“Then I restored that which I took not away” (Psalm 69:4)
The Trespass Offering (Lev. 5-6) is usually looked upon as a sort of secondary sin offering and passed over with little notice, but there are features about it, so it seems to me, that give it a character entirely its own and show that it is not a whit behind the four great offerings in its importance.
In the sin offering we learn the guilt of sin, but the trespass offering teaches the injury that sin has done; the sinner not only suffers himself but his sin causes others to suffer. Every sin is a trespass against others.Three directions are indicated in which sin operates:—
- In the holy things of the Lord (5:15).
- Against the commandments of the Lord (5:17).
- Against the Lord in an offence against one’s neighbor (6:2).
To get a right view of these different aspects of sin we must go back to the start of man’s history.
- Adam committed a trespass and sin in the holy things of the Lord. When Adam sinned God was the first to suffer; We learn how dear man was to God by the counsel He took as to him before He created him, and the care He exercised as He formed him in His own image and after His likeness, drawing so near to him that He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. Adam must have been impressed with God’s affectionate interest in him; most certainly the devil was, and he planned to spoil it all and to make Adam sin in the holy things of God, to injure God in His holy love for him. He succeeded, perhaps more easily than he had hoped; distrust and disobedience thrust out of the hearts of Adam and his wife the happy confidence that God’s goodness had created in them, and God lost them, —He lost the choicest and best of His creation, the crown of all His work. Have we sufficiently considered His cry in the Garden when He came down to commune with Adam in the cool of the day, “Adam, where art thou”? Wounded love throbbed in those words. I say it with the greatest reverence; Adam’s sin was a stab at the very heart of God. God was the first to suffer. The story of the prodigal (Luke 15) is the New Testament answer to Genesis 3 and the Father’s joy in the return of His son in that chapter teaches us how keen His sorrow must have been at his departure.
- Adam’s sin was also against the commandments of the Lord. His act of disobedience was rebellion; it meant, “I’ll be a god to myself; who is the Lord that I should obey Him?” it was a challenge to God’s supremacy. Let us have no doubt about this, sin would dethrone Almighty God if it could. If there had been any weakness in God and He had condoned the sin because He loved the sinner, and sacrificed His justice for His love, it would have meant the abdication of His throne; He would have ceased to be God. It is necessary that we should realize that sin is not only a stab at God’s heart but an attempt on His throne. God is love: that is His nature, and He is a just God; that is His character, both His nature and His character were challenged and attacked by Adam’s sin and are still challenged by all the sin of his race.
With what hurried steps sin advanced to trespass against man’s neighbor, which is counted as a trespass against the Lord. As soon as there was a man to sin against, the trespass was done, and the startled earth drank the blood of the first man slain, not by a demon from a nether hell, nor by a wild beast from the forest, but by his own mother’s son. In the murder of Abel, Cain had trespassed in that “which was delivered him to keep, ” and he had “taken away by violence” his brother’s life. His sullen retort to God’s enquiry as to his brother, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” showed clearly that he knew that he was.
The next thing to notice is that the trespasser was not left to estimate the extent of the injury his trespass had done. Moses, who represented God, had to measure it after the shekel of the sanctuary (chap. 5:13). We may be sure that the deplorable laxity of the day and the shallow conviction as to sin, even in those who profess God’s Name, is because God’s estimate of sin is neither known nor desired. We set up our own standard, or compare ourselves with others and excuse ourselves, because in our judgment we are better than they; and worse, we “Compound to sins we are inclined to By damning those we have no mind to.” It is only in God’s presence that we begin to learn the exceeding sinfulness of sin in its challenge to God and the injury it does to our fellows, and then, and not till then do we realize and acknowledge the need of a great atoning sacrifice. It will be noticed that while the offerings for atonement for sin, according to the law of the sin offering, were graded, ranging from a young bullock to a tenth part of an ephah of fine flour, there was only one offering that could adequately meet the trespass and make atonement for the trespasser, no matter what the trespass was, the offering could not be less than a ram without blemish. The first time a ram comes into the divine picture is in Genesis 22, where one caught by its horns in a thicket died instead of Isaac. That gives the thought of substitution, but who could be a true and adequate substitute for sinful men whose trespasses have not only filled the earth with violence and corruption but risen up to heaven in defiance of God?
There is only one answer to that; it is the Son of Man. And He, in the greatness of His love has taken this place. He said “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:14). “Even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). The ram also signifies strength and determination. It typifies the Lord as coming forth from heaven saying, “Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God.” Nothing could divert Him from that will, “He set His face as a flint, ” “He was not rebellious, neither turned away back” (Isa. 50:5). But further the ram would indicate full growth and maturity. There was no immaturity or lack of knowledge in the Lord. In the full knowledge of God’s estimate of sin, and the demands that eternal justice must make upon the One who stood as substitute for the transgressor, He came, and when the suggestion was made that He should seek an easier path His answer was, “Get thee behind Me, Satan, thou art an offence unto Me, for thou savourest not the things that be of God.” And again. “The cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it.” Finally, as with all the sacrifices, the ram was to be without blemish. The Lord was the sinless substitute; no trespass did He commit either against God or His neighbor. “He loved the Lord His God with all His heart and His neighbor as Himself.”
What a great day and to be remembered is that on which for the first time it dawned upon the sin- convicted sinner, that Christ died for his sins, according to the Scriptures and that through the perfect and complete atonement that He made by His blood, his trespasses are forgiven. “The priest shall make atonement for him before the Lord: and it shall be forgiven him for anything of all that he hath done in trespassing therein” (chap. 6). “The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth from all sin.” We come now to that part of the type which must fill every one of God’s children with joy, as it will fill heaven with everlasting praise. Restitution will fill heaven with everlasting praise. Restitution had to be made for every trespass and a fifth part added thereto. The injured party had to be recompensed by far more than he had lost. Certainly no sinner could do this, and yet it is in and through ransomed sinners that this added part is gained; but the One who brings it to pass is the One who made atonement for the sin. It is the voice of Jesus that says in the Psalm, “Then I restored that which I took not away.” Consider the injury done to God in His love for men, so terrible was it that the Lord had to say, “They have both seen and hated both Me and My Father, ” and “the carnal mind is enmity against God.” Could such deep rooted enmity be removed and the enemies reconciled? The answer is, “When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, ” and we read now of “them that love God” (Rom. 8:28; 1 Cor. 2:9). And mark well the character of the love, it is not now the love that Adam might have had for a beneficent Creator, but the love of children to the Father. “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God.” Thus has God Himself been enriched and will be glorified forever as He could not have been if Satan had not succeeded in making man a trespasser, for the very trespass gave the Son of God the opportunity of bearing the judgment, and in adding infinite wealth and glory to God against Whom the trespass was committed. And God has even now, as He will have forever, a response to His great love from the hearts of His redeemed children.
Then the trespass against the commandments of the Lord has been met, and the fifth part added thereto, in that we who once yielded our “members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin” and were “not subject to the law of God” now find that “His commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3). We can thank God that through His grace, we have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine that was delivered unto us (Rom. 6:17), and that God gives the Holy Ghost to them that obey Him, and that we “delight in the law of God after the inward man.” We are spoken of as “obedient children, ” and it is wonderful how often willing obedience to God is spoken of in the Epistles. It were well for us to be in continual exercise of heart that we may not fail in this, lest we be found holding back from God that which Jesus died to secure in us for Him.
-Finally, as to the trespass against our neighbor.
“When we were in the flesh” we affected and influenced others by our words and ways, and lived in the spirit of Cain, saying, “Am I my brother’s keeper”? We lived to please ourselves often to the hurt of others. In the type a man might trespass against his neighbor by lying unto him and deceiving him, and must not we plead guilty to that? But what must be the answer to that in us now? “Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another” (Eph. 4:25). A man might trespass in taking away a thing violently as Cain took away Abel’s life. Now hatred of another is incipient murder, and to speak evil of another is really a blow at a man’s life, and these things were easy for us in those former days, but now the answer to all that in us is “Hereby perceive we the love, because He laid down His life for us and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16); a man might trespass against his neighbor in denying that a thing was delivered him to keep, as Cain denied his responsibility for Abel, the answer to that in us is, “the members should have the same care one for another” (1 Cor. 12:25). Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works (Heb. 10:24) “Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification” (Rom. 15:2). “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:3).
In this way has God triumphed and does triumph as we, to whom the very life of Christ has been imparted, manifest that life in practical living. “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all things put on love, which is the perfect bond. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body, and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him.” What glory to God there must be in such a life!