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Year 1, Week 13, Day 1

I have a brief observation for today’s reading of Leviticus 6-7.

Today’s reading completes the instructions for the guilt offering. The instructions for the sin offering (Leviticus 4:1-5:13), as well as the instructions for the guilt offering (Leviticus 5:14-6:7) were the LORD’s provision to Israel’s need for pardon and purification. Today’s reading also includes instructions primarily for the priests (Leviticus 6:8-7:38) that consist of the practical operations that were needed for carrying out the five sacrifices that have been listed thus far in Leviticus.

What struck me in today’s reading was the LORD’s requirement, not only for the sacrifices required with the guilt offering, but also the requirement for restitution. The guilt offering was needed whenever an Israelite violated or trespassed the LORD’s commands. All sin is first and foremost against the LORD: “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.” (Psalm 51:4). And thus, the sacrifice made for a guilt offering was first and foremost an act before the LORD: “If anyone commits a breach of faith and sins unintentionally in any of the holy things of the LORD, he shall bring to the LORD as his compensation, a ram without blemish out of the flock” (Leviticus 5:15). It was though the sacrifice offered as prescribed by the instructions for the guilt offering that the worshipper was acknowledging their sin before the LORD as well as acknowledging that forgiveness would come from the LORD through a substitutionary sacrifice: "I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” (Psalm 32:5).

However, the LORD’s arrangements of providing forgiveness through the substitutionary sacrifice also included making restitution when necessary: “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 5:15). Something of a twenty percent value was to be added to the cost of the item taken or damaged for the purpose of making restitution. In fact, it seems that the costs covering the restitution would need to have been made before the substitutionary sacrifice was offered: “if he has sinned and has realized his guilt and will restore what he took by robbery or what he got by oppression or the deposit that was committed to him or the lost thing that 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 he realizes his guilt. And he shall bring to the priest as his compensation to the LORD a ram without blemish out of the flock, or its equivalent, for a guilt offering.” (Leviticus 6:4-6). This implied sequence in Leviticus is supported by what Jesus taught His disciples: “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24).

The LORD has made provision for the guilt of His people. He desires that His people not live under the burden of the guilt from their sin: “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13). The LORD’s people battle the guilt of sin first and foremost through repentance: “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret” (2 Corinthians 7:10a); that is coupled with confession to the LORD: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9). But in throwing repentance and confession into the process of dealing with guilt, we can come to realize that the removal of guilt is about more the getting rid of bad personal feelings; the removal of guilt is about being freed to live in the joy of relationship with the LORD, but also in the prospects of living in relationship with those wronged by our sin. This is where restitution may be a necessary consideration where our sin has been at the expense of others. In those instances, a mere apology may not return the lost items that our sin took; something more may be required. The salvation that Jesus provided to Zacchaeus was shown in his commitment to restitution, going far beyond that required by the Law: “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:8-10).

What struck you in today’s reading? What questions were prompted from today’s reading?

Pastor Joe