The first 13 verses of this chapter mentioned some specific sins for which a person could bring a sin offering, which we learned about in the last chapter. Then, in verse 14, the Lord began to speak about trespass offerings. What was the difference between the two kinds of sacrifices? One author says that a sin offering was offered when a person’s violation of God’s Law primarily affected himself, while a trespass offering was offered for offences that definitely affected or “trespassed” against others – whether it was one’s neighbor or the Lord. It does seem that trespass offerings always involved the payment of some kind of restitution to the party that was trespassed against. Alfred Edersheim said that “the trespass offering may be regarded as representing ransom for a special wrong, while the sin offering symbolized general redemption.” Christ’s sacrifice, of course, was the ultimate fulfillment of both of these facets of atonement – our natural guilt by virtue of simply being born as a son or daughter of Adam, and also the actual sins that we commit by virtue of having that sin-nature. In the Old Testament, both the sin offering and the trespass offering worked together to form two halves of one picture that foreshadowed the ultimate Atonement that Jesus completed once for all time.
As mentioned above, verses 1-13 of this chapter listed some particular sins that required the sacrifice of a sin offering. The first of these sins was a person’s concealing of the truth when he was sworn as a witness in court to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; indeed, an oath of the Lord is a sacred thing that is not to be trifled with. Reference was also made to a person’s touching anything that was ceremonially unclean, and to the swearing of rash vows – the performance of which would afterward prove to be either unlawful or impossible. Truly, we often sin against our God without even knowing it. But as soon as the Holy Spirit convinces our consciences of any sin or neglected duty, we must not be ashamed to acknowledge our former mistake.
When a person came to the realization that he was guilty of one of the sins mentioned above, he was to acknowledge his iniquity and bring his offering; but the offering was not accepted unless it was accompanied with confession and humble prayer for pardon. The confession was to be particular; he had to admit that he had sinned “in that thing.” The way to be assured of pardon, and to be armed against sin in the future, is to confess the exact truth.
If a person was very poor, they were allowed to bring some flour for their sin offering, and that would be accepted by the Lord. Thus the expense of the sin offering was brought lower than any of the other kinds of offerings, teaching us that no man’s poverty shall ever bar the way to his pardon. One author said that “through all of God’s Word, there is no flinching from the moral demands of the law; there is no diluting of the law. But there is ample provision that no man shall have an excuse or a reason for not having a share in the Atonement in which that law was magnified, and by which the sinner may be forgiven.”
To show the loathsomeness of sin, the flour of the offering – when it was offered – was not to be made pleasant to the senses by the addition of oil or the smell of frankincense. But the Lord, by these sacrifices, spoke comfort to those who had sinned, so that they would not despair. And the sacrifices also gave a caution to the offeror to strive for holiness, by remembering them of how expensive and troublesome it was to make atonement for a sin – even if it was unintentional. By treating ignorance as a sin of such magnitude, the Lord ensured that His people would be continually endeavoring to know and obey His will, and to instruct their families in His ways.
Beginning at verse 14, and continuing into the next chapter, the Lord gave directions concerning trespass offerings. As we already noted, the trespass offering involved a definite restitution to be made to the party that was trespassed against. For example, if a person unknowingly used something that was dedicated to God for his own personal profit, he was to bring a trespass offering when he became aware of his guilt. And he was not only to bring the ram for the offering; but he was also to repay what he had defrauded, and make restitution to the priest (as the representative of God) by paying an extra 20% of the value of the matter concerned.
We need to keep watch over ourselves, and daily pray for pardon for our sins – even if we only suspect ourselves to be guilty of them. The law of God is very broad, the occasions of sin in this world are very numerous, and we are very prone to evil. Hence we need to pray at all times, beseeching the Lord that we may be kept from sin. The true Christian daily pleads guilty before God, and seeks forgiveness through the blood of Jesus. And the Gospel-salvation is so free that even the poorest of all people is not shut out, yet it is so full that even the most burdened conscience may find relief therein. However, the sinfulness of sin is displayed in such a manner as to cause every pardoned sinner to abhor it and dread it.
Lord, how ruined we are by reason of our sins! What a mess of defilement we are in! Yet we find comfort in looking up and beholding the gracious provision which Your covenant of redemption has made for sins of all descriptions – both of willful and unintentional guilt. We are surrounded with mercies in the blood and righteousness of Your dear Son. May our minds be constantly directed into a full enjoyment of our Father’s love, our Savior’s merits, and pardoning grace, so that our hearts may rejoice with a joy that no one can take from us! Amen.
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