Our Guilt Offering - Reconciling Relationships
The Lord said to Moses: “When a person commits a violation and sins unintentionally in regard to any of the Lord's holy things, he is to bring to the Lord as a penalty a ram from the flock, one without defect and of the proper value in silver, according to the sanctuary shekel. It is a guilt offering. He must make restitution for what he has failed to do in regard to the holy things, add a fifth of the value to that and give it all to the priest, who will make atonement for him with the ram as a guilt offering, and he will be forgiven. If a person sins and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord's commands, even though he does not know it, he is guilty and will be held responsible. He is to bring to the priest as a guilt offering a ram from the flock, one without defect and of the proper value. In this way the priest will make atonement for him for the wrong he has committed unintentionally, and he will be forgiven. It is a guilt offering; he has been guilty of wrongdoing against the Lord.” (Leviticus 5:14-19 NIV)
The difference between a sin offering and a guilt offering is that a guilt offering requires restitution – to recompense the injury or harm caused to someone. “Holy things” refer to the articles in the tabernacle or the temple. Today, Christians are the temple of God, and any wrong we do to the temple of God makes us guilty.
Why is this offering called a ‘guilt offering’? When we unintentionally cause harm to another person, we feel bad and regretful. We wish we could take it back or do something to make the person feel better. The uneasy feeling lingers in our hearts and bothers us whenever we remember the incident again. God describes it further in the Book of Numbers.
The Lord said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: 'When a man or woman wrongs another in any way and so is unfaithful to the Lord, that person is guilty and must confess the sin he has committed. He must make full restitution for his wrong, add one fifth to it and give it all to the person he has wronged. (Numbers 5:5-7 NIV)
Jesus instructed what we should do when we know someone has something against us.
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.” (Matthew. 5:23-26)
Jesus taught that if there is someone with something against us, we should settle it as a priority. Jesus wants us to have a clear conscience, not guilt. Even if the brother isn’t aware of it, we should still speak to him to clear our conscience. We cannot fully connect with one another if we have unsettled guilt. We may question why God is so demanding in ensuring we are guilt free. This is because God is Holy, and He wants us to be holy too. Disciples ought to be set apart from the world.
When we have something against someone in our heart, we can fake it whenever we speak to that person, but we will not have a true and honest relationship. This is what makes Church special, and we ought to make sure our Church remains holy. This is what I want Church to be, having honesty and truthfulness in our fellowship.
The Jews made offerings to thank God for their atonement (burnt offering), outward submission to one another (grain offering), fellowship with the Body (peace offering) and for their sins (sin offering). But these offerings cannot clear us of the guilt we feel, which hinders us from genuine fellowship. Thus there is the need for restitution. The guilt offering required full recompense and an additional 20% of the value of the damage caused. Thus we do not simply admit we are wrong and walk away thinking that should suffice. We try our best to satisfy the person whom we have done wrong to. How honest are we with each other? Are there underlying issues that we cannot talk to each other about? God desires us to be guilt-free to be truly happy within.
But some hurts cut so deeply that we still feel guilty no matter what we do. What should we do then? Isaiah prophesied of someone who would come to remove all guilt – Jesus.
Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the Lord's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied ; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:1-12 NIV)
Isaiah described Jesus: “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” Contrary to how we like to present our best physical appearance, God came in a humble appearance. “Transgressions” in Hebrews means ‘wilful rebellious acts’. Jesus was “pierced” for our wilful rebellious acts, as a guilt offering. Jesus did not come as an authoritative figure to command repentance from each of us, but with an unattractive appearance and died for our transgressions.
God isn’t trying to make us feel guilty and remorseful by having Jesus die for us. But he wants us to understand that we belong to Him and He loves us. As “the Lord makes his life a guilt offering” on our behalf, we can return home to our Father, like the prodigal son. All our guilt will be gone and we can rejoice with God.
Is there someone we can’t forgive because he or she had not done enough to ‘earn’ our forgiveness? Even if the person has not done enough to win our forgiveness, Jesus has done it on the person’s behalf. He was pierced for the person’s transgressions too. That is the extent of God’s love for us. Would Jesus’ guilt offering – his death – help us to forgive the most unforgivable hurt we have suffered?
God is saying to us, “His sins, I’ve borne; his debt, I’ve paid. Let’s forgive.”
“My son,” the father said, “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” (Luke 15:31-32 NIV)
It is hard to live with someone who had harmed or betrayed us. We tend to be self-righteous like the elder son. We forget that we too are sinful. Jesus did not only die for our salvation, he died for us to become part of the Body too. We should remember that Jesus made his life a guilt offering for those who had afflicted us and share the same mission as God to reconcile all His people to Him.
Andy is the head of compliance for an international bank and is happily married, with three daughters. He became a disciple of Christ three decades ago, and studies God's Word passionately. He desires to be constantly led by the Spirit.