Today we will consider the 5th and final offering – the guilt offering or the ‘reparation’ offering. Each of the 5 offerings has a different purpose, and the table below helps all of them:
|Peace offerings (Lev 3:1-17)||
|Symbolizes||Devotion and worship||Thanksgiving||Fellowship||Atonement (To satisfy God's holy demands by giving a substitute in my place)||Reparation (to pay back)|
|Key points from studies||(A) The first of the five: The common burnt offering
(B) How to offer the burnt offering: a costly substitute offered in blood and consumed by fire (not meant to be casual and cheap)
(C) Significance of the burnt offering: atonement and worship
| (A) Instructions on the uncooked grain offering: fine flour or firstfruits with oil and frankincense
(B) instruction on the cooked grain offering: prepared unleavened with oil and without honey
(C) the meaning of the grain offering: costly thanksgiving and worship to God
|(A) Fellowship at a cost: the picture of peace offering
(B) Fellowship through the cross: the reality of the peace offering
*Picture of bringing God and man back together
|(A) Sin: our condition and rebellion against a holy God;
(B) Sin offerings: the atonement that enables us to live with a holy God
|(A) Personalizing guilt: three ways we incur guilt
(B) Prioritizing guilt: misery of guilt and our culture’s response
(C) purging guilt: how to do it
Let us now look at the passage, and learn more about the guilt offering.
(A) Personalizing guilt: three ways we incur guilt
The structure of this passage shows us three broad situations where the guilt offering is required.
- Sinning in holy things, where one displays a breach of faith and sins unintentionally (Lev 5:15). Here, the "holy things" refers to objects in the tent/tabernacle, the priest and his clothes, basically everything to do with this system. Even the items being offered go from being common to clean and holy. Hence, a "breach of faith" happens when the people did not honor the sacrificial system that has been entrusted to them, including the objects involved in the rituals.
- Going against the Lord’s commandments (Lev 5:17)
- Deceiving his neighbor in a matter of deposit or security, through robbery or oppression, finding something lost and lying about it, swearing falsely (Lev 6:1-3). These speak of the unjust actions towards a fellow human being.
Notice also that though the worshipper may have sinned unintentionally, he was to perform these offerings once he realises his guilt (5:17, 6:4). In each of these occasions, who is real the offended party? Everything was directed Godward. Even in the instance of injustice towards another, we are told that it was a breach of faith "against the Lord" (6:1).
What can we learn from here? The guilt offering communicates another dimension of sin -- the impact of that action on our consciences. Sin does not only break my relationship with God, in an objective sense, but also damages our consciences and has a subjective element to it. This is why guilt is a problem. Gordon Wenham in his commentary (The Book of Leviticus: The New International Commentary on the Old Testament) explains it to us:
"The sacrificial system therefore presents different models or analogies to describe the effects of sin and the way of remedying them…The sin offering uses a medical model: sin makes the world so dirty that God can no longer dwell there. The blood of the animal disinfects the sanctuary in order that God may continue to be present with his people. The reparation picture presents a commercial picture of sin. Sin is a debt which man incurs against God. The debt is paid through the offered animal."
But, does this passage apply to us today? Leviticus 6 causes us to realise that we are all actually guilty before a holy God. The Bible talks so much about sin, but the world would rather not. If we are honest about our dealings with another, we realise that we often deprive another of their rights. This idea and theme runs all the way into the New Testament in the story of the Good Samaritan, where Jesus tells them that anyone in need is their neighbour. Like the Pharisees, we are tempted to justify and rationalise our actions, and declare ourselves innocent when according to God's standards revealed in Leviticus, we are all guilty.
(B) Prioritizing guilt: misery of guilt and our culture’s response
Now, let us look more carefully at the differences between the sin and guilt offering. What are some of the major differences?
The sin offering requires a bull (4:1) or other equivalent animal sacrifices, but the guilt offering calls only for a ram (5:15, 18 and 6:6). There is also mention of a restitution in the guilt offering in terms of a monetary value (5:16, 6:5), while blood was the only currency in the sin offering. We see that there's no clear stipulation here about about what to do with the ram, unlike in case of the sin offering. There doesn't seem to be a clear, specific, single way to deal with it. We also notice that while different rituals and instructions were given for the blood of the sin offering, there's no mention of any here. We may not think that it is a big deal, but to the Israelites, they saw the differences in each of the offerings. Do you realise that these chapters are showing us that sin runs deep and there are dimensions to it, and correspondingly, there are dimensions to God's holiness? We are so used to taking sin and holiness as a whole generalisation that we fail to see the extent of God's holiness and in contrast, the depths of our sins. Leviticus is meant to teach us this. Hence, God is giving us all these stipulations in Leviticus (and in Exodus) not because He is picky. He does so because it is good for us, and He is trying to teach us something about Himself.
Psalm 32 shows us the Bible's description of the experience of guilt upon the human heart. There are 2 types of people in the Psalm. The first is the man who confessed and acknowledged his sin. This man has his transgression forgiven and his sin is covered. This is a man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, in whose spirit there is no deceit (i.e. does not lie and hide sin from God) (v.1-2). This man calls the Lord his hiding place, and trusts the Lord to preserve him from trouble (v.7). Then there is another who is absolutely miserable, and feels the heavy hand of the Lord who keeps silent. In his heart this man groans groaning all day long, and hence his bones wasted away, and whose strength was dried up as by the heat of summer (v.3-4). This is one who is like a horse that cannot be tamed (v.9), obstinate and refusing to go the way of his master.
Sin is not just a legal and justice issue. When we live in rebellion against God, it is as if a cancer grows in our hearts, in the form of guilt. Psalm 32 shows us that the man who stands before the Lord guilt-free is a blessed, free man, and the opposite, the man who is guilty. Do you know what it likes to bear this burden, and the freedom that comes from giving it up?
Not only are there 2 different kinds of people, Psalm 14:1-3 also shows us two different ways of dealing with it -- the way of the world, or the way of God. In these verses, we see that one group acts wisely and seek after God, while the fool says in his heart that there is no God. In rejecting God, the fool rejects the Judge, declares that there is no objective standard to live up to, and essentially no right and wrong, which means that there is no guilt. How are you living today?
For those that are Christians, do you confess your sins with your mouth, but in your heart, you continue to live without recognition of this God, or the forgiveness of guilt that He offers? For some of us, we may identify with these truths, but functionally, we don't live it out. Think about it today. What is your story as a Christian? Was there a point where someone told you to lay your burden down, and you did, or are you still bearing your own guilty burden everyday?
(C) Purging guilt: how to do it
If we look at the description of the guilt offerings, we notice that there are two parts to it. Firstly, Lev 5:15-16a, 6:4-5 tells us the things the guilty party has to do. The offender has to bring a ram to make payment, and a value equivalent to 1.2 times of the offence has to be paid, "valued in silver shekels", against the measuring system in the temple. This God-given justice system also takes into account the loss of time and inconvenience that the offended party suffers. The Israelites were meant to realise that their actions has an impact on another person's life. This is what it means to live in community, and to protect our neighbour's rights. Secondly, Lev 5:16b, 18, 6:6-7 shows us the things the priest does. Atonement was made by the priest through the substitutionary sacrifice of the animal in order to satisfy the demands of God.
What is the relevance of the guilt offering for us today after Christ? How do we understand and apply this truth to our lives today? The Christian lives before the holy God, aware of the guilt, but also knowing that the guilt has been forgiven, is the normal Christian life (c.f. Matt 11:28-30, Ps 103:11-12, Gal 5:1). But to live in denial of guilt, God and the forgiveness, this experience is a secular Christian life. What kind of a Christian are you? Do you ignore your conscience, deny the existence of God, and your need for a Savior? Or do you live conscious of how you have broken God's commandments, or that you have dealt unjustly with another, and that you need the righteousness of God? Run to Him today, and seek refuge in Jesus, our guilt offering.