So far, God has described to Moses four offerings that can be made at the newly built tabernacle: the burnt offering, the grain offering, the peace offering, and the sin offering. But before this opening “table of contents” for sacrifices can be closed, one final offering needs to be defined: the guilt offering.
Sin has effects. It not only affects our relationship with God, but it also affects the relationship we have with ourselves and those around us.
One of the main effects sin has on those who commit it is guilt. This can mean you feel bad for what you’ve done, but that feeling is closer to remorse or contrition. More specifically, guilt is the fear of punishment or what your offense is going to cost you. Guilt is the feeling of anticipating the penalty you deserve.
But sin also affects those around us. Where we might feel the coming cost of what we’ve done, others actually experience the toll our actions take in real time.
If I steal something, I might feel guilty about it later. But the person from whom I stole feels the loss immediately. So how does God deal with this in Leviticus?
Another way to translate guilt offering is reparation offering. It was a gift to make amends or pay back the debt incurred by an evil action. After making this sacrifice, the worshipper could walk away from the tabernacle knowing that they are forgiven. They’d leave with a clean conscience. But that only solves half the problem - the effects of sin on the guilty party.
What about the other half of the problem? What about the effects sin has on those sinned against? The guilt offering deals with that too.
Whatever financial, personal, or physical harm is done to someone or something, reparation must be paid back along with this offering. Not only that, but the worshipper must add 20% to the value of what was damaged and pay that as well.
This offering, therefore, deals with three relationships: (1) the vertical relationship between man and God, (2) the inner relationship between self and conscience, (3) and the horizontal relationship between man and man.
But here’s the problem. The New Testament tells us that this sacrifice wasn’t enough to really make restitution in any of these relationships.
An animal sacrifice can’t really pay God back for the cosmic crime committed against him. In fact, nothing you can do, sacrifice, give, or accomplish can make restitution for your sins against God. Something more has to be done.
Also, the blood of animals cannot truly convince your conscience that you are totally clean. How many times would someone with a troubled conscience have to offer this sacrifice before they felt at peace with themselves?
The horizontal problem isn’t fixed either. Paying someone back for what you’ve done to them can’t fix the problem, even if you add 20%. It can’t repair your relationship, rebuild trust, reinvigorate their hope in humanity, or bring something back from the dead.
That’s why the guilt offering points us forward to Jesus’ offering. When we put our faith in Jesus’ final sacrifice, Hebrews 10:22 says that our consciences are sprinkled clean with the blood of Christ. We no longer have just an outward sign that our guilt is dealt with. We have the inner witness of Jesus through his Spirit that we have been made guiltless because of Jesus’ perfect guilt offering.
But Jesus goes further. He also pays for the effects our sin has on the world around us. He does this in two ways.
First, Jesus fixes the effects of sin through us. Time and again in the New Testament, we see pictures of people who are so radically changed by the love of Jesus that they make above and beyond reparations for the bad ways they’ve treated people around them. Jesus changes us so we can change our world and others.
But we can’t fix everything. Thankfully Jesus can, does, and will. He can work in people’s hearts to restore what we have broken. And what’s more, when he returns, he will fix everything that’s broken and make it perfect. He won’t add 20% to it. He will make everything 100% new. That’s why he says in the book of Revelation, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
I pray that the Holy Spirit would show you the God who not only deals with the penalty of sin but its effects on our conscience and world. And that you would see Jesus as the only one who can truly heal both.