person he robbed. But restitution had to be made not only to the individual that he robbed, but to God, because he violated God’s law order. And so, he owed God a double tithe, $20, because he had broken God’s law order. The law required restitution. “A law order hath been violated. An individual’s property rights had been violated. There had to be restitution to the individual and to the law order.” Ninth, and finally, the law required, as a part of the peace offerings, leaven. And in Leviticus 7:13, we find this. This is an important verse, because we are so often told by the Scofieldians that leaven is a type of sin and leaven is not acceptable to God as an offering, and so on. And I notice that the people who hold to this usually pass over the leavened offerings. But God did require leaven as an offering. It could not be an offering at the burnt offering or a sin offering or a trespass offering, anything that involved atonement, because the fact of atonement represented Christ’s work. But the peace offering represented man’s work, and leaven represents corruptibility. Something that can pass away. And man’s works are represented by the leavened offering. What we do for God can pass away. The churches we build. The charitable works we do. The books we write. The activities we engage in. In time these all go, but they are still required by God. They are our peace offering. They represent our communion with him, and God requires them. So, we must render them. This, then, in brief, is the implication for the law of the sacrificial system. It is a basic part of the law. It lays down fundamental principles of the law that are valid for all time. For us, Christ is our sacrifice. Therefore, the old sacrificial system is finished. But the laws of the sacrificial system as they laid down the requirements of responsibility, of restitution, of knowledge of the law of God, these remain. Let us pray. Our Lord and our God, we give thanks unto thee for this, thy work. We thanks thee that Jesus Christ is our sacrifice, and that in him we have remission of sins and newness of life. Enable us day by day, O Lord, to meet our responsibilities with knowledge, with faith and with true devotion that we may serve thee acceptably and be blessed and prosper by thy grace. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916–2001), was a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical law to society. He started the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965.  His Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) began the contemporary theonomy movement which posits the validity of Biblical law as God’s standard of obedience for all. He therefore saw God’s law as the basis of the modern Christian response to the cultural decline, one he attributed to the church’s false view of God’s law being opposed to His grace. This broad Christian response he described as “Christian Reconstruction.”  He is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. He also traveled extensively lecturing and serving as an expert witness in numerous court cases regarding religious liberty. Many ministry and educational efforts that continue today, took their philosophical and Biblical roots from his lectures and books.

Learn more about R.J. Rushdoony by visiting: https://chalcedon.edu/founder