A STUDY of the trespass offerings as recorded in the last six verses of the fifth chapter of Leviticus and the first seven verses of the sixth chapter reveals that these offerings in certain respects differ materially from sin offerings. While they include transgression done in ignorance, as recorded in the fifth chapter, they also include deliberate sins, as recorded in the sixth. They appear to be such sins as admit of restitution, which is required in each case.
Sin offerings provided for a graduated scale of sacrifices according to the position and financial ability of the transgressor, ranging from a bullock to turtledoves and pigeons, and even a little flour. Trespass offerings as here recorded were not graduated. They required a ram, together with restoration of what had been taken, plus one fifth of the value of the property in question.
Another difference between sin offerings and trespass offerings is in the ministration of the blood. In sin offerings the blood was put on the horns of the altar, while in trespass offerings it was sprinkled round about upon the altar. (Leviticus 4:7,18,25,30; 7:1,2) The flesh of the trespass sacrifice was eaten by the priests, the same as sin offerings for one of the common people. (Leviticus 7:6; 6:26, 29)
The trespasses first mentioned are those that concern the holy things. (Leviticus 5:15) This has reference of the Lord, to anything pertaining to the service including things devoted to God, first fruits, tithes, etc. If through carelessness, want of faithfulness, or oversight, some damage should come to God's cause, even though it be done through ignorance, the sinner is to bring for his trespass unto the Lord a ram without blemish out of the flocks, with thy estimation with Shekels of silver, after the shekel of the sanctuary for a trespass offering. 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. Verses 15, 16.
That the transgressions here recorded are considered more serious than those mentioned in the first part of the chapter is evident from the statement, Though he know it not, yet is he guilty, and shall bear his iniquity. Verse 17. Of the other sins it is stated, When he knows of it, then he shall be guilty. Verse 4. The difference is that in one case the man is not considered guilty until he becomes aware that he has transgressed, while in the other case he is guilty whether or not he knows he has transgressed. If he is guilty though ignorant of any transgression it can only be because circumstances indicate that he should have known. When the holy things of the Lord are under consideration, God wants men to know.
Some have drawn the conclusion that tithes can be withheld if ultimately there is a payment with a penalty of one fifth added. This is not supported by the texts before us. It is only when such things are done in ignorance that God provides a remedy. There is no such provision for willful transgression.
Trespasses against a fellow man required restitution as well as did trespasses against God, for anything done against man was considered also a trespass against God. If a soul sin, and commit a trespass against the Lord, and lie unto his neighbor in that which was delivered him to keep, or in fellowship, or in a thing taken away by violence, or hath deceived his neighbor. Or have found that which was lost, and lies concerning it, and swears falsely. In any of all these that a man does, sinning therein. Then it shall be, because he hath sinned, and is guilty, that he shall restore that which he took violently away, or the thing which he hath deceitfully gotten, or that which was delivered him to keep, or the lost thing which he found, or all that about which he hath sworn falsely. He shall even restore it in the principal, and shall add the fifth part more thereto, and give it unto him to whom it pertains, in the day of his trespass offering. Leviticus 6:2-5.
The transgressions here recorded concern man's relation to his fellow man, especially in regard to property. Something has been entrusted to a person and he denies having received it; he breaks his bargain, takes by force that which does not belong to him, finds something and lies about it-all of which appears to be done knowingly, and for which ignorance could not be pleaded as an excuse. He is guilty.
The fifth chapter of Numbers gives some added information concerning trespass offerings. It also recognizes that sin against a man is also sin against the Lord (verse 6), and that not only is it to be confessed, but restitution is to be made, with a fifth part added. (Verse 7) It then adds this interesting provision: If the man has no kinsman to recompense the trespass unto, let the trespass be recompensed unto the Lord, even to the priest; beside the ram of the atonement, whereby an atonement shall be made for him. Verse .8.
Trespass offerings thus differ from sin offerings, which recognize only sins done in ignorance. Trespass offerings provide for sins done knowingly, and for which ignorance cannot be claimed. This has caused some difficulty to students of the Bible in that it is recognized that there is danger in any doctrine that contemplates an offering as a means of atonement for deliberate transgression. If a man sins ignorantly, his ignorance constitutes a basis for forgiveness; but to provide beforehand for a contemplated sin and stipulate its cost, appears immoral. It was this that the Roman Catholic Church at one time countenanced, and which brought in all manner of abuses, and was the immediate cause of the Reformation. Let us look a little closer at the Biblical offerings before coming to a final conclusion.
If a soul sin and commit a trespass against the Lord, and lie unto his neighbor. Leviticus 6:2. To lie is here counted a trespass against the Lord as well as against one's neighbor. For this reason the transgressor must make reparati6n to both: he must confess his sin and bring an offering to God and make restitution to man.
It seems inconceivable that a man could lie to his neighbor in that which was delivered him to keep, and do so ignorantly. The neighbor is going away and entrusts something for the man to keep until his return. Although it is possible that the man might forget the transaction, it seems unlikely that he should do so. Even if he does forget, he will probably remember when the neighbor reminds him: But in the case before us there are no mitigating circumstances. The man simply lies, and there is no plea of ignorance. The conclusion is inescapable: the man is guilty of deliberate sin.
It is the same in the next case, where he lies in fellowship, or in bargain, that is, in an agreement. Two men enter into a bargain, and one of their attempts to lie out of it. It is conceivable that there may have been a lapse of memory, but the evidence is against it. He is guilty.
If there might be only slight doubt of the man's guilt in these first two instances, there is even less in the third case, where a thing is takes away by violence. It would be stretching the truth far to hold that in this case it was a matter of ignorance; though some have attempted this by claiming that the man thought it was his and hence recovered it by violence. While we admit that such a situation might obtain, the probability is so small that it would seem that God would not cite such a case as a basis for sacrificial action.
Or hath deceived his neighbor; or have found that which was lost, and lies concerning it, and swears falsely. Verses 2, 3. God, in citing these cases, does not intend to show that the man is in ignorance, but rather that he has deliberately or rashly committed a trespass, and that he is guilty.
As these cases require restitution before they can finally and justly be disposed of, God takes cognizance of them and prescribes a suitable penalty for the violations.
First comes confession. When a man or woman shall commit any sin that men commit, to do a trespass against the Lord, and that person be guilty; then they shall confess their sin which they have done. Numbers 5:6, 7.
Second comes restitution: And he shall recompense his trespass with the principal thereof, and add unto it the fifth part thereof, and give it unto him against whom he bath trespassed. Verse 7.
Third, a sacrifice to God: And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the Lord, a ram without blemish out of the flock, with thy estimation, for a trespass offering, unto the priest. Leviticus 6:6.
Fourth, forgiveness: And the priest shall make an atonement for him before the Lord: and it shall be forgiven him for any thing of all that he hath done in trespassing, therein. Verse 7.
Some believe that the phrase in Leviticus 6:6, with thy estimation, has reference to an extra penalty which the priest might exact if the circumstances warranted it. Others hold that it has reference to the value of the ram. In any event it appears that the priest has some jurisdiction in the case which the man was bound to respect.
As we consider the different aspects of trespass offerings, we d o not find anything questionable or immoral in the regulations, but we do find the evidence of a merciful and compassionate God, who will forgive but who also will by no means clear the guilty. Exodus 34:7.
We find nothing in these regulations that encourages transgression or that gives the least impression that sin pays and that one can buy his way out by giving a gift to God. What Rome did in the days of Tetzel was a perversion of the merciful provisions of God, and totally unlike God's plan of salvation.
If God in olden times forgave only sins of ignorance, there would have been little hope of salvation for anyone. And the case is not different today. If God forgives only what we do unwittingly, we would be without hope. God must also forgive our willful sins if we repent of them. And is not this the gospel? To the men of Israel assembled at Antioch, Paul said: Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins. And by Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses. Acts 13:38, 39.
This was the good news then, and it is the good news now. We need a Savior who will not only forgive us our sins but also cleanse its from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9.
We are not to forget that a trespass is a most serious offense. If a man at night should stumble over a wire which he failed to see or could not see, neither man nor God would consider him very guilty. But if the next day in full daylight the man conies to the same place and sees suspended on the wire a sign, No Trespassing, and deliberately steps over, he cannot plead ignorance as a mitigating circumstance. He trespassed and must abide by the consequences.
Thus it is with us. Today many of our sins are willful, and are thus counted trespasses. We either know better or should know better. We are without excuse. But thanks to God, there is forgiveness for trespass as well as for sin. Our God is able and willing to save to the uttermost.
A vital part of the plan of redemption, as far as man is concerned, is that of restitution. Conviction of sin is not enough. Sorrow for sin is not enough. Confession of sin is not enough. Though all these are good, and are steps toward the kingdom, they are not enough. They must be accompanied by a repentance so deep and thorough that the soul will not rest until every step has been taken and every effort made to rectify past mistakes. This will in most cases include restitution, paying back that which we have stolen, and making every effort to right wrongs. Trespasses include questionable business transactions, fraudulent representation of values, giving wrong impressions for selfish motives, downright crookedness. It includes sharp deals to the disadvantage of the poor, and the grinding down of the needy for profit. It includes exorbitant charges of all kinds, excessive interest on money loans, dishonest work for the wages received.
It includes taking advantage of the misfortunes of others, and demanding more than is just for service's rendered merely because the other person is in a position where he cannot help himself.
For these and many other things restitution must be made wherever possible. And where it cannot be done, it may be well to follow the instruction of old, that where it is impossible to make restitution to the person concerned, where not even a near kinsman can be found, let the trespass be recompensed unto the Lord, even to the priest. Numbers 5:8. The present day application of this instruction would demand that the money involved should be given to, or used in, the Lord's work.
The story of Zacchaeus as recorded in the nineteenth chapter of Luke is an illustration of
restitution. Christ invited Himself to be Zacchaeus' guest, which great honor so overwhelmed the publican that he exclaimed, Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. Christ's response to this was prompt and significant: This day is salvation come to this house, for so much as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. Luke 19:8-10.
This presents a case of thorough repentance. The presence of Jesus made such an impression upon Zacchaeus that his first thoughts concerned, making restitution. He was a publican, and doubtless had a long list of sharp deals and dishonest business transactions to account for. He had extracted money by false accusation, which included all questionable transactions. But now he turns about. He abandons all evil practices, and decides to pay back fourfold what he has dishonestly acquired.
There is need that the subject of restitution be called to the attention of all who name the name of Christ. The newly converted need instruction in this matter, and so do many who for years have been enrolled in the church of God. All need a more lively sense of their responsibility, and some need a lesson in simple honesty. There are people who have owed money for years and then asked to have it cut in hall. It is doubtful that such have the approval of God. Men may accept such a proposition rather than lose all; but that does not settle the account with Heaven.
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