In the trespass offering we are dealing with things that pertain to the cure and healing of problems caused by acts of evil toward one another.
In the sin offering we were dealing with the basic nature from which all these evil acts stem, and the guilt we have when we are alienated from him. But here we are dealing with the actual deeds we do toward one another, the injustice, the false treatment, etc.
Not all acts were capable of being forgiven on the basis of the trespass offering. All guilt can be forgiven because it is against God. It is something which has arisen because we are members of a lost race. But God in his mercy has provided a way of redemption for us. And so all guilt can be forgiven. But, under the Law, not all trespasses could be forgiven.
Back in those days if people committed adultery they were to be stoned to death. For an act of murder the penalty under the Law was death. For an act of sexual perversity the penalty was death. That was because these acts strike against humanity. And man can stand only just so much stress in his social relationships. God can handle our guilt, but man cannot always handle our trespasses. When the stress becomes too great the only way it can be relieved is by the elimination of the offending individual from society. That is why in the Old Testament you find a severity against individuals and even against whole groups of nations which seems to us to be very harsh. But that is God’s way of removing the terrible tensions which otherwise would tear society apart and of controlling them so that they do not wreck the human family entirely! It is his way of limiting evil. That is why under the Law certain sins were unforgivable.
Now, under grace, this is no longer the case. There is only one unforgivable sin under grace. In our relationship with Jesus Christ there is only one sin which cannot be forgiven, and that is the rejection of the Savior himself. There is no way out if we reject him. That is the unforgivable sin.
As we have seen, each offering had a distinctive character. The unique characteristic of the trespass offering was that it required restitution. There was the need to go back and to straighten up the past, as far as it was possible. It was necessary to right the wrong which had been done, as far as it could be corrected. A broken relationship needs repair, whether something material needs to be restored, or simply whether emotional injury done to another needs to be admitted. That is why it is sometimes necessary in human affairs to go back and clear up problems of the past. .
There were five different categories of sin which were covered by this offering: The first was what we might call “sins of guilt silence.” You see it in Verse 1:
“If any one sins in that he hears a public adjuration to testify and though he is a witness, whether he has seen or come to know the matter, yet does not speak, he shall bear his iniquity.” (Leviticus 5:1 RSV)
This was sin of omission. If a person saw a crime committed or knew of some similar matter and if it was publicly announced that the authorities needed help in solving the problem, but he kept silence, he was guilty of a trespass. He had injured society by his withholding of testimony. Wow, we see that today, people do not want to get involved. So when crime and corruption take place in our society people just hide it. They don’t say anything to the authorities and won’t even report a crime that is committed right before their eyes.
Way back here in the Old Testament God, declared that this kind of sin injures the whole social structure and makes government impossible.
The second category is found in Verses 2-3:
“Or if any one touches an unclean thing, whether the carcass of an unclean beast or a carcass of unclean cattle or a carcass of unclean swarming things, and it is hidden from him, and he has become unclean, he shall be guilty. Or if he touches human uncleanness, of whatever sort the uncleanness may be with which one becomes unclean, and it is hidden from him, when he comes to know it he shall be guilty.” (Leviticus 5:2-3 RSV)
This is the matter of unclean things. When the Old Testament set aside an object, an animal, an act, or a person as unclean it was recognizing a fundamental law of what today we would call “ecology.” There may not be any immediate effect upon the individual who broke it. But if enough people broke it the cumulative effect would soon be to disturb the delicate balance of nature and ultimately to wreak havoc against the people.
Unfortunately, even today we are reaping the results of what people have ignored in the past. The advancement of the automobile was a huge sign of progress, yet now its polluting out cities, choking our lungs. What about detergents? When they first appeared, detergents made clothes whiter than white. Unfortunately now, much of it is killing our fish, poisoning our lakes. The same can be said for many other inventions that were deemed a blessing, yet now looked at as a curse
This is the kind of problem which God, in his wisdom, is dealing with in this matter of unclean things. He is teaching man what things will ultimately destroy him, if they are permitted to continue. He was warning us!
There is a third category in Verse 4:
“Or if any one utters with his lips a rash oath to do evil or to do good, any sort of rash oath that men swear, and it is hidden from him, when he comes to know it he shall in any of these be guilty.” (Leviticus 5:4 RSV)
An oath is a promise or vow to accomplish something. A rash oath is one impossible to perform. It is a vow to do something you can’t do. And according to this stipulation, if a man uttered a rash oath — even if it were to do something good, let alone something evil — he was guilty before God. Why? Because in attempting the impossible he was arrogantly pretending to be God and not man. He was forgetting his mortality. He was forgetting that he was the creature and not the Creator.
For all three of these categories of sin the sacrifice to be offered was the same. Verses 5-6:
“When a man is guilty in any of these, he shall confess the sin he has committed, and he shall bring his guilt[trespass] offering to the LORD for the sin which he has committed, a female from the flock a lamb or a goat, for a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin.” (Leviticus 5:5-6 RSV)
This was to be a female animal because here we are dealing with man in his weakness, in his submission to the laws of nature. Therefore the female is the appropriate symbol. As we saw earlier this week, in Verses 7-13, provision was made for all economic classes. If a person couldn’t afford a lamb he could bring turtledoves. And if he couldn’t afford turtledoves he could bring just a handful of fine flour. Even the poorest had provision for reconciliation and forgiveness of these categories of offenses. But the one inflexible requirement was that the person admit the offense. That meant that he had to see what was wrong. The person had to admit that he was wrong. That was essential to the obtaining of forgiveness in the offering of the animal.
The truth that we are dealing with here is reflected in the New Testament in First John where we are told, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” (1 John 1:8-9). God insists upon our admitting, our confessing, not because he is trying to humiliate us but because that is necessary in order for us to receive the forgiveness which he has already provided. It isn’t that God forgives us at that moment. He has already forgiven us. But we can’t accept that forgiveness until we see and understand the truth about what has happened. That is why it is necessary to admit wrong.
This is fundamental to the cure of broken relationships within society. There must come a time when we face what has been wrong and say so — admit that it is wrong. There are lots of ways of thinking you are doing that without really doing it.
For instance, it does no good for you simply to say, “If I have offended you I want to ask your forgiveness,” because the “if” cancels it out. To say “If I have done something wrong,” is really to say, “You may see it that way, but I don’t! If you want to think of it that way then all right, I’m sorry you feel that way, but I don’t agree at all.” That is no admission of guilt at all!
Another common ploy is to say we are sorry. But that doesn’t admit that we are wrong! But what God wants is for us to come to the place where we say, “Yes, I am wrong. I did it, and it was wrong.”
It is at that point that a relationship is restored. In most broken human relationships it is necessary for both parties to say that. And each one must start with himself, as Jesus said. “First remove the beam that is in your own eye; then you will see clearly how to remove the sliver that is in your brother’s eye,” (Matthew 7:5).
Two other classes of trespass sins are brought before us. The next is found in Verses 14-17. It consists of religious offense.
The Lord said to Moses, “If any one commits a breach of faith and sins unwittingly in any of the holy things of the LORD, he shall bring as his guilt offering to the LORD, a ram[a male] without blemish out of the flock, valued by you in shekels of silver, according to the shekel of the sanctuary; it is a guilt[trespass] offering. He shall also make restitution for what he has done amiss in the holy thing, and shall add a fifth to it and give it to the priest; and the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering, and he shall be forgiven.” (Leviticus 5:14-16 RSV)
This offense involved something done in “the holy things of the LORD,” and for it the person was to bring a male because the offense here is greater. It was a breach of his relationship to God, within which man is made to rule in dominion over the earth. Thus the male was the appropriate symbol. And yet the offense was committed ignorantly, unwittingly. The person didn’t understand that he was doing anything wrong at the time. But when he learned about it he was not merely to pass it off and say, “Well, I didn’t understand that at the time.” He was to make restitution and furthermore to add a fifth to it. A fifth of the monetary value of the offering.He was to evaluate the offering according to a scale in the temple and add a fifth of that amount to the sacrifice and thus make restitution.
What is this kind of sin? What sort of an offense is this? It was to do something with deep sincerity, with utter conviction that you were doing the right thing, and to do so in the name of the Lord, but later to find out that you were wrong, that God didn’t want that done at all! .
There is one other kind of sin covered by the trespass offering, and it is discussed in the opening part of Chapter 6:
The LORD said to Moses, “If any one sins and commits a breach of faith against the LORD by deceiving his neighbor in a matter of deposit or security, or through robbery, or if he has oppressed his neighbor or found that which was lost and lied about it, swearing falsely — in any of all the things which men do and sin therein, when one has sinned and become guilty, he shall restore what he took by robbery, or what he got by oppression, or the deposit which was committed to him, or the lost thing which he found, or anything about which he has sworn falsely; he shall restore it in full, and shall add a fifth to it, and give it to him to whom it belongs, on the day of his guilt offering. And he shall bring to the priest his guilt offering to the LORD, a ram without blemish out of the flock, valued by you at the price for a guilt offering; and the priest shall make atonement for him before the LORD, and he shall be forgiven for any of the things which one may do and thereby become guilty.” (Leviticus 6:1-7 RSV)
Here is the case of cheating or robbing or defrauding or extorting from a neighbor, or of a false income tax return, or any other form of dishonestly removing someone else’s property or reputation. When this is faced, it must be restored. The relationship is broken, and what we need to learn from this offering is that it will never heal until the offense is admitted. Time will not cure this kind of hurt. You can injure somebody in this way today and fifty years might go by before you see that individual again. But when you see them the relationship is still broken, the hurt is still there, and the restraint on your own spirit will be felt immediately. There is a lot of emotional stress that comes with this sin…Families have been destroyed through this type of sin
You see, this is what Jesus is talking about when, as recorded in Matthew 5, he says to us: “If you are offering your gift at the altar [i.e., if you are coming to church to worship God], and there remember that your brother has something against you [some broken relationship has not been restored], leave your gift there before the altar,” Jesus said, “[i.e., let God stand and wait awhile] and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift,” (Matthew 5:23-24 RSV). That will please God more than any amount of trying to worship him while having a broken relationship at home, or with your neighbor, or in your background.
And so this trespass offering is provided for us, fulfilled in Jesus Christ, that we might heal all the broken relationships of the past. This is essential to a clear conscience.
If you want to have a clear conscience before God some of you may have to go back and heal some broken relationships. You may have to make some restitution. You may have to admit some errors. But once you do, those relationships will be healed before God, and will be a glory and a blessing to you for the rest of your life.
God knows us and he understands us. He knows that we can’t live with this kind of broken relationship for very long. It will begin to trouble us in all kinds of ways. But as we bring it to Jesus Christ, bring the whole situation to him, he will work even in the other person’s life, to make him willing to listen, if necessary, or he will do whatever needs to be done in order to heal these relationships and cure the problem of human hurt.
Wow, this is the root of unforgiveness and bitterness that is often harbored in our hearts. I pray that this is a blessing to you! Remember forgiveness is for you, more than the other person!