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Trespasses Heedlessly Committed
Leviticus 5:1.—If the soul … hear the voice of swearing. Sins may be acted out consciously and defiantly; for such there was no expiation provided. But sins may be committed without realising their sinfulness; of these the preceding chapter deals, and for such there was expiatory sacrifice and assured forgiveness. Yet, also, sins may be contracted where no volition or action occurs, by passive non-resistance, by tacit connivance, by incautious heedlessness: and such are the sins this chapter interdicts while it also prescribes expiation. Sin may come in through the ear: “hear the voice of swearing”; albeit it is no sin in itself to hear, unless we shut it in wilfully and become accessory thereto. It should be let out through the lips: “utter it”: give it no harbour, but prompt escape; for it defiles the soul which retains it as a secret. Let no evil thing find a quiet chamber in our thoughts; expose it, and thereby exorcise and condemn it. Impurity must ensue from entertaining secretly what God bids us renounce and denounce.
Leviticus 5:2.—Touch any unclean thing. God would have His people untainted by uncleanness. With minute care He had defined what were unclean things. From every contagion they must keep free, if they were to remain ceremonially holy. Shall not we also shun contact with forbidden things? “For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.” There are institutions in society, companionships and friendships, indulgences and pastimes, recreations and books, which would defile a Christian life and lower the sanctities of existence. “Wherefore, come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing” (2 Corinthians 6:17).
It be hidden from him. How often do we touch defilement unconsciously! And having by contact derived the contagion (in pure thoughts sullied, our sensitive recoil from evil blunted, elevated aims lowered, and Christward affections decoyed) how do we forget that we have touched! How constantly we argue with our own consciences that the tainted pleasures and pastimes we foster are outside the interdicted list. Yet this self-excusing is vain; “he also shall be unclean and guilty.”
Leviticus 5:4.—Whatsoever a man shall pronounce with an oath. Vows which bind us to lines of conduct should never be made in ignorance. It is perilous to society as well as to individual honour for a man to make himself subject to a vow whose issues are “hid from him.” This reprehensible plan prevails in those “secret societies” and “brotherhoods” whose programme is the destruction of civil institutions and State stability. If a man blindly swears away his liberty, and binds himself by oath to any confederation, he is “guilty” of any and all the deeds done by the associates of such organisations. Oaths should only be taken when their issues are fully discerned; certainly no right-minded man will allow himself to become the dupe of bad associates, or the accomplice of evil designs, under the specious plea that the effects of his oath were “hid from him” when he bound himself thereby. Prudence and piety will warn us against being thus “rash with our mouth.” [Compare Ecclesiastes 5:2; Ecclesiastes 5:6; Acts 23:12-14.]
Leviticus 5:5.—He shall bring his trespass offering. Rash oaths incurred guiltiness, and must be atoned for; the folly of taking an oath to “do evil” was an offence to be expiated; whereas the neglect of an oath to “do good” was equally a trespass. God’s requirement of an expiatory offering for both misdemeanours acted beneficially on the community, by restraining persons from taking hasty and inconsiderate oaths. “This served very effectually (says Michaelis) to maintain the honour of oaths, inasmuch as every oath, however inconsiderate, or unlawful, or impossible, was regarded so far obligatory that it was necessary to expiate its non-fulfilment by an offering; and it was, at the same time, the best possible means of weaning the people from rash oaths, because a man who had grown addicted to the unbecoming practice would find himself too frequently obliged either to keep his oaths, how great soever the inconvenience, or else to make an offering for their atonement.”
Leviticus 5:15.—Ignorance in the holy things of the Lord. There were dues or debts to the sanctuary of God, and he who failed to bring his tithes and first-fruits, even though unintentionally and “through ignorance,” was a transgressor. A costly “amends” (Leviticus 5:16) was to be made for this oversight, if his trespass was to be forgiven him. Thus jealous is God that we withhold no duty from Him, that we “enter into His presence with thanksgiving,” i.e., with gifts as thank offerings. Every soul, spared in the land of the living, succoured by Divine goodness and grace, overshadowed by the Fatherhood of God, shepherded by the patient care of Christ, upheld by the energy of the Spirit, owes offerings to Heaven, and should enter the sanctuary with the acknowledgments of all the mercy received. Our grateful souls should seek to fulfil “something of the debt we owe.” “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits towards me?” God asks sanctuary presents from every one of His people.
Leviticus 5:17.—Forbidden to be done. For the Lord had prohibited the profane use, or the appropriation to personal ends, of “holy things” dedicated to the sanctuary and its services. If a soul had reason only to suspect his misuse thereof, he must seek forgiveness by trespass offering. All such stern requirements tended to enforce a recognition of the supreme claims of Jehovah and the sanctity of religion. No trifling, no forgetfulness, no error was excusable. Shall not we “stand in awe and sin not,” guarding ourselves from “presumptuous sins” and inadvertent negligence by “watching unto prayer” and by swift fulfilment of our obligations to Heaven!
Topic: COMPLACENT IGNORANCE (Leviticus 5:1-5)
Sins of ignorance differ greatly in kind and in degree. Transgression may ensue from lack of knowledge that such conduct is forbidden; or it may be that, knowing the prohibition, disobedience is speciously excused on some vague plea that circumstances warrant it or expediency condones it. In such cases ignorance, if it be really ignorance at all, is self-induced, and is therefore the more culpable. Amid such reprehensible forms of ignorance may be placed—
I. CARELESSNESS; the mind too placid to rouse itself to inquiry.
II. INDISCRIMINATION; the habit of ignoring vital principles and conniving at inconsistencies.
III. SELF-EXCUSING; finding exceptional circumstances which extenuate faults and condone misconduct.
IV. NEGLECT OF SCRIPTURE; not “coming to the light lest their deeds should be reproved” (John 3:20).
V. SATISFACTION WITH A STATE OF CONSCIOUS DARKNESS; indifference to precise regulations of religion, indisposition of heart towards “perfect holiness”; a loose and easy content over failings and negligence. Ignorance is by some persons consciously cherished: it allows them a covert from the exactions of a lofty and honest piety.
VI. PLAUSIBLE SOPHISTRY; entertaining the delusion that because there is not determined wilfulness in sinning, or not fullest knowledge of God’s prohibitions of sin, they are less responsible, loss to be condemned.
Note: Many persons, trained from youth in a school of error, grow up with false principles dominating their judgments and consciences, or with ignorance of the application of right principles to particular incidents and actions. The perception of righteousness is vague and dim, the moral sense is feeble and faltering, “darkness in part” has happened to them. Thus Luther, trained amid the blinding theories of Romanism, groped on till manhood in delusions and dimness. Thus Paul, brought up amid the traditions of Judaism, found his soul clouded with wholly wrong thoughts concerning what was “doing God service.”
It is our duty to undeceive ourselves, to inquire after knowledge, to seek full light, that our dimness may yield to discernment.
A complacent ignorance is as the softly gliding stream which flows onwards to the rapids. To be able to rest in such self-satisfied ignorance indicates that self-delusion has begun, portending doom. “Whom the gods would destroy they first dement” And such contentment, while in error of the very way of godly obedience and acceptance, betokens a demented state ominous of worst issues. Therefore:—
1. Search the Scriptures.
2. Seek the Spirit’s illumination.
3. Culture a pure and enlightened conscience.
4. Exercise the judgment and will in efforts to “cease from evil and learn to do well.”
Topic: THE SIN OF CONNIVING AT WRONG-DOINGS (Leviticus 5:1)
The trespass offering atoned for voluntary offences, thus fitly supplementing the offerings for sins of ignorance. All crime—i.e., wrong done to men—is sin in the sight of God, and needs to be followed by repentance as well as reparation. Here we are taught that a person committed sin in withholding knowledge when able and judicially commanded to divulge it.
The camp of Israel in the wilderness was not only a Church, but a Commonwealth; the interests of the people were mutual, and their duties reciprocal. It was the duty of the rulers to defend and promote the-right, and to expose and denounce the wrong. When an evil doer was arrested, a proclamation was made calling upon any who could furnish evidence (that the ends of justice might not be defeated) to present themselves as witnesses in the court. If any such person, through fear or neglect, failed to furnish the information in his possession he was a partaker in the sin. The safety and sanctity of society demanded that evidence should not wilfully be withheld. Jehovah here required His people to co-operate with Him in protesting against and exposing sin. Observe—
I. THAT THE SINS OF MEN CANNOT EVADE WITNESSES.
An old writer has forcibly said “that to every sin there must be at least two witnesses,” viz, “a man’s own conscience and the great God.” Wrong-doing so confuses and condemns a man, except he be very degraded and hardened, that even though he was not really observed in the act, he will so betray himself to others that evidence of a presumptive or positive kind, circumstantial or self-evident can be presented.
Living together as the Israelites did in the wilderness, they would be constantly under each other’s eye, wrong-doing would be easily detected, its guilt easily proved.
We are all daily revealing ourselves more or less to each other, and persons who observe our conduct are tacitly gathering evidence to accuse or excuse, to commend or condemn our conduct and character. This world is a place of trial, a place of judgment. We are not only arraigned before the tribunal of our own consciences, but also before the bar of public observation and opinion.
II. THAT IT IS THE DUTY OF WITNESSES TO GIVE EVIDENCE WHEN JUSTICE DEMANDS IT.
When a witness heard the words of adjuration he was required at the proper place to give the needed information. It was his duty because
(1) the law of the Lord commanded it, and
(2) the purity of society demanded it. It would also be an injustice to a wrong-doer, for the sake of shielding him from present punishment, by conniving at his sin to encourage him in evil ways. Moreover, a witness owes the duty to himself to testify against sin, for if he does not expose it and bring it to condemnation, he may foster even in himself a careless unconcern about wrong. By bearing witness against evil doing we utter our protest against the wrong, and if we do it in the right spirit and “speak the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” we are serving righteously and faithfully our day and generation, and we therein discharge a duty we owe to God against whom all sin in a transgression, and who has appointed rulers to administer justice for the praise of those who do well, and to be a terror to evil doers.
III. THAT IN CONCEALING EVIDENCE AGAINST SIN WE INVOLVE OURSELVES IN SERIOUS GUILT.
By withholding evidence we may think to cover over sins, and so we may; but we do not remove them. We may prevent them coming to light and meeting their merited punishment, but the sins remain, and will take deeper root and throw out wider branches. It is a trespass, a breach of the Divine law, when we allow sin to go unaccused and unexposed; we thereby offer an inducement to sin, and tacitly encourage indulgence in transgression. The guilt of concealing evidence is seen, in that by so doing we—
1. Dishonour God’s voice, which speaks within us.
2. Disobey God’s published laws.
3. Decrease our own antipathy to sin.
4. Encourage the trespasser in his wrong-doing.
All sin ought to be acknowledged and expiated for the sake of the sinner and the wronged. A person refusing to give evidence makes himself an accessory to a wicked deed after its accomplishment, and becomes an accomplice in its guilt. Divine revelation teaches us that we have duties we owe to ourselves, to society, and to God.—F. W. B.
Topic: THE CONTAGIOUSNESS OF SIN (Leviticus 5:2-3)
The sin of touching an unclean person or thing is here described. The whole of the directions given respecting ceremonial defilement were to teach most emphatically the holiness of God, and His deep concern for the holiness of His creatures. The children of Israel were not only to obey Him, but also to worship Him, and as their service was to be a sacrament and their work worship, it was necessary that they should be taught the utmost scrupulousness in ceremonial, as well as inward, purity. These regulations and requirements would not only teach the people who were immediately affected by them the most salutary lessons, but would also teach (through them) the world valuable truths. We learn—
I. THE IMPORTANCE OF CIRCUMSPECTION IN OUR OUTWARD BEHAVIOUR.
The Israelites would feel that the greatest possible vigilance would be needed as they went in and out the camp and mixed with the congregation, lest they should become defiled by contact with some unclean thing. As we mingle with our fellow-men, and discharge our duties in the world, although we are not under the restrictions and regulations of the Levitical law, yet we are in a world where the moral atmosphere is tainted, and where we are in constant danger of being morally defiled. We are not only ourselves surrounded by a sympathetic moral influence, which affects all with whom we have contact, but we also in turn receive influence, good or ill, from others with whom we associate. We learn that the greatest possible circumspection is essential as we move amid the busy throngs.
II. THE POSSIBILITY OF CONTAMINATION, EVEN THOUGH WE PRACTISE CIRCUMSPECTION IN OUR OUTWARD CONDUCT.
The text shows that it was possible for people to become defiled and be unconscious of it. A man might find even that his extreme caution had ensnared him. He might not always be able to discriminate between the clean and the unclean, especially at first sight. So, as we pass through the world, we are so closely surrounded by morally contaminating influences that sometimes we may acquire infection before we are aware of it. Even the most innocent pleasures and pursuits may be perverted by us, becoming suggestive and ministrant of sin; in our ignorance or simplicity we may get a wrong bias, wicked thoughts may be awakened. For such defilement we shall need to make expiation; also seek forgiveness and cleansing, that the impurity of our heart and conscience may be removed, and the progress of moral depravity and deterioration be arrested.—F. W. B.
Topic: THE RESPONSIBILITY OF WORDS (Leviticus 5:4-5)
Here is taught the sin of a person making a rash oath. In their conversation with each other the people were to beware of uttering idle words, especially when calling upon God to witness what they said; also, they were to be careful how they committed themselves by solemn engagements to do evil or to do good. The people were at present rude and unpolished, and one of the objects of the ritual was to elevate and refine them. Words are often spoken as if they were of no importance, vows made and oaths uttered as if they were unnoticed by God; but this law shows us that He does take strict notice of them, and that though forgotten by us, they are not forgotten by Him. Though spoken heedlessly and easily forgotten, yet God would hold them responsible. The gospel has not repealed the law’s condemnation of rash speaking, for Christ taught that “for every idle word that men speak they shall give an account at the day of judgment.” And we are taught, moreover, to “swear not at all, neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne, nor by earth, for it is His footstool, neither by our heads, for we cannot make one hair black or white.” The influence of this Levitical injunction would be to lead the people to make an oath—
I. RARELY. There would be no need for oaths if they cultivated veracity, if their simple word was known to be their bond. To employ oaths frequently would be taking God’s name in vain, and incurring danger of frequently transgressing one of the great commandments. God was in their midst as their Law-giver and King; they must not use too frequently and familiarly His holy name in connection with their common, ordinary conversation and conduct.
II. DELIBERATELY. Even when circumstances seemed to require that they should call God to witness and confirm what they affirmed, the act was so solemn that they would need to do so with great caution and deliberateness, pondering what they were about to affirm or deny, and estimating the probability that they could promptly perform their purpose. An oath deliberately made would be impressed upon the memory; if not fulfilled, no excuse could be offered. The nature of an oath, of the pledge with which it is accompanied, should be thoroughly weighed before God is called upon to help and witness.
III. CONDITIONALLY. There may be some cases and instances where an unconditional oath may be safely pronounced; but it is more prudent to associate with it qualifying conditions. Such a course would not make the oath less binding for all reasonable intents, and ought to meet the requirements of any ordinary case. Our proneness to err, the impossibility of our meeting exorbitant demands, the probability of after-thought showing us that what we had engaged to do was impracticable or undesirable, ought to be taken into account. Conditions and circumstances may so change as to relieve us from promises which, at the time, we made in good faith. When wise men make oaths, they will make them cautiously.
1. Cultivate transparency and veracity of speech, so that our communications may require to be simply yea, and nay; for when more is required it indicates that we have become unreliable, so that our word cannot be trusted.
2. If pledges made between man and man are thus solemn and binding, and the breach of them so blameworthy, pledges to God in solemn sacrament must be more solemn and binding, and their non-fulfilment more culpable.—F. W. B.
Topic: THE WAY OF PARDON (Leviticus 5:6-13)
In the fifth verse it is enjoined that when any person shall be guilty of any of the trespasses specified, he shall confess that he had thus sinned; from which we at once see that confession was to immediately follow conviction, and the next step—as we learn from the succeeding verse—would be contrition. The offender was to bring his trespass offering unto the Lord for his sin, and the priest would present it to the Lord as an atonement for the sin. The offering was to be one of the flock, or a fowl, or of flour. From this arrangement we learn that—
I. THE WAY OF PARDON WAS MADE EASY. The circumstances of the transgressor were mercifuily considered.’ The gradation of the offerings from a bullock down to the tenth part of an ephah of fine flour showed that God would allow no difficulty to stand in the way of transgressors seeking expiation. For the various gradations of wrong-doing there was pardon on confession and contrition. The offerings could be easily obtained, and the priest and altar were close at hand, so that at any moment the needed confession and atonement could be made. In the Mosaic, as well as the Christian dispensation, the way of forgiveness is made easy.
II. THE WAY OF PARDON WAS MADE EXPLICIT. Full and clear directions are given, even to minute details, in the way the victim was to be slain, and its various parts disposed of, and each direction (meaningless and useless as some at first sight appeared) had some symbolical or typical import. In every instance assurance was given of forgiveness, if only the required conditions were complied with. The unsavouriness of the offering—from the absence of sweet oil and frankincense—suggests the loathsomeness of sin: that it is displeasing to God, ought to be offensive to man, and is to those truly humble and contrite.
(a) The mercy of God displayed in
(1) providing remedy to arrest the course of sin;
(2) providing remedy to arrest the consequences of sin. Man’s ignorance of sin proves his utter inability to put it away of himself.
(b) The misery of sin discovered in that it
(1) produces separation from God and all real good;
(2) necessitates suffering and atonement before it can be forgiven. In the rites and ceremonies of the Levitical economy we get God’s provision for man’s need—a sacrifice appointed for man’s sin; a priest to present the sacrifice for man’s sin; and a place of worship where the sacrifice may be offered and accepted.—F. W. B.
OUTLINES ON VERSES OF CHAPTER Leviticus 5:1-13
Leviticus 5:2.—Theme: CONTRACTION OF DEFILEMENT. “If a soul touch an unclean thing … he also shall be unclean, and guilty.”
Human depravity, inherent—universal—“Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts,” etc. Depravity may be deepened and developed by outward influences and circumstances. The body and mind may generate or acquire disease; so, with the soul. We are surrounded by a magnetic circle of influence which affects us, and through it we affect others for good or evil. Hence importance of guarding our sympathies, susceptibilities, senses, and every avenue and vehicle of our being. “Touch not the unclean thing.”
We learn the importance—
I. OF ABSENCE FROM EVIL ASSOCIATIONS. “Enter not into the path of the wicked, and walk not in the way of evil men.” [See Psalms 1:0]
II. OF ABSTINENCE FROM APPEARANCE OF EVIL. Beware of every infections infectious thing. “Taste not, touch not, handle not.”
Christ could mix with sinners, could touch lepers and the dead without defilement, because there was nothing in Him to respond to, or to be laid hold on, by temptation or corruption. As the needle leaps to the loadstone, so our hearts leap to meet temptation by the law of attractive affinities. For every stain of defilement we contract, even though as deep as crimson or scarlet, there is a remedy: “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin,” and can make our souls as white as snow.—F. W. B.
Leviticus 5:7.—Theme: WHAT GOD EXPECTS OF US. “If he be not able to bring a lamb, then he shall bring for his trespass two turtle doves, or two young pigeons, unto the Lord.”
There is nothing exacting or exorbitant in the claims of God upon His creatures. He expects of us only what we can render according to talents, circumstances, opportunity, claims. He regards our purposes, and accepts them as acts performed when performance is impossible, e.g., He said of David’s purpose to erect the Temple, “It was well that it was in thine heart.” Christ commended the act of the woman in the gospels because “she had done what she could.”
If God expects of us only what we can render—
I. THEN NONE ARE EXEMPT FROM HIS SERVICE. Doves and pigeons were accepted where lambs could not be furnished. The widow’s two mites were as acceptable as the box of precious ointment and Solomon’s Temple.
II. THEN HIS SERVICE IS PERFECT FREEDOM. The offerer had to judge and choose what he would offer. God expects voluntary cheerful gifts, not simply from a sense of duty but from impulses of a generous love. If we give ourselves to the Lord, all we have will be laid upon the altar that sanctifies both the giver and the gift.—F. W. B.
Leviticus 5:8.—Theme: MEDIATION. “He shall bring them unto the priest, who shall offer,” etc.
The sin offering taught that guilt separated between the sinner and his Sovereign Lord:—Priest came between to connect, and be medium of communication. Such an arrangement would (a) inspire courage, and (b) impart comfort to the offerer.
The offerer brought his offering to the priest, yet—
I. THE VALUE OF THE OBLATION WAS NOT ENHANCED BY ANY MERIT OF THE PRIEST. But the infinite dignity of our High Priest gave infinite dignity to His sacrifice.
II. THE PRIEST OFFERED SACRIFICE PROVIDED BY ANOTHER: our High Priest offered Himself, once for all.
In the hands of the priest the sinner’s sacrifice was acceptable: through Christ our offerings are well-pleasing to God. The only thing that God hates, and that can separate between Jehovah and His creatures is sin. Its removal restores harmony, holiness, happiness in man, and the universe—F.W.B.
Leviticus 5:10.—Theme: DIVINE FORGIVENESS. “The priest shall make atonement for him for his sin which he hath sinned, and it shall be forgiven him”.
Nature is unable to show how sin may be forgiven. By an inevitable and almost universal law reaping follows sowing, both in quality and quantity. Retribution follows wrong-doing. Nature is stern, unrelenting; only in revealed religion can we learn how God can be just and yet forgive the sinner. The Bible alone teaches that there is forgiveness with God that He may be feared. The offerer was assured that if he presented the prescribed oblation, his sin would “be forgiven him.” This arrangement teaches.
I. THAT SATISFACTION MUST BE OFFERED BY THE SINNER HIMSELF, OR BY HIS ACCREDITED SUBSTITUTE. Pardon costs something both to God and man.
II. THAT THE SINNER MUST BE SINCERELY SORRY FOR HIS SINS. The offerings were to be presented in a manner which would denote reverence and repentance. Only forsaken sin is forgiven.
III. THAT IN THE FORGIVENESS OF SIN THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD IS VINDICATED. The demands of His justice were met—His broken law honoured—atonement sufficient and satisfactory made.
In the Gospels all these points are exemplified and enforced.—F. W. B.
Topic: TRESPASSES, DONE IGNORANTLY, AGAINST THE LORD (Leviticus 5:14-19)
Scarcely is it possible to accredit absolute ignorance to trespassers in these “holy things of the Lord”: for God’s declarations respecting. His rights were neither unintelligible nor obscure. They ought to have been known thoroughly, they must have been known to some degree. The ignorance was, therefore, in some sense wilful; certainly it was conscious, and was even preferred to knowledge.
Still, it is noteworthy that ignorance is predicated of these trespassers against the Lord, whereas there is no allowance of ignorance in the trespasses done against men. [Compare chap. 6] This marks a melancholy fact in the conduct of wrong-doers. We defraud God of His due carelessly and without giving it a thought; whereas we are too cautious to trespass against a neighbour without knowing it. For the fear of man is more operative over us than the fear of God.
I. FRAUDULENT CONDUCT AGAINST THE LORD.
1. Israel’s history for ages illustrates the ready ease with which men could “rob God” (Malachi 3:8-10). Commanded to appear repeatedly every year before the Lord and celebrate His feasts, yet era upon era passed without their keeping those sacred feasts at all—until, in the times of Ezra and Nehemiah, they read the Scriptures (long closed and neglected) and discovered their omissions to have been so numerous, so grievous, so long continued, that the people all lifted up their voices and wept.
Fifty years later, again Israel is described as habitually defrauding God of His due, and even justifying themselves in their “robbery,” asking with effrontery, “Wherein have we robbed Thee?” (Malachi 3:8).
Such warning incidents Should have aroused the Church of Christ to greater watchfulness in later days. Yet—
2. The present conduct of Christians repeats the trespass of the ancient Church. Is there not a defrauding “of the holy things of the Lord” still rampant? Consider—
(a) Doctrines suppressed and truths silenced which ought to be “sounded out” clearly.
(b) Worship rendered perfunctorily, and void of “spirit and truth”; “the form of godliness without the power thereof.”
(c) Open allegiance to Christ withheld; a careless and compromising profession supplanting whole consecration.
(d) The selfish retention of our gains and possessions, spending so freely upon ourselves that we have little or nothing to give God.
II. RESTITUTION DEMANDED AS THE CONDITION OF PARDON.
Unlike the sin offering, the “trespass offering” must not be presented until reparation had been made.
1. Satisfaction was to precede sacrifice. Man is a debtor, having withheld dues from the Lord. Those dues were not to be set aside by substituting contrition or expiatory offerings. It were easy to trespass if all could be righted by penitential confessions. But God says, “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice.” “He shall make amends”: such is Jehovah’s fiat (Leviticus 5:16).
2. In Christ’s obedient life satisfaction did precede sacrifice. Man “had nothing to pay”; but Jesus paid the debt. In His own career He “fulfilled all righteousness” on man’s behalf. Then, having perfectly satisfied the Divine requirements in His life, He bore man’s merited punishment for long disobedience.
3. Divine forgiveness differs essentially from connivance at man’s sin. God can pardon all manner of trespasses, but can gloss over not one jot or tittle of iniquity. “His grace is perfect, and therefore He can forgive all: His holiness is perfect, and therefore he cannot pass over anything. He cannot sanction iniquity, but He can blot it out.”—C. H. M.
4. Restitution by obedience is a law which still incites believers to a diligent piety. Not by the merit of their acts to justify themselves with God, but to make such “amends” as a soul reclaimed from disloyalty naturally desires to make to its gracious Lord and King. “The love of Christ constrains us”; and by every act of sacrifice and service we aim to set right all wrong we have done, to counteract the follies of past years, to benefit those whom we may have harmed, to redeem the time by diligent use of opportunities remaining, and “henceforth to live not unto ourselves, but unto Him who loved us and gave Himself for us.” By such earnest efforts to “do good as he has opportunity” does the Christian seal his salvation, and enjoy the “Well done” of his Lord. [See Addenda, p. 71, Reparation.]
Topic: “AMENDS” MADE BY CHRIST FOR MAN’S FAULTS (Leviticus 5:15-16)
Think of all the wrong and all the trespass which have been done against the Lord.
I. GOD HAS BEEN WRONGED OF HIS RIGHTS IN THIS WICKED WORLD.
1. What are the just rights of Jehovah in His creature, man?
2. What are man’s returns to Jehovah in actual obedience and righteousness?
3. What amazing outrage and transgression have defrauded God of His due!
4. What shortcomings and blemishes have marred even the best lives of His redeemed people!
II. GOD HAS GAINED MORE BY CHRIST’S REDEMPTION THAN HE LOST BY MAN’S FALL.
The trespass offerer adds a surplus! But who can weigh the surplus Christ brings?
1. Jehovah reaps a richer harvest of glory, honour and praise in the fields of redemption than ever. He could have reaped in those of creation.
2. The “sons of God” would raise a loftier song of praise around the empty tomb of Jesus than ever they raised in view of the Creator’s accomplished work.
3. The wrong has not only been perfectly atoned for, but an eternal advantage has been gained by the work of the Cross. God is gainer by the work of Calvary.
III. ALL HONOUR TO JESUS, IN WHOSE CROSS SUCH VAST “AMENDS” WERE MADE.
1. No wonder that around the Crucified One the affections of patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs, and saints have ever entwined themselves.
2. No marvel that the Holy Ghost should have given forth that solemn but just decree, “If any man love not our Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema, maranatha” (1 Corinthians 16:22). Heaven and earth shall echo forth a loud and eternal amen to this anathema.
3. No marvel that it should be the fixed and immutable purpose of the Divine mind that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow of things in heaven and things on earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11). [Compare Notes on Leviticus, by C. H. M.]
Topic: TRESPASSERS AND THE TRESPASS PENALTY (Leviticus 5:15-16)
(a) Sin has many forms: breaks out into trespasses.
(b) The trespass offerings are manifold: meet with penalty and satisfaction all wrongs done.
I. THE DUES OF HEAVEN ARE WITHHELD: God’s will is transgressed, His law infringed.
1. Creation’s law makes man God’s sole possession. No faculty of mind or frame, no power of intellect or thought, no talent of influence or time, no opportunity, no gift, no grace, is property of our own. All, then, should serve the cause of one Sovereign Lord. Reason should plan, and eyes should see, and hands should work, and feet should run, to do Him honour and augment His praise. Our every energy should fly abroad with morning light to gather fruits of glory for His name. Each night should prove that faith and love have laboured to advance His Kingdom upon earth.
2. Instead of this, self mounts the great Creator’s throne. We rise, enter on the day, journey on, as if self-seeking were legitimate employ. Whether we rest or toil it is “unto ourselves.” Is not this trespass? It robs our God; wastes His dues. It brands us as purloining from a Father’s and a Benefactor’s store.
3. Judgment must follow upon such trespasses. The fire must consume. Life must be laid on the altar. Blood must flow. Trespass brings death. No soul can sin and escape wrath.
II. MAN CAN MAKE NO TRUE AMENDS.
1. Devotedness cannot repay the debt. That is a vast conceit. If not one thought of any moment ever swerved from a pure effort for the Lord, it would but be that moment’s due.
2. Surplus of merit there is none. That is a papist’s dream. Our best acts are only increase of our debt. Hence all our works make bankruptcy more deep. When Justice calls to the white throne, the fairest reckoning is one huge debt. Who, then, can stay arrest?
III. THE TRESPASS OFFERING PRESENTS RELIEF.
1. Jesus is satisfaction to the full. Hence death for sin is not the whole of His grand work. That decks us with no merit; it fills no hand with fruits of righteousness. He pays then a whole life’s homage to the law. He gives compliance to its largest rule. It asked for one undeviating course of love. Jesus was love without one straying step.
2. This pure fulfilment is for those who are Christ’s. For such Christ wrought it; to their account he puts it. Unsullied righteousness by Him avails for believers.
Such is the Gospel which pervades this rite. It declares in emphatic terms that—
(1) Trespass stains your life, your heart, soul, and mind, every day, every hour.
(2) It warns that trespass strengthens Satan’s claims, places a vast barrier between you and God.
(3) Shows a full recovery. Christ’s cross and life are both pictured. You see Him dying to pay the trespass penalty: you see His righteousness supplying trespass wrongs.—Homiletically arranged from the Dean of Gloucester’s Christ is all.
Topic: SACRILEGE (Leviticus 5:14-19)
The former offerings may be regarded as both sin and trespass offerings; these in the closing verses of this fifth chapter, and in the opening seven verses of the sixth, are particularly and exclusively trespass offerings. Wrong has been done to God and man; and for that trespass contrition must be shown, an offering made, and restitution given. The trespass here indicated is sacrilege—mistake and misappropriation in the use of sacred things: a culpable trespass, whether done wittingly or unwittingly. From this rite we are taught—
I. THE JEALOUSY OF JEHOVAH FOR THE HONOUR OF HIS WORSHIP IN THE TABERNACLE.
By the Levitical ritual the people were taught that worship was only rendered acceptable when associated with Divinely prescribed sacrifices. There would be danger of the people becoming formal in their worship; that they would fall short of the full requirements of the ritual. The holy things here spoken of were the tithes, first-fruits, gifts, etc., demanded of the Lord. Such things were His before they were devoted as sacrifices, but they were doubly His when He claimed them as offerings unto Himself in connection with the worship of the tabernacle. To withhold would be to rob and wrong God; the honour of His worship would be insulted, His law outraged. Whether the sacrilege was committed knowingly or unknowingly it mattered not: the worship was marred, and for the trespass an offering must be presented. The trespasser was to bring a ram without blemish out of his flocks, and the priest was to make an atonement for him. Restitution was to accompany his contrition. He must make amends for the wrong he had done in the holy thing; and then his trespass was to be forgiven him.
Worship is a privilege we are permitted to enjoy, a duty we are bound to discharge. When we draw near to God to pay our vows and commune with Him in prayer and praise, we draw near to give to Him the glory that is due to His name. Under the gospel dispensation we have not to erect a material altar and present offerings such as the Israelites did under the law. No definitely prescribed portion of our substance is required of us, as was required under the old economy, but we are expected to give unto the Lord of our means in proportion as He hath prospered us. Yet, however liberal we may be, and conscientious in discharging our trust as stewards of the Kingdom, we constantly fall short of our duty as indicated in the gospel; we trespass, wittingly and unwittingly, and need constantly to seek, in confession and contrition, the pardon of our religious defalcations, and to make, in so far as we are able, some restitution to God, some humble amends, by bringing “forth fruits meet for repentance.”
II. THE INFLUENCE THIS JEALOUSY WAS CALCULATED TO EXERT UPON THE WORSHIPPERS IN THE TABERNACLE.
Such scrupulous concern on the part of Jehovah about the sanctity of His service would teach the people to cultivate—
(1) Sensitiveness of feeling. It would be evident that indifference or carelessness would render the worshipper liable to a breach of trust, to make mistake or misapply the things devoted to the Lord.
(2) Tenderness of conscience. It would be easy for conscience to become perverted and hardened in the midst of so many privileges and in the abundance of blessings.
(3) Scrupulousness of conduct. The worshipper would find that merely good intentions would not suffice; contrition and confession would not be enough: there was to be implicit and complete obedience—nothing wanting of all that the Lord commanded. None of the sacrifice kept back, none of the holy things be employed or used for their own gain. If they did, even though they wist it not, they were guilty, and should bear their iniquity.
Watch that we trespass not against God as Achan did, and as Ananias and Sapphira did in the early Christian Church. Beware of trespassing through contempt, carelessness, or presumption. Aim to be suspiciously, as well as scrupulously, sensitive of doing wrong. Pray for pardon of inadvertent and unknown sins. God does not pass over, but forgives trespasses for the sake of our great Trespass Offering. This is the gospel order of blessing to the penitent: repentance, reformation, restitution, then reconciliation to God’s favour, and restoration to His family, here and hereafter.—F. W. B.
OUTLINES ON VERSES, CHAPTER Leviticus 5:14-19
Leviticus 5:16.—Theme: REPARATION. “And he shall make amends for the harm that he hath done in the holy thing,” etc.
In forgiving sins God does not teach that transgression of His law is a trivial matter; for, atonement not only expiates but makes amends. Amends must be made, for—
I. SIN IS A WRONG DONE TO GOD.
II. SIN IS A WRONG DONE TO MAN.
Amends must be made by—
(1) Appropriate contrition.
(2) Personal sacrifice.
(3) Unreserved consecration:—evincing itself in a holy, useful, Christly life.—.F. W. B. [See Addenda, p. 71, Reparation.]
Leviticus 5:17.—Theme: ERROR, THOUGH INADVERTENT, IS GUILTY. “If a soul sin, and commit things forbidden, though he wist it not, yet is he guilty, and shall bear his iniquity.”
God required a trespass offering for the smallest error in relation to any of His ordinances, however unwittingly that error was committed.
Yet so multitudinous were the rights of the ceremonial law, that its requirements wore heavily and anxiously upon the lives and consciences of God’s people. Righteousness by the law, therefore, became a weary a fruitless hope.
By this very weariness and failure, Israel was led to crave and look for release from this “yoke,” which was promised when Messiah brought in the “better covenant.”
The gospel age promised release from the oppression of a ritual righteousness, and freedom for a more spiritual service.
I. A SOPHISTRY NEEDING CORRECTION.
This: that invention constitutes the quality of an action; whether conduct is criminal or not. But this declaration of “guilt,” though in the action he “wist it not,” testifies against a sweeping and all-inclusive application of that principle, viz., that intention qualifies action.
1. Ignorance may and does extenuate the guilt of an action. Knowledge deepens guilt (John 9:41; John 15:22). Ignorance alleviates it (Luke 23:34; Acts 3:17; 1 Timothy 1:13).
2. Yet ignorance cannot excuse guilt.
A man is not excused for breaking the laws of the land because he was ignorant of them. Nor is a servant’s ignorance of his master’s will, when he might and ought to have known it, a sufficient plea.
Nor is he innocent who trespasses, through error, against any ordinance of the Lord. And, if so in respect of ceremonial observances, much more so in relation to moral duties. Hence the curse stands against “every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them” (Galatians 3:10).
3. God Himself refuses to condone such ignorance. His Word declares that men “perish for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6); and that though “a people be of no understanding, He will not have mercy on them, and will show them no favour” (Isaiah 27:11). [Comp. Simeon’s Sermons].
II. MAN’S UNCOMPUTED GUILT.
1. Reckon up our remembered sins. “They are more in number than the hairs of our head.”
2. Add the sins realised at the time but now forgotten. Memory lets slip multitudinous trespasses.
3. Yet what can represent the number of our unrecognised sins, done in ignorance, done in error?
4. Deviations and defects also, which God’s eye alone detected, and which we too self-indulgently condoned.
Eliphaz charges the inquiry on Job, and on us, “Is not thy wickedness great, and thine iniquities infinite?” (Job 22:5).
God’s Word declares, “There is not a just man upon earth that doeth good and sinneth not” (Ecclesiastes 7:20), that “in many things we all offend” (James 3:2; Proverbs 24:16).
In estimating our guiltiness we fail: “Who can understand his errors?” (Psalms 19:12).
To extenuate guilt by saying “It is an error” (Ecclesiastes 5:6), is to add to sin: rather let us humble ourselves in shame before God.
III. VAST VIRTUE NEEDED IN ATONEMENT.
1. Under the ceremonial arrangements for expiation, how manifold and minute and numerous were the regulations and provisions necessary to make atonement for sin! “Without shedding of blood there was no remission.” And to that were added costly offerings and exacting observances.
2. When all sin had to be expiated by Christ’s one offering, what value it must needs possess! Yet “by one offering” the Saviour “purged our sins.”
(a) It summons us to faith. “Look unto Me and be ye saved.” “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.”
(b) It incites us to grateful adoration. “Unto Him that loved us and washed us from our sin in His own blood,” etc. (Revelation 1:5-6).
(c) It assures us of perfect redemption. “There remaineth no more offering for sin,” for “the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). [See Addenda, p. 71, Redemption).
ILLUSTRATIVE ADDENDA TO CHAPTER 5
The judicial oaths taken in courts of justice are administered variously: “The usual practice in England and Ireland is, for the witness, after hearing the oath repeated by the officer of the court, to kiss the four gospels by way of assent: and in Scotland, the witness repeats similar words after the judge, standing and holding up his right hand, ‘swearing by Almighty God, as he shall answer to God at the great day of judgment,’ but without kissing the book. Jews are sworn on the Pentateuch, keeping on their hats, and the oath ends with the words, ‘So help you, Jehovah.’ A Mohammedan is sworn on the Koran. A Chinese witness has been sworn by kneeling and breaking a china saucer against the witness-box. Thus, the mere form of taking the oath is immaterial; the witness is allowed to take it in whatever form he considers most binding upon his own conscience—the essential thing being, however, that the witness acknowledge some binding effect derived from his belief in a God and a future state.… The objections of Quakers, Moravians, and Separatists to taking an oath have long been respected as not being fundamentally at variance with a due sense of religious feeling, and hence they have been allowed to make an affirmation instead of taking the oath. In 1854 another concession was made to those who, not being Quakers, yet refuse to take the oath for sincere conscientious motives; and these are now also allowed to affirm instead of to swear. But the law remains as before, that atheists and persons who admit that they have no religious belief whatever, are excluded from giving evidence in courts of justice.”—Chamber’s Ency.
“UNLAWFUL OATHS generally mean oaths taken by members of secret and illegal societies of a treasonable description: and statutes long ago were passed to inflict penalties on all who took or administered such oaths.”—Ibid.
PROFANE OATHS.—Louis the French king was taken prisoner by Meletisaka the Sultan and conditions of peace being concluded between them, for more assurance thereof the Sultan offered to swear, “if he failed in performance of anything, to renounce his Mohammed,” requiring likewise of the king to swear, if he failed in anything he had promised, to deny his Christ to be God: which profane oath the king detesting, and wishing rather to die than to give the same, the Sultan, wondering at his constancy, took his word without an oath at all, and so published the league.
As, on the other side, King John of England, being overlaid in his barons’ wars, when he sent ambassadors to the monarch of Morocco for aid, offered to swear fealty to him and to receive the law of Mohammed; and thereby the monarch grew into such dislike of the king that ever after he abhorred the mention of him.—Trapp.
“It is a great sin to swear unto a sin;
But greater sin to keep a sinful oath.”
Henry VI., II. Lev. 5:1.
“His words are bonds, his oaths are oracles;
His love sincere, his thoughts immaculate;
His heart as far from fraud as heaven from earth.”—Two Gentlemen of Verona, II. 7.
“An oath, an oath, I have an oath in heaven:
Shall I lay perjury upon my soul?
No, not for Venice.”
Merchant of Venice, IV. 1.
“Tis not the many oaths that make the truth:
But the plain single vow, that is vow’d true.”
All’s well that ends well, IV. 2.
“Unheedful vows may heedfully be broken.”
INDIFFERENCE.—Idle swimmers who go floating carelessly down the stream, reckless of the nearing peril until they get beyond reach of the bank.
“I asked a young man, ‘Are you in anxiety about yourself and your salvation?’ He replied, ‘I have little concern or feeling on the subject.’
“ ‘Are you not trying to do what God commands you as well as you are able, and with such light as you have?’ ”
“ ‘Oh no; it would seem absurd for one who feels so little as I do to attempt any religious duty!’ ”
“ ‘Yet, you admit that God does require of you repentance, and faith, and worship, and a holy life; do you not?’
“ ‘Yes, I admit all this, but do not feel interested, or troubled, or concerned, respecting it.’
“ ‘What would you advise a customer to do who had contracted a debt with you, who admits his debt, and that he ought to pay it, but says he knows it all, yet is so void of interest or feeling about it?’
“In an instant he replied, ‘I would advise him to pay it, not waiting for feeling.’ ”
“Heavenly powers where shall we find such love?
Which of ye will be mortal to redeem
Man’s mortal crime; and just th’ unjust to save?”
Paradise Lost, III. 213.
There, and there only (tho’ the deist rave,
And atheist, if earth bears so base a slave),
There, and there only, is the power to save.”
COWPER, Progress of Error, 613.
“Why, all the souls that were, were forfeit once;
And he that might the vantage best have took
Found out the remedy.”
Measure for Measure, II. 2.
“Restore to God His due, in tithe and time;
A tithe purloined cankers the whole estate.”
G. HERBERT, The Temple
“God is much displeased
That you take with unthankfulness His doing:
In common worldly things ′tis called ungrateful,
With dull unwillingness to repay a debt
Which with a bounteous hand was kindly lent;
Much more to be thus opposite with heaven:
For it requires the royal debt it lent you.”
Richard III., II. 2.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Leviticus 5". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13