So far we’ve read about the burnt offering, the grain offering, the fellowship offering and the purification offering. The burnt offering was brought to the Lord as a ransom for the deliverance of God’s people; and it pointed forward to Christ who laid down his life in our place as a ransom to deliver us from our sin and misery. The grain offering was brought to the Lord as a gift or tribute to express gratitude to him for his grace and mercy; and it pointed forward to how believers today are to offer to God a sacrifice of praise in gratitude for all that he has done for us by his Son.
Part of the fellowship offering was offered to the Lord as a sacrifice, while part of it was eaten by the priests and the people in the presence of the Lord as a fellowship meal; and it pointed forward to the marriage supper of the Lamb which all of God’s glorified people will enjoy for ever and for ever in the presence of the Lord in the new creation; it also pointed forward to the Lord’s Supper, when the Lord’s people gather around the table of the Lord to enjoy fellowship with him and with one another.
And then the Israelites brought to the Lord the purification offering which was for washing away the stain of their sin; and it pointed forward to the Lord Jesus Christ whose blood, shed on the cross, cleanses us from the guilt of our sins so that we’re able to draw near to God with confidence, because we’ve been washed and cleansed through faith in the Saviour who died to purify us from our guilt and shame.
Today we come to what is usually referred to as ‘the guilt offering’, but which should probably be referred to as ‘the reparation offering’, because that name captures better the unique purpose of this offering, which was to provide reparation or compensation for sin. If I break something that belongs to you, I need to pay to replace it. That’s what reparation is: paying for or making amendments for something I’ve done to you. And so, by this offering, the worshipper made amends for — or made up for — his sin. Sin is a debt which needs to be paid for.
Today’s passage can be divided into two main sections. In verses 14 to 19 of chapter 5 we have reparation offerings for unintentional sins. And in verses 1 to 7 of chapter 6 we have reparation offerings for deliberate sins.
Verses 14 to 19
Taking verses 14 to 19 first, we read in verse 14 how the Lord told Moses what offering to bring whenever a person commits a violation and sins unintentionally in regard to any of the Lord’s holy things. Now, I explained the last time that unintentional sins are sins committed by accident. Or they’re sins which the person committed unknowingly. However, an unintentional sin is more than that. It’s the opposite of a ‘high-handed sin’, which is a sin which a person commits defiantly and deliberately and without remorse. By contrast, those who sin unintentionally are sorry for their sins. So, those who sin unintentionally are those who sin, but who — when they realise their guilt — are filled with sorrow and shame and want to confess it and to make up for it.
And verse 14 concerns those who sin like this in respect to any of the Lord’s holy things. The Lord’s holy things are his sacred property: the things that belong to him in the Tabernacle, such as the offerings and the various pieces of furniture and the objects which were kept in the Tabernacle. So, perhaps the worshipper had sinned in some way with regard to the meat which was offered to God. Some of that meat was to go to the priest for his food. But perhaps the worshipper took that meat and ate it himself. Well, if that happened, he was to bring to the Lord a ram without blemish.
The ram was also to be ‘of the proper value in silver’. It’s not clear, but it’s possible that the point of this instruction is that worshipper could offer money instead of the ram. However, according to verse 16, as well as the ram he must also make restitution to the Lord for his failure in regard to the Lord’s holy things. So, as well as the ram offering, he must compensate the Lord for the holy things which he’s violated. Presumably he was to bring money as compensation. Furthermore, he must add another twenty per cent as a kind of penalty fee. And the compensation was given to the priest on behalf of the Lord.
Only after offering the ram to the Lord and by paying compensation to the priest, only then would the priest be able to make atonement for the worshipper so that he would be forgiven.
What the priest does with the ram is not stated in these verses. However, in chapter 7, we learn that the priest was to slaughter the ram and sprinkle its blood against the sides of the altar. The fat of the animal had to be burned on the altar and the remainder of the animal could be eaten by the priests in the Tabernacle.
The instructions in verses 14 to 16 were for sins in connection with the Lord’s holy things. Verses 17 to 19 provide instructions for what to do in those occasions when someone sins without knowing it. However, when he becomes aware of his guilt, or perhaps even when he’s not sure whether he’s guilty or not, but suspects he might be, then he was to bring a ram without defect to the priest. And the priest was to take the ram and make atonement for the worshipper who will then be forgiven by God. On this occasion, there doesn’t appear to be any need to add any compensation.
Verses 1 to 7
Those were the instructions for unintentional sins. Verses 1 to 7 provide instructions for what to do for deliberate sins against your neighbour. And the verses mention various kinds of sin. Firstly, one person deceives another person regarding some property that was entrusted into his care. So, you give me something to look after; when you want it back, I claim you never gave it to me. Secondly, there’s simple theft. Thirdly, the text refers to cheating. Fourthly someone finds some lost property but lies about it. In all of these cases, the guilty person is deceiving his neighbour about the neighbour’s property. Furthermore, to make matters worse, according to verse 3, the guilty person then swears falsely about it. So, he takes an oath in the name of the Lord that he is innocent and hasn’t done what he’s accused of. So, not only has he taken what does not belong to him, but he’s dishonoured the name of the Lord, thereby breaking the third commandment not to misuse God’s name.
Whenever he realises his guilt and wants to be forgiven, what must he do? Well, according to verse 4 the first thing he must do is to return the property. He must return what he has taken. Furthermore, he is to add twenty per cent of the value to it as a penalty fee. So, he’s to return whatever he took and add extra to it. Only then can he bring a ram without blemish to the priest who will make atonement for him so that he will be forgiven.
So, in order to receive forgiveness, he must offer a sacrifice to the Lord. After all, according to verse 2, a sin against your neighbour is also a sin against the Lord. Do you see that? By deceiving our neighbour, we’re being unfaithful to the Lord who has called us to love our neighbour and to do him good. That’s why, when Joseph refused to sleep with Potiphar’s wife, he said:
How can I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?
Taking Potiphar’s wife from Potiphar was a sin against Potiphar, but it was also a sin against the Lord. In the same way, after David was found out about Bathsheba, he confessed to the Lord in Psalm 51, saying:
Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.
David had sinned against Bathsheba and her husband; but, by sinning in this way, he was also being unfaithful to the Lord. So, when we sin against one another, we’re at the same time sinning against the Lord who has commanded us to love one another. And so, the person who sinned in this way needed to bring an offering to the Lord.
However, as well as bringing an offering to the Lord, the person who sinned had to make up to his neighbour for what he had done wrong. Offering a ram to the Lord was not enough; the person also had to return what was taken plus extra. So, if I steal £100 from you, I not only need to bring a ram to the Lord, but I also needed to return the £100 to you — with an extra £20 — in order to make up for what I’ve done. In fact, the Lord Jesus refers to this practice in the Sermon on the Mount, where he said that when anyone is offering a gift at the altar to God, and remembers his brother has something against him, he should leave the gift at the altar and first sort things out with his brother. So, go and make up for what you have done and then come back and worship the Lord.
So, in cases where someone violates one of God’s holy things, the compensation was paid to the priest on behalf of the Lord. In cases where someone violates a neighbour’s property, the compensation was paid to the neighbour. This is the reparation offering.
This offering — like the others — point us to the work of Christ. In Isaiah 53 — which so clearly describes the work of Christ — we read the following:
it was the Lord’s will to crush him and to cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days.
The Lord’s death on the cross is depicted in Isaiah 53 as a guilt offering. In other words, it’s our reparation offering. When he offered himself on the cross it was to make up for and to pay for our sins. You see, instead of giving God the honour and obedience he deserves, we dishonour him and we disobey him by the things we do and say every day. We’re therefore in debt to him, because we haven’t given him the honour and obedience that is rightfully his. But the Lord Jesus has paid for our sins by his death on the cross.
Just as the burnt offering teaches us that the Lord has ransomed us from our sin and misery; and just as the peace offering teaches us that we have peace with because of what he suffered; and just as the purification offering teaches us that the Lord cleanses us from the guilt of our sin; so the reparation offering teaches us that by his death on the cross, the Lord Jesus has paid in full the debt of our sins and he has completely made up to God for what we have done wrong. And since he has paid for our sins in full, no further payment will ever be required from us for what we have done wrong.
When we sin, we sometimes worry that God will pay me back for what I’ve done wrong. Or when we suffer, we think he’s paying us back for my sins. But whenever we think like that, we should remember and believe that the Lord Jesus offered himself as the perfect reparation offering to make up for our sins forever. And that means that — despite our many sins — God will never ever require any further payment from us.
And sometimes we think that we have to do something in order to pay God back for what we have done wrong. We have to do something for him or give him something. But no, there’s nothing we’re to give to God, because the Lord Jesus Christ has paid for our sins on our behalf; and through faith in him our debt is paid in full and for ever.