Forgive Us Our Debts (Leviticus 5:14—6:7)

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In the movie Courageous, a young man who is not yet a believer says to his friend. “I know one thing: I am tired of feeling guilty.” His friend wisely responds, “Well, I’ve got news for you: You are guilty.”

Guilt is not a word that is used much in our society, unless of course we are speaking of someone else, particularly criminals. We are much too psychologically healthy (and “sophisticated”) to speak of guilt. In fact people today speak perhaps more about the matter of false guilt than of the malady of real guilt. But as I once heard someone say, the reason that people feel guilty is usually quite simple: They are guilty.

It is because of the guilt borne by sinners that God prescribed the sacrificial system for His people. As Walter Brueggemann says, “Leviticus is a long story of the good news that God has provided ways through the paralysis of guilt.”1

He desired to instruct His people that they were guilty, but at the same time He wanted to reveal to them that there was a solution to their guilt problem. And the solution was not ultimately the blood of bulls and goats but rather that to which the animals’ blood pointed: the blood of Lord Jesus Christ.

So far we have studied four of the prescribed offerings in this worship manual. In this study, we will consider the fifth and final one made before the Lord at His tabernacle.

You may have wondered during our time why the Lord prescribed so many offerings. Why did He not simply give one for all purposes. I believe the answer is that we need all of these lessons to help us see the many sides of sin and grace. No single offering can satisfactorily portray both the sinfulness of our sin and the amazing grace of God. At least, no single old covenant offering can do so, but the offering of Christ can and does.

But even with His offering we need to have some categories of sin and grace if we will truly appreciate the gospel of God. That is why it is so important that we spend time in the exposition of this book of Leviticus. This book helps us to appreciate the gospel in a deeper way, especially as we study the various sacrificial offerings. As we do so, we see the sinfulness of our sin, which enables us to see the amazing goodness of God as revealed in the gospel. And this leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). Perhaps no other offering did a more thorough job of this than the one we will study now, the trespass or guilt offering.

As we learned previously, we are sinners through and through. We are pervasively polluted with sin. We are indeed bad to the bone. Sin is not only dirt that that must be cleansed (picture in the sin offering) but it also incurs a debt that must be paid. This is the lesson of the guilt offering. This offering was prescribed by God for the worshipper who was guilty of a breach of faith to be reconciled to God. Such a breach might occur with reference to the holy place or the holy people. Regardless, forgiveness for such moral debt required the payment of a high price. This is the lesson of the guilt offering.

Let me put it this way: Previously, we learned the truth that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). In this offering we learn that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). May each of us come to appreciate in a deeper way that we owed a debt we could not pay and Christ paid a debt He did not owe. And because of that, all who believe on Him are no longer slovenly debtors to sin, but are instead liberated debtors to the gospel.

If your prayer is, “Forgive me my debts,” then this offering points you to the answer to your prayers.

Desecration/Defrauding of the Holy Place

This offering served, in the first place, as a means of atonement for those who would desecrate or defraud the holy place.

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: “If a person commits a trespass, and sins unintentionally in regard to the holy things of the LORD, then he shall bring to the LORD as his trespass offering. . . . If a person sins, and commits any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the LORD, though he does not know it, yet he is guilty and shall bear his iniquity.”

(Leviticus 5:14-15a, 17)

The Problem and thus the Purpose of this Offering

The major purpose of this offering was to make restitution for a breach of faith. As we will see, this breach might be either with reference to God or one’s neighbour as the primary object. Either way, God was the one who was offended. The violation was against Him. God was the victim and man was the perpetrator—even when he did so unintentionally; and even when he did so unwittingly.

The term “commits a trespass” or “breach of faith” (ESV) can also be translated as “behave unfaithfully.” “The Hebrew term ma’al means an act of infidelity towards God.”2 It speaks of legal culpability.

In these verses such unfaithful or fraudulent behaviour is with reference to the things of God. The sin envisioned here is one of sacrilege, a desecration of that which is holy. It was a sin that involved the defrauding of God. To defraud someone is to take what belongs to them and to unlawfully make it your own. It is to steal, to rob someone of that which is theirs.

In this context, such defrauding involves that which is connected to God’s holy place, the tabernacle. Currid notes, “It specifically treats a sin in which “the holy things of Yahweh” are misused. This phrase is a generic term that includes such articles as the offerings to priests (Lev 22:2-14; Num. 5:9-10), the objects of the tabernacle (Num. 4:15, 20) and the tabernacle contributions (Num. 18:32).”3 These were (unintentional) sins of misuse or misappropriation of that designated for holy use. It was the sin of unintentionally robbing God’s treasures. Such an act was viewed as a desecration of that which God deemed holy. And this was serious.

But note that the text informs us that in this case the sin was one of ignorance, one committed “unintentionally.” When you consider the numerous laws regarding the proper approach to God in worship it is small wonder that a well-meaning individual might unintentionally violate a law along the way. An example of such a sin can be found in Leviticus 22:14 where someone might accidently eat a part of the sacrifice that was reserved for the priests. It may not have been a defiant desecration of that which was holy, but it was a desecration nonetheless.

Despite its unintentionality, this was a serious sin, for as Rooker writes, “The idea is that an act of defection from covenantal allegiance had been committed. . . . It describes unfaithfulness among those who are in a covenant relationship with the Lord”4—whether intentional or not. This offering thus taught that “the things that have been consecrated to God are never to be treated casually or used for ordinary purposes.”5 And if they were, then the perpetrator was under obligation to put things right. The violator was morally in debt to the God he had defrauded. And so even though one meant no harm (v. 16), if one trespassed onto forbidden ground or inadvertently approached holy things in an unlawful way, that person bore the guilt and would need to offer this sacrifice.

The sinner would offer this prescribed sacrifice as a means of crying out, “Forgive me of my trespasses; please forgive me of my debt.”

A breach of faith towards God is serious sin. According to the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, “In almost all biblical references ma’al is used to designate the breaking or violation of religious law as a conscious act of treachery. The victim against whom the breach is perpetuated is God.”

This is evident from the testimony of Scripture. Numbers 5:6 speaks of “any sin that men commit in unfaithfulness against eh LORD.” When Achan took of the forbidden plunder in Ai, “the anger of the LORD burned against the children of Israel” because it was against the Lord he had sinned (Joshua 7:1). Later when the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh, who had settled west of the Jordan River, built an altar to worship God, the rest of the tribes viewed the construction of the altar as “treachery against the LORD” (Joshua 22:31).

According to 1 Chronicles 10:13, “Saul died for his unfaithfulness which he had committed against the LORD.” Second Chronicles records that “Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem, because they had transgressed against the LORD” (12:2). Uzziah’s pride was considered a transgression “against the LORD his God” (2 Chronicles 26:16). King Ahaz was “continually” and “increasingly unfaithful to the LORD” (2 Chronicles 28:19, 22). And Hezekiah instructed the Israelites over whom he ruled, “And do not be like your fathers and your brethren, who trespassed against the LORD God of their fathers, so that He gave them up to desolation, as you see” (2 Chronicles 30:7).

Ma’al was the cause of Judah’s exile (Ezekiel 39:23; Daniel 9:7) and applied to the sin of a covenant people (Ezekiel 18:24).

It was important that God provide a means to remedy the breach of faith, because in committing such a breach the sinner had quite literally trespassed the boundaries which the holy God had set, and therefore a sacrilege had occurred. This needed to be rectified. A debt had been incurred and so compensation needed to be made. This was no mere trifling of a sin, for God is holy.

Perhaps the most striking and memorable illustration of this truth was when Uzzah touched the ark unintentionally and was killed by God for doing so (2 Samuel 6:1-11).

The lesson to be learned is that God is holy and must be approached with due regard. We dare not call common what He has called holy. There are things that are holy that must not be trifled with. When dealing with God, we must keep before us that it is a dangerous thing to fall into His hands. He is, after all, a consuming fire (Deuteronomy 4:24; Hebrews 12:29). If God prescribed a specific and special offering when one sinned by a sin of sacrilege unintentionally, then how much sorer punishment should one expect God’s judgement to be when they knowingly trample upon His holy things? We do well to heed the warning of Jesus: “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces” (Matthew 7:6).

Consider, for example, how political leaders in the United States have recently trampled underfoot the holy ordinance of marriage. Barrack Obama believes that it his Christian duty not to oppose homosexual marriage. He claims the golden rule as his biblical justification. But, of course, God has clearly defined the legitimate boundaries of marriage as a lifelong, monogamous, legal relationship between a natural-born man and a natural-born woman. To redefine it in any other way is ultimately to commit a breach of faith against the Lord.

But let’s bring this a little closer to home. What about those who trifle with the Lord’s Table? What about those who approach the Supper while entertaining sin in their hearts? God has called the sacrament holy, and to treat it in any other way is to commit a breach of faith against the Lord.

We might say the same of those who trifle with the local church (1 Corinthians 3:16-17) and those who tamper with the gospel (Galatians 1:6-9). The same can be said of those who misappropriate funds given to God through the local church, and those who prostitute public platforms to promote themselves rather than the gospel of God. Believers who do not treat their bodies as the temple of the Holy Spirit fall into the same trap.

We need to seriously consider the sin of defrauding God of what is His. Consider how we do this with our tithes and offerings (see Malachi 3:8-12). God entrusts us with His property and we are to treat it as the holy thing that it is. Andrew Bonar pastorally helps us to appreciate the lesson from this passage when he writes, “We shall never be gainers by stinting our time and service in the worship of God. What we withdraw from Him He will withdraw from us in another way.”6

A Sensitive Conscience

Note God’s concern for those who perhaps have an overly sensitive conscience when it comes to this matter. We see this in vv. 17-19.

If a person sins, and commits any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the LORD, though he does not know it, yet he is guilty and shall bear his iniquity. And he shall bring to the priest a ram without blemish from the flock, with your valuation, as a trespass offering. So the priest shall make atonement for him regarding his ignorance in which he erred and did not know it, and it shall be forgiven him. It is a trespass offering; he has certainly trespassed against the LORD.

(Leviticus 5:17-19)

The wording here is rather difficult but it would seem that these verses describe a situation in which someone sensed that they perhaps were guilty of some kind of desecration against the holy things of God. The problem is that they could not identify the cause of their sense of guilt. They could not point to a specific commandment that they had broken, but they felt guilty nonetheless. This seems to be the significance of “though he does not know it, yet he is [or, perhaps, feels] guilty.” “This then is an instance of a suspected trespass against sacred property, one of the most dreaded sins in antiquity. . . . This sacrifice served then to pacify oversensitive Israelite consciences.”7

Such a worshipper had an overly sensitive conscience. He might not in fact be guilty at all but he lacked the assurance that he was right with God. He was not sure if perhaps he ate meat that was sanctified or if he touched a holy utensil. The only thing of which he was sure was his sense of guilt.

What is very interesting is that, according to the last phrase of v. 17, this overly-sensitive individual was said to “bear his iniquity.” That is, he was to be treated as guilty. There was no provision here for the modern category of “false guilt.” Rather, God said here much what He says in Romans 14:23: “whatever is not from faith is sin.”

The context of those words is precisely the principled context of Leviticus 5:17. God was making the point that when it came to a sense of guilt, even if it was not legitimate guilt (it may in fact be satanic condemnation), the only solution was God’s prescribed sacrifice.

We should take the holiness of God seriously and not act as our own defence attorney. We should not be presumptuous and try and argue ourselves into self-justification. This is precisely what Paul meant in Romans 14:23.

When your conscience bothers you—even if you don’t know why—the solution to having a peaceful conscience is the same as when you have a truly guilty conscience: the sacrifice provided by God. Look to the sacrifice of God’s unblemished Ram. Look to the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Find your assurance in Him.

None of this is to suggest that one needs to ask to be born again over and over. Instead, it is to signify that it is vital that we constantly ask to be saved from our sins. This is what being born again is about. And so if you feel guilty, if you sense guilt within, then lay hold afresh of Christ Jesus the Lord.

Deception/Defrauding of the Holy People

In 6:1-4a the Lord continues to deal with the issue of desecration through defrauding but in this case the victims are primarily one’s covenant neighbours.

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: “If a person sins and commits a trespass against the LORD by lying to his neighbour about what was delivered to him for safekeeping, or about a pledge, or about a robbery, or if he has extorted from his neighbour, or if he has found what was lost and lies concerning it, and swears falsely—in any one of these things that a man may do in which he sins: then it shall be, because he has sinned and is guilty, that he shall restore what he has stolen, or the thing which he has extorted, or what was delivered to him for safekeeping, or the lost thing which he found.

(Leviticus 6:1-4)

In these verses God addresses the need to repent of deceiving one’s neighbour with regard to his property. In distinction to the previous desecration, here the sin is intentional. It is not so much a sin of desecration (though this is certainly included) but rather a sin of deliberate dishonesty.

The sins listed here deal with lying and stealing. And everything about the passage speaks of deliberate dishonesty. We have encountered these kinds of civil cases earlier when we studied the case laws in Exodus. There are five scenarios here and each has to do with someone else’s personal property.

In the first instance, something is given to one for his safekeeping and yet it is damaged or stolen and the one responsible refuses to accept responsibility.

The second scenario deals with the outright theft of property.

In the third case, someone is guilty of extortion (for instance, “I will only give you this if you do that!”).

The fourth case deals with the sinful act of stealing via the finders-keepers mentality.

Fifth and finally, false oaths fall into this category of sins.

You will acknowledge immediately that these are not “unintentional” sins but very intentional ones. But note how the paragraph begins: ‘If a person sins and commits a trespass against the LORD by lying to his neighbour.” God views a sin of deceit against our neighbour (especially our covenant neighbour) as ultimately a breach of faith towards Him. When we cheat our brother or sister in Christ then we have perpetuated a sacrilege against God. To be deceitful towards your covenant brother is tantamount to an act of treachery against God; it is to perpetuate a breach against God. And, as with the desecration of the holy place through defrauding God, this is also a serious sin. And here is the reason: “All such offenses are destructive of community life and the covenant fellowship.”8 Again, in essence this means that to defraud your neighbour (especially your covenant neighbour) is tantamount to defrauding God.

It must be clearly understood from the outset that this offering dealt in a unique way with the sin of fraud. This particular offering was for those who were convicted of their sin by the law of God before the matter ever went before a court of law (Exodus 22:1-9). In a criminal case, if one was found guilty by the judges, then the penalty was a lot stiffer: fourfold rather than twenty per cent (see Matthew 5:23-26). But in this case, the guilty individual confessed his sin, repented, made restitution, and thus could enjoy forgiveness and reconciliation with God and man.

We can apply this in several areas.

Those who belong to God through redemption are His “holy things,” and so to sin against them is to commit a sacrilege against God (see Exodus 19:4-6). Be careful how you treat His people (Romans 14; James 2)! According to 1 Corinthians 3:16 the local church is the temple of the Holy Spirit and so to mistreat the local church is to mistreat God.

Consider, as another example, the issue of integrity in the work place. My father always taught me that if you work a regular nine-to-five job, that means that you get there before 9:00 AM so you can begin working on time, and that you work until 5:00 PM and then start packing up. To not put in the time for which you are paid is to rob your employer, and ultimately, according to the principle we are considering here, to rob God.

The same can be said of integrity when it comes to properly treating other people’s property. Sexual sin is a form of fraud (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:1-6).

Let’s face it: Dishonesty hurts us all. I recently had the opportunity to speak with a man who was employed in the high echelons of Discovery Health, and asked him about some of the challenges that the company faced as a provider of medical aid. He informed me that the greatest problem was fraud, both on the behalf of clients and medical practitioners. Fraud is the major reason that medical aid premiums are so high. Even if I have never made a fraudulent claim in my scheme, the fraud of others negatively impacts me. And if I have made a fraudulent claim, it impacts not only me, but others too.

Before looking at how one could be delivered from and forgiven of these sins, it will be good for our soul to listen to this pastoral counsel:

One wonders how often the presence of God seems absent from our worship services, not because the minister is ill-prepared, or the liturgy defective, or the sons ill-chosen, but because some of those in attendance are deluding themselves by thinking that by their much singing and praying they can conjure up the presence of God, when what is really needed is for them to go and pay their bills, apologize to their friends, repair bridges with their neighbours, meet their obligations to their families and make practical amends for any cheating in which they have been engaged. Just as significant is the cheating they have done on God, by their meagre offerings or the paucity of time they have set aside for him in daily devotion or in public worship. If reparation were made in these areas, might we not see God “open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that [we] will not have room enough for it”?9

Deliverance through a High Price

Our text also informs us that deliverance and forgiveness are available, but only through the payment of a high price.

If a person commits a trespass, and sins unintentionally in regard to the holy things of the LORD, then he shall bring to the LORD as his trespass offering a ram without blemish from the flocks, with your valuation in shekels of silver according to the shekel of the sanctuary, as a trespass offering. And he shall make restitution for the harm that he has done in regard to the holy thing, and shall add one-fifth to it and give it to the priest. So the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering, and it shall be forgiven him. . . . And he shall bring to the priest a ram without blemish from the flock, with your valuation, as a trespass offering. So the priest shall make atonement for him regarding his ignorance in which he erred and did not know it, and it shall be forgiven him. It is a trespass offering; he has certainly trespassed against the LORD.

(Leviticus 5:15b-16, 18-19)

The price of forgiveness is highlighted again in chapter 6:

Because he has sinned and is guilty, that he shall restore what he has stolen, or the thing which he has extorted, or what was delivered to him for safekeeping, or the lost thing which he found, or all that about which he has sworn falsely. He shall restore its full value, add one-fifth more to it, and give it to whomever it belongs, on the day of his trespass offering. And he shall bring his trespass offering to the LORD, a ram without blemish from the flock, with your valuation, as a trespass offering, to the priest. So the priest shall make atonement for him before the LORD, and he shall be forgiven for any one of these things that he may have done in which he trespasses.

(Leviticus 6:4-7)

The Principle: Compensation

It is sometimes difficult to discern the difference between the sin offering and the guilt offering, but there is a noticeable difference in one particular aspect between the two. Rooker helpfully observes, “The best criterion for making a distinction between the sin offering and the guilt offering is explicit in this text. It is the issue of compensation. The guilt offering, in contrast to the sin offering, was required for the type of offense that created a debt calling for compensation.”10

As we saw earlier, sin creates a debt that must be paid. And this offering highlights this principle. It is for this reason that the issue of compensation is a major factor in this offering.

The guilt offering required both a costly animal to be sacrificed and also a monetary penalty. The point of the offering was to teach, among other things, that sin places one under obligation to those whom one has wronged. The one who sins against another is in debt to that person. And of course through sin, man is ultimately a debtor to God (see Matthew 6:12; 18:21ff). Compensation is required to pay the debt.

This prescribed offering was a means to instruct God’s people the fundamental principle that forgiveness is not without cost; grace is not cheap; reconciliation with God does not occur by a mere wave of the hand and a declaration of forgiveness. No, a price must be paid. As Tidball notes, “The guilt offering . . . guards the Israelites from falling into the error of believing that grace is cheap.”11

We need to learn the same lesson. If we would realise the cost of our sin (robbing God of glory, hurting others, ruining relationships, marring our character, etc.) then we would be on guard and pray, “Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil.”

Further there was an order to this offering: first repentance, then restitution, then (and only then) reconciliation. You could only bring your offering once you had made right with your brother.

Compensation as Reparation

Since sin creates a debt through causing loss (as is illustrated in the matter of defrauding one’s neighbour), compensation must be paid for damages. It is for this reason that a penalty of twenty per cent was demanded in addition to the principle. “This kind of penalty was obviously intended to bring home to potential transgressors the importance of honesty and truthfulness in social relationships, and to emphasize the cost that might attend a breach of ethical conduct.”12 You would think that one would think twice before committing such an offence.

Chuck Colson, who recently went home to be with the Lord, spent years ministering to inmates through Prison Fellowship. He was instrumental across the world for changing the ways governments viewed prison justice, and a large part of his conviction was the need for restitution to be made by criminals who had defrauded others. It is completely illogical to imprison someone for defrauding others, all the while paying for the prisoner’s accommodation, food and clothing with tax payers’ money, when that person could be working hard to repay, with interest, those whom he has defrauded.

Compensation Accompanies Repentance

The assumption in these scenarios is that the guilty person has repented. But saying “I am sorry” was not enough to repair the breach; compensation had to accompany the repentance. In fact if there was no compensation given then there really was no repentance. The proof was in the payment!

This principle is illustrated in the New Testament with the story of Zacchaeus.  The proof of his repentance lay in his willingness to restore, with generous interest, anything that he had stolen from anyone (Luke 19:8-9). Jesus acknowledge his repentance as genuine when he made this oath.

Compensation Provides Satisfaction

When I speak of “satisfaction” I am referring to a compensation that satisfies the obligation. Justice had to be satisfied and only these prescribed sacrifices and compensations could do so. If we will be forgiven of our debt before God then we too need a guilt offering that will satisfy God’s justice. Thank God for this picture, for in it we learn that “the reparation offering brings satisfaction through paying for the sin.”13 And as we will see, Christ is such a satisfying offering (see Romans 3:23-26).

This offering teaches us that, in the words of the songwriter, “I owed a debt I could not pay, He paid a debt He did not owe.”

Compensation Precedes Reconciliation

Note that, “when the total sum had been given to the priest, he took the ram and made atonement for the offender. This act could not be undertaken until proper restitution had been made.”14 We learn from this offering that there was a certain order when it came to experiencing forgiveness through this particular offering.

“One of the main principles that emerges from this section is the idea that one must make restitution and achieve reconciliation with one’s neighbour before one can seek peace with God over a matter. . . . Genuine repentance must come before genuine forgiveness.”15 We must make amends for known wrongs if we will be reconciled to God. If we will worship God in spirit and in truth then we must be truthful about what we have done. In other words, we cannot be reconciled to God if we have not been reconciled to our brother (see Matthew 5:23-26).

The Price: Costly

This offering was very specific, and limited to a specific animal. Only an unblemished ram was permitted to be offered. This meant that if one was guilty of trespassing God’s boundaries then, regardless of economic situation, he was required to offer this specific sacrifice. Unlike the sin offering there was no alternative options for the poor. Unlike the sin offering, God would not accept a lamb, turtledoves, pigeons or even a small portion of fine flour. “The guilt offering made no special accommodations for the poor. The guilt offering was intended to cost the guilty party something.”16

Therefore, we see that, with the guilt offering, there was the very real possibility that the poor would feel hopeless as to his ability to offer such a sacrifice. And so if a man was poor (which was the case with most of the Israelites at this point in history), then I suppose he would be especially careful around holy things. This is precisely why the guilt or trespass offering was so restrictive. You see, God wanted to impress upon the people the gravity of the evil of defrauding God. He wanted to teach them (and us!) that to desecrate what He calls holy is an act of treachery; it puts one in such moral debt to God that, apart from a high price, cannot be forgiven. In other words, as we see our sin before God—if we truly see the heinousness of our sin and our inability to pay the debt—we will sense our hopelessness. And rightfully (and helpfully!) so!

I think you probably get the point. With such a steep price to pay one would be very careful about committing sacrilege. The penalty would serve as an effective deterrent from desecration. This offering highlights that grace and salvation are not cheap. There is a cost to getting right with God and man. So stay out of debt!

Again, in the light of the treacherous nature of the sin of desecration it is no wonder that the price was so high. The accompanying sense of hopelessness was for the purpose of pointing the Israelites beyond the altar to the fulfilment of the shadows: to Christ Jesus.

The Picture: Christ

In applying this passage to the conscience, one pastor wrote, “Every day of our existence we are multiplying the wrong and increasing the debt, and unless this debt is paid there can be no forgiveness or acceptance.” Who then will pay it? Are we without any hope? The answer, of course, is the Lord Jesus Christ. And it is His picture that this offering paints.

“The trespass offering calls our attention to Christ, by his sacrificial death, enduring the penalty for the unpaid debt of human sin and at the same time making amends for the loss and wrong committed.”17 And Kaiser notes,

Christ . . . carried out the will of God completely by an act of voluntary obedience. It is a payment of a debt to render satisfaction for the reparation of the wrong committed, thus making reinstatement to the covenant family possible.18

Like all the others, the trespass offering highlights some essential aspects of the gospel. It highlights the violation of God’s holiness (vv. 15-19). It highlights the ram as a substitute and compensation as payment. It highlights the value of the sacrifice. The weight of the currency of the tabernacle was heavier than the currency that was in ordinary circulation. It highlights the principle of restitution and appropriation (that forgiveness is only for those who accept the ram). Like Isaac, those who realise that they are bound and on the brink of death will gladly welcome the substitionary ram, God’s provision of the guilt offering.

Christ is identified with this offering in Isaiah 53:10. The proper translation there is “guilt offering.” Tidball says, “Jesus, then, is the crowning guilt offering, who provides full compensation to God for our sin and frees us from the debts we owe Him.”19 Through Jesus Christ we are ransomed, restored and forgiven. Have you laid hold of Him as your guilt offering or will you continue to live treacherously toward God?

It has been said that the trespass or guilt in this passage carries the idea of legal culpability. Sin makes us morally culpable before the Lawgiver. And part of this culpability involves indebtedness. This debt must be paid if we will be accepted by God.

Bonar comments with reference to our need for Christ as our guilt offering,

The godly cherished these typical delineations of atonement, while the careless, earthly-minded Israelite saw nothing in them to desire. None go to the hiding-place who fear no storm. The stream flows by unheeded when the traveller on its banks is not thirsty. The whole will not use the physician. Sense of sin renders Jesus precious to the soul. . . . It is only “fools” that “will mock at the trespass offering”; with the righteous it is held in unspeakable esteem. Their song is, “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift!20

Let me ask, is that your song? Embrace the Guilt Offering! Repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ!

Believer, is your conscience sensitive? If so, then look to the Trespass Offering. Hebrews 9:14 tells us, “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” Therefore gladly respond to the exhortation of the same writer: “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22).

When Satan tempts me to despair,
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there,
Who made an end to all my sin.

Show 20 footnotes

  1. Derek Tidball, The Message of Leviticus: Free to Be Holy (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 2005), 87.
  2. R. K. Harrison, Leviticus: Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1980), 71.
  3. John D. Currid, Study Commentary on Leviticus (Darlington: Evangelical Press, 2004), 72-73.
  4. Mark F. Rooker, Leviticus: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 123.
  5. Tidball, The Message of Leviticus, 86.
  6. Andrew Bonar, Leviticus: The Geneva Series of Commentaries (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1989), 103.
  7. Gordon J. Wenham, The Book of Leviticus: The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), 108.
  8. Rousas John Rushdoony, Commentaries on the Pentateuch, 5 vols. (Vallecito: Ross House Books, 2005), 3:42.
  9. Tidball, The Message of Leviticus, 93.
  10. Rooker, Leviticus, 122.
  11. Tidball, The Message of Leviticus, 84.
  12. Harrison, Leviticus, 74.
  13. Wenham, The Book of Leviticus, 111.
  14. Harrison, Leviticus, 72.
  15. Currid, Study Commentary on Leviticus, 77.
  16. Robert I. Vasholz, Leviticus: A Mentor Commentary (Ross-shire: Mentor, 2007), 70.
  17. Philip H. Eveson, The Beauty of Holiness: The Book of Leviticus Simply Explained (Darlington: Evangelical Press, 2007), 70.
  18. Rooker, Leviticus, 127.
  19. Tidball, The Message of Leviticus, ??.
  20. Bonar, Leviticus, 111.