At a church staff retreat recently, we came together to worship and pray for one another. During one of the worship songs, I closed my eyes (and kept them closed) until, during one of the songs, I heard the Lord whisper to me very simply, “I am the guilt offering.” He always quietly startles me like this but I kept my eyes closed and a picture formed so very clearly in my mind‘s eye. I saw him on the road to Golgotha. I was there and so was he, we were in the same moment. He looked right into my eyes and I could see him bleeding, weighted down by the cross he was carrying, slowly inching along, but his head turned towards me and he said one more simple sentence…”Rhodie, I got this.” That’s all he wanted me to know and he was gone.
I came home that night and eventually was able to use the computer to google this Old Testament offering. I am much more familiar with the sin offering the Israelites practiced. Jesus is frequently referred to as the sin offering, the sin bearer as all that expands on his shed blood washing away our sins. But I have to say that I really didn’t know much about the guilt offering. Maybe you don’t either, so here it is:
The guilt offering was a mandatory atonement for an intentional or unintentional violation requiring restitution, the confession of a sin, and forgiveness of a sin or cleansing from defilement. It required not only a ram, but also a twenty percent fine to the wronged party. The difference between this and the sin offering was that the guilt offering was compulsory, in cases where restitution was necessary…It was not easy to distinguish between the sin offering and the guilt offering…Both were to atone for sins committed knowingly or through ignorance. Yet, the sin offering dealt with the root of sin, even as the guilt offering dealt with the fruit of sin…The sin offering emphasized the sin itself, whereas the guilt offering emphasized the practice and harmful effects of the sin.
This offering had to do with sinning against what was forbidden by God, intentionally or unintentionally, as well as violations against one’s neighbor in relationship to money or property rights, using deception with a neighbor about something entrusted to one’s care, something stolen, cheating a neighbor, finding lost property and lying about it, swearing falsely or extortion. That person committing these actions was to render a full restitution as well as adding a fifth of the value (or a twenty percent fine) to it. There are a few other applications of the guilt offering in Leviticus, but this pretty much sums it up.
At my first reflection, I started to get scared, thinking for sure I (always about me) would never be able to please the Lord in my humanity. Then I realized this was so far from what Jesus was trying to tell me or where he was trying to focus my attention. What He said to me was, he’s got this….He IS this offering and this one is finished, too. All offerings are finished in him, but this was the one he wanted me to know about specifically.
I am walking myself into more reflection regarding these words, but at this moment, I am reminded that Jesus truly is my Savior, my guilt offering to God. I am completely overwhelmed by his obedience in completing this act of sacrifice on my behalf. I also appreciate that in the ways of God in the Old Testament, there was a framework that defined the way in which people were meant to relate to each other. It’s as if God kept weaving into our falseness these threads that, when tightened, could help us to straighten up into the image of God that was meant to be present in us. Fortunately for us, these efforts were also pointers to a deeper and greater plan.
Please stay tuned…I am not done with this yet.